I was speaking with a friend recently about our respective practices, what we do and we don’t, our ancestors, and I started was an idea that stuck in my mind: do you become a better person because you are a Pagan? Does this religion make you a better person for being part of it? I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and while it’s true that I’ve felt better since I became Pagan I don’t think this makes me a good person by default. I don’t think it happens to anyone, and both of us agreed on that. Paganism doesn’t make you better in general, but it you can let Paganism make you better than you were before.
Religions Are Made by Humans
Coming into terms of who I was and what I represent, what I want to do, the print I wish I can leave no matter how small it is, was a milestone in my life as a teenager. I felt a lot of confusion and uncertainty, I didn’t know where I was supposed to go or what to do. However, when I started practicing Witchcraft and accepted myself as a Pagan I came to realize many things.
With divination came the realization that I wanted to help people, shadow work reminds me that I want to heal, celebrating the Wheel of the Year made me learn the Earth is sacred, working with the Ancestors made me appreciate life. Everything helped me shape myself into who I am right now, and I like to think that Pagan Me is better than Young Me. However, I would not say that it’s only because of Paganism that I am better. I chose to get better, to feel better. My belief helped a lot, it’s one of my pillars, but not the only thing that gets to be acknowledged.
I became better at college, when I faced my demons and had to deal with my father’s death, when I left a store in shopping mall to work in a news website to bring food of the table and be a support for my family, when I started a postgraduate degree to follow on my father’s step no matter how intimidating it was, when I started a thesis on a topic no one in Spanish has touched. My beliefs never left me, I never left Paganism, and it was one of the reasons I kept coming, but each goal, however small, helped me tell to myself that I was doing the right thing.
Healing others, helping them to find a path in the middle of the storm, minding the earth, honoring dead relatives and teachers, that makes you good, but only if you make the decision, only if you let Paganism make you better. The same happens with any religion, I would like to think. Religions are made by humans, and so humans decide what to make out of their beliefs.
Religion is not an Excuse for your Missteps
I don’t think there’s such a thing as a perfect faith or belief, but I do think it’s one’s responsibility to use theirs to become better. I’ve seen people finding common points between their Abrahamic faiths and my Pagan beliefs, people translating what I said to their own language, looking at things from a different point of view when confronted with what could easily be a flaw in their religion. They could have condemned me for being an infidel, a heathen, a spawn of Satan, but instead they looked at things from my point of view, I did the same, and we both learned something new from each other.
For me, Paganism doesn’t make me better, and I’m didn’t magically became better because I became Pagan. It’s not a 2×1 deal for me. Instead, I use Paganism to be better, to learn, to grow, and accept my flaws as I work through them. I do think I couldn’t be myself if I followed my family’s religion, if I lived a life based on their standards and point of view, but that’s not the same as saying that they’ve made mistakes because they are not Pagan. They made mistakes because they’re human. I’m Pagan and I still mess up. Religion is not an excuse for your missteps.
For me, being a Witch, a Pagan, a Modern-Day Sha’ir, means that I have different ways of getting better, of healing, growing, and helping others. My maternal Grandma is one of the wisest people I’ve ever known, my dad (RIP) was a kind soul in a strong body, many of my cousins are taking responsibilities at a young age, and we all have different spiritual points of view. What we believe is unimportant. Is not about what you believe but what you do.
How do you help make the world a better place? How do you react towards injustice, prejudice, hatred, and abuse? What good have you done lately? Are you happy with the kind of life you have? Those are the questions that matter, not if you believe in life after dead, in sin, the end of days, Adam and Eve, that life is suffering, that we’re all children of the Earth, or if there’s a scientific explanation to everything.