TL;DR American society has lot touch with the Divine as a whole, not just the Pagan community. But I think it is making a come-back.
The other day, Galina Krasskova made a post entitled “a few thoughts” on her blog, where she commented on the difference between the level of devotion and piety between where she is currently (for some reason, I think she’s in Poland, but it’s definitely somewhere “Old World”) and that which she sees in the Pagan community in the United States. The comparison is not complimentary to Americans. Big surprise.She’s a devotional polytheist by her own statement. Furthermore, she appears (to my admittedly cursory examination of her blog) to be rather devout in her faith, which I applaud. I also appreciate that she seems to be more than tolerant of those who do not follow the same spiritual path that she does. I would like very much to see more of that in the greater American Pagan community.
I admit, I’m probably projecting a little here, but in this post, she rails against what I interpret as a lazy, irreverent, and lackadaisical approach to the Gods that many American Pagans take. She says, among other things, “I see people whining about whether the Gods exist. I see people starting a meme that turns polytheism into a social movement instead of a devotional and RELIGOUS one…Our Gods deserve better than this. Instead we don’t even try.”
I don’t disagree with her observations, even when she says, “I see levels of disrespect, and casual disregard for the Gods, and constant attempts by people to bring the Gods down to our level, to top from the bottom, to remove the sacred and the terrifying from our faith.” But I think she’s missing something, in that it’s not just the Pagan community that is so off-handed with the Divine. I think it happens in the Christian faith paths, too.
Elsewhere on my blog here, I’ve admitted to being in my 40s. I remember the heyday of Pope (now Saint) John Paul II. I remember sitting in the living room of one of my neighbor friends, with his grandmother watching news footage of him in the early 1980s. I remember her clutching her rosary while watching with bated breath.
I remember the devotion of the Italian immigrant family, with their grandparents, parents, and first-generation American born children of my age and slightly older. I remember, in high school, the A/V resource guy and one of the school librarians discussing how they prayed the rosary every morning as they drove in to work every weekday.
I also remember being confused when the Born Again family a couple of blocks over invited me to Bible study, where they asked me to take Jesus into my heart… And I remember my dad scoffing when I talked about it at dinner that night. I remember my parents’ friends discounting religion in general, and I remember my schoolmates making fun of the boy who brought his Bible to class to read every day. I remember my high school peers deriding the faithful among us, and nothing happening about it.
What I’m trying to say here is that the American Pagan attitude toward the Gods is not a specifically Pagan thing. I think it’s part and parcel of the fierce “me first, me best” attitude that Americans have in general. I think this attitude is part of the rampant corporatism and over-industrialization that America is leading with. The Earth is ours for consumption in any way we see fit. We are the overlords, we are the masters, and we will do as we please, damn the torpedoes. All is fair in the pursuit of material gain.
Be that as it may, and I agree with Galina’s observations, I have hope that the general attitude changing, no matter how slowly. I am a prime example, I think. I was raised in a hose in which God did not exist. Not denied, but completely didn’t exist. However, and even in my 20s, I felt a pull toward Spirit, if not a God.
Remember, I had no real frame of reference, so it is not surprising that I am left grasping at smoke. But I remember the peace that faith gave to those adults that I met in my formative years. I yearn for that certainty, that peace, but I have no foundation on which I can build. I don’t even rightly know what I believe, let alone what Gods to follow, or even what pantheon to work with. How does that happen, do They choose us, or do we choose Them?
Above and beyond anything else though, I strive. “Erring and erring, I walk the unerring path” and all that. I do my meditating, I am planning a nice little altar/shrine for where I spend most of my time at home, and now that I’ve bought a nice set of prayer beads from Hearthfire Handworks, that spoke to me, I’ll be saying prayers to Hecate, Lighter of the Way, Goddess of the Crossroads, and hope that there’s something, someone out there to hear.