Community is important. Religion is important. But I think a misnomer that we’ve all accidentally adopted from the Bible’s culture is that we must base religion on specific mandated core beliefs.
I will never see through any eyes but my own. I will never be able to believe what anyone else does. Even if I were to perfectly practice every part of what my grandmother does religiously, my beliefs will inevitably vary. But why is this bad?
For Beltane, I hosted a ritual welcoming Christians, Satanists, Atheists, Asatru, and a slew of Pagans of various backgrounds. 38 total people came to the service, and everyone went home happy, welcomed, and excited to do more. We are planning group events, family outings with our children, volunteer activities, and mutual assistance programs where we help each other with projects that need done. Doesn’t that sound awfully close to what every church aims for?
Part of our practice is also respectfully exploring each other’s beliefs. But unlike the Unitarian church, we’re aiming more to discover our differences than our similarities. Our variety is what makes us strong! Our lack of uniformity will always give us something new to explore. We will respectfully discuss how to promote our own freedoms and interests while passing on the good, the values we treasure, to our children.
For us, this is more the questions than the answers. We wonder what is real, what is possible. We believe in magic, but it’s closer to the Christian “miracles” than anything that the Bible and most pastors propagate.
We will adventure together, but the real path of life is the goal. The pagan Wheel of the Year is our main focus – one which focuses on the cycles of agriculture and nature and allows us to reflect those in our own lives. As the winter is a time of quiet, rest, and recuperation in the upper climes, so it is a time of contemplating our place in the world, our successes and failures over time. It is a season of rest and regrouping for us. Likewise, come May 1st, we take up our refreshed bodies and set new goals, to be tackled over the warmer months. We go, try, do – and come October 31st, we cut our losses. Ties to unsuccessful ventures are severed, while anything that truly worked is praised, treasured, kept. We then ponder the lessons learned over the winter, and assemble an updated, unblemished set of directions to venture out upon come spring. The cycle is the same, yet the direction always changes.
We are often taught that the “real world” of today requires that we work the same hours, every week, every season, without complaint. Sadly, this is a requirement of our modern age, and we have been trained well to live up to it. This seasonal system I discuss is in regard to the time when we leave work, though. We go in the direction of choice on our own time. We set ourselves goals for our interludes and respites. We focus on our lessons, on our own mental values, and pursue them freely. And with that in place, the “real world” often becomes far more bearable, and might even take directions we’d never foreseen. New opportunities open, ventures gain ground, and possibilities become attainable.
I love this cycle. I feel it works for everyone of today – people who don’t know how to properly rest, or organize their own thoughts. It doesn’t require total cultural adherence, and it doesn’t insist upon uniform beliefs. If anything, it almost encourages a fully personal experience of – well, everything! Because each year is defined by you.
Church – a place of loving gathering with kind community – is a wonderful ideal. But uniformity is a myth. Doesn’t it simply make more sense to have a church that is based on practice, versus religion? A place that helps us to discover ourselves, to aim high and receive the encouragement and honest love of our peers. We strive, together, learning and exploring each of our paths without having to agree on finer points of inner understanding. Dogma is left at the door, and “universal truths” are treated as a subject for debate. What part of our world is certain today, what part of our human knowledge should be discarded for the purposes of religious community? Can’t we include all of us, every part of our daily life and living, in the way we come together?
I think we can.