Syncretism: Right or Wrong?
Article ID: 8148
Age Group: Adult
Days Up: 3,751
Times Read: 3,196
Posted: January 17th. 2004
Times Viewed: 3,196
Syncretism is a process that has existed for centuries, within all religions, within all belief systems. Without it, religion and society would not evolve and grow with the needs of its followers. In fact, there are many cases in which history has been made due to the presence or absence of syncretism.
An absence of syncretism can lead to extreme discord. Many of the problems that have existed between countries in the Middle East are based upon religious differences. Syncretism has not played a part in these issues, which, in my opinion, furthers the gap between them. I believe that if more of an effort was made to understand one another, some small melding of beliefs would occur, fostering understanding and a sense of cohesion, which could only be positive.
An example of syncretism in play is the Christian conversion of Pagans in the Middle Ages. Many of the peasants' beliefs and rituals were adapted into Christianity. This served to better enable the peasants to accept Christianity as their new religion. It is a proven fact that familiarity can promote conversion. This fusion of beliefs made it so much easier for the Christian crusaders to accomplish their goals.
While conversion to Christianity may not be an historical high point in Pagan history, it does provide a stunning example of the power of the fusion of beliefs and practices of multiple religions. It can also be used to teach us to recognize the differences between practices that are applicable to us and those that aren't. It can be used as a learning tool when exploring various belief systems today.
The melding of beliefs and practices of other systems has become an integral part of my beliefs. As a child, I was an Episcopalian. Once I was old enough to question my beliefs and my religion, I realized that there were things that I did not agree with. The main problem I had was the inflexibility allowed in the beliefs of the church. There were standardized texts to read and to live by. There was not a lot of room for differences. That is part of what led me to Paganism.
I don't believe that beliefs are religion-specific. I think that it is more about what feels good and right to an individual than what someone else sets out before you as true and correct. I embrace the knowledge and the beliefs from other systems, and use them to gain knowledge for myself and to grow spiritually. I take things that feel right to me and incorporate them into my belief system as I see fit. I don't think that makes me less Pagan than those that adhere only to "Pagan" beliefs. After all, who is to say what is Pagan and what is not? Isn't that part of what Paganism is, the freedom to choose and practice as an individual finds correct?
In my own practices and beliefs, there are elements from many belief systems, as they apply to me and my life and needs. I believe in the God and the Goddess. Like most Pagans, I believe that, generally speaking, they exist in and around us. But I also believe that there is an aspect to them that is divine, much like the Christian God, and that exists on a plane different than mine. I believe that they are a part of us in that they share their knowledge and wisdom with us, as we need it for whatever it is we are experiencing. I believe that we are a part of them as a part of a greater whole.
Other of my beliefs seem to closely resemble some of the beliefs found in Buddhism. The most important is the ability to find peace and wisdom within myself. This is a major principle in Buddhism and one I have spent years trying to achieve. How I go about it may not be mainstream Buddhism, but I find that many of the thoughts and beliefs that I have read have helped me find it for myself in my own way.
I view myself as Pagan. If I have to put a name to it, I would say I was following a green path. Do I follow it 100%? Of course not. Like every person in every belief system, there are things that don't work for me or that I just plain don't do. Many of my beliefs are probably viewed by some as somewhat Christian in nature. Maybe that is so, as I was raised as an Episcopalian. But, as I said before, I don't think any belief is religion-specific. In my most unpopular opinion, I think most religions have the same basic principle, whether it be Paganism, Christianity, or Buddhism. I think they all have the belief of, "An it harm none, do what you will;" in essence The Golden Rule.
In the world we live in today, I don't think there really is any TRUE or PURE religion left. As history is made, and society evolves, and knowledge is gained, it is only natural that religion evolves with that. As people change, spiritual needs change as well. The beliefs I hold now are not necessarily the same as ones I had 3, 4, or 5 years ago. Events happen to change you and to change your way of thinking. Syncretism allows you the freedom to keep beliefs that have withstood the changes of time and move on from ones that no longer apply to you. It also allows you to embrace that which is new and applicable to you as you are as a person at the present. The freedom to choose is what drew me to realize that I am a Pagan at heart. The ability to be true to myself and to my beliefs is what makes me a proud Pagan. It is what fuels me in the everyday trials that I face and the multiple encounters I face each day with the rigid minds I encounter around me!!
Embrace the differences and learn from them. I think each person could benefit from it, no matter what the religion!
Location: Fort Huachuca, Arizona
Author's Profile: To learn more about Kim - Click HERE
Bio: I am a 14-year US Army veteran, now an Army wife. I have been following some form of a green path for about 6 years and am constantly learning more. I am also a SAHM of 4 boys. I have had several children's stories published in the past and am currently working on a fiction novel. I have recently become involved in anti-Pagan discrimination issues and have been very busy with that!
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