Tuesday, August 31, 2010

People find spirituality outside the mainstream

People find spirituality outside the mainstream

 Traditional churches just one way we seek out answers, say experts

By Walter Cordery, The Daily News

Bob Lane believes people are searching for more than traditional answers to their spiritual needs.
Canadians are more often looking away from traditional western religions to fulfill those needs.
Lane understands why events like Saturday's Pagan Pride Day are attracting more and more people every year and why a growing number of young people are not attending traditional churches.
Rev. Brian Evans of St. Paul's Anglican Church can't put his finger on why, but agrees a growing number of people in British Columbia are looking elsewhere for spiritual fulfilment.

"All the indicators tell us that we (B.C.) have the highest percentage of people in North America who do not participate in traditional Christian Church practices," Evans said.

Statistics Canada calls the number of people attending traditional church service "religiosity" and in Canada low levels of religiosity are most prevalent in British Columbia. But Lane, a former Vancouver Island University philosophy and religious studies professor, said that doesn't stop people from seeking spiritual fulfilment in their lives.

People have always "had a hunger for some understanding of who they are, why they are here and what it is all about," said Lane.

Kam Abbott, a Wiccan priest with Nanaimo's Temple of the Green Cauldron, said the number of those seeking answers who have turned to Earth-based religions, like Wicca, have grown immensely.
"The pagan community encompasses all the other subgroups in the area, like Shinto and Wiccan, there's about 1,000 people now," he said.

"In our view, pagan means anybody who is not Christian, Muslim or Jewish. We are definitely growing, there are Wiccan churches and temples springing up all over the Island."

Lane is not surprised that new generations are seeking new answers. Regardless of the religious dogma, many people need spirituality in their lives.

"There are people looking for spiritual growth in their lives, but not necessarily religion," said Evans.
Today's easy travel to other areas and the popularity of the Internet have opened up new paths for those seeking spiritual fulfilment to travel, said Abbott and Wiccan priestess Sally Kimber.

Now in its sixth year, Nanaimo Pagan Pride Day continues to reflect a growing pagan community on central Vancouver Island and across North America.

"The growing numbers are no surprise," said Abbott. "Earth-based religions are just that. We hold the Earth as something sacred and as something that should be protected. With recent environmental catastrophes such as the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, global climate change, the Great Pacific garbage patch and dozens of others in the media recently, consciousness has been shifting towards the impact we have on this fragile sacred sphere we all share."

Paganism, say both Abbott and Kimber, represents a tangible belief that people can touch and feel.
"I think there are a lot of confused and frightened people out there and they are searching for something real that they can believe in," said Kimber.
"We live in complicated times and for some people it makes sense for them to revert back to something that is simple and Earth-based."

Evans understands some peoples' need to look outside the scriptures to seek spiritual fulfilment but is confident that the "Christian" way is the way most people will find it.

"There are people looking for spiritual growth in their lives, but not necessarily that of traditional religion," he said.

Evans said the broadening of peoples' perspectives through travel and the Internet has many former churchgoers looking elsewhere.

"It's a much more inclusive world than it used to be and I believe that is one of the biggest challenges facing traditional Christian churches."

Abbott said people are realizing that they are one with nature.

"This is something that Earth-based, or pagan religions, have always held as one of their highest moral priorities. But for pagans, that moral is interwoven with our spiritual practice," he said.
For Lane, spirituality is not "that complicated, really."

Understanding the need for people to work together and believing in a common outcome is as simple as looking at a sports team like the Vancouver Island Raiders.

The root of spirituality is spirit, Lane said, and it can be equated to "team spirit," like that of the Raiders and the Nanaimo Clippers.

"People need to connect with something that's more than the individual. Some reach out to sacred text that has a vocabulary they are familiar with," he said.

"But you can't measure the Raiders' team spirit, in real terms, except by their play. And you can't measure an individual's spirituality except by his or her play and what they do in their lives."

Regardless of affiliation -- whether Christian or pagan -- rituals play an important part in peoples' lives. It could be the pagan worshipping the sun as it rises on the solstice or the Catholic taking communion and symbolically partaking of the body and blood of Christ, said Lane.

"What makes them more powerful, regardless of religion, is that they are done in a group rather than by just an individual," he said.


British Columbians are the least likely in Canada to be religious, numbers from Statistics Canada suggest.
Canada: 2004 -- 19% of the population had no religious affiliation and 25% had an affiliation but did not attend religious services
B.C.: 2004 -- 36% had no religious affiliation and 21% had an affiliation but did not attend religious services.

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