My cultural setting and religious background is Christian. So although I self-identify as an atheist, I would also be comfortable calling myself a Cultural Christian. I still participate in some religious ritual, and celebrate Christian holidays.
But I also have a soft spot for (modern, or neo-)Paganism. Now, just like Christianity, Pagans often make claims that are totally anathema to my sense of reason. I don’t believe in a Goddess, in boggarts, or in magic. But I do believe in the wonder of the cosmos. And I do believe in the rhythms of the planet: I sleep when we rotate away from the sun, I feel a burst of optimism as the nights draw longer, I respond differently to rain than to snow. To some extent I believe in Gaia*. And I have no problem with the idea of pantheism**.
I am attracted to unmanaged woods with their thickets and impromptu clearings. I love the ruins of old religious buildings: whether the henges of pre-Christian Britain, the abbeys deserted from Henry VIII’s dissolution of the monasteries, or the Kivas of Chaco Canyon. I am energized by group meditation, song and chant. I am susceptible to the increasing poignancy of preparing for some religious observance. All these things I perceive to be more vital in the neo-Pagan tradition than in the cultural Christianity of my upbringing.
A couple of years ago I began to bring the celebration of Yule into our yearly routine. We decorate a yule log and burn it on our wood burning stove to mark the winter solstice. I haven’t worked out how to celebrate the other 3 solar quarters, however. I would like to, but I’d like to do it in a way that was gentle, didn’t take up a huge amount of time, and that seems natural to introduce into my cultural context. I’m a little stuck.
Do any of you feel an affinity for nature religions? Do any of you have any ideas how to bring that into a rational and culturally different context?
* I can understand the whole planet as a single autopoietic system potentially capable of reproduction, I don’t assign it any divinity
** God is the whole of the universe – I have no problem with it, but I can’t see the point of using the word ‘God’ at that point, when ‘the Universe’ is the same thing!
[Edit: Footnoted my equivocations]