Practice and Belief

People often call the pagan and polytheistic religions orthopraxic (having to do with “right practice”), to contrast them with religions that are orthodoxic (having to do with “right belief”).

As it happens, one of the things that first drew me toward paganism was the orthopraxy. Orthodoxy was always problematic for me; the requirement of belief seemed unreasonable. You can’t choose belief. You can’t control it. You believe, or you don’t. And in the orthodoxic faiths, so much rides on belief. It was, for me, a poor fit.

What was a good fit, back then, was something where what counted was what you did. You can choose what you do. You can choose how you act in the world.

Belief comes in on its own. That didn’t happen for me, not really, until about ten years into my journey into paganism. Oh, I believed things in my head, the way you believe things because they make sense. But I didn’t believe in my heart, the way you believe because you know, not until then. (Until Aphrodite.)

Another nice thing about practice is that it can be as consistent as you want it to be. It can be neat and tidy, or it can be messy.

Belief changes. It moves, it shifts. Things that were once clear grow uncertain, things that were once solid become fluid. Gods move in and out of focus. There are quiet periods, there are active times. There are comings and goings, changes of the guard, changes, changes, changes. Belief is always, always messy.

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