Is Neopaganism compatible with Religious Naturalism?
I'm burnt out at the moment. I have little energy to devote to projects that where once a priority. I am beginning to wonder if I should lay some projects to rest. Me and some friends have tried to keep one such project going with little interest or feed back and have contemplated either dissolving the project or forming a new project. Said, project has been bringing naturalists and pagans together within our unitarian universalist congregation. The group once was more neopagan oriented, though there are a large number of people who desire a connection to the natural living-world who are not comfortable with neopaganism. We've attempted to broaden our focus and have been unable to find constructive input. Leaving me to wonder if religious naturalism and neopaganism is compatible.
Me and my friends have tried to develop naturalistic worship within a UU context incorporating elements of local ecology. Some of these worship ceremonies have incorporated standard neopagan liturgy and others have been more experimental allowing for more improvisational elements. The assumption is that nature-based worship should be grounded in local ecology and reflect modern understanding of the natural living-world and its processes. However, such worship requires an active relationship with the land, and nobody seems to be interested in putting in the work to develop a respectful relationship. Instead, it is much easer to borrow from other cultures, past and present, taking them out of context and forcing them into outdated Romanticism with an equally outdated occult revival supernaturalism flare, (e.g. neopaganism).
But, I do not see how generic neopagan liturgy and vague theology relates to nature. The focus on anthropomorphic gods taken out of their cultural and historical context seems insulting to my indo-european ancestry. These are criticisms I have had with neopaganism in the past. However, I feel the few genuine strands of eco-paganism are moving in the right direction. Many have a more naturalistic approach to paganism, many whom could be described as naturalistic pagans. They are clever in adapting neopagan liturgy to a more ecological and naturalistic application. And as much as I admire these groups of people, I feel there is often a lack of local life-place focus. But, the eco-pagans continue to surprise me. At this point, I would consider eco-pagans separate from neopaganism. Even though drawing upon similar sources, I would say their motivations are worlds apart.
I wonder if I should give in and join the eco-pagan crowed. Perhaps my resources and energy would be best served catering to that crowed. They tend to understand and accept the truth of the origin of neopaganism and able to make something respectful and meaningful out of those origins, which is no small feat. I commend them on their ingenuity, tenacity, creativity, and vision. However, something prevents me from embracing it as my personal life-way. I'm unsure what it is. Part of it is the green-washing of America, which I see eco-pagans getting caught up into. Maybe I do not fully understand it. Yet, like BioRegional Animism, there are little resources available about it specifically. Perhaps the divide between the two is not as wide as it looks.
I've once said the largest difference between my approach to nature-religion and that of eco-paganism is liturgical. Most eco-pagans roughly follow the eight holidays of neo-paganism but observe them in different ways. Whereas I question the generic eight holidays in neopaganism relevancy within the context of my local ecology. The surviving narratives of per-Christian European traditions provide a source of ancestral memory for me, but I feel they are artifacts which should remain in their time and place. However, I admire how eco-pagans are re-interpreting them to fit with post-modern reality.
I've struggled with getting my point across to a broader audience. I don't know if it is my use of language. Maybe it is my non dualistic approach which confuses people entrenched in dualistic thinking about the natural living-world. I cannot divide nature into neat little groups of metaphors represented by human-like gods. For me, it doesn't fit into nice categories of the five elements, or the eight sabbats, or archetypal stereotypes. It isn't something I escape into or see as being separate from humanity. In fact, the concept of natural, supernatural, or unnatural, makes no sense to me. Even the word nature feels awkward coming from my mouth. As a group, we have strives to provide open flexible worship allowing for personal experience of the living-world to shape the ceremony itself. People seem uncomfortable with such fluid worship and prefer predictable paint-by-number ceremony that comes pre-assembled out of the box -- just add fire, water, air, earth, and spirit, a Jungian archetype for a god, microwave for 3 minutes on hight, and presto instant religion. I guess I prefer home-made religion made from scratch.