I do a lot of reading. Books and blogs and websites on the topics of spirituality. And I come across lots of pagan sites all of which claim, emphatically that paganism is not dogmatic. And, do you know, I am not entirely sure that's the case. Ironically, this insistence on lack of dogma, seems to me rather like dogma! Most of these declarations are followed with a lengthy description of what paganism is and perhaps more significantly, what paganism isn't!
I have just read the following (from a established organisation representing pagans worldwide)
"A religion without goddesses can hardly be classified as Pagan."
I have never been 100% comfortable with describing myself as pagan. Because I am not entirely comfortable with labels or with defining myself as one thing or another. I have a practical Earth based spirituality which is generally accepted as falling under the pagan banner. And I have found kinship and a sense of belonging in my pagan community. But I also accept many aspects of other faiths and I am not entirely sure that my belonging is not dependent of believing certain things and by the same token, rejecting certain things. Readers of this blog will know that I embrace Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Native American, Sufi and Christian mystic teachings along with any of the vast range of practices that might fall under the pagan banner.
This doesn't sit easily with some as they feel it is disrespectful to a faith to cherry-pick in this way. And I acknowledge and honour this, being very mindful of cultural appropriation. I do not practice what I don't fully understand or integrate (my own practice honours Celtic spirituality) but I do acknowledge the truth and teachings of other faiths and use those practices which are appropriate for me to use.
By creating community we also create rules. It allows groups and organisations to function. But this also determines who should be be part of the community and who shouldn't. Rules of belonging. And in spiritual communities, these rules of belonging can also be about what we believe or don't believe.
Perhaps "an official system of principles or tenets concerning faith, morals, behaviour, etc." ? Dogma, even? A way of deciding who belongs and who doesn't.
There is more to say about this idea of belonging and community. As I leave this particular post I still feel uneasy. I feel on the edges of belonging.