Archive for July, 2012

Humanism Can Include Theism

I am a skeptic, a freethinker, and a humanist. I don’t believe these labels exclude theists of various kinds, yet that is how they are often used, at least by implication.  Perhaps if I use them in lowercase, it makes it a little clearer that I am using them more broadly. A skeptic is one that does not accept claims without carefully scrutinizing them, and a freethinker is one who thinks for themselves, rather than rigidly following the dogmas of authority figures without question. (Said authorities can be religious, secular or political)

Humanist, on the other hand is a little trickier to define. In general, it is a philosophy of human dignity & independence from dogma, and reliance on reason and science.  I don’t think that conflicts with a belief in some sort of divine being(s) While I am probably not 100% sure of the existence of God(s), I have a sense of the sacred,  the power of ritual & community, and I seek the Divine, or more simply a connection to nature, the universe, my inner self, and others.

Here are some of my beliefs & ideas that I consider humanist:

  • Humans are intrinsically morally neutral, not born sinful without commiting any wrong. Or as the Unitarians put it: “We affirm the inherent dignity and worth of every person”.
  • The human body, and sexuality (if practiced between consenting adults) are beautiful, valuable, and we should be proud of our bodies and our sexual nature. There is nothing dirty or shameful about them.
  • We can and should be moral & ethical, regardless of whether we are religious. We do not need the pressure of God(s) and/or clergy to spur us to ethical behavior. In fact, the idea that one only acts morally due to divine commands and/or rewards in the afterlife is in of itself immoral.
  • It is important to focus on this life, and living it to the fullest, rather than an afterlife which may or may not exist.
  • Humans can, and should try to make the world a better place, both for each other, and for the natural world as a whole.
  • The scientific method is a good way of learning about the universe. Science does not conflict with religion, rather it complements it.
  • We should all be allowed think and speak for ourselves, and engage in civil debate in public and private with others who disagree.
  • God(s) may or may not exist, be if he/she/they do, humans reserve the right to not worship them without fear of punishment. Honoring and worshipping a divine entity should be done out of love and reverence, not out of fear.

July 24, 2012 at 12:34 am 3 comments

Some Nifty Resources

Here’s a couple of nifty resources I discovered recently, of the audio variety.  I went to a presentation & performance about  Tobar an Dualchais or Kist o Riches (meaning Well of Heritage). It is a archive full of recordings of traditional Scottish Gaelic & Scots  music, poetry, speeches on history, folklore, stories and traditions. Ethnic You can search for specific songs, artists, key words, etc.  Folklorists have been collecting recordings since the 1930’s, and they are in the process of being digitized and uploaded to the website. I haven’t even explored it yet, but it sounds amazing!

Since most of what I know of Irish (and other Celtic) history is from the pre-Christian era, I wanted to learn more about later periods. But to a Yank, with only a 300-some year old country  it is such a  long history, I didn’t know where to start. When I searched “Irish history” in the St. Paul library catalog, I got hundreds of hits. So I poked around online and found a the Irish History Podcast. The fellow who does it, does a great job of explaining things- I particularly enjoy  how he discusses what everyday life was like.  For the next step in this journey, I will pick a time period or topic that especially interests me (women’s role in history for example) and read more on that.


July 22, 2012 at 12:35 am Leave a comment

Revamping the Blog

I decided to do some re-vamping of this blog- I probably spent a half hour mulling over which background theme to use! I’m going to focus the blog less on politics, partly because I’ve started another, mainly on the subject of disability rights.  I can never resist a pun, hence the new title 🙂  In the past, I’ve posted book reviews of various kinds on Roots Leaves & Threads, but I think it makes more sense to put religion, culture, history books here.  I found some good Celtic Recon/Gaelic Polytheist blogs to add, and I’m also going to put up some pages of resources (books, links etc)


July 22, 2012 at 12:15 am Leave a comment

Poverty of the Mind

I am constantly hearing people say “Pagans are poor”. While I have known more than a few low-income Pagans, I am not sure how broadly true this is. It’s very difficult for us to have a accurate survey of the socio-economic status of Pagans in a given country, particularly most people are rather hesitant to identify both their religion and where they are financially.  But the impression I get at least, is that Pagans who are poor (or at least say they are) tend to be loud about it, and the Pagans who have more reliable sources of income are quieter about it. (See note below)

Many clergy, Tarot readers, astrologers, alternative health practitioners etc are often expected to offer their services for free, or for less than they can afford. Some claim this goes back to the Gardnerian taboo against teaching witchcraft for money. But that is a more specific situation: there is a rightful concern that people would pay to be initiated, who did not really merit it, and priest/esses would become too motivated by profit rather than spirituality. That is different than charging some money for a class that does not lead to initiation/dedication or for spiritual services. And no one gets wealthy from theses things, and most of these people need other jobs to support themselves. So what are the real reasons for this? Are we just stingy? Not exactly…

One Reiki practitioner I know says she often gets people coming in who are covered in jewelry, and whine about how they can’t pay her fees. It’s your money, but don’t use overspending on pagan-y or geeky toys to justify stiffing others who are offering quality goods & services.  Another factor is the counter-cultural ideas that many of us espouse. We reject the workaholic, keeping up with Joneses mentality, instead focusing on our spirituality. But sometimes we take that to the point where exchanging money at all isn’t spiritual, it’s unclean almost. But money at its most basic, with all is spiritual too. When you look at a dollar bill, forget the dead president on it, and visualize a loaf of bread. That’s what it really symbolizes- The words economy and ecology have a common root- the Greek ekos meaning house. Ecology is the science of how our house fits together, and economy is the science of how we manage (or are managed by) our households. So the problem isn’t the bread- it’s collecting bread for its own sake, or avoiding it as much as possible just because it is bread- and food is bad. We literally see the results of this in our society with obesity & eating disorders- which really are emblematic of how we relate to material things, including our bodies. The more we say “we’re poor” the more we psychologically reinforce this idea, and it becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

(Note: in this post I am targeting mainly people who choose bad attitudes towards money & jobs, regardless of the options they may have (and often have a fair amount of privilege even if they’re “oppressed pagans”), not people who have very few opportunities based their backgrounds or difficult life experiences.)

The bottom line is, we really need to develop a healthier, more mature and balanced attitude towards money, that fits with our respective cultural & spiritual values, in order to be whole people and move forward together as a community (or rather overlapping communities)

July 7, 2012 at 1:30 am Leave a comment


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