A lot of religious definitions and expressions that worked among Pagans in the 1990s stopped working. Thanks to that shared streak of cussed individualism that prompted most of us onto a Pagan path in the first place, saying “a Pagan is this!” generally gets a response of “I am Pagan and I am not THAT – I am THIS!” I know, because I’m one of them. One of my best read posts on this blog is my list of ways that I am not Pagan, mostly circling around my distaste for the works of JRR Tolkien and my traumatic camping experiences.
One of the most rejected terms raised is the idea of billing Paganism as an “earth based religion.” Most Pagan books I’ve read interpret this phrase to mean a religion that worships nature and/or agriculture, honors the cycles of the seasons and to some extent decries the consumption and most technological advances of modern life while usually favoring what we at present see as socially progressive change when it comes to sexual and gender identity, race (in theory though not very much in practice) and economic levels. The problems, pitfalls and failings of each of these can be discussed in length and will be for years to come – sooner or later academia will support more than just the Pomegranate.
But I have another interpretation for “earth based religion.” This being that our gods, our spirits, our animistic impressions, live here on Earth, with us. Such an approach differentiates us from the big three monotheist religions – they all appear to perceive divinity as an omniscient being watching from heaven (or outer space.) This may also clear up the question of how Hinduism differs from Paganism – I get the impression that while the avatars may visit Earth, in their non Earth-walking days they hang out off planet.
I think this is likely the closest to an accurately inclusive definition of earth-based spirituality, or Pagan spirituality as those of us who cast ourselves as mainline Pagan might see it. It fits with Starhawk’s conception of “immanent divinity” (deity all around us all the time) and as far as I know in the traditions of hard polytheism, the gods might get onto mountains and into parallel dimensions but still pretty much live on Earth. For animists, there’s already nothing and everything but earth. Wait – did the Egyptian gods come down from the heavens? What about the Sumerians? The “where they live” part never came clear to me.
This also removes the agricultural/nature assumption – and still includes people like me who see a conscious urban life as anything but separate from nature
So rather than change the phrase, I’m proposing an additional meaning: Earth-based religion means that the divinity lives here, too. Way easier to picture and harder to misspell than “immanent.”