Wednesday, July 29, 2009

We are the Pagans who have moved on

We are the Pagans who have moved on.
We do not pretend that our traditions stretch back into the mists of time.
We do not use custom or tradition as justification for our actions.
We do not berate the Christians for stealing festivals that our predecessors invented in the 1950s, or for ancient persecutions or wrongs, actual or perceived.
We do not pretend that we know what ancient pagans believed, or thought, or did.
We do not appropriate the culture of others.
We do not leave litter at sacred sites.
We do not hold heterocentric or hierarchical rituals.
We do not pretend to be better than others
- everyone has something to teach, everyone has something to learn.
We do not pretend that we are the holders of arcane secrets.
We do not mistake our personal truth for universal truth.
We do not tell others what they should believe or value or do.

We leave these behind and move on,
not in arrogance, not unaware of tradition’s worth,
not creating new conflicts as bad as the old ones,
or so we hope!

We find the divine in all nature
- in place, and animals, trees and birds, and human beings.
We hold love, compassion to all beings, and wisdom as our highest ideals.
We seek and honour the truth wherever it may be found.
We tread lightly upon the Earth.
We seek to live in peace with all beings.
We seek to cultivate virtues in the garden of our own souls.

We are the Pagans who move on.

(inspired by a meditation by Cliff Reed)

(if you want to copy this to your own site, you are welcome to do so but please retain my authorship and the acknowledgment of Cliff Reed, and link back to this page)

Monday, July 27, 2009

Stand up, stand up for Dawkins

Dawkins sets up kids camp to groom atheists - The Reason Project
Richard Dawkins launches children's summer camp for atheists - The Telegraph
Dawkins sets up kids’ camp to groom atheists - The Times
Atheist camp will not brainwash children - The Times

I’m all for reason and the freedom to believe or not believe whatever you like, but from what I have read so far, this camp is just a not-very-subtle form of indoctrination. Liberal religion is not about belief, it’s about values. The insistence on belief in a set of unbelievable concepts is a Christian weirdness; other religions are more about values and practice and culture. I think it’s a pity that the debate has polarised to this extent.

Admittedly if it was a choice between sending my kids to Dawkins’ camp or sending them to the scary Jesus camp, I’d choose Dawkins’ camp every time. Fortunately that is not the case and there is a huge spectrum for people to choose from. (I don’t have any kids though.)

But the point is, kids should not be indoctrinated into anything, whether it's atheism or religion. They should be given the tools and concepts to decide for themselves when they're old enough.

Unitarians, Pagans, Wiccans, and other liberal religious types don’t believe in indoctrinating children, but giving them the tools and concepts to choose their own spiritual path (or not, as the case may be).

Many atheists seem incapable of understanding the difference between liberal religion (which is about values and spirituality and community) and the rest.

I tried to look at Richard Dawkins' website to see what his take on the whole thing is, as he has apparently said that the Times article was biased and gave the wrong impression, but I can't get into his website at the moment due to a connection error.

UPDATE: I have now managed to find Richard Dawkins' letter, in which he says he abhors the indoctrination of children. However, giving them a biased view that all religion is about having daft beliefs, and that reason is the ultimate arbiter of everything, is a form of indoctrination.

Friday, July 24, 2009

God is not your bitch

This just in: It is hugely unlikely God cares much about your sex life
by Mark Morford

Absolutely awesome article by a guy at the San Francisco Chronicle. Now here is a writer who really does get what religion should be about.

He writes:
I, for one, am utterly delighted at how Sanford has effortlessly reduced the grand concept of timeless, universal divine metaconsciousness down to a bit of a tool, essentially making God his own personal knave. What a fantastic conceit! What glorious gall! We should all try that someday.

In fact, most major religions encourage exactly that. I find I am in a constant swoon of giddy amazement at this universal phenomenon, the fabulous, hubris-loaded idea that God is not actually an unfathomable river of cosmic energy to be supped from like liquid light, while you still take complete responsibility for your own life and choices. Nor is God simply the idea of universal love and compassion, coursing through all things at all times everywhere. How silly to think.

No, God is, apparently, actually far more like some sort of heavyset, hectoring grandmother who reads your email and pokes through your underwear drawer and hates your girlfriend and is, for the most part, very, very disappointed in you. Great!

Really, it almost does not matter in which God you believe, what sect or major denomination. Nearly all are of the same idea, offer up the same unquestionable truth: Of course God cares what you do, who you screw, upon which sliver of dust-choked holy land you live, how high you raise your flag and which statue you kneel before. This is the greatest wonder of all: In the impossible vastness of time and space, God cares most desperately, most fanatically about this particular swirling blue dot of inconsequential dust we call home. Hey, we invented God, right? We can do with Him whatever we want.
Exactly. Religion should be about connecting with the Great All through whatever set of symbols you find most resonant, and trying to behave considerately towards other people, and hopefully having a few peak experiences along the way.

Hatch and match liturgy

Church of England unveils a two-in-one wedding and baptism liturgy today as it seeks to make peace with families "living in sin"

If they can do joint weddings and baptisms, why not same-sex marriages? Otherwise, it's one rule for the heterosexuals and a different rule for LGBT people. According to fundamentalists, the Bible says not to have sex outside marriage (in fact it doesn't say any such thing, though it implies it in several places). Certainly that's been the teaching of the Church of England, alongside its insistence on heterosexual sex only. So if it can countenance this new "hatch-and-match" liturgy, which doesn't fit in with its teaching, why not do same-sex marriages as well? Or change the teaching to something more sensible.

Personally I think Christians should stop worrying about people's sex lives and worry about climate change, war, mass species extinction, etc., which are actually life-threatening.

Monday, July 20, 2009

A bisexual penguin

Gay Penguins Split In Love Triangle Shock

Harry has left Pepper for another "more attractive" bird at San Francisco Zoo - sparking outrage across the blogosphere. …More

Harry and Pepper were in a six-year gay relationship. Now poor Pepper is heartbroken because Harry has left him for a female penguin. Clearly Harry is bisexual. And all the Christian fundamentalists could find to say about it was that "nature prefers heterosexual relationships". The heartless, cold-blooded, evil bastards. Have they no sympathy for poor jilted Pepper? And what would they know about nature? It's not like they get out much...

Others have more sympathy. The Friggin Loon blog and its commenters were gutted on Pepper's behalf. Also there are millions of gay animals; one bisexual penguin is not evidence that nature prefers heterosexuality. In fact, gay animals contribute to the wellbeing of the species by looking after orphaned young.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Thor's response

New experiments in fiction has posted a cartoon about a prayer to Thor. This is what happened next.

Your prayer has been placed in a queue and will be dealt with shortly.

[sound of Valkyries singing]

Your prayer is important to Asgard Inc. and will be dealt with as soon as possible.

[sound of Valkyries singing]

You are moving up the queue, also known as Bifrost, the Rainbow Bridge.

[sound of Valkyries singing]

All our deities are busy right now, but one will be available shortly to answer your prayer.

[sound of Valkyries singing]

You have asked for a specific deity. Your prayer will now be routed to your chosen deity.

[recorded message]
Hi, this is Thor, I'm out shagging and drinking right now - go fix your own problem, Heathenry is meant to be a religion for the self-reliant.

[listens to answerphone message]

You'll be good? What kind of namby-pamby Christian crap is that? Oh wait, mead? Meeeaaadd? Now you're talking! Oh wait, YOU'RE gonna quaff the mead? No, no, no and no. You give the mead to me, that's how it's supposed to work.

[glug, glug, glug]

Mmmm, mead. Now, what was your request? A car? No! I shall give you a chariot. Drawn by goats. And with knives on the wheels. Yarr!

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

39% Calvinist? Surely some mistake

Hmm, 39% Calvinist eh? Only because some of the values mentioned are mainstream...

39% You are somewhat of a Calvinist. Some of your points of view make you look like a Calvinist. However, you live your life in a lighter way than Calvinists do, which allows you to enjoy it more.
Work43%Really, you don't have a Calvinistic working ethos. You mainly work for yourself, and you don't see a reason to work much harder
Strictness20%You know how to enjoy life. You don't always spend your time in a useful way. Mind the balance!
Sobriety33%You were not born to be a Calvinist. Catholicism suits you better - slightly hedonistic, loose and emotional.
Relationships0%In your relationships you are not very reserved. One might say: uncalvinistic. You let yourself go too easily to be a Calvinist.
Beliefs0%You are an unconcerned believer, who doesn't worry too much.

Play is useful too!

Also Calvin was a very bad man, because he had Michael Servetus burnt at the stake.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Naomi and Ruth in art

The Jesus in Love blog has a new painting of Naomi and Ruth, the very close friends (and possible lesbian partners) whose story is told in the Book of Ruth, part of the Ketuvim.
And Ruth said, Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee: for whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God: Where thou diest, will I die, and there will I be buried.

Ruth 1:16-17
This subject has been popular in art for centuries. There's an Old Master at the Art and the Bible website, by Pieter Lastman ca. 1583–1633, entitled Ruth Declares her Loyalty to Naomi (1614). There's another in the Sudley House collection in Liverpool, by Ary Scheffer. William Blake got in on the act too:

Naomi entreating Ruth to follow Orpah (detail),
Illustration (1795) by William Blake (1757-1827)
Victoria and Albert Museum, London

There's a nice little picture of them on Monkey Mind, probably taken from an illustrated Bible:There's also a sort of quasi-Classicist depiction of them by Thomas Williams Rooke, entitled "Naomi, Ruth and Obed" (1876): There's a nice modern drawing, unattributed, with Hebrew text:This next one, from a blogpost entitled Ruth and Naomi: The Bible on Lesbians, is nice (and I like the pinky desert landscape). It looks as if they are just going to kiss...
Ruth and Naomi, Orpah departing, 1902
by Philip Hermogenes Calderon (1833-1898)

Police raid gay bar on anniversary of Stonewall

This is terrible.

Police Raid Gay Bar in Fort Worth, Texas
on the 40th Anniversary of Stonewall

Late last Saturday night, June 27, Fort Worth Police Officers and Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission (TABC) officers entered the Rainbow Lounge in Fort Worth and arrested seven (7) people. One was critically injured during the raid.

The story quickly spread to major news outlets such as the Metroplex, CNN, The Rachel Maddow Show, The Michaelangelo Signorile Show, The Daily KOSS, and The Huffington Post.
Video of the raid.

Fort Worth Raid

Our friends at Equality Texas are encouraging LGBTQ supporters to contact Fort Worth Mayor Mike Moncrief to demand a full investigation.

This raid is yet another stark reminder that there is still so much work to be done to end bigotry and prejudice in America and around the world. Soulforce remains committed in our efforts to end the political and religious oppression of LGBTQ people that leads to such violence.

Source: Soulforce newsletter, 1 July 2009.