Sunday, February 10, 2013

A Question of Belief

  Over at The Wild Hunt, Sabina Magliocco has answered criticisms of her recent presentation"The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism," which she presented at the Conference for Contemporary Paganism this past January. Some readers seemed to misunderstand her intentions, though she specified that she was using the term "fundamentalist" to apply only to those who believe that others should hold the same literal beliefs they hold, not simply to anyone who holds literal beliefs. Still, some have justifiable misgivings about whether it is a good idea to use the term, fearing that it could come to be used to describe any pagan who holds such distinct beliefs. Magliocco's original presentation, as well as her remarks on the blog, are being discussed widely throughout the pagan blogosphere, not only stirring up discussion and debate about use of the term "fundamentalism," but also about the very place of belief in religion in general and paganism specifically.

  In regards to most spiritual things, I hold an agnostic stance. I simply don't know the answers, and I don't have strong enough feelings on those matters to warrant the adoption of specific and distinct beliefs.  I do interact with multiple deities, but I choose not to worry too much about whether or not I believe in them, or whether or not I need to.  Don't get me wrong, it's that I'm too lazy to bother considering belief at all. I enjoy pondering theology alone and discussing it with others. The issue is simply that, though I'm most definitely not a materialist, I sometimes feel a skeptical lack of certainty.  It doesn't stop me from having experiences of divinity, but it does affect how I might explain my religion to others. If asked, I would point out that the deities are not seen only as hard-and-fast, literal beings, but also as containers of energy which we have created with our collective consciousness, and also as archetypal beings.  These multiple explanations allow me to to work with these deities no matter which explanation I accept, or if I accept them all.

  There are two distinct beliefs I do hold. I believe in a supernatural force that created the universe, and I believe that we do not cease to exist when our body dies. These beliefs are true of practitioners of a wide range of religions and spiritualities, and they could just as easily land me in Christianity or Hinduism as they could in paganism. They can therefore clearly not be said to be the thing that distinctly identifies me as pagan.  For some, belief is essential and central to their practice.  But for others, like myself, it is other factors that include us in the pagan community. It is our connection to the earth, our connection to something bigger than ourselves, our identity with certain social ideals, the fact that we find meaning in the archetype of the ancient pagans or the gods. It could be any of these things and more.

  As a pagan who does not place particular emphasis on belief in my personal practice, I tend to identify with Magliocco's concerns. I want paganism to remain a "big tent," as some have put it, a community that I can continue to feel that I belong to in spite of my beliefs or lack of them. I feel that it is both natural and justifiable for those of us who fall into this category to be particularly sensitive about the issue of "fundamentalism" because we would be the first pagans to potentially have our "paganness" called into question if such a perspective became widespread within the community.

  The bottom line is that I don't care what you believe or don't believe. I might sit with you at the riverside discussing theology for hours, but at the end of the day, we are pagan and we are in this together.

Marienne's Bookshelf: One of my favorite pagan books is Witch Crafting: A Spiritual Guide to Making Magic by Phyllis Curott.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Leave a comment...