I’m not a pagan by design. I didn’t plan it that way. I’m a Jew by birth. And I’ve even flirted with several flavors of Christianity. But Christianity was a bust since to be a Christian demands an adherence to a set of beliefs. while it’s true that each Christian sect has their own unique set of beliefs or doctrines, you are nevertheless expected to adhere to a minimal set of more or less core beliefs. If you can do that, you can’t legitimately call yourself a Christian. And since I could accept none of their core beliefs, I’m clearly not a Christian.
But what about Judaism? First of all, it’s not a doctrinal religion. That’s not to say that Jews don’t have beliefs. Of course they do, they people not machines. Judaism also has sects, though they would object quite strongly to that term. Nevertheless, there are divisions but they are based on attitudes and practices and not on differences in core beliefs. The exodus, for example, is a core origin story. It’s what defines the Jews as a people as opposed to scattered tribes. Some people believe the biblical story literally. For others it’s a necessary fiction that defines who they are as a people. Even Jews who don’t believe one iota in the exodus story will still celebrate the Passover by attending a Seder. For those folks, its historical accuracy is irrelevant.
Kashrut, or keeping kosher is another area where behavior trumps belief. Were all those rules really promulgated by God, either explicitly in the biblical texts or vis the wisdom of the rabbis? Does God, in fact care? Or is kosher eating a way of keeping your own people distinct from all the other communities that existed in close proximity in the Levant? The point is that keeping kosher, or at least giving it lip service is a central part of being Jewish.
But I never felt that strong community connection and so keeping kosher wasn’t something I really even cared about (that’s not to say I didn’t fake, and I did it well, but faking is still faking).
It’s not the case that I don’t believe in anything at all. I don’t believe that what you see is what you get and that there’s nothing beyond. But rather, my ideas about divinity are more eclectic and don’t fit into anyone of the prepackaged stories that I’m aware of. Nor do I feel any sense of awe around religious icons. But give me a giant oak or a giant an ancient pine. The point is, I feel that divine presence in the natural world. Whatever god is, god lives there and not in the sky as the great western religions tell us.
Once I discovered that that’s what paganism is all about, I discovered that I am at heart a pagan, an eclectic one for sure. I have no problem personifying nature in terms gods and goddesses so long as those divine visages aren’t placed above nature. I certainly don’t believe in the Newtonian idea that nature is simply just a machine. And I don’t find problematic the idea of worshipping them, or seeking their guidance and protection, however you want to phrase it. After all, Nature is what birthed us, sustains us and guides us. Nature is worthy of our worship.
Since coming to that realization, learning more about nature, and how also to protect it, has become my spiritual quest.