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Reply to a Bookworm Rant

Bookworm did it to me again. Rather than fill her comment thread, I’m writing my reply here.

Pagans are not monotheists nor do they believe in an abstract god.  Instead, pagans are earth worshippers, who see mystical forces behind natural processes…

Accurate as far as it goes, it’s an oversimplification though. Here’s a
bit that I wrote years ago.

I call myself pagan because I don't have a better term.  I'm polytheistic and pantheistic.  On alternate Thursdays and every third Tuesday I might admit to being pantheistic with an animism bent as well.   On the 13th of the month, I'll tell you (truthfully) that the label isn't really all that important, only the manifestation.

My path involves recognizing and celebrating the natural cycles in ourselves, in the world around us, and in the worlds we touch in our dreams.  I seek the Divine in human, Nature, and machine.  I want to find the synthesis between mankind and ideas, between faith and technology, between what was and what will be.

I believe that all things have a Divine nature. Life is the universe's attempt to understand itself. I know that the totality of the universe is too vast for me to comprehend. So there are godmasks that I turn to for understanding, guidance, and strength when mine is not enough. I know that these godmasks are only representations and gateways to Divinity, not Divinity themselves.

Here's where it gets a little complicated, so I'll simplify for discussion.

I recognize that much of the universe around me has male and female principles, so it is with the dieties that I recognize. Actually, it's more of a mutual thing, They recognize me and I recognize Them. There are several "sets," and they seem to shift identities from time to time. For my own convenience, I use the terms "Lord" and "Lady, " unless I need to address a specific aspect of Divinity. That is when I will get specific with which Names I invoke.

The gods are not driven by rational or just behavior, but act like humans would if there were no constraints on them.

Not even. Considering the views that agnostics and atheists have of Christianity, the line about glass houses comes to mind.

Pagans believe in human sacrifice to propitiate their arbitrary and capricious gods.

No. It might be best to make a distinction between today’s neopagans and the historical pagans. Some historical pagans did do blood sacrifice, but they aren’t neopagans by any stretch of the imagination. The rest is blood libel, it didn’t work against the Jews and it didn’t work on some of the Christian cults.

Pagans do not have a set, overarching moral system underpinning their religion and their lives.

Nor do Christians. As for myself, I can only say that a man’s worth can be found in how he touches the lives of others. One well-known pagan recently wrote “Morality ought to be filed under Philosophy, not Religion.” I’d argue that morality comes from individual choice and not something laid out in a book. There’s always stuff the book doesn’t cover.

Good behavior, including sacrifices, satisfies these gods; bad behavior begets punishments.

I think there’s something about a mote and a beam there.

Pagans use sexual excess, including pedophilia, homosexuality, and ritual prostitution, as a key concept in their worship.

Sexuality, yes. Sexual excess, well, I wasn’t aware that there is a set weekly limit. Pedophilia is the only one that really raises warnings, and most groups and individuals I know condemn it, just as most Christians do. I’m straight myself, so I don’t use homosexuality. I know of less than a handful of ritual prostitutes, the practice is unusual.

Pagans rely heavily on drugs and alcohol as part of their rituals, with the out-of-body experiences derived from those drugs serving to connect pagans to their gods or enhance prophetic abilities.

Some yes. And yes, today some do it irresponsibly. I’d maintain that the ritualistic use of drugs is very different from the recreational one.

Pagans are willing to co-opt the gods that other, unrelated pagans worship.

Should we talk of St. Brighid of Kildare, whose feast day just happens to be tomorrow? I can’t tell you how many gods and heroes of legend were adopted as saints. Religion is syncretic, it’s part of human nature to adopt ideas that work.

Gaia worship replaces monotheism.  Global warming has long since parted ways with science.

There’s at least one pagan (me) who
vigorously disagrees with the climate change “theories.”

Human sacrifice is an inevitable byproduct of Gaia worship.

Nope. It’s the inevitable result of demanding that morality be given the force of law. And yes, that means some “conservative Christian” ideals as well. I think we can agree on a moral code without resorting to religion.

The death of an overarching moral system.

Priests and ministers are tempted by politics as well. Politics is all about controlling people. Personally I find it curious that you went right to feminism and sexuality. I’d argue that morality imposed by force isn’t moral. On the other hand, having a government ready to bail people out for their bad choices isn’t moral either.

In a world in which morality is described by each person’s own desires, the 10 Commandments are effectively dead.  There is nothing to stop theft, rape, adultery, and even murder.

Please tell me you are not insisting that everyone on the planet is bound by the Decalogue. Especially since there are cultures without it that do punish theft, rape, adultery, and yes, even murder.

If you can’t convince someone to follow your religion without the force of law, you’re doing it wrong.

Sexual excess has become the hallmark of Western culture.

I think that sex was always there, we just don’t conceal it as well today. Nor should we. Surely you agree that a sure way to abuse sex is to hide it, don’t you?

If the sex is between consenting adults, please tell me how it’s any of your business.

The reverence given to drug abuse.

Unless they are driving while intoxicated, why is this wrong?

There are dozens of behaviors that I personally disagree with. That doesn’t mean that my morality should control the nation. I suspect you wouldn’t like most of the rules if I were “in charge.” Parity works, but it takes mutual respect.

The hostility to traditional gods.

Stars above, how can you write that with a straight face? You’re attacking the faith of people, many of whom worship pre-Christian gods.

Why are you blaming neopagans for things that are not a part of neopaganism? Do you think we’re issued copies of the Protocols of Zion? Do you think we swear oaths to defend North Korea? Do you think we believe we will only enter the afterlife if we kill so many Jews and Christians?

This hate exists independently of religion. Religion is the excuse justification not the reason.

I don’t know if you’ll answer or not. I do admire your writing and I agree with you on many things.

You’re off base on this one though.

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