When I first heard about the Pagan Values Blogject I didn’t feel I could commit to another blog theme project. However, I did want to read it and after following along, I’ve been inspirited to write about “Pagan Values.” One reason I was interested in reading this is because I often have trouble defining what a Pagan “is” or what it is I believe – well, without sounding like a crazy person. I first encountered this problem in college during a literature review course on the literature of the 1960’s. Religion was of special interest to my awesome professor, so he did bring up the occult revival and Wicca’s birth onto the counterculture scene. As the only Pagan and Witch and former Wiccan in the tiny Catholic university course, I was stuck with telling them what “I am Pagan” means. Unfortunately, the best I could muster was “well we’re NOT Christian meaning Pagans do not worship the Devil, or worship Christian Gods.” My professor pointed out that is a negative definition: if you don’t believe in that what do you believe. This is where my explanation fell short… What the hell do I believe?
After graduation, I set out to figure out what the hell it is I believe. I’ve come to some conclusions, and I always reserve the right to change my mind. For awhile I thought about taking the easy way out: I don’t believe in a big sky god who sits on clouds, omniscient, and personally accessible so I could just say I don’t believe in God. I could be an atheist. In addition to this, despite that I practice magic I have difficulty believing in certain kinds of things. I don’t worry about or concern myself with ghosts – I don’t really believe in a Summer land or heaven-like after life. I had trouble saying I believe that we have “souls” because that word has a connotation with heaven that I don’t believe in. I definitely don’t believe in hell. Then, the big Athetist movement happened. I really listened to the arguments and I found them stupid. They were close minded and often mean-spirited to say the least; frankly I’m not down with that. Religion certainly serves a purpose and many people with this attitude I know seem to have been hurt by people who use religion as a lethal weapon (which is WRONG but I’ll get to that later). Basically, there is nothing wrong with my religious past. The Catholic Church is a beautiful, if imperfect institution, with moving rituals. However, I do not share its values and The Church seems pretty intent on reminding me that my interpretation of their message is wrong. It’s beautiful, just not the place for me. Then there’s the United Church of Christ: their church shares many of my values, and I loved summer bible camps at camp MoVal. I learned so much, and owe so much as I look back on this church and my experience there, I will forever be grateful I was raised in this liberal church. There are beautiful traditions in the German church I grew up in like the Wusthermart (traditional German sausage dinner ever fall), candle lit Christmas Eve midnight services, Palm Sunday processions, excellent religious education, and wonderful baptism, confirmation, and bible giving ceremonies. My only complaint about the UCC church I grew up in is just I never felt welcome by the other folks who went there – it has nothing to do with the religion, just the people at that particular church. Despite my knowledge of this, I find it totally uncomfortable to be in a lot of churches because it brings back memories of feeling left out on Sunday mornings. While I found the rituals wonderful socially I felt isolated, uncomfortable, and unwelcome. Perhaps it is my lack of scarring from religion that colors my lens of the atheist movement’s rhetoric: which is ultimately based on faith but one that is cold and offers little in the way of values to teach kids and people to be good people.
Finally, once I figured all of that business out then came the question of values. What are my values? What kind of ethics do I have? I’m still working that one out. So, I’ll offer up a few posts in the upcoming weeks on the values that I hold and some general values that I see reflected in the overall Pagan community – as my ideas and opinions evolve based on what others have said and a few things I’ve been thinking about for some time now.