“I wished I could believe like that. It must be so comforting…”
There are all kinds of Pagans. I hang out with a lot of humanists and skeptics, and fewer mystics and believers, so I hear the above phrase a lot. I’ve said it a few times myself.
There’s something condescending in that, though, right? ‘Ah, to be so naive again!’ says the world-weary realist.
That’s not to say that the envy isn’t also real for some of us. We do want what (we think) faith will give us: feelings of being cared for and watched over, purpose and direction given to us from outside, and comfort that comes from Someone having a plan. We think it will be less work; we think it will be easier than always doubting, analyzing, thinking, creating, and then doubting and analyzing again.
I think we underestimate the work involved in believing, but this isn’t about the faithful. This is about letting go of the story of “I wish to believe” – both the patronizing and the jealousy – and embracing our unique ways of being in this religion and what we can contribute to the larger conversation about spirituality’s role in saving humanity. We can be a bridge. We can make religious offerings that are gifts to the world. We can offer community and connection. We can bring each other back into the earth and show what’s worth saving. We can make thoughtful critiques, show that comfort is not the most important thing, and create something beautiful and true and powerful… then doubt and ask questions and create something even more beautiful and true and powerful. There’s a lot of work to do; let’s stop wasting time wishing we were different.