After reading John’s fantastic post “Why we need a statement of Pagan “first principles” over at the Allergic Pagan, a great blog by the way, I felt the need to spew about the nature of Paganism as a defining word.
What frightens and annoys me the most about modern Pagans and Neo-Pagans:
The need to be labeled
The need to be justified
The need to be heard
There are other things but these three things are at the top of the list.
The need to be labeled is something that we’ve picked up from other religious systems and communities. We have to be different and we have to be uniquely apart from the rest. “Our faith is different and we have to prove it!” the Pagans say with fists clenched – But who are the Pagans? What would they be wearing, what symbol sets them apart, what tenets do these monolithic Pagans hold dear?
Why do we need to label ourselves? And what if the labels we pick fail to describe anything at all?
The trend I’m seeing is that people who would have considered themselves Pagan ten to fifteen years ago, and even five years ago, are now choosing to leave that term behind. I see this happening not because the terms Pagan and Neo-pagan fail in their description but because Pagan is now a label growing on it’s own and moving at incredible pace outside of the control of those who had once chosen to incorporate it. This effect is a kind of cultural engine not only changing the community under it’s banner but the Religious world in which its bubble of uniqueness exists alongside other bubbles. So, then you may ask, shouldn’t we mold Pagan into a term that is ours to define so that others don’t use it incorrectly?
John Hagee recently used the word Paganism in connotation with the evils of environmentalism (his words)..along with a host of even more blatant falsehoods about Buddhism and Islam. Here’s the problem with labeling an entire conclave of religions under the banner of Paganism. It’s generic and the term becomes misused – Pagan is not only a noun but an adjective that describes a type of belief and not a specific one. The difference Pagans have with their self described label as compared to other faiths is that an individuals Paganism may be a complete 180 from her neighbors.
My conclusion is that the only thing the label Pagan does is obfuscate the sincerity of Joe the generic Pagan’s path. We want labels because we live in a world that demands concise material to hold onto and understand. A Christian believes in Christs redemptive properties, a Buddhist believes that Siddartha Gautama reached enlightenment and thus so can she, a Muslim holds that Mohammed is the Prophet of Allah. Unlike Christians, or Buddhists, or Muslims there is not one thing that we all can agree on, because Pagan is not a term like Christian or Muslim, it does not say to those outside of my community that I’m an Odinist or that I’m a follower of Artemis or that I don’t care about divinity at all, nor does it specify my practice limiting it to one set of beliefs or delusions. But, don’t all Pagans consider the Earth sacred? No they don’t, again Pagan has no central dogmatic principle…even though our “leaders” have tried extremely hard to provide one.
More opinions to come…