Let’s be [x] Pagans. To be a Pagan, you need to do [y]. If you don’t believe [z] then you’re not a Pagan. Or to put it in other terminology…
IF != x THEN NOT “Pagan”
IF y = “This” Then “Pagan” ELSE NOT “Pagan”
If != “Belief” THEN NOT “Pagan”
Yeah, pulling things into programmatic statements seems a little silly, but its there to emphasis a point. Mathematical equations within programming constructs tend to be empirical. A value or variable that is compared against the equation is typically true or false. It makes for awesome usage in a programming statement. But it tends to make for a lousy statement concerning an individual’s belief. But not because a comparative value of one’s beliefs cannot be utilized. Rather, its because of the cold, calculating usage of boiling down an individual’s spiritual experiences into a pile of cold, heartless numbers and equations just to place an individual into a category.
Its no real secret. I hate the concepts of labels. While labels are great descriptives, and can put you into a mindset of what an individual believes in at an extremely basic and simplistic perspective; it propagates the basic desire to make assumptions on what a person is or isn’t. From my perspective (read: opinion), it keeps one lazy in the notion of getting to know someone. It negates conversation, and the exploration of belief with someone else. And for me, an individual that loves experiential moments within life, that negation of interaction loses all of what being alive and connected with the world around me is all about.
Back in the day of the old Bulletin Board Systems (BBSs – and I am completely showing my age here), conversation was mostly sequential. I typed a message. Then someone read it, and formulated a response. I read that response, and replied back. And thus the exchange went on. Occasionally, I would get the chance to meet some of these other folks face-to-face, and we would sit in a pub for hours – talking, eating finger food, and drinking beverages of our own choosing. And those moments were sometimes intense, and sometimes completely silly. But when the end of the night arrived, we exchanged hugs, and eventually started back into our “online” conversations. And while we didn’t meet that often, typically once every three to four months, some of those folks became friends that I would hang out with even more often. Many of these folks are still friends to this day.
Some of them are Wiccans and Witches, some of them are Druids. There’s even a Chassidic Jew, and a handful of very opinionated Atheists in all of that. And not a single one of them even comes close to being an archetypal practitioner of their respective beliefs. All of them are unique individuals, with equally unique opinions, and very distinctive voices. Were I to envision these people under an archetypal impression of what each of them would believe, I would likely not have interacted as greatly or deeply with each of them as I have. And I would have missed out on those experiences, and honestly, I would be less of a person today without the input I got from each of them in conversations that we had.
There are friends that I have on the internet of today – a far more generalized tool of communication than BBSs were back in the day. Some, I have had the chance to have conversations with – both face-to-face and in an online manner. I have found that each of these folks are no less individualized than those I met far earlier in my Pagan Path. Some of them are very close to the archetypes of what they believe. Many others seem to cling to the label, but are far afoot from the archetype. If I were to apply just the label to each of them, I again would find no real connection with them.
So, when I hear/read people within the Pagan-sphere make statements that “Pagans are [x]” or “Christians are [y]” – I cringe inwardly. Many of the statements fall into the area of stereotypes, or if you prefer archetypes. And laying empirical statements concerning an individual’s faith is, in my experience, almost certainly a recipe for a landmine to step upon. A short examination sometimes yields that the archetypal statement, while true to some extent, certainly does not represent the individual as a whole. After all, a person’s Spirituality and how they approach the Divine, is only a small variable in the summation of who they are as a person. And I have always found reasons to celebrate what a person is in their chosen approach to their Spirituality. My only moment of revulsion seems to come from those that feel their Spiritual approach is good for everyone.
Perhaps, this is where I tend to clash with others. I follow an approach that what you do in Life works best for you. We might walk a similar Path, or we might be on completely different highways headed in completely different directions for completely different reasons. But your Path is yours to walk. Your connection to the God(s) is your own to handle, manage, and experience. When you stray from your lane, and believe that I should be driving the same car as you, driving at the same speed as you, headed on the same highway as you, for the same reasons as you – this is where I draw the line. I am driving into the middle of nowhere, so that I can experience the incoming thunderstorm from the middle of a wheat field. You might be headed to a storm shelter because you are seeking shelter from any tornado that spawns from the storm. I’m not going to criticise you for heading to the storm shelter. I can only hope you would do the same for me, as I drive out to the wheat field.
For me, Spirituality is not something that can be boiled down to a variable whose value gets plugged into some equation to prove or disprove the veracity of one’s faith. Spirituality is a connection to the God(s) that each individual will experience differently or sometimes not at all. While I may not completely agree with your experience, I certainly don’t feel any need to denigrate it either. Its merely not how I experience my Spirituality. So long as I am not trying to compel you to believe as I do, or vice versa – we should be able to co-exist near one another with no problem whatsoever. But then again, we are humans. And humans do, for the most part, fear that which they do not understand. My only hope is that we eventually do understand, but that is a dream for another sleep….