This I Believe

Eric - Lincoln, Nebraska
Entered on November 1, 2006
Age Group: 18 - 30

My religion is important to me. But I am not a Christian, Jew, Muslim or even a Zoroastrian. I am a Pagan, and I am proud of it.

The first virtue of Paganism, to me, is that of balance. I believe in many gods, the mighty, the vast, timeless and supernal, but also the small and the tender, the intimate and local. The gods are different from each other. So there is a virtue in music, or athletics, getting involved in politics, working hard or falling in love—but none of these at the expense of each other, lest like Hippolytus the very gods we most adore abandon us to be undone by some other god we never made time for. We must be good—not just in One Way, but every way.

Which gods do I believe in? Do I really believe in all the old myths of the Greeks, or the Norse, or the Egyptians? Well, yes, in my way. I tried atheism, but it rings false to me, against all absence of evidence. From as young as thirteen I have been a hopeful seeker, trying to savour the beliefs of every person I met and every book I read; constant use wore me out, and loath to choose any one of them, I chose them all. I believe in humanity, and in all of humanity.

I do not believe just anything and I do not believe everything. I believe the body is good and sex is good and that is where babies come from; I do not pray to a stork to send the proper winds. I believe there is true evil in this world and that I have seen it face to face; but the face I saw was that of a man, not a devil. I do not believe in the Devil; it might be easier if I did.

Paganism is, above all, a creed of tolerance, not conversion. Julius Caesar recognised Apollo among the Celts; Alexander the Great saw the Indian Krishna as Herakles. To be Pagan is to take seriously the religious claims of all cultures, all eras, all voices; to welcome these ideas into your heart demands a serious commitment to the freedom of speech, assembly, and the press. Adopting this faith has shamed me into understanding I cannot hate the religion I was raised in; some of its ideas, traditions and rituals are powerful and important to me even to this day. To hate an idea is to kill a part of the world that does not deserve to die.

My family thinks I’m crazy. For that, I must bless them, because they love me, have not cursed or rejected me. There are parts of this world where I would immediately be put to death for what I am saying, and in this very country not so long ago I would have been hanged. But my conscience is free, and it is with great joy that I participate in my crime.