Why Paganism isn’t necessarily a matter of faith

Stonehenge

Druids in action at Stonehenge. By sandyraidy (Stonehenge – Druids-2) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)%5D, via Wikimedia Commons

One of the many things that western Pagans have in common with Japanese Shintoists is that both religions are far more religions of action – ritual, magic, and general lifestyle – than religions of philosophy or teachings. This makes sense considering some of the other shared characteristics of the two religions, as both can be considered folk religions that developed among the general populace rather than a priesthood (to an extent), and neither have a “true” holy text (the Kojiki is about the closest thing that Shinto has, but it’s more of a collection of myths rather than a “guide” to the Shinto religion and is hardly complete; Inari, one of the most important Shinto deities, isn’t even mentioned by name).

In fact, I would say that the idea of “faith” or even “belief” is not as important in Paganism or Shinto when compared with more organised religions that do have a more set doctrine. If you ask a moot of twenty Pagans the question, “What do Pagans believe,” you’ll invariably get twenty different answers. Or, you’ll get the deceptively vague answer, “I don’t really know.”

Actually, I think there is a lot of power behind the statement, “I don’t really know.” I think it’s perfectly OK not to know exactly what it is you believe – acknowledging that you don’t understand the nature of the spiritual forces around us, or that you don’t know whether or not they’e even there, doesn’t mean you’re any less committed as a Pagan. It simply shows humility – an admission that no human being truly understands the forces at work in nature. Performing rituals because it just feels like the right thing to do or it makes you feel good, without over-thinking the beliefs that may lie behind these rituals, seems a perfectly valid form of Paganism to me. I know there are some Pagans who really do have a deep belief in their gods and magic, which is fine too, but I believe that it is action, rather than belief, that really makes Pagans Pagan. That’s why pretty much all Pagans are environmentalists – if there is a belief that all Pagans agree on, it is that the earth is sacred, and that we need to act to protect nature within our daily lives.

So if you find emotional and spiritual fulfilment in praying at an altar, or making offerings to Gods and Goddesses, or singing and dancing out in nature, I don’t think it matters at all if you’re not sure why you’re doing it – just keep on doing it, and you may well find that within these actions themselves, you’ll actually start discovering more and more about your own beliefs.

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3 Comments

Filed under Musings & Miscellaneous

3 responses to “Why Paganism isn’t necessarily a matter of faith

  1. Reblogged this on Solitary Witchin and commented:
    Excellent article worthy of taking a few moments to read!

  2. Yvonne Aburrow

    Nice post 🙂

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