Have you ever been inside a communist country? I spent a day in East Berlin two years before the Berlin Wall came down in 1989. My most enduring memory of it is that all the cars looked the same and were very old-fashioned. The people who lived there were prisoners without many choices, and some risked their lives for freedom.
Organized religion is a bit like communism when it comes to freedom of thought, belief and opinion.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church contains the extensive official doctrine of the Catholic Church. Orthodox Christians profess their faith by reciting a creed during church services. When I was old enough to comprehend what the words meant and that I didn’t agree with them, I stopped going to church.
My reborn Christian friends praise Jesus on their Facebook walls, sometimes including a statement along the lines of “post this as your status if you are a true Christian” (I never said I was a Christian but that’s besides the point). This is effectively brainwashing, a manipulative tactic to control the minds of others. They are still my friends. I don’t expect them to think exactly like me.
Paganism, on the other hand, is more like capitalism. There is no central church or catechism.
Pagans can define their god(s) however they wish and worship any god(s) they wish, including Jesus Christ. Some don’t care to define or worship any anthropomorphic god(s) at all and simply revere the Divine manifest in Nature (pantheist Pagans). Some follow a single Pagan path and some combine elements from various Pagan paths (eclectic Pagans). Some but not all try to recreate their religion with historical accuracy (reconstructionist Pagans).
A right implies a responsibility. Pagans have the right to think for themselves and they also have the responsibility to think for themselves. In order to think for oneself, one needs to educate oneself. Being Pagan is not a passive option.
The question of tolerance or acceptance of certain practices by “the Pagan community”, and the impact thereof on the image of “the Pagan community”, is a touchy subject. The use of this terminology bothers me for two reasons; there is no official central Pagan church either nationally or globally and I prefer to make up my own mind about such matters.
Since I have started interacting with local Pagans, I have been criticized by other Pagans for expressing a personal opinion, for being eclectic and most recently for not thinking like a reconstructionist. That’s not what I signed up for.
“I am the fellow citizen of every being that thinks; my country is Truth.”
The Marseillaise of Peace, Alphonse Marie Louis de Prat de Lamartine (1790-1869)
This article was first published http://mywingsofdesireblog.blogspot.com/2011/09/think-like-pagan.html on September 23, 2011.