Most people understand my position on religious beliefs near the very start of any such conversation. I’m not shy about voicing my opinion – on this or any other topic. However, I don’t always see a “need” to spend hours on end debating the merits or short-falls of my (or others’) opinions. After all, an opinion is just that…an opinion. But I digress…
My perspective on religious beliefs is that its an individual choice. Each person utilizes their understanding of their environment to come to the conclusion of which system of belief works best for them. And each individual’s choice is unique – never to be the same as any other individual choice. Even when the choices are the same by two different people. I remember when I was exploring the Southern Baptist system of belief in my youth (16 to 19 years old), one particular preacher made a statement to me: “the relationship between you and Jesus is a unique. Never the same as anyone else’s.” That particular statement resonated with me then – and continues to resonate with me now – even on a Pagan Path.
There are several other examples that help me to understand my own position on this point of view. You have a unique relationship with each individual in your life. For instance, your Significant Other (SO) – whomever that may be. You have relationships with other people to one degree or another, but none that are the same. Those relationships can’t be. Those are formed between you and that individual. Since the other individual is a different person than your SO, the relationship you have with them will also be different – as it will with any other person. Individuals are unique, so are the relationships we form between two individuals. There may be similarities, but in the end there will always be something unique in the relationship that differentiates it from another.
From my perspective, the same can be said with respect to an individual’s choice of belief. Their connection with God, the Gods, the Source, the Great Whatever – whatever descriptive one may wish to place on that concept – will be unique…different from that of another individual, even of the same faith. For me, its my connection to the Source….others may call it God, Jehovah, the Gods, the Great Whatever….those descriptions don’t matter to me. Its the way I connect with that which has more meaning to me. I hear people describe it as a connection with God through the divinity of the Holy Trinity. Others talk about the feelings of the fingertips of the Goddess on their cheek. Others describe the rush of being filled with the power of Awen. Each, for me, is just a similar description of what I feel…just described in a different way.
Once, back when I was in my Associates degree program at Bossier Parish Community College, I got into a long, protracted discussion about this with some fellow students. Two of these happened to be Christians – but of different perspectives. One was a devout, staunch Southern Baptist. The other was also a strong Christian, but with a more liberal mindset, which complimented her life as a lesbian. I, as the Pagan in the group, rounded out what made for a very strange set of friends. But it provided us with a lot of good conversations. In one such conversation, we hung out at one of the back entrances to the school, during a warm summer’s day. Our conversation turned to the concept of God vs. Gods vs. Source. Obviously, my position was quickly outnumbered by the two professing Christians. But to make my point, I set my Dr. Pepper can (long before I realized I was a diabetic) in between the three of us. I asked them to describe only what they could see of the can, and not to assume what was on the other side. I also followed suit and described the can from my perspective. When finished, I noted the differences in our descriptions – and pointed out that if we chose to accept only what we could see of the can, we would be limiting our understanding of what was the can. And in limiting that perspective, we would only partially accept the description of those seated next to us, while rejecting the descriptions of those opposite of us from the can. yet, we were all describing the same can. My point, as I finished, was that the Source that we all had belief in was one and the same. We merely gave it a descriptive that was most easily understood by ourselves within our unique relationship with it. There was no problem with doing such, since it allowed us to strengthen our bond and understanding of the Source through the use of such evocative measures. The problem arose when we took our descriptive and proclaimed it as the ONLY acceptable understanding of the Source, rejecting the descriptives that called to others.
Its this type of thinking that I am opposed to. I don’t have an issue with Christianity. I don’t have an issue with the Muslim faith. I embrace both as beautiful descriptive understandings of the Source – fully valid for those who follow that Path. However, when there are those who utilize these Paths – and there are some within the Pagan Paths who have done the same as well – to declare a singular way of connecting with the Source, a singular way of viewing the Source, deny an individual perspective on the Source — it is my opinion that creativity suffers….that individualistic freedom suffers….that the individual is caged and repressed in favor of a singular view….that our understanding of the Source is blunted. I’ve heard many times within Pagan groups about how the “fluffy bunnies” that are attracted to Pagan faiths should be shunned and ridiculed. Is this no different than the way that those of the Christian faith treat Pagans? Is this not similar to the rejection of polytheistic faiths in favor of a singular view towards Christian monotheism?
Personally, I’m not willing to stifle the perspective of an individual that differs with me on how to connect to the Source. All I ask of them is to have the same respect I give to them: the ability to explore my faith as the unique relationship that it is, and not judge me on the differences or similarities that may exist with that of others’. After all, don’t we all want a unique relationship with our chosen Partners in Life? Or should we all have the exact same pattern of living – all of us seeking to be the quintessential Cleaver clones? All of us living the same way, dressing the same way? Thinking the same thing? Sorry folks…I choose not be that way. I choose to be an individual. I bet you do too.