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Neopaganism vs Environmentalism – No

My position on this issue is quite simple. All neo-pagans should not be environmentalists. Forcing this concept on to the list of defining characteristics of a neo-pagan is foolish, if not horribly ignorant of what neo-paganism is. I believe that all people, regardless of religion, race, nationality, or socio-economic status should be acting in an ecologically responsible fashion. This is because, ultimately, everything we do to the Earth affect us and the future generations that follow us. Religion and politics hold no sway for me in this because it is a simple matter of common sense.

Just as common sense calls for all people to be responsible in how they handle the Earth, it also dictates that blanket statements such as all neo-pagans are Earth-worshippers’ is foolish. By saying such things, one misrepresents a highly eclectic and diverse subculture in the Western world. Neo-pagans practice a wide range of beliefs, where frequently there is an emphasis placed upon the Earth and nature. The deities of these varied belief systems within the neo-pagan community range from the ancient gods of classical Greece to the ubiquitous Earth deity (usually a female, maternal figure) to the Flying Spaghetti Monster of the joke’ religion of the Pastafarians.

Even as there is a wide range of deities within the neo-pagan community’s beliefs, there is a wide range of philosophies, political issues of interest, and the practices governing the expression of beliefs held by the individual. The pluralism in the community and the often seeming contrary blend of personalities and natures present serves to give the neo-pagan community a great deal of vitality, vibrancy, and strength. Forcing this multi-faceted community to agree upon points that define the cultural identity is also threatening the very life of the community.

The high amount of diversity and individualism in the neo-pagan community makes it very responsive to the needs of the practitioners. It also allows for the adaptation of the core elements which identify and define the community in the face of the needs of the community at large. While some may argue the changes that can come from any change to the elements that define the community are a bad thing, such changes are unavoidable because they’re prompted by the nature of the community.

Failure to change and adapt leads to stagnation. This serves to kill the very spirit of neo-paganism. Neo-paganism is a highly individualistic sub-culture in the Western world that is comprised of many small non-Abrahamic belief systems. These belief systems draw inspiration from various different sources including, but not limited to, the beliefs and practices of indigenous peoples; the ancient mythologies of Europe and the Mediterranean; and the theological musings of various seminal authors involved in this movement. The structure of most neo-pagan groups is cellular and even within the most organized of the cells, there is a distinct lack of a rigid hierarchy.

There is no fixed set of beliefs that define neo-pagans. Only a few trends can be observed within the community that seems to tie it together. Indeed, aside from the desire of the members of the community to associate with each other, there is little that provides a list of traits that allows one to define the members of the neo-pagan subculture. In proposing that all neo-pagans should be one thing or another, this is an attempt to establish some form of orthodoxy. This would destroy neo-paganism and many of the belief systems associated with it.

When a systemized set of beliefs and a hierarchy is established to enforce that organization, the individual is progressively disempowered and disenfranchised. In some areas, mutually beneficial compromise can be reached between individual beliefs and rights versus those of the group. With the imposition of restrictions sans the consent of the individual there comes a conflict between the individual and the group as a whole. It is this kind of conflict that pushed many people to become neo-pagans.

Establishing some form of institutionalism or rigid order within neo-paganism at large is in direct opposition to the reason why neo-paganism exists. As well intentioned as the call for all neo-pagans to be environmentalists may be, it is fundamentally against the neo-pagan subcultures very nature. As such, it must be opposed on general principle.