I wrote a couple of posts ago about jokingly calling my SIL to tell her that she is going to hell for reading the wrong version of the bible. She called me back and left a message that she didn’t read the bible. It floored me. The more I’ve thought about it the more it is annoying me.

The hypocrisy of it drives me crazy. She pesters us about not going to church. I listen to her boasting about pointing out unbiblical behavior in others. Now it turns out that she doesn’t even read the bible? How can she know what is unbiblical or not? How does she know whether or not what is being taught to her in her church is in line with what she professes to believe? How can she claim to be a Christian without practicing one of the basic tenets of the faith which is to study the bible?

My Christian upbringing stressed personal biblical study above just about anything else. Everyone was supposed to be educated in the faith. That’s something I appreciated and have transfered over the Paganism. Having a source of set scriptures and writings for study and discussion is something I’ve missed in Paganism. I tend to have a very intellectual outlook on faith. I want to study and dissect it and make sure everything makes sense. It is hard for me to understand someone not wanting to do that.

I’m starting to work through The Circle Within. The first question is how I’ve seen the God and Goddess in the past. I was a bit surprised at the answers that came to me. The first one was “people with wisdom and compassion leaking out of their fingertips.” I’m not sure where that image came from but for many years I’ve had a mental picture of an older woman in a caftan who is dancing in circles. She exudes peace, serenity, and wisdom. Nothing seems to rattle her. I’d love to be like that (except for the caftan.) The other answers that came to me were – the “buzz” that comes with quiet mediation, energy from nature, and conscience. All of them point to a personal path and not to a ritual based path.

I like the part in the first chapter of the book that says that maybe the reason Christians do better at personal practice is that so many people have done it over the years that there is a known path to follow. I’d add to that the idea that in Christian circles it is expected. Pagans are more focused on celebrating the Sabbats but don’t talk so much about daily practice.

The quote that I think best sums up my take on personal religion is from Buddha.

DO NOT believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe simply because it has been handed down for many generations. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is written in Holy Scriptures. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of Teachers, elders or wise men. Believe only after careful observation and analysis, when you find that it agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all. Then accept it and live up to it.

-Buddha, from Kalama Sutta

Don’t be gullible. Do your homework. Know your faith. Then devote yourself to living it.