I have learned two lessons in my life: first, there are no sufficient literary, psychological or historical answers to human tragedy, only moral ones. Second, just as despair can come to one another only from human beings, hope, too, can be given to one only by other human beings.
I’ve entered the stage of what’s been called ‘Post-Paganism’, a moment of awareness that Paganism as it is practiced no longer satisfies or means anything much. Apart from Samhain, I haven’t ritually marked any festival for myself for years though I make a mental nod to calendar dates and natural symbols – the snowdrop, the hawthorn flower – as they appear. My understanding of Deity has changed too, but the genesis and the final cause of my stepping out from Pagan practice is the way that too many Pagans behave.
It doesn’t matter what sacred books we do or don’t refer to, somehow we manage to interpret life to miraculously concur with our personal worldview. So it is that Christians, Muslims, Jews, Pagans, Hindus and everyone else generally conforms to their country’s legislation and social mores. Pagans may ask for time off for religious holidays but this is more a stamp of individuality than a heartfelt yearning for religious obligation, or a passion to be with the Land at a particular point in our joint journey around the sun.
If one of our strengths is our lack of a holy book then a corresponding weakness is that we have no idea what it is that we should be doing or not doing, or why, other than feeling good about ourselves. What began with the weighty “Know Thyself” passing through “ . . . if that which thou seekest thou findest not within thee, then thou wilt never find it without thee” has become pure solipsism. People outside of ourselves exist only as extras in the great, consuming drama of our life. We don’t actually want community at all, other than as some kind of heightened social life.
Protestations of openness, love and honouring as you walk away from a partner into the arms of his friend don’t mean much, neither do Twitters about how strong and beautiful and loved you are as your family flails about in agony. We’ve exchanged Bitchcraft (though this maintains a strong presence) for ethereal non-committal. This isn’t based in a concept of respect for personal choice and trust that we will make good decisions if we are cherished: it seems to me to be fundamental laziness. I’ll light a candle for you as you struggle with your child’s decent into drug addiction but don’t expect much more from me other than affirmation via Facebook. There is no action or event that requires meaningful group introspection or discussion.
I’ve just begun an MA in Philosophy of Religion and whilst I’m amazed at the contortions that scholars have put themselves through over the centuries to anthropomorphise Deity they also have basis' from which to make decisions. This is why Jews and Christians beleive and live as they do, because they have particular understandings of their religions. What might a Pagan theology around voluntary euthanasia be, and why? Non-Pagans might also say ‘Because I wouldn’t allow my dog to suffer like that” but is there a particularly Pagan response? Are we simply romantic, ritualised atheists? Paganism has no morality in the widest sense of the word, our ethics come down to plant trees and save the world by meditating and not watching TV. We would never dream of discussing how many children a Pagan might consider having, even though human population is the single most urgent issue facing the planet, way beyond carbon footprints and coal burning power stations. We have no answers or even suggestions on how to approach the most important issues in human life because it might impinge on someone’s personal choice.
My relationship with Deity, mainly in the form of the Goddess, continues, it’s not that I’ve given up believing that seasons change or that the Ancestors exist; rather, I’ve lost respect for the triviality that masquerades as Paganism and don’t want to associate with it. Like many Pagans, Jews, Muslims and people from other religions, I’m content to simply be in the presence of Mystery rather than wrangle over whether He/She/It is wholly simple or everlasting. But for me, the everyday application of a religious belief has to be greater than doing exactly as you like and justifying it by wearing a cloak.