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

The man who is …

“The man who is truly righteous seeks not to destroy or maim, not to plague nor corrupt by indoctrination. The man who is truly righteous seeks to understand and live by truth, knowledge, passion, to live by a life of good deeds and works. A book shall be a guide, a book shows a path, rightfully not by those misunderstood in their ways, these men and women who follow a path of disunity and intolerance are those who create within themselves what they so desire to eradicate; a wicked, lustful puppet of the poachers of man. The further you are from the world so created by the gods, the further you are from learning the truth. Blessed Be.”

~ Ash, from the Wiccan and Pagan Community

Posted in Equality, Faith, God, Inspiration, Paganism, Peace, Religion, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , | 2 Comments

The Truth about Contemporary Pagan Religion

Wiccan, Druid, Heathen, Hindu… the list of Pagan traditions is indeed a lengthy one. Contemporary Pagans do not follow a specific creed, nor as a general rule do we subscribe to any one particular doctrine. It is mainly for this reason that fundamentalists from the so called “organized” religions marginalize our faith, often to the point where our diverse traditions are publically ridiculed to the extent of persecution. It is a sad fact that many Pagans continue to be shunned, isolated and ostracized due to the fear that our faith will somehow corrupt the rest of civilized society.

Despite the lack of a formal creed, Pagan religious philosophy tends to be fundamentally identical even though our respective traditions may seem disparate indeed. The most ignorant assumption anyone can make is that Pagans are evil simply because we do not worship a transcendent Deity (including the concept of Satan, the existence of which we categorically discard as false). Most Pagans view our Gods as immanent in nature, neither good nor evil,  fully encompassing and manifesting within the material world. Simply stated, we believe that the realm of the spiritual fully permeates physical reality.

We do not personally follow the doctrine of others for one very important reason – we believe our individual experiences provide a greater and more comprehensive understanding of the spiritual universe than any written text could possibly impart. Given this approach, it is hardly surprising that all contemporary Pagans insist on acceptance and respect toward a multitude of spiritual paths; any other perspective would be inherently self-defeating.

We believe in the principal behind the statement “As above, So below”, for what occurs in the spiritual realm is directly reflected in the material world. We see ourselves as inextricably linked to the Gods, our very existence being itself an emanation of divinity. Our individual consciousness is inseparable from the Divine and we are intimately connected, not only to each other but with the natural world as well.

It is important to recognize that while individual Pagans honor many different Gods and we conduct our personal rituals and the worship of those Gods in different ways, we nonetheless share the same fundamental truths. We are one religious community with many separate traditions and we honor each other accordingly.

 

Posted in Faith, Paganism, Philosophy, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , | 29 Comments

We must find a path to peace before it’s too late

A scene straight from my vision in October – I wish someone would listen before this continues to the ground war  I saw follow, but I admit the chances of that are slim indeed. I only hope we can work to avoid the terrible destruction I saw occuring after the infantry attacks by attempting to somehow broker peace in the region. I have been considering the possibility of joining a peace delegation to the Gaza strip to aid in the peace process but with the border closed this is no longer possible. I grieve for both sides – the worst is yet to come.

Posted in Death, God, Islam, Israel, Peace, War | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Petition for Equal Rights

The United States is the greatest nation in the world today because it promotes the freedom and equality inherent in democratic society. These concepts have been a part of our national identity from the beginning of our Republic – absolute equality in the eyes of the law is not a partisan ideal but is rather an expectation of all Americans. I encourage everyone to sign the Equal Rights Petition today.

We believe as a people that our Government must act immediately to restore our faith in its ability to uphold our most cherished principles. We acknowledge that our strength lies in our diversity and we therefore demand both executive and legislative support for an Amendment clearly providing that the equality of rights for all under the law shall not be denied on account of gender, ethnicity, religion, race, age or sexual orientation.

Posted in Equality, Inspiration, Peace | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

On the complexity of life and perspective, theologically speaking

I have been preoccupied of late with the overwhelming complexities of life, not only on a personal scale but also how one relates to society as a whole vis-à-vis one’s individual worldview.  I believe this is doubly the case for those of us who choose to follow a Pagan lifestyle but also recognize a deep abiding love for the root teachings of other spiritual worldviews often radically different from our own,  despite the distinct possibility that because we choose to follow the natural religion of life and we understand the greatness of our Gods as exemplified in the smallest quantum unit to the utmost entirety of the universe, emergent thereof, we may find ourselves ostracized from mainstream society to a marked degree. We are not of the “Children of the Book”, as the Muslims say, and many modern day Christians testify that we are therefore misguided at best or wholly evil at the worst and ultimately, deserving of their hatred simply because we do not acknowledge Jesus Christ to be divine.

By the way, many of us do recognize and hold a deep abiding love of the root of the biblical Christ’s teachings as a viable means of achieving peace with oneself and one’s neighbors. It’s frustrating to me that so many evangelical fundamentalists preach the concept of ‘judge not lest ye be judged’ and then in the next sentence say that all Pagans are going to Hell. Excuse me, but that’s not a mortal’s judgment to make (biblically speaking), for such decisions lie solely with God and remain well outside human responsibility. Love your neighbor as you love yourself, even when his or her beliefs are different from your own. That is one commandment I can fully agree with.

I philosophically recognize that the concept of God is academically genderless and have always envisioned deity as a Great Spirit that transcends such concerns, having created the infinite universe and remaining omniscient of all that occurs through space and time at every point in Creation.  When I pray I freely admit that in my mind’s eye I picture the Goddess, for surely the Sacred Feminine is included within the makeup of deity, undeniably merged with the identity of that glorious and infinite presence we as a species generally refer to as God.

No disrespect intended toward the viewpoint of those who believe I somehow worship Satan, Lucifer, or whatever, but I say this with all certainly – my Goddess could kick the Devil’s butt any day. In my writing I speak about my Mother’s faith having influenced me quite often but I do not frequently mention my Father’s beliefs for he rarely discussed religion with me. I can still remember the one thing he taught me in my youth that affected me profoundly and in many ways continues to influence me today. Although he is a self-identified Christian he does not believe in Hell, choosing to place his faith in an all loving, all forgiving God that would not punish his children for eternity simply because they may have “broken the rules”, so to speak. I may not be a Christian but I still find that concept to be a source of comfort, for it removes the sting of death and replaces it with the prospect that the end of life is simply another step on our final journey home.

Posted in Death, Equality, God, Inspiration, Paganism, Religion, Spirituality | Tagged , , , , , , | 8 Comments

International Religious Freedom Day

Today we celebrate International Religious Freedom Day. Americans often take the freedom of religion for granted as the right to freely worship is guaranteed in the First Amendment of the US Constitution. We forget that nearly five billion people live in countries that severely restrict religious freedom and many face the death penalty if they fail to conform.

While the Middle East and Africa currently hold the dubious distinction of being the two geographic areas where religious intolerance and outright persecution is most prevalent, no one country is completely free of prejudice  (although Canada certainly comes very close). Even here in the United States, free thinking spiritualists often face derision from many adherents to the ‘organized’ religions.

From the viewpoint of the independent theist, fundamentalists and religious extremists dominate the theological and political landscape to such an extent that any affiliation with organized religion is 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 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 devout 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 our religious affiliation and our continued lack of organization allows extreme fundamentalist groups to dictate administrative policy, 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 Free Faith Movement will put an end to fundamentalist tyranny; by standing together, unified by the very spiritual freedom that our opponents so despise, we will 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 will peacefully worship our God(s) however we choose. We will legally marry those we love, before our God(s) and without prejudice, in a ceremony of our own faith. We will 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. Together, we will prevail.

Posted in Equality, Faith, God, Religion, Spirituality, Universalist | Tagged , , , , , | 5 Comments