This year I am participating in the Pagan Blog Project, a weekly posting challenge discussing our viewpoints on faith. For those unfamiliar with this project, the prompts follow the letters of the alphabet – two weeks per letter, on any topic of the writer’s choosing provided that the blog entry has a spiritual focus. I’ll be using this project to do some introspection, re-evaluation, and recentering of myself as I approach my 20th anniversary of my dedication on Lughnasadh this year. They are intentionally written raw, with little editing – so please take any weird grammar, spelling, or jumbled sentences with a bit of a grain of salt. Also, any “you’s” should be viewed as me talking to myself rather than directed at any other person.
This week I’ll be discussing my thoughts on the blending of beliefs, and why I think it’s a healthy way to approach faith.
Like many Pagans, I didn’t grow up in the faith. I was baptized and received my first communion within the Episcopalian church. My childhood faith came from my father’s side of the family. My mom was raised Roman Catholic. When my parents married, they had two priests at the wedding – one Episcopalian, and one Catholic. The actual ceremony took place in a Catholic church. I would visit different churches of different denominations during my childhood – of friends, of family members, of schoolmates. I think these encounters taught me early that faith really is in the eye of the beholder, and no one has the One True Faith trophy.
My parents were also quite relaxed about religion. They believed it was simply important to believe in something, but it was my choice how and what to believe. As far as they were concerned, as long as it wasn’t illegal or harming anyone (myself included), no problems.
So as I progressed through high school, I did some searching. I explored my boyfriend’s Mormonism (and knew it wasn’t for me). I read about Hinduism, about Islam, about Buddhism. Parts of all of them attracted me, but nothing specific spoke to me.
And then in college, I stumbled across Paganism and realized it was what I was looking for. At its heart, I believe generalized Paganism to be one of blended beliefs. Since there is no core book of belief, such as the Bible, it’s up to the individual to create a spiritual path. These creations take from what speaks to us… and the beliefs can come from anywhere.
Even (gasp) the Christianity that many of us have left behind.
I can’t call myself a Christian because I don’t believe in the resurrection. I won’t get into the battle about whether Jesus Christ was a real person – it doesn’t matter to me, honestly. To me, he’s an archetype of the wise teacher, the person who was before his time with liberal thoughts. The teachings of Christ are ones I think are good, and many of them still ring true to me. So I still see wisdom and compassion in those teachings, and I try to incorporate them into my life and challenge myself to live by many of them. But that fundamental part of Christianity – the three days between Good Friday and Easter? Not part of my personal belief code.
For many people, it’s necessary to completely cast off the old faith. They may have been punished or tortured for their lack of belief or their sexuality (or many other reasons which I am not personally privy to). For people who need to repel anything from the past, I can understand the need to be completely new, and I also understand that they would harbor bad feelings toward their former faith.
I don’t, but that’s because of the experiences I had. Christianity was never bad to me… but I found I simply didn’t believe in some of its primary teachings, so I have no right to call myself one. It’s still very important to several of my family members, and I know it gives them strength and creates the foundation upon which they build their lives. I would be cruel to try to break that from them. And to do so would show that I’ve learned nothing from the path I’ve chosen to take.
Instead, I’ve incorporated from the old what works well for me in the new. My faith is my own, and it’s a blend of everything I’ve experienced along my path. Does that make me a Christo-Pagan? I’m honestly not sure.