Political pagans?

politics-and-religion 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).

No doubt that my environmental politics are influenced by druidry, as much as for me druidry is influenced by my being environmentalist. But I would never declare that I care for the earth because I’m ‘a druid’ (which I’m not…not yet anyway). I’m by no means ashamed of druidry as a life-path, but saying that sort of thing is a good way to not get listened to, get laughed at and get ignored. Sad, but true. Now quite why that is the case, but saying you’re a Christian is probably the best way to gain votes, is a different story and one which I won’t go into here. Nonetheless, in a (practically) secular democracy, I think religion/spirituality should be kept quiet when it comes to politics. This is as much for reasons of expedience as ideology, as John says:

In a religiously plural society, however, it is not acceptable for me to tell my Congress person “the Earth is sacred, therefore ban fracking” any more than it’s acceptable for a Southern Baptist to say “the Bible says homosexuality is a sin, therefore keep gay people from getting married.”  Both of these arguments are appeals to authorities other religious traditions do not recognize…No matter where our political positions come from, the only way to make persuasive arguments is to ground them in shared values.

However, this does not mean that people of any religious persuasion are not entitled to their views, or to voice them. I was somewhat saddened by the response from some atheists that the Pope has come out against fracking. For some it seemed like the fact that he’s a religious leader means he isn’t entitled to his own ‘fracking‘ opinion (ahem). The difference between the Pope’s comments and the fundamentalist anti-gay dogmas in his religion and others is that he was clear that this is his personal view and not divine authority.

warriorscallI do think that as druids, pagans, and other earth-loving people we need to be more active in defending nature in ways that get results, and politics are the way society does this, so we need to get political. There are some occasions where a strong declaration of ‘pagan-ness’ might be a good rallying point, as in the excellent ‘Warrior’s Call‘ protests, but for the most part I prefer to keep the two separate in practice, although recognising how they inform each other in principle.

What do you think? Should druids and pagans be more politically visible or should we be quietly working away in the background as ‘green’ activists without flaunting our awens and pentacles (so to speak)?

7 responses to “Political pagans?

  1. Drew Ellis Forester

    I’d rather pagans got organized and started separating themselves from the green movement. People view us as green hippies, and by separating paganism from that, we can paint a more accurate picture of ourselves and get noticed in better ways.

    • Well, that depends on whether organising ‘as pagans’ is the most important thing. I agree that for pagan representation, it would make sense to present a distinctive, united front but I think in practice it’s going to be like herding cats trying to get pagans to agree on that. I think the green movement is vitally important right now, and the more people involved in that (pagan or not) the better.

  2. I don’t think there’s any harm in Paganism being associated with “green hippies” – as the majority of Pagans follow an Earth-based path and believe in an immanent divine, it follows that many if not most of us will be somewhat concerned with environmentalism. And I’m sure many Pagans have no desire whatsoever to be disassociated with that image.

    But I agree with you, Treeshrew – I prefer for religion and politics not to be conflated. If one informed the other, as they often do, then great. But as you say, it only weakens your political argument if you’re tying it in with your spiritual stance, as you’re immediately alienating people who don’t have the same spiritual views as you.

  3. very interesting post. I think our religious beliefs (or lack of) help to shape our values and that will ultimately shape our political persuasions or what arguments we accept or don’t accept. I agree that we should be careful about letting religion have any “power” in a modern secular democracy, but people with religious beliefs will argue for or against certain policies based on them. Ultimately my own view is that all decision making should be made on the basis of evidence on how it reduces suffering but even that is a value influenced partly by religion and culture.

    • Oh, absolutely. Nobody makes decisions in a vacuum, and religious beliefs will no doubt play a role in people’s voting choices etc. but I still think, as you do, that political arguments need to be made based on evidence and shared secular values rather than ‘because my religion says so’ whether that religion is Christianity, Islam, Paganism or any other.

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