I’m not convinced that its religion that defines us as much as religion provides us with guidelines to which to live by. People change, as does the various faiths; splitting into the myriad paths and denominations we know today. This reflects directly how people define religion as much as religion defines us. I think its a balance of give and take.
How many people do you know, or perhaps you’re one of them, that found themselves straying from one faith to another? Some state that Christianity was the ‘wrong choice’, regardless of the moments they felt inspired and loved by God. Their choice now was and is the right choice. Or is it?
I used to profess to be 100% Wiccan, trusting in the rede of “An it harm none” and the Threefold Law of Return…except, those who hurt me deeply never faced any karmic backlash. If anything, by not defending myself, I endured a lengthy and confused period of pain and hurt.
So did Wicca define who I was as a person? No. It serves to guide, to provide some idea to take a path in a direction, but its not who we are. As with many religion, we also define our religion like clay, molding and shaping to fulfill our needs.
Some pagans need the pathenon of ancient gods and goddesses to strengthen them, while others simply call upon the earth mother as their Divine. Some honor a goddess and a god, while others honor only the feminine aspect. Even Christians vary on their view as to God being wrathful and something to fear, or a heavenly father who loves and forgives you. Paganism is not so different.
So who is right? I see the Divine as malleable, having no real shape or form until someone needs a shape or form. The goddess might appear as a gentle full bellied mother earth figure to you, or perhaps she’s the free-spirited huntress of the Moon. Maybe she’s the aged crone, or maybe you need the darker elements of the goddess of the crossroads or those of destruction.
When I started at the age of 14 in Wicca, the goddess was freespirited and the young warrior. Now she appears as the Mother figure, still having the warrior strength but now tempered with wisdom. I’m sure I’ll connect to the crone as the gray hair takes over my head, and the wrinkles don’t go away when I stop smiling.
So what do you think? Do you define your religion, or does religion define you?