I think I have found another marker on my path. (My spiritual path, that is.)
I am reading a book called "Good Without God: What a Billion Nonreligious People Do Believe" by Greg Epstein. It is truly inspiring. The book deals with a positive philosophy, or the term that the author likes to borrow, "life-stance," as opposed to focusing on not believing in something in terms of atheism or agnosticism. In other words, as the title implies, it focuses on what we non-theists are to do, and believe in, and not just what we don't believe in.
I have heard many of my pagan friends and acquaintances say something like, "When I first read a book about paganism, I was amazed because I didn't know there was a name for what I believed." This is how I felt reading this book.
I had heard the term "secular humanism" before but at the time I passed it by with indifference, and perhaps then it meant something different anyway. Now that I am further along my "path," I'm reading this and finding it truly meaningful and comforting.
I have long suspected that there is nothing out there in terms of an organized intelligence or what many consider God. I have felt this... emptiness, since childhood. Even when I was a Christian and praying, I feel, looking back, that I was putting a lot of my own energy into this personality... but I have never really felt anything "out there" in terms of gods, spirits, anything.
More importantly, as the author is illustrating to me, it is not necessary for me to believe in a God. I mean, I always knew that on some level. But another part was always kind of wondering and aching, feeling kind of different for not having had these experiences, yet wanting some kind of spirituality anyway.
Paganism has been good to me, and for me, in that most pagans are non-dogmatic and encourage you to find your own path. And I have felt that connection with nature, and found comfort in the Sabbats celebrating the seasons of each passing year, and magic in the Esbats celebrating the cycles of the moon.
But in terms of lifestyle.. again, never felt the guidance of gods, despite wanting it. And now I realize something.
I don't need the gods to guide me. More importantly, the gods should not be guiding me.
Maybe there exist gods after all, who work with people on a personal level and this brings joy to them. That is fine. But if those gods exist, and they are benevolent, I am going to come to the conclusion that they think it is better that I fend for myself.
And the humanist view brings me a strange comfort as well as responsibility. There are no gods to lean on, to me, in times of trouble. No organized "plan" for me to just follow and submit to and I'll be all right.
Random things happen. Sometimes they are horrible things, cruel. Sometimes they are wonderful things. But the important thing is that when those horrible things happen, that we as human beings step up to prevent them from happening again and to help those who are affected by them.
The beautiful things are miracles in and of themselves, especially as they were not "given" to us by a God, but randomly happened.
Sometimes I still want that divine guidance, and who knows, maybe some kind of organized plan or benevolent spirit will be revealed to me. But for now, I feel comfort and pride in finally being able to identify myself as a Pagan Humanist.