John Beckett wrote a thoughtful article about the intersection between religion and politics over at ‘Under the Ancient Oaks‘ which got me thinking about how involved I should be in political campaigns and how much of that, if any, should be done under the banner of ‘druid’.
I’m not a massively political person but I do sign petitions, write regular letters to my MP and always, always vote (pay no heed to Russell Brand’s ‘don’t vote, it only encourages them’ stance).
Caroline, over at Maple Tree Druidry, posted an excellent article calling out the anti-intellectualism sometimes seen in pagan circles: Pagans are just as bad as we think Palin is. Go read it!
Uncritical acceptance of revisionist history, pseudoscience and general nonsense is rife within the pagansphere. To be sure, most druids and pagans I have ever encountered are highly intelligent and thoughtful people, but the minority of anti-intellectuals who take pride in their ignorance are vocal, and often get the attention of the media. These are the people who uncritically accept as fact claims that have been debunked by historians and archaeologists. Claims like these:
-5000 years ago, humans existed in a peaceful, Goddess worshipping, matriarchal prehistory
-The ancient Celts worshiped a triple Goddess in the form of Maiden, Mother, Crone
-The Celts were a peaceful people who spent their days skipping barefoot through the woods picking Mistletoe
-3 million women were burned alive during the “burning times”. NEVER AGAIN!
The problem with the above is not only that they are false, and believing falsehood leads to real harm (as I will discuss in a moment) but that it makes pagans look silly. The media already likes to stereotype pagans as fringe nutters so why give them more reason to? It’s stuff like this that stops pagans from being taken seriously in our ongoing global cultural conversation.
Yesterday was Hallowe’en, always my favourite holiday of the year. This year I decided that as well as carving a pumpkin, giving out sweets to the trick-or-treaters and watching utterly schlocky and not-at-all-scary genre horror films, I would try out a small bit of druid ritual again. It was the first time I have done anything like this for quite some time, and I wanted to keep it low-key. Small steps towards rediscovering what bits of druidry I want to embrace again.
So it turns out that I just can’t keep away!
I’m glad that I left this blog open, not only because according to my stats people are still reading it, but also so I can return once in a blue moon to post stuff. Since July, I have not been doing anything remotely druid-ish, haven’t been reading druid blogs or books and have tried to remove all trace of ‘spirituality’ from my mind and become a totally logical, Spock-like uber-atheist. Guess what? It didn’t work!
You may have noticed that I have been very quiet since the Solstice. While Summer is usually a time for activity and the darker months associated with turning inwards, I’ve been doing a lot of introspection lately. One of the things that has prompted this is the post by the ever-thoughtful Teo Bishop, explaining why he is leaving ADF. It got me thinking about whether I can in all honesty meaningfully consider myself a druid at all. When it gets down to it, I don’t think I really can. I certainly don’t have it all figured out.
I’m no Hellenist myself, but I’m always fascinated by people who revive and restore old religious and cultural customs. This interesting article from the BBC discusses some modern Hellenes in Greece, just in time for the Summer Solstice.
“People want to identify with something in the past – where they came from – so as to know where they are going,” says Trivoulides. “If you don’t know your past, you don’t have a future.
“It’s going back to the roots. It makes me feel the continuation through the millennia.”
The Hellenes have had their share of struggles with the Orthodox Christian Church, who have prevented them buliding their own temples or worshipping at the ancient Greek ones. One Church spokesman has called them:
“a handful of miserable resuscitators of a degenerate dead religion”.
Sounds to me like the Orthodox Church is getting worried!
I fully support these guys’ return to pre-Christian philosophy and values, and I like their take on the gods as well:
They don’t actually pray to Zeus, Hera and the others. They see them as symbols of values such as beauty, health or wisdom.
Good for them! And I hope all my lovely readers have a very happy Solstice this weekend, whatever you choose to do with it. I’m probably going to go for a long walk and a pub lunch.
As much as I value druidry for its emphasis on praxis not doxology, the theologian in me still wants to talk about belief. Or rather, lack of belief.
T. Thorn Coyle posted this rather good article over at HuffPo called ‘Why I am not a believer’. Thorn writes:
When I say I am not a believer, it doesn’t mean I believe nothing. It is that belief is not central to my religious and spiritual life. As a matter of fact, belief holds little importance to me at all. Belief doesn’t structure my experience; my experience structures what few beliefs I might have.
Lots of pagans would say that they don’t need to ‘believe’ in their gods because they experience them. Well, I have not had such experience, and my understanding of psychology would not dispose me to interpret such experiences as proof of a deity. But I appreciate the emphasis on experience. There’s an empiricism and clarity to it which I like. Do a practice, get a result, repeat and if you get the same result, try to figure out what’s going on.
However, this does not have to have anything to do with faith, or belief. Ian Corrigan writes:
Opinions about religion and politics often get elevated to the confused term “Beliefs”, and folks are extra-sensitive about their beliefs.
It is worth remembering that beliefs are just opinions. I’ve watched (but tried not to get involved in) the recent flare-up of the pagan/polytheist/atheist debate where different ‘beliefs’ have been labelled variously as ‘reductionist poison’, ‘fundamentalism’ and not ‘real’ paganism. Then there’s the constant bickering between Christians and atheists, not to mention the infighting in both those communities as well.
Plenty of heated argument and personal hatred could be avoided by seeing religious beliefs as just another theological or philosophical opinion rather than as some sort of inviolable Sacred Truth. It’s also worth noting that we are not our beliefs, and a strongly-worded criticism of beliefs as ideas should not devolve into, or be seen as, an attack on a person’s character and identity.