Tuesday, October 09, 2007

How Much Belief Do You Need to Be a Wiccan?

I've got a question specific to Wicca, although other perspectives are welcome to. The question boils down to: how much belief do you need, and in what things, in order to consider yourself a believer?

This may sound like a navel-gazing question, but it's a very important one to me. Like many people who self-identify as pagan, I was raised Christian (Episcopalian, in my case) and left the church; however, my reasons were rather different from those of many ex-Christian pagans that I've met. While it seems many pagans came to a parting of ways with Christianity because of a fundamental disagreement with Christian practices rather than with Christ as such, I left a church whose practices and philosophy I found myself, overall, in strong agreement with. Instead, my disagreement was with the basic premise: I don't believe, and can't make myself believe, that Jesus Christ was the son of God. Thus, it's a matter of spiritual honesty for me: no matter how congenial the rest of the package might be, I can't call myself a Christian when I don't believe in Christ.

All well and good, but what that leads me to at present is wondering the same things about Wicca. Spiritually, I'm not a literalist, and I don't tend to believe that the divine behaves like human beings, only bigger. The ways of the divine are intermittently and imperfectly understood by us; the forms we worship it in have no literal existence. Only...do they? Christians believe that Christ was actually born and lived and died, and was the son of God. Wiccans believe in the Lady and the Lord -- two gendered forms of the divine, each of which has its various manifestations. So how much of this is literal, fundamental belief for a Wiccan? What does it mean for a deity to be female or male? Wiccans speak of a Horned God -- does that mean that, in order to be a Wiccan, one must believe in the literal truth of a god with horns on his head (or a god with a head, for that matter)? How much is metaphor, how much is literal corporeal truth, how much is spiritual truth that can take some corporeal form?

I do feel myself drawn to Wicca -- that is where this all comes from. But just as I was unwilling to be a cafeteria-style Christian (gimme the mac and cheese and the agape and skip the green beans and the son of God, please), so am I unwilling to call myself a Wiccan if I can't buy the essential parts of the package.

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