“Well, why not both?” by Mud & Magic

This essay was original published at Mud&Magic.

“Jön Upsal’s Garden” put out a challenging question: “… anyone who identifies as a pagan atheist, or humanistic pagan, or religious humanism, or whatever the heck they call themselves. Why do you include the word “pagan” in your self-identification?”

The post was mostly directed at The Allergic Pagan, who responded quite eloquently here, and another powerful response has already been put out by Nature is Sacred, but I thought it was an interesting question to engage with as someone from the middle.

Despite my skepticism, slippery beliefs, and uncertain faith, I am deeply committed to my identity as a Pagan. To me, it brings together things I can’t find together any where else:

That I get a shiver of awe when seeing a sky full of stars and when I learned in Geology 101 that we are all made of stardust.

That I can feel deeply reverent while learning about the oldest living organisms and while chanting with my community around a candlelit altar.

That I can find deep connection with Pagans who may be polytheists, animists, pantheists, atheists, or something else, because we can all share sacred space, and that I can debate and dissect the very basics of religion with those same people after because we share a Pagan tent that’s very large and very diverse.

That we’re a dynamic religion where experimentation is encouraged, but where we also have traditions and elders to guide us.

That I can change my spirituality to fit new scientific information and that I can create myths and beautiful rituals out of facts.

I love being a part of a religion – of a community – that includes both atheists and polytheists and that lets me be in the middle.

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