I’ve been meaning to get to this journal for a long time, like over a month. It’s a really important one for me, so if it takes me a few days to figure out exactly what I want to say, then so be it. You’ll see when you read it why it was so crucial.
For the Christmas holidays my friend came from another big city in this country to stay with me for a few days. We used to live together in the same house at college, so we are pretty dang comfortable with each other. I got to know him pretty well. I mean, due to his partyish nature and his spontaneous attitude, I even saw him naked once as he came downstairs drunk, wearing only tennis shoes, saying, “I’m going for a run.” There was probably a foot and a half of snow on the ground. (I’m not saying it was a smart day for him, but nobody can say he doesn’t have balls. I mean, I’ve seen them.)
In any case, I don’t know if anyone was more surprised than I was when I found out that, this last summer, he was baptized into the Catholic Church. I hadn’t even realized he was interested in Catholicism. It seemed like the only experience he had with it was 1) living with me, and 2) being exposed to this ultra-Republican, ultra-conservative Catholic girl who had a crush on him and was usually hanging around our house. It turned out that maybe he kept some more of his life private than I realized, because apparently he had been doing Bible study.
So, when he came to visit, naturally religion was one of our topics of conversation. I had casually slipped into a message to him before that I was looking into a Neo-Pagan path, but he hadn’t commented, so I thought perhaps he had missed it, or didn’t really care. To be fair, he is a great person, and pretty laid-back, so even when he visited, it was obvious that he didn’t care that I was investigating this path. He knew that it wasn’t his place to say what I could or couldn’t do. But when I did ask him what he thought, he unfortunately referred to it as “that Wiccan bullshit.” I was like, er, thanks, buddy.
Luckily, the conversation didn’t stop there. He was cool with discussing it further, just like I was cool with talking about Catholicism (those are my roots, after all). I think the worst thing about it was that, being a novice myself, some of the questions he asked me were really difficult to answer. For some of them I didn’t have an answer, and for some of them my answer seemed really stupid or unfounded. I mean, it’s not easy to go toe-to-toe on religion with somebody who’s a freshly studied/baptized Catholic, when you yourself have some books you’ve read and a few YouTube videos to go on. I was finding myself wishing I could tap out and get an expert in there, because no way was I holding up the actual beliefs of Neo-Pagans. Maybe I ought not to have asked him about his opinion, but something good did come out of it–I really had to question the path that I’m on. And that is the best thing you can do when you’re on a journey. Who, when traveling in the woods, wouldn’t look forward and back on the path, just to double-check they’re heading the right direction? I mean, that’s exactly what I did when I was studying Catholicism, and for awhile I was really, really into being Catholic. I read Catholic books when I didn’t have to. I sometimes drove myself to church when my family didn’t want to go. But eventually I realized I had some deep quandaries about Catholicism, and I wasn’t willing to continue with a religion that didn’t sit well with me. So questioning is the best thing you can do, and it’s totally normal.
So, I’ll get to some of the things my friend questioned me about. I can’t remember all of them, and when I asked him again, neither could he, but he did remember one topic he questioned. He said that he had a problem with any religion that lets you sort of pick and choose what you want to think or “the moral characteristics that you prefer.” For example, in Neo-Paganism, you could study or honor various different gods from different pantheons (he said “like Ares as courage or whatever”) and there is no “higher authority” to “keep it in check morally.” He said it was like making a religion around your values and therefore it won’t “facilitate any kind of spiritual or moral growth.” It was like saying “I like these things, so I’ll make a religion around these things and keep doing these things.” He said that religion should be a tool for self growth and he failed to see how neo-paganism facilitated that growth.
I remember a few other things, for example when I tried to explain the idea of “And ye harm none, do what ye will,” and he asked what prevented you from harming other people, I described the Rule of Three (whatever you do to another comes back to you three times over, like karma in a way). He said, “Really? Who came up with three as the rule? Does the Universe always dish out punishment in three’s?” (I’m paraphrasing here, but this is what I recall from our conversation that happened over a month ago.) And then, “Is the Universe a sentient being? Does it discriminate who deserves punishment, or is the Universe just like a scientific rule, where every action ALWAYS has the same reaction? If you tested it again and again, would it have the same results?”
These questions, are, of course, important. God, for example, is supposed to be a sentient being, and therefore His reactions to different things will always be different. There is no “Rule of Three” with God, because He is supposed to take everything into account. And, as we know, bad things sometimes happen to good people, and vice versa.
I don’t think I have answers for these things. I really wanted to have answers, but I just didn’t at the time, and I don’t think I do now, either. These are the kinds of questions you only really get into philosophically when you have been studying a religion for a long time, and I really haven’t been studying Neo-Paganism for that long.
Additionally, my friend said that it seemed that this whole path wasn’t really a “religion,” but a “philosophy.” Sure, you can have a philosophy of living in tune with Nature, and how to act, and I know that even some Witches or Wiccans don’t want to necessarily say that they abide by a “religion,” because religion has become a dirty word in some cases. But additionally, is saying that this isn’t a religion somehow diminishing it? Is living by a philosophy less respectable than living by a religion?
I know that in the last couple weeks, I’ve suddenly gotten a few subscribers (probably because WordPress made my blog searchable finally). If you are a new subscriber of mine, and you made it through this post, I would love to know your opinion in the comments. I’ll approve them as soon as possible. These are big questions that I obviously don’t have answers for, and I’m reaching out to the community for some help 🙂
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Blessed be, everyone.