Eight Years of Useless Religion

Eight Years of Useless Religion December 15, 2015

MGW 2015 06bThis will be my last commentary on Polytheism Is Theism! before moving on to other topics. Or at least, that’s my intention. I never know exactly how the Awen is going to flow.

One friend who was disturbed by the acrimony in the comments section suggested I return to simply talking about what I do as a Pagan and a polytheist. That is much of what I write about here on this blog, and that’s probably why I don’t get much comment hate. My posts say who I am and what I do, and if you don’t like it you don’t have to pay attention.

I don’t see that as categorically different from making wider proposals and proclamations – it’s not as though I have any authority to insist that people believe and practice as I recommend. If you think I’m wrong you can ignore me, or you can make a case for why I’m wrong. If you’re convincing I’ll change what I think. I genuinely don’t understand the “how dare you express a religious opinion with forceful conviction!” responses.

But that was Sunday’s post. In this post, I want to tell a very personal story I hope will shed some light on why I encourage everyone to make a conscious choice about their religion.

I grew up in a small, fundamentalist, Baptist church. The details and my many bad experiences aren’t important here – what’s important is that I could not believe what I was told I had to believe, and so when I left home I tried to find a place that would speak to my soul without offending my intellect and my values. I was not successful. I found no love in the conservative churches and no power in the liberal churches. My personal beliefs were what I now call “vague deistic universalism” – there is God who made everything. He loves us and will make sure everything works out for everyone in the end, but he doesn’t get involved in our lives or in the wider world. My religion during this portion of my life was pretty much useless, to me and to everyone else.

Then I met a Wiccan for the first time. His explanation of finding the Divine in Nature and of the Divine as female as well as male struck a chord with me. It spoke to my life-long love of Nature and it didn’t threaten me with eternal torment for believing the “wrong” things. The practice of magic was icing on the cake. This was what I had been looking for! I bought books and tools; I started casting spells and honoring the Goddess. I had some powerful experiences and some very good magical results.

And I went nowhere for eight years.

The tentacles of fundamentalism were still in me. Ignoring them and intellectually denying them hadn’t made them go away. Deep down I was still afraid the fundamentalists were right and I was wrong, and if so I was headed straight to hell. This is why I said “you might have to go back and work through some unresolved issues with the theism of your childhood.”

That wasn’t the only problem. I was busy with graduate school and three cross-country moves in six years. I was trying to come to terms with the fact that what I really wanted from life wasn’t what I had been told I was supposed to want. And there’s the simple fact that while Wicca was attractive, it didn’t really speak to my soul in the way that Druidry would once I finally found it.

So I spent eight years dabbling. I spent eight years on the fence between Paganism and Christianity. I spent eight years trying to turn vague deistic universalism plus magic into a working religion. It was a sheer and utter failure.

And then I had an epiphany. I heard voices. Not audible voices, but they couldn’t have been louder if Danu herself had screamed at me from across the table.

“GET SERIOUS OR MOVE ON!”

I got serious. I made a choice to start diligently exploring this Pagan path that called to me. I decided that since I couldn’t prove which religion was true, I was going to take what my heart and my head told me was most likely and act like it was true. I started practicing regularly. That led to CUUPS and OBOD, to Cernunnos and Danu and Morrigan, to this blog and the many Pagan gatherings I’ve attended, and to the deep friendships I’ve made and all the great things I’ve learned from those friends. It led to a series of religious experiences that have refined and deepened my Paganism.

It brought meaning and power and joy into my life.

It’s always dangerous to project your own experiences onto other people’s lives. You never know their whole stories, and their situations are never exactly the same as yours. But my experiences are not unique – people will tell you all about themselves if you’ll just listen to them. I come across countless people with unresolved religious issues, who feel called to one form of Paganism or another but who won’t dive into them, or who’ve latched onto something that’s comfortable but powerless – their own version of vague deistic universalism.

I hope it doesn’t take them eight years to get serious or move on to something else, and if I can do something to help I will.

All any religious writer or speaker can do is say “here it is if you’re willing to grab it.” If people choose something else, or if they choose to not choose, there’s nothing we can do but respect their decision and continue to affirm their inherent value as a person.

But here it is, if you’re willing to grab it.

desert - Big Bend National Park - 2010

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