On Marriage – a Pagan Rebuttal to the Catholic Church

Marriage. What image does the word invoke when you contemplate its meaning? Most of you probably envision two people making a commitment to support each other through adversity and intimately experience every aspect of life together, united as one by the strength of their love. On a practical level, you might also consider marriage to be a voluntary contract between individuals formally declaring their intent to equally share financial and legal responsibilities.

Perhaps it may be useful to first look at marriage from a legal perspective and provide a foundation from which to proceed. Marriage is first and foremost a contract, the meaning of which is fully defined by the dictionary as a formal agreement between two or more parties, a document that states the terms of such an agreement and marriage considered as a formal agreement.

If we assume that the above definition is correct and the practice of marriage is a contract between two parties (or more for practitioners of polygamy), is it reasonable to then legally prohibit those parties from entering into a contractual agreement based on gender? Before you reply, consider this: what if you were to apply the same question to any other contract, say a land purchase deal, for example. Is it acceptable to prohibit individuals from buying or selling real estate based on their gender? Allow me to answer for you – of course not. Any state attempting to enact such legislation would be bankrupted by the endless number of discrimination lawsuits that would follow such a decision, and rightfully so.
From the viewpoint of the law, there can be no justifiable objection to the practice of same-sex marriage. Any argument against its practice must come from a religious source, although the reasoning behind such argument is universally flawed. Let’s take a look at the recent attempts by the Catholic Church to denounce same-sex marriage.

In Pope Benedict’s 2012 Christmas message, His Holiness makes a clear case against gay marriage in his call for Catholics to join together and oppose the practice. He states that “People dispute the idea that they have a nature, given to them by their bodily identity, that serves as a defining element of the human being. They deny their nature and decide that it is not something previously given to them, but that they make it for themselves.” He further goes on to say “When freedom to be creative becomes the freedom to create oneself, then necessarily the Maker himself is denied and ultimately man too is stripped of his dignity as a creature of God.”

In his message the Pope provides an incredibly clear distinction between Pagan and Christian religious philosophy, for Pagans do not believe that humanity is subservient to God or that our physical body is essentially the sum of all being. We recognize that the freedom to determine one’s own identity and to create one’s personal reality through the power of perception is an existential process which cannot be denied or prohibited, although the Catholic Church is certainly making a concerted effort to try.

Cardinal Francis George of the Archdiocese of Chicago expanded on the Pope’s message in a letter to Chicago Catholics denouncing the Religious Freedom and Marriage Fairness Act being considered by the Illinois legislature. The Cardinal begins his letter by stating that “Marriage comes to us from nature. The human species comes in two complementary sexes, male and female. Their sexual union is called marital. It not only creates a place of love for two adults but also a home for loving and raising their children. It provides the biological basis for personal identity.” He also says that “It is physically impossible for two men or two women to consummate a marriage, even when they share a deep friendship or love.”

I would like to point out that if the legitimacy and acceptability of an intimate relationship between two beings is derived from nature, not from doctrine, then Nature herself does not agree with the Catholic Church. In Biological Exuberance: Animal Homosexuality and Natural Diversity (1999), Bruce Bagemihl describes statements like the Cardinal’s as essentially being a “single-minded attempt to find reproductive (or other) explanations for homosexuality, transgender, and non-procreative and alternative heterosexualities.”

Intimate same-sex relationships have been observed in close to fifteen hundred species thus far, including humans of course, and such relationships are not rare by any means. In order for same-sex intimacy to be considered an abomination against nature it would have to occur infrequently at best, by necessity. The fact that such inclinations are hard wired into our genetic makeup is proof positive that one cannot legitimately use the “nature of man” argument to protest gay marriage; at least, not without exhibiting complete ignorance on the subject to begin with.

Additionally, the process of consummation in this instance must be defined as the completion of an arrangement or agreement by the signing of a contract. To argue that sexual intercourse is required for the Church to consider a marriage valid in the eyes of God would effectively prohibit any man suffering from erectile dysfunction from ever participating in a Catholic marriage. I find it disturbing that the Pope and Cardinal George, both of whom are intelligent and highly educated individuals, have chosen to lay out their respective arguments against gay marriage with such transparent dishonesty.

I should like to return briefly to Cardinal George’s letter for a moment and here I address the Cardinal directly when I refer to his assertion that the Catholic Church is not anti-gay. In short Your Eminence, yes, you are. Claiming that “the Church welcomes everyone, respects each one personally and gives to each the spiritual means necessary to convert to God’s ways and maintain friendship with Christ” is at best a slap in the face to any gay person. Please don’t claim that you welcome and respect homosexuals with one breath and call them unnatural defilers of God’s grace with the next. Do not insult our intelligence, Sir. It would be far better for you to be honest about your prejudices rather than disguise them with a poor attempt at politically correct dialog.

For the Catholic Church to say that recognizing civil rights in turn destroys natural rights is completely absurd; to claim that human dignity can somehow be negatively affected by enacting laws that promote freedom and equality is ridiculous. And the next time they decide to invoke the Gods of Nature I suggest they consult with a Pagan first and avoid further embarrassment. Nature is our specialty, after all.

Posted in Equality, Gay Rights, God, Paganism, Religion | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments

Unified in Faith

With so many religions vying for supremacy in our increasingly unified global community, the fact that tens of millions of people cannot decide which spiritual tradition, if any, they should affiliate with is perfectly understandable. Which doctrine is correct? Does God even exist? These are reasonable questions and there is no way to determine the answers with any semblance of certainty. The question is, are such answers even required?

As a society we are far too concerned with labels. We academically compartmentalize our beliefs and coldly dissect every possible philosophical position until the spiritual foundation of our faith is essentially lost. In fact, faith does not require certainty nor does it demand religious belief. Whether one is an atheist, any brand of theist, spiritual but not religious or even a committed agnostic is utterly irrelevant.

Humanity tends to differentiate between our diverse religious beliefs in the same manner we segregate ourselves into specific races by the color of our skin or cultures by geography. We lose sight of the singular truth that every human being is a member of the same species. Individually we are not defined by our religion, our culture or by the color of our skin but rather by our capacity to feel compassion toward our brothers and sisters. Faith is what guides us, whether toward understanding the Great Mystery or simply understanding ourselves.

The process of segregation, in any form, is extremely detrimental to our personal growth and on a societal level prevents the natural evolution of human understanding from following its proper trajectory. We are all equal members of one global family; this is an incontrovertible fact. Religion, skin color, gender, orientation, culture, in the final analysis these differences are immaterial.

Those who live their lives surrounded by hatred walk a very narrow path indeed, smothered by a desperate fear that blinds them to the truth, but their influence is waning; they no longer control the world. Our journey has been a long one and though we yet have far to travel, I remain encouraged by our continued progress toward respectful co-existence, unified in our faith and committed to positive change. Hope lives on.

Posted in Equality, Faith, Hatred, Inspiration, Peace, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 23 Comments

A Beautiful Truth

I would like to quote Annika’s recent blog post entitled Magick from Solstice to Solstice, where she beautifully defines a place of worship and the yearning for spiritual unity that moves us all. She writes

“It is the place where the creator of all pulses with the drum beat of every heart and each cell of the body bows in wild abandon to the great mystery. Each breath draws in the bliss of a love the mind cannot fathom. I will do anything and give my whole being to the One whose presence consumes me. Magic has guided me from solstice to solstice and I tremble with deep fear and joy at the path that lies ahead.”

Rarely is the truth spoken so eloquently. Namaste, Annika.

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The Olive Branch of Peace

I receive a significant amount of correspondence from well-meaning Christians expressing concern for my spiritual safety. Here is a quote from a letter sent to me several days ago from a wonderful young woman named Kristen:

“Please reconsider your religious beliefs. -And just hear me out: worshiping nature is like only paying attention to the stage production during a play. And what’s a perfect way for Satan to distract you and wezel his way into your life? By getting you to believe he doesn’t exist. He diseases the mind.

Please do one thing in this lifetime. Get a bible, open it to anywhere and read some of it. Consider it ‘just investigating’ like I did. When you’re ready, look at the last part of the Bible: the book of revelations. There are things prophesied 2000 years ago happening now!! How about that for magic and proof!

Wed. Feb. 27. This date came to me in a dream. I am not proclaiming to know for sure that anything will take place this day, but I feel compelled to share it with you. If something catastrophic does happen that day. Know I am telling the truth and that God wants you to break the hold that’s over you. And if your heart is changed, please try to change others, like I’m trying to do now.”

Contrary to what you may expect, I do not find such sentiments to be offensive or presumptuous as I understand the importance many Christians place on sharing the words of their Messiah. I value the sincerity of every attempt to reach out to me and my brethren with love and compassion. Keeping this in mind, if you monitor my blog, the CPA website, my Facebook posts or follow me on Twitter and have considered submitting comments similar to the above letter, I would like to offer the following statement –

While I respect your beliefs and sincerely appreciate the value of your scripture, the basic theological positions of our respective religious communities are quite different. This does not mean that we cannot find common ground to work toward peace and understanding, striving to move forward and promote constructive interfaith dialog whenever possible. Maintaining an aggressively negative policy of heated denial and unrelenting hatred clearly is not the answer. I think it is important to acknowledge that while our passions may conquer our patience from time to time, we recognize and love each other as unique and precious children of God.

May the strength of your faith guide you always toward truth and light. Blessed Be.

Posted in Equality, Faith, God, Paganism, Peace, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 27 Comments

A Message of Compassion and Renewal

I wish you a truly wonderful Solstice my friends. On this day of renewal, as we honor and revere the eternal cycle of our existence, it is important to remember that there are many who suffer in silence through adversity and persecution in every community across our country and indeed the breadth of the world. We must not avert our gaze while others are forced to endure such pain and offer them such comfort as we are able.

It may seem that the challenges we face are too difficult to overcome but this is an illusion, a specter of despair that only hope and faith can conquer. Our differences appear to divide us but our diversity is also our greatest strength. Today we renew our commitment to reach an accord with our opponents through compromise forged in the strength of our love and tempered by our limitless capacity for compassion.

Even those privileged few who wield the greatest power for change in our great nation face the soul-crushing depression that often smothers our hearts in the wake of absolute failure. When the Speaker of the House of Representatives bows his head under the weight of absolute rejection by his own peers, his public persona shattered, every one of us should pause for a moment of serious reflection. The sight of Mr. Boehner’s tears, the outward sign of his overwhelming frustration and despair, should not be considered just cause for celebration among those of us who oppose his ideology.

Mr. Boehner deserves our sympathy and yes, our understanding, for though the unfolding debacle in America’s House may very well signal the end of the Republican Party as we know it, we mustn’t dismiss the confusion and chaos that accompanies such upheaval. The sound of the Speaker’s pain echoing through the hallowed halls of our nation’s capital should resonate within our hearts, and I for one feel for him deeply. May his effort to find a solution toward progress and compromise continue and may he finally find success. Blessed Be.

Posted in Faith, Inspiration, Paganism, Peace, Philosophy, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 3 Comments

A Pagan Experiment Confronting Neocon Paranoia

Perhaps the most difficult issue we Pagans face on a daily basis is the popular fundamentalist misconception that our religion is nothing more than a satanic cult intent on destroying the Christian religion and supplanting it with one syncretic world religion under the auspices of a singular world government. While this erroneous belief ties neatly into the apocalyptic prophecy of the Book of Revelations it is, of course, patently ridiculous. Most Pagans do indeed support the cause of absolute religious freedom but we in no way espouse the validity of one spiritual tradition over another.

I have recently engaged in several intense debates on conservative forums with the goal of, at the very least, providing their readership with a more accurate understanding of basic Pagan beliefs. Followers of my blog know that I make every attempt at gracious rebuttal even when dealing with individuals committed to vilifying our faith at all costs. I sincerely extend the olive branch of respect and tolerance to all religions for the sake of continued interfaith dialog and most progressive Christians respond in a positive manner. This makes sense as their religion demands they offer love and forgiveness while forgoing judgment.

I haven’t yet discovered a way of effectively reaching the fundamentalist evangelical zealots and I admit it may not be possible to establish a working relationship with such individuals. They cannot seem to move beyond their rabid hatred toward all things Pagan and many seem to believe that we are somehow intent on taking over the world by erasing Christian morals and perverting the government by injecting radical socialist ideas into the political consciousness. To the fundamentalist, Pagans represent the ultimate enemy of the neocon movement.

As I had not succeeded in my efforts thus far, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be beneficial to explore another tactic, an experiment, if you will. What would happen if I confronted an evangelical directly with their most paranoid fears? How would they, as a group, respond to the confirmation of their wildest conspiracies? This idea intrigued me deeply and I decided to go ahead with my devious plan to gain further insight into the crazed worldview of an evangelical bigot.

As many of you are aware, I challenged the ideas of a minor but popular neocon columnist who seemed intent on blaming Pagans for every bad turn American society has faced for the last hundred years or so. His brief response entailed emailing me directly to extend an invitation to be a guest on his AM radio talk show (an invitation I will gladly accept once the Solstice celebrations are over). An interesting result, certainly, but receiving his personal reply was not my ultimate goal. His most devoted followers were the subject of my experiment, after all.

Needless to say, the invasion of my alien commentary into the isolated and fanciful world of the far right was not well received. One gentleman in particular resented my attempt to correct his idol, his paragon of neocon virtue, and decided to take me to task. This individual identifies as Catholic and he seems to think my ‘fight’ is with all Catholics and more broadly, with all Christians. He accused me of promoting Agenda 21 (which has nothing to do with my first post), of supporting the religious philosophy of ancient Rome and of intending to renew the atrocious behavior the Romans exhibited toward Christianity in the first century, C.E. Not that I expect any self-respecting lion would look twice at this gentleman, but I digress.

Here was my opportunity to put phase one of the plan into motion. I responded, mildly at first, with a basic rebuttal of his assumptions designed to provide an education in true contemporary Pagan beliefs. I explained the difference between immanence and transcendence vis-à-vis God. At the end of my brief comment I pasted in the following paragraph from a previous blog entry of mine, hoping his evangelistic instincts would force him he would take the bait (which he did).

“I don’t disagree with the New Testament on every issue, however. Christ rather specifically instructed his followers to love their enemies, forgive any transgressions against them, whether real or perceived, and avoid rendering judgment at all costs for only God may fully discern the truth that lies within. I consider these to be wise words for anyone to follow, whatever their spiritual path.”

Now it is important to remember that while this statement is factual on my part, it is an example of my respect for Christianity and indicative of my belief that the New Testament does provide an excellent moral compass when its more aggressive dogma is tempered with tolerance. It does not however indicate that I am somehow open to conversion as I dedicated myself to the Goddess decades ago and I have never looked back, although my verbal sparring partner could not know this of course. My plan was proceeding nicely.

His next response, however, was extremely disjointed. He compared me to a lost sheep being pursued by wolves, made an initial statement against the concept of syncretism but never followed up and made several inferences to alternative viewpoints toward scripture, suggesting that the Christian gospel be looked at as a how-to manual for how to be saved. He threatened my immortal soul (naturally) and then just when I expected a push toward conversion he degenerated into senseless accusations, calling me a ‘liberal, progressive communist’, of all things.

Phase two. Although I had not received the anticipated response, it was certainly close enough for the purposes of this experiment. It was time to take my foot off the brake and dive head first into the depths of the neocon conspiracy. I posted the following reply:

“Your logic escapes me, Sir. You claim to not stand right of center politically yet your words clearly brand you as a tea party sympathizer advocating extreme conservative values. Your ideological position mimics the absurd theories of extreme media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, dangerous sycophants who hemorrhage meaningless vitriol across the airwaves in the name of truth.

I have taken the liberty of conducting a bit of research into Agenda 21 and I fail to see how its subject matter is even remotely pertinent to a meaningful discussion on the nature of God, which was my original goal in posting to this forum. As a fiscally moderate independent I follow a personal policy of avoiding political debate with neocons as I have discovered any such endeavor to be non-productive, at best.

If we return to the subject of religious philosophy, your last comment was correct in one respect, Sir. Belief in the immanent nature of God is in fact extremely old, predating the bible by tens of thousands of years, although given your other opinions I would not be surprised to learn that you also believe the young earth theory to be accurate. I despise intentional ignorance, Sir, which I think is the worst intellectual crime one can possibly commit. I should like to note that the ancient Romans did not believe in an immanent Deity, nor did the architects of Babel – once again your assumptions are incorrect.

Thankfully, I actually agree with Mr. O’Connell in that interest in contemporary Paganism seems to be increasing exponentially, particularly among the educated youth of America, whose membership overwhelmingly supports the acceptance of equal rights for all Americans while simultaneously discarding the outdated political and religious ideology to which you cling so desperately. This phenomenon occurs without any effort on our part, which is terribly humorous from our perspective. We Pagans no longer need to fear torture and mass murder at the hands of your “morally righteous” associates. You are impotent in the face of our ultimate philosophical ascension, Sir, and frankly, I pity your predicament; within two generations, possibly less, your intolerant brand of Christianity will be entirely extinct, thank the Goddess. Until then, I wish you bright blessings and do try to avoid allowing your blood pressure to get the better of you. It’s definitely not healthy.”

Yes yes, I know. It’s not the nicest thing I have ever said and it certainly doesn’t reflect my actual philosophy of respect toward opposite viewpoints, as you who know me best will agree. You have to admit that the statement does feed into the prevalent theory that Pagans are somehow ‘taking over’, which was the ultimate goal of this foray in the first place. Sadly, I may never know the answer for the moderator of that particular forum has yet to approve my comment. If they do allow it to go live, I will share the responses with you immediately, dear readers. How will the zealots respond to having their worst fears confirmed by the ‘enemy’? I am buzzing with anticipation.

Posted in Equality, Hatred, Paganism, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 9 Comments

A Pagan Response to Fundamentalist Hate

Recently, Kelly O’Connell wrote an article on the Canada Free Press website entitled “Is America Becoming a Pagan Kingdom?” My response to Mr. O’Connell’s obnoxious article is this – The answer is a resounding no, Sir. As I have previously made clear, we Pagans are well aware that fundamentalists and religious extremists tend to dominate the theological and political landscape in the United States, often to such an extent that, for us, any affiliation with organized religion becomes undesirable; to be avoided at all costs on principal alone. We still worship our God(s) in private and hope for a more tolerant future, one of respect and cooperation where our children can safely explore their own spirituality without fear of reprisal.

Individuals following the religious traditions of indigenous cultures and solitary adherents of contemporary paganism have always been easy targets for the unmitigated hatred of the zealot, for they do not have a centralized organization to protect them from persecution. More recently, even free thinking theists from traditional churches have been ostracized and demoralized, forced to assume the label of spiritual but not religious, or worse, categorized as ‘irreligious’ because they refuse to conform to an archaic and stifling tradition that no longer has any personal relevance to the modern spiritualist.

The loss of religious affiliation and our continued lack of political organization allows extreme fundamentalist groups to dictate administrative policy on a broad scale, deeply integrating their strict religious morality into every facet of secular law. It also clears the way for groups such as the so called Tea Party here in America and the Taliban in the Middle East to conduct campaigns of such malicious hatred that they become virtually unopposed in their verbal and often violent aggression toward anyone who disagrees with their oppressive point of view. The negative consequences of fundamentalist rule are heinous indeed.

The Contemporary Pagan Alliance works tirelessly toward ending fundamentalist tyranny; by standing together, unified by the very spiritual freedom that our opponents so despise, we ensure that the ideals of individual equality and religious liberty are never discarded. With one voice we affirm our support for the freedom of religion on a global scale and we hereby give extremists fair warning. Their days are truly numbered for we are the silent majority no longer and we will accept nothing less than absolute equality.

We peacefully worship our Gods however we choose. We demand the right to legally marry those we love, before our Gods and without prejudice, in a ceremony of our own faith. We freely educate ourselves, seeking enlightenment through knowledge, and we will no longer allow ourselves to be legally or physically victimized by ignorant zealots. We proudly take our place as free and equal members of our communities and will no longer tolerate discrimination in our laws or our lives. Our worldwide membership provides for a strong, unified and democratic Pagan Church. Together, we will prevail.

Posted in Equality, Faith, God, Paganism, Politics, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | 17 Comments