Two years ago I caused serious commotion by stating that, although I worship the gods of nature, I am not pagan.
Friday, Allergic Pagan author John Halstead made a similar declaration. He still totes the P-word—but he’s ashamed of it:
I was embarrassed. Paganism for me was a rich and complex tradition with the potential to transform consciousness and, dare I say, save the soul of the world. But the public face of Paganism seemed to me silly and naive. I’ve written before what I love about Paganism and what I hate about Paganism… What I want to do here is explore this embarrassment.
He explores not just the movement’s failings, but his own hang ups. These hang ups are more than personal quirks, they represent a growing recognition that mainstream Paganism is, well, just not that well suited to a scientific, humanistic and superstition-averse 21st century.
In the past I’ve asked why Paganism isn’t a major world religion: I think John answers that well.
He refers to Pagan powerhouse Teo Bishop’s own professed embarassment:
It turns out that Teo’s embarrassment was not so broad as my own… To me, the ritual Teo describes is flighty New Age drivel and not fundamentally different from praying to an all-powerful monotheistic God to save us from everything bad in the world… I think this type of ritual is characteristic of the public face of Paganism. And it is something I absolutely do not want to be associated with.
John then goes on to present his own vision of paganism: a belief that embraces the entire world, its good and its bad, the whole lively mix of pain and delight that we slog through without the help of gods. It is profoundly humanistic and yet, I sense, it leaves room for the Infinite.
Just like veins of Classical paganism and—not coincidentally—the Heroic Faith.
John will take a lot of fire for his critique of Paganism-the-mothership. But this is one of the best personal essays on religion I’ve seen. Paganism offers a beautiful promise to the world, undermined in its entirety by the behavior of actual Pagans.
You can read his words here: Being Ashamed of Paganism. Will John’s kind of religion, which blurs the line with humanism, ever grow? Is this the century of religion sans faith, and is that a good thing? Or will religion only succeed when it provides a promise of comfort?