The religion I grew up with, conservative Christianity, was a religion of certainty. Sure, you had to have faith to believe in the first place, and the facts would vary depending on your particular sect, but once you made that leap it was all spelled out for you. What happens after we die? What is God like and what does He want from us? What should I wear this Sunday? Its all right there in the book.
Certainty makes me uneasy. I was one of those kids who imagined a dark vasty nothingness just beyond my peripheral vision, wondered if the world went away when I blinked. This wasn’t egoism, is was a basic mistrust of my senses. When I say an apple is red, and you also say it is red, are we really seeing the same thing? Or have we simply learned that “red” is the color of that particular apple, regardless of the wavelength of the light reaching our eyes. And speaking of that, do we really have eyes and does light really have wavelength? And speaking of light…
I’ve never been that comfortable with objective reality.
Most forms of paganism don’t deal with much in the way of certainty. We don’t have a single revealed text. Even in those faiths that do have an established lore, it is incomplete. And that’s on the practical issues – how to perform this ritual, what offerings are appropriate in this circumstance, how was that holiday celebrated. When it comes to more esoteric questions of philosophy and metaphysics, the lore is often contradictory. It comes back to the idea of orthopraxy. The ancients probably thought about these questions in the same way we do – some finding them very important, others completely irrelevant. But it seems they were expected to find their own answers; it wasn’t the purpose of their religion to provide them.
This is how philosophy was born. And, though I sometimes miss that comforting certainty, it pretty much works for me.
While I’ve mostly gotten past my weird idealist existentialist phase, part of me remains intensely agnostic.
I’ve written a lot in this blog about my ideas on the big questions. Mostly, so far, about my ideas of who and what the Gods are and how best to honor them. But I’m the first to admit I could be completely wrong. My interactions with the Gods may just be wish fulfillment fantasies, or They could be something completely different than I imagine Them to be.
I don’t really know these things, any more than I know that my red is your red. What matters is that we have all agreed upon what “red” means, so we can function as if we were all living in the same objective reality whether or not that is actually the case. As Kafka once said “it is not necessary to accept everything as real, one must only accept it as necessary.” Meaning when it comes to day to day existence, a difference that makes no difference is unimportant.
What matters is that my ideas of the Gods fit my perceptions and work for me on a practical level.
For me, that is where my leap of faith comes in: choosing to believe when doubt comes more naturally. Choosing to believe red is red and the Gods don’t disappear when I close my eyes.