Monday, June 14, 2004

Kinder, gentler religions? No. Try spirituality to find kinder and gentler.

If Pagans and Wiccans were the majority faith in this nation, would we be total assholes to minority religions the way Christians are?

Sure we would. Past history shows us that the name brand of the faith is irrelevant, once a religious belief system has reached dominant levels; its members almost automatically, almost instinctively become complete jerk assholes to members of other faiths.

I want to say that my chosen path of Paganism is different. I want to argue that because we are not an evangelical religion—our members are not encouraged to convert the masses—we have no need to aggressively prostheletize our faith. Therefore we would leave members of other faiths alone to practice their beliefs in peace. This is pure fantasy.

Judaism has no need for aggressive evangelization either and yet given the opportunity, they gleefully persecute members of other faiths who are in their power. In fairness, there are other issues involved in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict such as land, property, water and economics. But it does seem clear that given a choice between harassing a Jew or a Muslim, your average Israeli will harass the Muslim.

The other basis I would have for arguing that Paganism is different and would not persecute minority faiths were it (Paganism and Wicca) the dominant faith is that Paganism is a very loose umbrella encompassing vastly different faiths ranging from animism to shamanic, gynocentric to Native American, pantheist to nontheist and tribal to anarchic. This argument would go something along the lines of: well, if pagans are in charge, there is no central belief around which they could rally to oppress others.

This is nonsense of course. The central theme around which the macho posturing could take place might be as simple as: well, they aren’t pagans, so let’s pick on them. Although the parallel is not the same, differing Christian denominations have no problem uniting to pick on those of other faiths. This was clearly observed during the colonization of America, where Christians of many denominations joined together in the mighty and almost successful effort to annihilate the beliefs of the Native Americans from the earth.

Instinct is another reason why Wicca and Paganism would behave in a similar way to other faiths towards different faiths. Paganism is made up of humans who will make human errors, who will behave in a human manner and who will be fallible.

So why even bother with it? Why practice faith at all? Is there any hope for religion to uplift humanity from our violence to each other?

The answer is an emphatic no; religion cannot lift humanity in that way. But spirituality can. Spirituality is not a brand of faith; it is the quality of faith itself. Spirituality is not evangelical, has no central belief system at all, and contains no dogma to defend. The birth of interfaith comes from spirituality. Dialog between faiths is spiritual in nature. The answer does not lie in Wicca, Christianity or Islam. The answer lies in the individual communion with the Divine.

In that sense the struggle between one faith and another is nonsense. The struggle is really between a material world that distracts us from the things that really matter with attractive baubles, the promise of autonomy and self-reliance and the seductions of mere possessions. Dogma is important in the material world. Only the relationship to the Divine and to those around us matters in spirituality.

I think there is something in here that is very important, very powerful. But I have not expressed it as clearly as I would like and I will have to return to it in the future. I do know however, that it is my role in my chosen faith to prevent that faith walking the path of intolerance and hatred.

Good Morning Goddess Brigit, my name is Andy and I am an alcoholic. I have been kept sober since 2/2/01 by Your grace and Your grace alone. I’d like to take this moment to thank you, my Higher Power, for this my daily reprieve. Today is a good day to be sober.

Please, Great Mother, Queen of Heaven, be with me today all through the day and help me to stay sober all day long. Show me Your will for me and grant me the power to carry that out. Thy will, not mine be done. Inspire me to act and create in Your name. Be welcome in me and to me body, heart, mind and soul.

Adjuva Brigittia! Thank You! Blessed Be!