Articles/Essays From Pagans
December 1st. 2013 ...
A Pragmatic Look at Neo Paganism
The Tarot as a Tool for Raising Consciousness
Leaving a Pagan Group – Part 1: To Leave or to Stay?
November 24th. 2013 ...
The Pagan and the Papacy
The Groovy Aquarian Christ: Jesus From a Pagan Perspective
November 17th. 2013 ...
For Love of the God
Which Witch? Philosophical and Psychological Roots of Wicca
A Threat to Religious Liberties?
November 10th. 2013 ...
Where did Aleister Crowley’s Influence on Wicca Go?
Thoughts on the Threefold Law/Law of Return
Nine Creeds: A Statement and Explanation of My Beliefs
The Celtic Tree Calendar
November 3rd. 2013 ...
The Mundane/Spiritual Mirror: What Does it Say About Your Life?
October 27th. 2013 ...
Thoughts On a Miley-Cyrus/ Robin-Thicke Society
On Being Wiccan: Some Unsolicited Advice
Pagan Religious Communities in your Area: Connecting With and Creating Them
Banishing, Invocation and the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram
October 20th. 2013 ...
Weather Magick: Who is Responsible for the Weather?
Broom Closet: In or Out?
Bottle Spells and Magick in Hoodoo Tradition
On Coven and Claws
October 13th. 2013 ...
Destroying to Create: A Lesson from the Dead
Consume the Scorpion- Scorpion Energy Revisited
October 6th. 2013 ...
UPG and U: A Breakdown and Building Up of Unverified and Unsubstantiated Personal Gnosis
Answering The Call from Spirit
Coping with the Loss of a Familiar
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 2 (The South)
September 29th. 2013 ...
Six Reasons Why Covens are Here to Stay
Priestessing and Titles: What's the Point?
Truth or Convenience? Questioning Motives for Spiritual Advancement
Speaking Up: The Conflict Between the Spiritualist and Our Human Experience
September 22nd. 2013 ...
Death of a Friendship within the Craft
The Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage, Part 1 (The Center)
September 15th. 2013 ...
Some Pagan Prayers
Lunar Insight Moon Musings: Bramble and Cerridwen
The Holocaust Survivor (Part II)
September 8th. 2013 ...
Introduction to the Five-way Road: A Pagan Pilgrimage
The Druidic Concept of Nwyfre
The Holocaust Survivor (Part 1)
Giving and Helping
September 1st. 2013 ...
Use a Flyswatter for a Fly: More on the Dark Arts
How Spells Work
Is It Really 'Energy'?
August 25th. 2013 ...
Mother Nature’s Way: Forging a Distinctly American Path
Healing Moon Ritual
Unconditional Love: The Paradox of Perfect Love
Earth to Soul/Sole
August 18th. 2013 ...
How Not to Fall in the Bunny Trap
Why Are You Like That? Thoughts on Hoodoo and Appropriation
Finding the Right Coven
The Knowledge Found in Silence
Moon Musings, Planetary Preponderances, Hazelnuts and Magick Wands
August 11th. 2013 ...
“I Survived a Weekend with Galina Krasskova”
The Charges of the Goddess and God with Commentary
August 4th. 2013 ...
Fair Weather Witches
Pagan Studies II: Modern Paganism in the Americas
Pagan Abbeys - A Practical Heritage for Spiritual Lay and Professional Cloistered Communities
July 28th. 2013 ...
Crystals 101: A Helpful Guide For Beginners
The More the Merrier? It’s not Only an Inaccuracy; it’s an All Out Farce!
My Pagan Manifesto
July 21st. 2013 ...
I'm a Witch, Not a Wiccan: A Brief Summary of Broad Pagan Designations
Rethinking Community for Solitaries
13 Keys: The Beauty of Tiphareth
July 14th. 2013 ...
Ramblings of a Pagan Guy: Stupid Clichés We Use (Part II)
Pagan Humanism: A Tradition of Rational Religion
Moon/Planetary Musings: The Holly King and John Barleycorn
July 7th. 2013 ...
Coping With Depression: Learning to Dance with the Sacred Twins
Shamanic Healing of Anxiety and Panic Attacks
Humility and Community Service
H is for Hubris
June 30th. 2013 ...
How To Feel The Energy Around You
Planning A Ritual
Why Pagans Might Benefit from Counseling Techniques
The Weight of Contemplation: When the Silent Self Grows Louder
June 23rd. 2013 ...
Magick and Play
Tarot Spell for Protection
Moon Musings and Planetary Preponderances: RE-fuse, RE-duce, RE-use, RE-pair and RE-cycle
June 16th. 2013 ...
How To Stay Spiritual Amidst This Chaos?
NOTE: For a complete list of articles related to this chapter... Visit the Main Index FOR this section.
Religion, Faith, and Worship...Oh My!
Article ID: 15256
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 397
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Posted: November 4th. 2012
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Add dogma and doctrine to the list of words that seem to be taboo in some Neopagan communities. Many have come from Judeo-Christian households or locales and have deemed these words to be negative, restricting, or down right offensive. What confuses me is how some pagans can have a full conversation about why magic is neither bad nor good, how black and white, in regards to magic, hold no purpose because magic itself is neutral and yet, place meanings on words that are just as neutral. The social implications of terms like religion, faith, worship, dogma and doctrine reach far beyond any one particular religion. The words themselves are benign and harmless, and yet can invoke such rage in some people.
I have heard, "I had 'religion' shoved down my throat" or "my family hates me because I don't follow their religion." Terms like dogma, faith, and worship ride the same horse when it comes to the offense some take at the implication that they take part in such things. Let's look at these terms individually and objectively.
Earliest etymology comes from the Latin religionem/religio meaning "respect for what is sacred, reverence for the gods." Yes, you read that right; the term is actually as old as polytheism itself. Even the Roman Neopagans call their beliefs the Religio Romani. In simplest terms, religion is defined as "a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe, especially when considered as the creation of a superhuman agency or agencies, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs."
I can't speak for all Neopagans of course, but I find that if I simply stated the definition without telling them it is for the word "religion, " most would certainly agree that definition is part of what they, as Neopagans, contemplate and take part in. Many honor the eight sabbats, some honor the four fire festivals, some honor days specific to their deities that can be way more than eight festivals (the Roman and Kemetic calendars come to mind) . As most pagans take some inspiration from the polytheistic communities that once existed, the above listed are all things they believe and take part in.
The belief in one or more deities, and the honoring of that belief by taking part in "devotional or ritual observations", are commonplace in most Neopagan communities. Many also honor a specific moral code because of these beliefs and practices. Some follow a list of nine virtues, some follow three, some follow the Wiccan Rede, while others look to karma for their moral code. Regardless, these are all things that most Neopagans would agree are part of what makes them who they are.
For the purpose of this discussion, I'll utilize the definition that has the closest context to the discussion. Because of that, the definition of faith could be defined as "a belief that is not based on proof." As Neopagans, we tend to believe in the idea of deity in some way shape or form. Some believe in a grand deity that is beyond comprehension and some believe in a divine masculine and divine feminine. Some believe in a version of soft polytheism wherein there are a multitude of names for the same set of Gods and then there are those who are hard polytheists that believe that each God is distinct and real regardless of the similarities they may have with deities of other cultures.
All of these beliefs have one thing in common: a lack of proof. No matter how far deep down in our gut we truly believe that these deities exist, there is no proof. That is what makes it faith. We know our deities exist. We have nothing other than this confidence in how much we believe, but it is still belief. Because we have faith in a different idea of deity than the mainstream doesn't make it less about faith. The old "I don't believe, I know" argument doesn't really work when the next statement is "prove it." There is nothing there to prove. It is simply faith.
The term worship, when discussing with some in the community, tends to conjure the image of bowing down to a grandiose fear-mongering deity and getting on one's knees to "worship before the almighty." Many Neopagans will tell you, they don't "worship" their Gods, they "honor" them. I hate to break it to those Neopagans but the definition of worship is "reverent honor and homage paid to God or a sacred personage, or to any object regarded as sacred."
Worship simply means to honor and respect that which is sacred. The term doesn't define how to do so. That is what the Gods define or perhaps, man defines. What is it that we do at our devotional and ritual observances? When we light our candles or sacred fire, give our offerings, and thank the Gods, what are we doing? Are we not honoring them for what they have done for us or what we hope they will do for us? Are we not showing them their due respect for providing for our families and us? Whether I bow down at an altar or stand at it, I am still using it to revere them. I can word it whatever way I choose, but honoring them or respecting them, I'm still worshiping them.
Dogma and Doctrine
As these two words, in regards to this topic, are essentially synonymous, I'll focus on dogma. The term comes from Latin describing a "philosophical tenet" and from the Greek dokein meaning, "to seem good, think." By one definition it means an, "official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behavior, etc., as of a church."
In the simplest terms, tenets are the "dos" and "don'ts" of your chosen religious belief. The first tenet to come to mind? "An it harm none, do what thou wilt." You don't subscribe to that? Fine, "live with honor, " "always treat others with hospitality, " "for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction, " or simply "karma." These are all moral doctrines as dictated by our faith. We know what is "right" and what is "wrong" and most of us utilize our belief system as our guide to what we should and shouldn't do.
Perhaps we feel we will anger the Gods if we do or don't do these specific things. Maybe we feel that we need to be role models for others. Or perhaps, we just "know" that it's the right thing to do. It truly is no different than the idea of the "Golden Rule." These are the ideals we live by and part of how we put our beliefs into action. We "live right, " by honoring our Gods and "do right" because we believe those actions to be right as dictated by our Gods or the cultures we emulate.
We, as Neopagans, shun terms that actually give us common ground to stand on with other religious traditions. To ignore that we, too, have faith, dogma and religion is to give the naysayers more ammunition to declare that, "they don't even consider what they practice a religion, how does the 1st Amendment apply to them?"
How can we expect equal understanding, when we reject what makes us equal? Embracing the terms that all religions share is the way to bridge the gap and get the mainstream religious traditions to finally accept that we actually aren't that different, after all. If we start embracing our similarities, maybe they will stop focusing on our differences.
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