I work at a two-year community college, so I am used to people handing me things to read. I also live in an area of north Texas that is fervently Southern Baptist. On the other side of the little town I live in, there’s a huge Catholic Church. So I am used to people sharing their beliefs with me in normal, everyday conversation as well. I am openly Pagan, but its not something I wear on my sleeve in neon, blinking lights either. The other day, I was handed a small book titled “Keep Calm and Trust God”. The intent was not malicious, in fact I doubt that the person even realizes that I am not a Christian. But, most likely, its noted that I am not *their kind* of Christian, which may have prompted the handover of the book.
I understand the desire to share things of your faith with others. Particularly in a religious culture where you are taught that unbelievers will suffer eternal damnation and suffering. You don’t want to see people go through that, so you want to share with them why they are on the wrong Path in life. Totally understandable. Except that I find it similar to selling encyclopedias door-to-door. You knock on the door, and explain to the person opening it why they need these encyclopedias. You point out that this information will be at their fingertips. Their family will be smarter because of it. And only for the low price of twenty dollars per month over the next twelve months.
For some folks, the encyclopedias are definite “must-have” and they purchase them straight away. For others, they have access to the internet, which provides them the same access to the encyclopedias and far more. And for others, they have no desire to have the encyclopedias, nor do they have access to the internet. They are happy to not have either. And all are valid answers and responses. But enough of encyclopedias…
Personal belief systems can be quite the same, though. There are folks who knock door-to-door, offering to share their testimonies with complete strangers – all in the hope of converting a soul. There’s a biblical passage that essentially commands Christians to convert the masses. I’m not going to look it up or quote it. I’m not a Christian, nor am I going to prove the contextual aspect of what they believe. But I find this to be very similar to selling encyclopedias door-to-door. This was also something that was very key to me leaving Christianity as well.
See, I am a firm believer that if this (whatever belief system) is the Path for you to walk, you will find your feet upon it. Its how I found myself within Paganism. Its also how I found myself on the Path of Druidry that I currently am walking. Its how Crow, Coyote, and Fliodhas have all become a part of my daily Path. I followed what I believed – the sacred aspect of Nature; the ability to find seriousness in folly, and folly in seriousness; that there is balance throughout; there is sacred in every moment of the day and night – and I find myself where I am now. I also see the intersection between what I believe and the Path I walk with others. And while my Path brings me joy, and my Path provides context between myself and quite a few of my friends – I have no desire to bring other people to walk my Path.
I came to Paganism on my own. No one told me I was going to suffer some eternal punishment if I didn’t become a Pagan. Nobody threatened me with anything if I chose to walk away from Paganism. I came here freely, on my own, driven by my own curiosity and desire to discover the Spiritual and Sacred within myself and around me. I didn’t convert to Paganism. I discovered it within myself. My belief grows and changes with me. There are constant values associated with it – the Gods and Goddesses are real, singular entities, the Spirits of Place are many, the Spirits of Ancestor can and do communicate with me, and everything around me is alive (some moving at a pace much faster or much slower than I can perceive). I have experienced all of these revelations as I have walked my Path, why would I want to deny that experience to others by telling them what to believe? This is why I don’t convert people to my Path. If they want to experience, they will – on their own, as it should be.
Not everyone SHOULD believe as I do. Not every Pagan WILL believe as I do. But there’s a major difference between most Pagans, and most Christians — Pagans tend to respect that others’ spiritual Paths are unique to each individual. Many Christians do not. Most Pagans do not want the world to be completely Pagan – there’s no desire to convert. But many Christians are compelled to make the entire world Christian. Just as are a few other adherents of other faiths.
No, I have no desire to convert anyone to my Path. Nor do I desire to convert to anyone else’s faith. I am quite happy walking on my Path, learning what I need to at that moment, and experiencing the sacred of the moment in every day, every step, and every breath. My Path is for my footfalls. Sometimes alone. Sometimes with others. No matter which way, it is still a sacred moment to be experienced. Just as I watch sunrises and sunsets for the beauty…and to remind myself of where I truly fit into the environment around me. Just one part. Just one piece. Being.