Ever so often, I hear/read fellow Pagans who lament the speed of growth for Paganism over the years. I will be honest, I know very little about the numbers of how Paganism may or may not be growing – and frankly, I wouldn’t get too worked up about it if I knew.
See, I work in statistics on a daily basis. Population growth is one measure that my college utilizes to predict such things as budget, employee cost, and a whole host of other financial positions. I completely grok what the point of that is. The college needs to predict aspects of base-line growth to determine things such as outreach needs, as well as determining larger scale projects that impact bottom-line costs. That stuff is necessary for working a business. I’m not sure its necessary for working with a Spiritual belief system.
Honestly, I am not trying to throw cold water on the idea of Paganism’s wider growth. In fact, I am always happy to see people come to Paganism, when they realize that this is where their Spiritual home is. Alternately, I am also happy when I see people come to Christianity or any other faith when they realize that is where their Spiritual home is. Just as I am happy when I see people accept Atheism or Agnosticism as their Spiritual (or not) home.
For me, its not a “numbers” game. I am not counting up the number of Pagans that are in the bucket I am, nor am I looking for a wild game of Spiritual Red Rover with the Christian faith (or any other faith for that matter). Its not quantity that matters, its quality. Specifically, quality for the adherent of (pick a faith).
Early in my search for a Spiritual home, I wandered to the southern Baptist faith. I was never comfortable with where I was. I didn’t enjoy the yelling and shouting at me. I could not correlate the concept that my soul was going to Hell unless I accepted Jesus ben Joseph as savior. I couldn’t fathom how a “loving” God would do this. But I glossed over those differences between what I believed, and what the over-arching aspect of this faith taught. Why? Because I wanted to belong with these people. I found people that I thought were friends. I wanted to be a part of the crowd. I wanted to be one of the “numbers”. When I started questioning, I found that I wasn’t accepted because of that. I was drummed out for not “going along.”
Within Paganism, I don’t count myself as part of a number. I am a Pagan. I feel and experience the Gods, Goddesses, and Spirits as individual entities. I walk a Spiritual Path that I have learned to define and develop for myself. My relationship with Fliodhas, Crow, and Coyote are between myself and each of Them. I have fellowship with other people who think very similar to myself, and I count many of them as friends. But its not because I need to be part of a number of people. Its because I have unique relationships with each of them as individuals.
It took me nearly twenty years to understand all of this for myself. So, when I hear people talk about a lack of growth within Paganism, or someone points out a study that marks Paganism at (x) percentage of the population; I smile inside. I remember when hearing those numbers heartened my soul. Now, my Spiritual beliefs fall to a population of one. Me. There are others that are similar. And we have forged friendships from this. But those friendships are based on who those people are as people. Not from what they believe or practice spiritually.
But I do hear the drums in the distance. And I realize that there will come a time where what I believe will be contested by others. But that is a post for another time….