“Up until a few years ago I believed in the Christian God. When I finally came out to myself is when I decided to really look at my life and my beliefs and I realized how wrong the Christian lifestyle was for me. I couldn’t let myself believe in a God I knew didn’t accept me for me. Recently I’ve been struggling with no longer believing in something and have started looking into paganism. It’s always been something I’ve been interested in but because I was a Christian, I didn’t ever let that curiosity lead to knowledge. A couple of days ago I read somewhere that when choosing a patron god or goddess, one should look at one’s life and see what one has been drawn to through out it, then look into gods that represent that thing. After deciding what my focus would be, I remembered the goddess Selene, from Greek mythology. I then prayed to Selene for the first time in my life. There was a moment when I really truly believed I felt something, an energy, a warm embrace maybe. It was gone soon after but it was a strong moment. I wanted to tell you that while I did feel an energy tonight, there is a part of me that’s holding back. I want to believe in Selene more than anything, but there’s something in the back of my mind that’s keeping me from believing. I think I’m skeptical. There’s also the fact that I was so disappointed by the last God I believed in. I’m wondering if there’s any advice you could give to help me strengthen my belief and also if there’s any book or website suggestions for beginning pagans. Thank you.”
That’s one hell of a long message, even after trying to shorten it!
Ask yourself this: What is religion? Why do I want to, or have to believe in something holy and divine?
So what is religion? Basically it’s a belief in a God, right? It’s about having faith in something, and that’s exactly what religion is – faith. We want to have faith is something, someone, to look over us, to watch us, protect us, and guide us. Without faith in something, there might be that void in our lives like something’s missing or out of place. Whenever something’s not going according to plan, or something’s taking longer than you expected, or if you’re waiting on a decision – people often say “just have faith.”
Having faith in a God doesn’t necessarily mean having to see, feel, or sense them. We don’t know the Christian God really exists. We have telescopes that can see the edge of the universe, yet we don’t see some old man with a beard sitting on clouds watching us. We don’t know if any God or Goddess really exists outside of our physical plane, or if there truly is a “higher power” or a great divine, or anything really! So when people say “God/dess has spoken to me,” they either have a strong faith and belief in their religion, or they’re just crazy!
You can’t make yourself or force on yourself a belief in something, because you have to choose if you believe in that faith or not. You won’t always sense Selene when praying to her. She won’t always respond to invites, prayers, etc. But that doesn’t mean she’s not listening. That strong sensation you got when you first prayed to her could just be her letting you know “I’m here for you,” “I’m listening.” And to expect it every time you pray to her and not feel it might scare some faith out of you, but even those small chills, that sudden moment of happiness, or just that feeling that you know something’s there – she’s there. Deities don’t always give you that official “hey, I’m here!” feeling, because they’re not there to show you proof or make you believe in them, it’s you that has to show them proof that you believe in them! And believing that they’re there is belief – regardless of having that strong sense of company or not.
There are times and moments when every practitioner of any religion has some doubt. It’s completely normal. Years ago when I applied to graduate school, I applied to three schools. My first choice and the one I REALLY wanted to get into was Georgetown. I prayed and prayed and prayed my witchy-butt off that I would get in. I didn’t. Did I lose faith in the God and Goddess? Did I feel like I was talking to a wall and that I was basically praying to something that really didn’t exist? Of course, I did. I was extremely depressed and almost lost hope in my faith. And in moments like that, there are one of several things I do to remind myself of why I have my faith – I read my Book of Shadows, all the spells, rituals, sabbats, and different crafts, potions, herbs, etc. that’s I’ve used and done and how it made me feel. I read one of my favorite books on the Craft. Or I meditate and see the beautiful energy that’s within me and surrounds me. Everything happens for a reason. The Universe doesn’t give you things you can’t handle. Everything is a learning lesson for something else that’s going to happen for you. Oh, and I got in my second and third choice graduate schools, and I have my Master’s and Ph.D degrees from the University of Denver.
Basically, don’t expect big obvious slaps in the face whenever you pray or call upon Selene. They won’t always answer in the most direct way. Just remember the little things and feelings – the candle flickering, temperature change, chills, happiness and content, etc. Don’t lose faith because they didn’t give you want you wanted. It’s not about the things that you want, but about the things that you need. You may want to go to Georgetown, but you may need to go to DU because it’ll open so many more doors and opportunities for you. As a beginner Pagan, I suggest to read a lot. Knowledge is power. Any books you can get your hands on and add to your collection, the better. So when it comes to that depression, little faith day, you can grab one of those books and read it to remind you how much faith you actually do have. Go outside and see the beauty and energy of nature. Feel the power and energy rise from Mother Earth as you sit down and relax. Pick flowers, herbs, stones, branches – all aspects and powers of your faith. It’s the little things.