Nature or Nurture – Is Being Pagan or Heathen Part of You or Learned?

Nature versus Nurture is an age old argument when it comes to education, however what about your spirituality: can a person be naturally inclined towards one particular style of spirituality or not?

Obviously there are a number of factors that would need to be taken into account when debating something like this. The first that occurs to my mind is the sheer breadth and depth of the spectrum of spirituality. To accommodate this it might be fairer to argue whether or nor a person can be naturally drawn to certain spirituality traits. For example polytheism over monotheism, or perception of deity as a concept over perception of deity as existing.

Along those same lines, does nurture determine the spiritual traits that a person is most drawn to? There would seem to be some evidence that this is at least partly true as a number of pagans-heathens, myself included, come to paganism-heathenry from another spirituality after personally nurturing ourselves through research into ‘whats available’ (yes, its crassly put but succinct). However, this could be as much an argument for the nature side. It could be argued that a person comes to paganism-heathenry BECAUSE their nature is telling them that it is what they want/desire, as opposed to whatever they had previously.

Naturally, the movement is not one sided. A person that converts from X to Y could just as easily be the subject of the debate as a person who has become pagan-heathen.

I don’t believe that there is a clear cut one over the other. What do you think?

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3 thoughts on “Nature or Nurture – Is Being Pagan or Heathen Part of You or Learned?

  1. I was raised by an agnostic mother and an atheist father; I didn’t know what church was (other than a reason friends weren’t around on Sunday afternoons) until a friend asked to take me along for a church potluck. With little to no religious exposure, I talked to plants and bugs; I felt like everything (even my toys) had personalities and deserved respect (I apologized to a toy if I threw it). Eventually, I discovered Wicca and became officially pagan, but clearly I had animist tendencies without any nurturing to cause them.

    I think it’s always a mix of both, though. If my parents had been churchgoers (to a nice, friendly church with lots of singing and not so much fire-and-brimstone talk), I’d probably be a happy Christian girl who loves nature. By being ambivalent to religion as a whole, my parents allowed me to guide my own exposure or nurture myself into a pagan spirituality.

    1. It would seem that we shared a childhood tendency towards animism. My parents are both Christian, though one is Anglican and the other Roman Catholic which has resulted in religion being a somewhat non-entity in my life. I suppose that is something that we and other pagans-heathens share in common. You’ve actually raised an interesting notion… Does the manner in which the church and parish conduct themselves have any significant influence on people like you and I and their choice to become pagan-heathen?

      1. Honestly, I don’t think it did. My very first church experience wasn’t the best, but I attended two different youth groups after that (with friends who begged me to go) and enjoyed the songs and stories. They focused on positive role models and God’s love, etc. And yet… I just didn’t feel that “click” that tells you this is it.

        Now, on the other hand, the first pagan book I read was “Wicca” or “Living Wicca” by Scott Cunningham (can’t remember which now), and I felt like he’d crawled inside me, pulled out my deepest spiritual feelings, and dumped them out in the book. Definitely a “click”, I’d say!

        Then again, I stopped attending one of the youth groups when they had teens join the adult congregation and then preached about sin ad nauseum. So maybe their behavior DID drive me off? Hmm…

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