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Author Topic: Special Discussion: Nature and Pagan Religions  (Read 22891 times)
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Religion: Hellenic Pagan
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« Reply #11: May 14, 2008, 04:15:37 pm »

Sadly, there doesn't even seem to be a good and generally accepted definition of "nature-based" within the broader community of Pagan religions. What does it take to rationally and meaningfully classify a religion as "nature-based"? I've seen everything from "has to worship nature as the religion's deity to be nature-based" to "having one nature/agricultural festival out of one hundred that aren't and the religion is nature-based." This lack of a compromise definition that most Pagans AND most Pagan religions can accept is probably why these discussions so often turn nasty.

*nods*  Yeah.  As we talked about in the other thread, SO MANY of the definitions wind up either including all religions that existed before the Industrial Revolution, or excluding almost all religions. 

And the thing is, most of those type of definitions are NOT based on observation and comparison of actual belief systems, but on the desire to push an ideology:  the "it has one agricultural festival, therefore it's nature-based" sorts usually want some kind of "pagan unity" (tm).  The ones pushing "you worship nature, we worship the GODS" sorts are usually motivated by "WE'RE NOT WICCANS, because Wiccans suck."  Neither of those definitions has *anything* useful to say about what being "nature-based" can mean.

For myself, I think that "nature-based" is best understood as when the idea of nature (however "nature" is conceptualized) is understood as a central organizing principle of the religion -- to the point that if you chopped out all references to nature, you could not practice the religion in a recognizable way.  That's it.  No commentary on specific forms of worship, or how one conceptualizes the gods, or whatever -- there's tons of different possibilities.  And moreover, I think it's more of a continuum than an absolute category.

Like, Wicca* without its festival cycle devoted to the changing seasons and the harvest, deities explicitly figured as intimately connected to the natural world, and overall language and imagery, would be... pretty much completely gutted.  Whereas a Greek Recon/Hellenic Pagan devoted to Athena following the Athenian civic festival calendar would not lose too much beyond some imagery and a festival or two -- you could still recognize it.  One devoted to Demeter, though, would be flailing.  This is where the continuum comes in -- even if a religion as a whole skews toward the "nature-based" or "non-nature-based" end, individual practices can fall at various points.  How close is the idea of "nature" to the heart of the religious practice?  The closer it is, the closer to the "nature-based" endpoint.

IOW, we need a definition that is based upon, you know, real-world beliefs and practices, not fantasies of unity or desires to exclude people we don't like.   

*Not a Wiccan, but have studied it fairly extensively, from both an Ecletic NeoWiccan practitioner's perspective and a scholarly perspective.  *g*   

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