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NeoNote — Religion & morality

A couple of things.

Religion covers more things than Jews, Christianity, and a tiny smidgeon of Buddhism. There are different rules, different customs, many which you might not consider religious.

Faith is between you and the Divine.

The problem with making morality a part of religion is that some priests forget that they are measured by the lives around them. They think that their calling places them beyond "man's law."

As someone who has seen a lot of "pagan garb," standing out is not necessarily a good thing. It can be more of a "look at me" than standing apart.

Part I - Okay, let's start with the elephant that everyone tiptoes around.

Which religion?

I've been told repeatedly that the Decalogue is a good basis for law and morality. But Number One on that list (or numbers one and two depending on the translation) puts Yahweh first. Fine and dandy if that is the religion you have chosen. But what if it isn't? If the Decalogue is central to your faith but not your neighbor's, is it moral to insist that they abide by it?

Faith imposed is no faith at all. The only faiths and beliefs worthy of freedom are those freely chosen.

And that brings us to another point. Morality can't be imposed and still remain morality.

There have been times that neither Christianity nor Judaism have been particularly moral, especially towards other faiths. From this we can deduce that it is not really a specific religion that is the cornerstone of morality.

This follows because no matter how divinely inspired, religions are not created by the Divine. Religions are created by people claiming to speak for the Divine. Questioning a religion is not the same as questioning the Divine and someone's place in it.

No matter how much some priests insist otherwise.

Part II - Here's where I offend some of you. I'm sorry about that.

“An experienced faith differs from a revealed faith. It’s the Journey compared to the Story.

The Story is told while the Journey is lived.

I am not saying that one is superior. But one is active and the other passive. The Story is not the Journey and the Journey is not the Story.

A revealed faith always depends on what someone else says. The marvelous thing is that a Story can become a Journey if you just go a little beyond the nice polished gate and the carefully maintained path.

In an experienced faith, you will have to go out and do. That’s why so many pagan books never go deeper than cookbooks or the 101 level. Experience requires taking that first and seventh step into the unknown.

At some point in a Journey, it's going to be you and the Divine. No masks and no untruths allowed.

With a revealed faith, the answers could be in the very next book you read. A Story could become a Journey, but it takes hard work and stepping beyond the safe space.

How do you explain a Journey without moving into a Story? I am not sure you can.”

the Journey versus the Story from NeoWayland's lexicon

Way too many people are content to live the Story and not the Journey. That's okay, as long as they don't impose that on someone else.

It's why when someone tells me there is a Biblical basis for law, I point out that there are huge portions of Biblical law that they routinely ignore.

The point is that just as you don't have the power to define another's faith, you don't have the power to define another's morality.

Your beliefs don't shape the actions of others, especially without their consent.

Part III - At the same time, there are religious rites which you find uncomfortable. Some neopagans (neopagans are pagans but not all pagans are neopagans) practice some rituals nude or skyclad. There are some neopagan rites which have definite sexual connotations, acts, or ingredients. For some faiths such as vodun, blood sacrifice is an element. And that isn't even getting into things like curses.

If you wonder why I bring up curses in the context of religion, I suggest reading "War Prayer" by Mark Twain.

If you didn't choose it, it's not your faith or your morality. And that brings up a core aspect of morality, consent.

Just because I don't drink alcohol doesn't mean I should forbid others from drinking. At the same time, if I like sardines with my peanut butter, no one should have the power to tell me no.

So long as it doesn't hurt anyone else.

At that brings us to to keystone of Western Civilization and the thing that sets us apart. Christians call it the Golden Rule, but the Ethic of Reciprocity isn't uniquely Christian. Basically, don't do it if you don't want it done to you. Do what you want so long as you don't inflict harm on another or damage another's property.

Part IV - So without a specific religious writing and without invoking a specific aspect of Deity, we have a moral basis.

Most importantly it has to be chosen. And if someone chooses not to follow it, then those who do are under no obligation to respect the ones who don't.

It's not "God's will," it's human law. No one benefits without following the law.

At the same time, it leaves a lot unresolved. Vice law doesn't fit this model. Nor do blue laws. I'd argue that those laws can't be realistically enforced, but I freely admit my libertarian bias.

There is nothing that prevents people from following religious law. But there is nothing that demands others follow those same religious laws.

People should be free to speak and act as they choose, so long as they accept the consequences. "Free love" means greater risks both medically and emotionally. The world doesn't owe you diddly, although people may choose to help you out. You don't get to be shielded from the words and thoughts of others.

Before you object that this gives religion second shift, answer me this.

If you choose one religion among all others and honor it's precepts, doesn't that make your choice worth more?
NeoNotes are the selected comments that I made on other boards, in email, or in response to articles where I could not respond directly.

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