No Religious Preference

That’s the box I check on my employment profile. My employer won’t let anyone leave it blank, so…that’s what it says, even if I feel it’s not entirely true. Anyone who happens to see it inevitably asks, “Oh, so you’re an atheist?”

No, you nitwit, or I would have checked THAT box.

I’m not – yet – comfortable aligning myself with a specific religious tradition. I was brought up EXTREMELY inside the box, but it has been over a decade since I stepped outside of that particular box. In that time, I’ve been almost exclusively drawn to earth-based spiritual practices. Yes, I feel there’s a difference between being spiritual and being religious, which is yet another reason I have continued to tick the “no preference” box.

At work, we’re not supposed to wear jewelry outside of a watch and or one ring on each hand, but a “religious” necklace is allowed.

This is what I wear. I keep it pretty much hidden, but every now and then someone will see it and ask what it is. My response is always simply, “A tree of life,” because to me that’s a term that resonates with nearly every religion of kindness and compassion, and a surprising number of people understand it. The sun and the moon occasionally draw more comment, particularly from fundamentalist Christian types that have a particular aversion to the moon and tell me that, “You need to be careful I think that’s a symbol of witchcraft, but I’m not sure.”

The point of this is…I’m growing more and more unhappy with this particular label. While I’m not religious, I do believe in a spirit world, in energy, in the earth…so does that actually make me Pagan? I’ve hesitated to use the term because I don’t feel I have the level of belief necessary to fit into that sphere. And yet, I definitely don’t fit any OTHER sphere.

Is a label even necessary? If you call yourself pagan, buddhist, christian, or anything else…why?

About Liz

Just a girl with a book obsession, a caffeine problem, and an adrenaline addiction. I read mostly fiction of the YA, fantasy, mystery, or historical variety - usually some combination of those. ;) I live in Virginia with my husband, our orange tabby cat, two beloved dogs, and an ever-growing collection of books. I also love to travel, be outdoors whenever possible, write snail-mail letters, and create fiber art. In my life outside of books, I'm a medic with a B.A. in English pursing my second bachelor's in biology. I also have a garden blog, and one for my endeavors in the world of Lord of the Rings Online. :)
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9 Responses to No Religious Preference

  1. Fny says:

    “Yes, I feel there’s a difference between being spiritual and being religious, which is yet another reason I have continued to tick the “no preference” box.”

    There is definitely a difference there, yes! I do not consider myself religious at all, though I am highly spiritually inclined; I belong to no religious group and follow no organized authority, I search, learn, and make my own path. And there I would see the difference.

    “Is a label even necessary? If you call yourself pagan, buddhist, christian, or anything else…why?”

    If anyone asks I will say I’m an eclectic polytheist. I could toss in that I’m an animist too, I suppose. But those are just practical descriptions, not real labels as they don’t (to me at least) come associated with a group or particular religion. And I am quite happy with having it like that, I have no need to further label myself. It is just me, and how I perceive the world. Do we need more than that?

    • Lizzy says:

      I like your answer(s). I get very flustered when asked about my religious/spiritual leanings and have really hid behind the “not religious” phrase in the last several years. Maybe eclectic pagan or some such would be a better way to phrase it. I guess I really LIKE not having a label, and yet I want someone to explain my beliefs that doesn’t take 10 minutes.

  2. Fny says:

    Oh, and one last thing. What in the world are your employer asking for your religious preferences for? Here in Sweden employers have no business asking such things, that’s none of their business. It’s not even a question they are allowed to ask during job interviews!

  3. G. B. Marian says:

    I would say that in Paganism, believing in Gods and spirits is optional. A lot of us do believe in Them, but there are some who think these things are just symbolic and who enjoy using that symbolism in their day-to-day somehow. There aren’t really a whole lot of rules when it comes to Paganism, except that it be nature-based somehow. So based on this post alone, you definitely sound like a fellow Pagan to me, even though we might think differently. But that is for you alone to decide.

  4. Ian Phanes says:

    Belief is not necessarily significant in most modern paganisms. Pagan is an incredibly broad category with only vague family resemblances between some of what is included. (Even G.B. Marian’s expectation that paganism be nature-based is actively disagreed with by a significant number of modern pagans who don’t focus at all on nature.)

    In my opinion, the only thing that matters is whether *you* feel like “pagan” expresses part of your identity. One possible way to explore that would be to go hang out with pagans in your area and see if you feel like you belong. (Though it’s quite possible for a local community to only be comfortable for a relatively narrow band of the pagan spectrum.)

    Enjoy the journey!

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