Sunday, February 10, 2013

Same Thing, Different Skin?

Recently there was a discussion question posted on a religious facebook page I follow that was a submission by an atheist. "[W]hy believe in deities and supernatural without evidence?"

Four of the first five comments said "faith" and is repeated again over the rest of the comments. Some said that there is no harm in believing in "something that encourages you to be a better person." One man even said "because... there has to be more."

Can you guess which religion this question was aimed at? If you said Paganism, Witchcraft, and Wicca, you would be right. Curiously, these are the same arguments made for Christianity (and other monotheistic religions). It seems that many pagans taken their old religion and just re-wrap it. Take the belief in Karma in our community:

Fear-based Karma sounds an awful lot like the Wiccan Threefold Law. It also sounds a like like the dogma of Christianity, where your actions can either land you in Heaven or Hell, and God is the judge and jury of you. Why? Why do this? Is it familiarity, or that you truly don't believe in anything else? Is it because you were sick of the company you had in your old beliefs and decided to put yourself elsewhere while still believing? Of course, there is absolutely nothing wrong with believing in the doctrine of Christianity, but please don't call it Paganism because it isn't.

Now, back to the question and comments; why exactly do you need faith to believe in the supernatural and deities without evidence? Faith is a dirty word, and if there is absolutely no evidence, then there is no reason to worship or "believe" in something. "Evidence" is a tricky word, however, and can and is manipulated to suit the need of whomever is using it. Personally, I have my evidence through personal contact, results, feelings, and experiences. My "evidence" is mostly subjective. Is that enough to convince others, especially atheists or scientists? No, and I wouldn't try to because Paganism is a personal path. Again and again, you will come across the "personal path" tid bit around the community because it is true. I will not have the same experience as the covenmate standing next to me or the solitary doing the same exact ritual. "Seeing, contrary to popular wisdom, isn't believing. It's where belief stops, because it isn't needed any more." - Terry Pratchett

Believing in something "because it doesn't hurt to have morals" is a poor argument.
It's Pascal's Wager.
"The Quirmian philosopher Ventre put forward the suggestion that "Possibly the gods exist, and possibly they do not. So why not believe in them in any case? If it's all true you'll go to a lovely place when you die, and if it isn't then you've lost nothing, right?" When he died he woke up in a circle of gods holding nasty-looking sticks and one of them said "We're going to show you what we think of Mr. Clever Dick in these parts..." --Terry Pratchett
 You can have morals without believing in a higher power. Not killing, stealing, or lying doesn't have anything to do with Gods or Goddesses, it has more to do with just being a good person in general. Perhaps some Gods and Goddesses care about whether someone does these things, but others couldn't care less and might even advocate for it if it teaches a lesson or is just fun entertainment. Some Deities are not good role models for morals as well. Take being faithful to one's spouse and the example of promiscuous Zeus. This kind of flawless role model is the structure of the omni-everything Christian God. 

Hecate by William Blake
Which brings me to another point: it has come to my attention that our Deities are being twisted. Hekate, for example, has been praised as a kind, motherly Goddess who cares about humans and their well being, especially the witches who worship her. Hekate is a night Goddess, a Moon Goddess, who presides over crossroads, fire, magick, knowledge of herbs and poisonous plants, necromancy, and sorcery, among other things. Her abode is the Underworld, and "Zeus the son of Cronos honored above all. He gave her splendid gifts, to have a share of the earth and the unfruitful sea. She received honor also in starry heaven, and is honored exceedingly by the deathless gods." Hekate alone heard the rape of Persephone and did not come to her aid, then ten days after Persephone was missing, Hekate finally told Demeter. She was the consort of Underworld Hermes, and both were leaders of ghosts and the springtime return of Persephone. She was highly regarded, powerful, and dark, not some fluff-and-bunnies kind of Goddess. Many other Deities are getting personality lifts nowadays, and it seems like the trend is towards righteous, loving, all powerful, and caring gods.

Lastly, there "has to be more"? Why? What if all of this is just in our heads, an idea that has persisted and only lasts for our short, troubled life? What is so wrong about saying there might not be an afterlife for our consciousness and the neural synapses that make "me" up will stop and decompose into the Earth? What if this is an elaborate lie to keep the masses in line? What if this world isn't real and only in our dreams we are alive? What are you scared of, that all of your hard work and dedication and rituals and spells and beliefs are empty and meaningless?

So, what do you do? If there really is nothing after this, what do you do? You do whatever it is that you were doing. What will you leave behind? The leaders in our community have done so much in their lives to further our causes, and they will forever be remembered; Selena Fox, Patrick McCollum, Starhawk, Jason Pitzl-Waters, Star Foster, and even Silver Ravenwolf. Even if you don't think you can do the extraordinary feats like these people have, you can do "small" things like volunteer somewhere, donate, or help someone.

Anyway, Paganism isn't Christianity and shouldn't be made into just another flavor of it. For many, it was the doctrine of Christianity that made us leave in the first place. I just hope that this trend ceases before I grow old.

As always, the Pagan Disclaimer: everyone has the right to their own beliefs and can choose what they want to do and how they practice without harassment or prejudice. Do as you wish, so long as it doesn't trample on the toes of others and deny their rights.

Interestingly, the Lola Witch picture comes with a pretty cool article on Fluff Bunnies and (a new term for me) Diet Wiccans. Pagans, Fluff Bunnies may be newbies or movie witches or whatever you want to call them, but they are still our brothers and sisters in spirituality. They are still our relatives. We can't discredit them or call them less of a Pagan because of what they believe, and that goes for the pagans I talked about above. Even Christo-Wiccans are still our relatives, despite how I feel about them. I firmly believe we are a family, and we should treat each other as such. Yeah, there is the crazy Uncle Ted who sucks his toes, and Grandma Silky who bakes weed brownies, and Brother Lambert who showers less than a French peasant did (history lesson, French peasants were known to shower only once a year), but they are still family. We should totally chastise and argue and even throw fits, but we should remember that we should spend just as much time congratulating, playing around, and having a merry time with each other. So, all in all, have a good time.

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