Posts filed under ‘Science’

Left/Right is a False Divide for Polytheists

Melas the Hellene’s Polemical Topics in Polytheism # 9 Politics

First view: Polytheism ought to follow Liberalism on the left, because religious monotheists tend to take the right.

Second view: Polytheism ought to follow Conservativism on the right, because Liberalism is often antithetical to tradition, religion and culture.

Third view: Polytheism needs both right and left, and at the same time, must move beyond this often stifling dualism.

Despite being staunchly left-wing most of my life, I agree with the third view. To begin with, many will ask why should politics & religion be intertwined, and indeed that they shouldn’t be by citing separation of church and state or freedom of religion as it exists in their given country. But they are confusing government with politics, and how also do we define politics? Many people define it more narrowly than I do, but then I have a bachelor’s in political science and I also enjoy studying sociology.

The division between the so-called left and right is a cultural division, with politics really being a symptom of a deeper divide. Social psychologist Jonathan Haidt has done some great work in explaining the moral foundations that divide us in the United States and to some degree, Canada and other Western countries. Studying his research is something I’ve found very helpful at better understanding how people who are more conservative than me thin. Which is good, because that is most of my country- particularly most of the people who vaguely resemble me both physically and culturally. Conservatives tend to have stronger feelings in several areas that Haidt measures that liberal & classical libertarians are often simply lacking which leads to a lot of miscommunication and misunderstanding between these factions. Conservatives often to some degree get it more than liberals do. Here’s a shorter piece about the politics of disgust, which is one of the aspects that started him down the path of this research.

My boyfriend shared an article about this with me years ago, and over time particularly while reading Galina Krasskova’s blog, I noticed the increasing importance of the purity/sanctity vs. disgust dimension in her writing. Part of it was that I recognized it more, but it also seem to grow in importance as she deepened particular aspects of her practice, like emphasis on modesty, purity and piety. Disagreements about these issues with other polytheists became larger leading to a split among factions of bloggers, though I think as time goes on hopefully there will be more of a range of views and dimensions represented. My own views while aligning somewhat with one faction have also grown more nuanced, especially as I’ve deepened my cultural and religious studies. For one thing, many of the fault lines that have formed & the assumptions behind them, don’t fit very well with Irish/Scottish diasporan polytheism or Celtic polytheism more generally I might add, at least as I interpret them.

To be clear about my own biases, I am online friends with several of the writers on the Gods & Radicals staff, though I have only met one of them in person. Several of them are fellow members of Clann Bhride. I’ll admit I’m pretty lousy at being both a practicing democratic socialist and a polytheist, mostly an armchair theorist with both.

Anyhow I’m interesting in getting other polytheists of various political stripes together to compare our scores on Jonathan Haidt’s moral foundations research. The questions he has about religion are unsurprisingly, not very relevant to us, but perhaps we could contact him and see if he has any students that are doing psychology of religion research. Let me know if you are interested. Here’s the section of the Righteous Mind website for religious communities. I wonder if it would be more accurate if we had different cohorts or something. Color me rusty on methodology…

Then I’d like to further explore the moral foundations and how they fit with our various religions & cultures.

Note: For my fellow anti-capitalists, for simplicity’s sake I’m just using liberals to include us, even if yes, classical libertarians that word by rights originally belongs to you. But being an anti-capitalist in American politics is rather like being well, a polytheist in the Western religious landscape, most of the time you aren’t really acknowledged to exist in public, and you have a zillion little sects & disagreements that are really important to you, but nobody else knows the difference between your beliefs and another ideology that you consider completely different, thank you very much! Marxists though are generally far more dogmatic and stuck in the past, in my experience…though they could probably compete with online heathens in the macho department!

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June 28, 2018 at 4:17 am 1 comment

American Cultural Blinders

Being native-born American is like being from this large, very wealthy and influential family that is well-known for doing many great deeds, but also has done many ethically questionable things that helped make them gain their wealth and power. The problem is, you don’t even know what many of those things are, but when you interact with people from other families (countries) they hold you accountable to some degree for those actions. Sometimes I find out what country someone is from either in person & online, and at the back of my mind I wonder what we’ve done to them? Any proxy wars, puppet governments or corporate colonialism? Or sometimes I run into people that are really great fans of U.S. policy towards their country in a way that makes me cringe. It’s great that we supported that wretched dictator, because at least he was anti-Communist!

As Americans we often don’t even realize what many of our cultural assumptions are especially if we haven’t had the chance to travel much. Even when we do travel we may get the sanitized or oversimplified tourist version of a country. And since American culture is so spread throughout the world it’s tricky to know what is already familiar or unfamiliar to people in other countries. I often both over- and underestimate cultural similarities and familiarity with American cultural tidbits when interacting with Canadian and British friends and acquaintances for example. And that’s just with two other Anglosphere countries!  I pride myself in being more cosmopolitan and savvy about different countries compared to the average native born American, but that’s a really low bar! As the saying goes a little knowledge is a dangerous thing, and I’ve found that admitting that I don’t know much and just slowing down and listening to people and observing goes a long way in reducing misunderstandings. I’ve so far travelled to both Canada and Mexico, which is more than many people have but still, not very far afield culturally.

So I was going thru Melas the Hellene’s Polemical Topics in Polytheism and trying to respond to the questions but found that the way they were framed didn’t quite work for me. But I couldn’t quite articulate why. Then I figured it out, they just didn’t quite work in an American cultural context. This is an unexpected problem for me to have, I’m rather spoiled since so much of the Internet- especially the Pagan/polytheist blogosphere that I run into consists of Americans and heavily American influenced viewpoints. I’m glad to find more blogs from different cultural perspectives and written in various languages, though I really have to go out of my way to seek them out. I thought I might have to re-frame the topics to my cultural context.  I’m often not sure when it’s necessary or helpful to explain aspects of American culture since often times other people throughout the world understand us better than we do ourselves! Then later I read thru more of Melas’ posts and realized that he himself was raised in the United States then moved to Greece. Finding that out definitely adds some context to his various opinions on American culture, Greek culture and Hellenic polytheism. I’d be interested to see other Hellenic polytheists (whether of Greek ancestry or not) weigh in. I don’t know much about Greek or Greek-American culture, my experience is pretty much limited to a attending a Greek-American festival held by an Orthodox church in my city and visiting the Greek area of Chicago. Also there’s this movie I’ve seen that stars Nia Vardalos, but I’m not going to mention the title of it, I suspect the association is probably annoying enough!

 

But here’s another essay that I found by a Greek-American polytheist that seemed to me a helpful moderate perspective between totally divorcing Hellenic polytheism from modern Greek culture and people and being stuck on ancient Greece and believing the practice should only be restricted to people of Greek descent. As a person of Irish/Scottish/English/German heritage who has worshipped Greek gods but would like to better understand their cultural context, I found it very insightful and I also saw many parallels with my experiences connecting to people from or in Ireland. 

June 21, 2018 at 1:10 am 5 comments

“Celtic” Ancestry?

First off, particularly with the coming of comparatively cheap DNA tests,  people keep coming into Celtic Pagan/Druid & Celtic polytheist communities all excited about their DNA results- I found out I have Celtic ancestry! I guess that means I should worship Celtic gods, right? How do I do that? Well, that’s cool that you got your DNA results but what do you mean by “Celtic” ancestry?

The generally accepted definition of Celtic both by people within Celtic nations and their diasporas and within academic Celtic studies is for people who speak, or in comparatively recent memory spoke a Celtic language. There’s also archaeological definitions, though they are more debated*. Though frankly the diasporans & fans of various forms of Celtic music and dance commonly argue with it a lot more, because “Celtic” stuff is romanticized. So “Celtic Pagan” gets used about as sloppily as the label “Celtic music”. It’s much more precise and respectful to be more specific.

You can have ancestors who immigrated from Ireland with Norman, English, Ulster-Scots,  Norse and yes, Irish Gaelic ancestors. There’s also the Irish Travellers, a distinct ethno-cultural/linguistic group who sort of branched off from settled Irish Gaels centuries ago. They have faced discrimination and exclusion from settled Irish Gaelic society as well as the British when they ruled Ireland.

You can have Scottish ancestors from the Lowlands, the Highlands or both, the Lowlanders being more Anglo-Saxon Northumbrian by ancestry as well as Gaelic, and the Highlanders, Orcadians, Shetlanders and Hebrideans being more Gaelic & Norse. Then there’s the people of the Isle of Man, the Manx, once again a mix of Gaelic & Norse.

The modern Brythonic peoples are the Welsh and Cornish, also in Britain, and the Bretons in Brittany, France- they settled there from Britain long ago. So those are the 6 modern Celtic nations, peoples and languages.

The Galicians and Asturians in Spain are sometimes seen as having a kind of honorary status as modern Celts, they do not speak a Celtic language but their music and culture is seen as having Celtic influences.

More distantly many more people in continental Europe likely have descent from Celtic tribes but that gets a lot more historically murky with tussles with Romans and Germanic tribes.

The good news is regardless of your DNA contents, you still *may* be able to be some type of Celtic polytheist or pagan. I’d highly recommend trying your best to study a Celtic language and finding other ways to respectfully participate in and support modern Celtic communities. I’ll have more tips on how to do this in a later post, experiences I’ve learned from as a diasporan in how best to interact with folks who are native to, or more recently culturally connected with Celtic nations. At that point, I’ll probably narrow it down to Irish & Scottish as those are groups with which I’m most familiar.

 

June 1, 2018 at 8:08 am 4 comments

The Online People’s Front of Judea

I’ve been attempting to learn more about various social justice issues by reading about them both with books and online communities. Over the years, since Livejournal, on thru Facebook and Tumblr, I’ve seen an ongoing downward spiral of discourse. While certainly there have long been problems, there’s an increasing amount of nasty games I’ve come to question some of the basic theories and ideologies that I’ve long believed in, such as Critical Race Theory and intersectionality- while still supporting certain aspects such as- yes oppression is bad, human rights are good, oppressions and identities are inter-related and so forth. Reading Will Shetterly’s blog has been very eye-opening. (He’s a science fiction author, a socialist & a Unitarian who’s also wondering what the heck happened to fandom…) I haven’t been following the various sagas with Hugos, Sad Puppies, Gamergate, avoiding them as much as I’ve been able to avoid the Ferguson/Black Lives Matter saga. Maybe I’ll just read an actual Icelandic saga…

Fortunately I have Monty Python to help me make “sense” of human absurdity…

The People’s Front of Judea

What Have the Romans Ever Done for Us? (also a good one to post in Pagan groups when someone is complaining about teh Eevil Romans)

The Social Consequences of Everything

These are commented on by someone who *actually does think sexism, racism, homophobia etc are Real Things, but points out the problems with some of these checklists. But people still don’t understand irony and sarcasm. It’s also hard to tell, because some people are kind of walking parodies. I came across “bathing privilege” I thought at first this meant to point out that some people have access to running water and baths/showers and some don’t- fair enough, but it was just someone who *chooses to not bathe* whining about how oppressed he was by Western culture. I couldn’t tell it was for real or not. He also mentioned being on the autism spectrum, and I know sensory issues and executive functioning (i.e. Getting Stuff Done/Organized) can often be barriers for many of us when it comes to personal hygiene, but we can learn to work around those problems (sometimes with help) I’m also well aware that American and Japanese culture in particular, have higher standards of personal hygiene than much of the rest of the world (in part due to wealth) and I think a broader range of cleanliness can be reasonable, depending on your social environment.

Someone else has claimed “non-incest privilege” is a thing (you can’t help who you’re attracted to!) for what the .01% of cases in which it’s not abusive? Also the person that informed us all that homophobia and transphobia are ableist terms because clinical phobias are a Real Thing! Now there’s always going to be someone in every movement doing or saying ridiculous things, it’s just way more visible now. Yay internets!

September 16, 2015 at 2:38 am 1 comment

Pagan/Queer Community comparison

One important thing to remember about the word Pagan is that it’s based on self-identity. Personally I am a supporter of Project Pagan Enough, even at the risk of implying a “Pagan means whatever you want it to mean” stance. My stance is- let’s quit wasting time and energy arguing over who “counts” as Pagan or not.

This reminds me over some of the “who counts and is included?” struggles we’ve had in another of my communities- the GLBTQIA+ which is really a cluster of overlapping communities who work together (or don’t) with varying degrees of success. Gays and lesbians are typically at the center, just as Wiccans and religions that somewhat resemble it tend to be fit the general public’s idea of what “Pagan” means (if they are aware at all!) Likewise, how much a bisexual, and/or a trans person identifies with “GLBT” may depend on how the B and T are actually included. Do asexuals “count”? Are heterosexual cross-dressers, kinky and polyamorous people part of a broader definition of queer? Those are questions that keep arising.

As a board member of a bisexual organization I ask the question- who is it that needs access to our community and movement? The answer is, people with an attraction to more than one gender, regardless of what label they may or may not use. In the broader GLBT community we can ask similar questions- who is being excluded from dominant social norms of sexuality & gender? Whether they have so-called “passing” privilege or not is irrelevant, so are Oppression Olympics.

It is likewise with the loose association of minority religions that band together under the label “Pagan” to gain inclusion in the military, in public schools, prisons, and generally protect their religious rights. Socially and spiritually, we might not have that much in common but we face prejudices in majority Christian, Jewish, Muslim or secular countries. (OK so there’s only one majority Jewish state, but still my point stands!)

I see the folks who privately practice magic & other esoteric practices and identify religiously as Christian, Jewish or secular as being somewhat equivalent to the heterosexual kinky, cross-dressing or poly folks in relation to the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas respectively. Folks in both of these groups tend to face less discrimination than others in the Pagan and GLBT umbrellas, and maybe more prone to identify as allies or not associate at all. Religion and sexual behavior, of course can be totally private things, but in particular situations a person may find their personal practices held against them in a custody battle or a political smear campaign in a way that others may not. On the other hand, if you are a Catholic that practices folk magic & BDSM, you probably will not need to debate over whether to “come out” about these practices to your relatives before your wedding. Yes, some people have BDSM-themed weddings, and some people go around introducing their partners as their masters or bottoms. But this is generally going to be kept more private, as compared with telling people about your partner of the same gender.

Questions to Explore:

What determines whether a person belongs to a minority community? Their self-identity? Their behavior? Their access to privileges or experiences of oppression/discrimination?

How might membership in a religious or sexual minority community differ from that of an ethnic/racial minority community?

Is it easier for some people to reclaim & identify with words with derogatory connotations like queer and pagan?

May 27, 2015 at 2:12 am 4 comments

Cultural Diversity thru Autistic Eyes

One of the reasons I, as a person with white-skin privilege, enjoy and prefer being in culturally diverse environments is because I’m autistic. One of the reasons for this is that, when you are in a culturally diverse setting, everyone’s a little more autistic! That is, since people are coming from different backgrounds, with different social norms and expectations, everyone is going to feel a little awkward, and the shared culture that develops has to be more flexible by necessity in its expectations. I find the diversity functions as a slight “camouflage” to my social oddities. I’m a bit of a “foreigner” within my own culture.

The problem is when teachers and other professionals are teaching socially “normal” behavior, that using eye contact, body language, tones of voice, small talk and so forth are default neurotypical universal human behavior, when in fact they are specifically teaching *white middle class American* neurotypical behavior. When I go to autism conferences and organizations, this is very much the dominant cultural viewpoint, from both teachers, therapists and parents alike. Autism groups are typically about as white (racially & culturally) as the cast of Friends. In terms of training of professionals and education of parents on how to deal with autistic students and adults, this creates a very troubling paradigm for children and adults on the spectrum  and their families who come from other cultural and class backgrounds. Being “color-blind” and “culturally neutral” is a giant joke when the population of special ed teachers and autism therapists is overwhelmingly white (and female for that matter). I strongly support making an active effort to recruit people of diverse cultures into special education, therapy, social work and other professions that work with people with disabilities, not just for shallow skin-deep diversity points, but to actually include and integrate different cultural ways of thinking, learning and ways of being into these very culturally white professions. I also figure families and communities of color care just as much about their disabled members as white folks do, but we don’t hear from their voices enough in the mainstream media or disability-focused media and organizations. That really needs to change!

*There are also differences in how Black, Latino and Native children are labelled and treated, as compared with white and Asian children- I will discuss that further in another post.

December 1, 2014 at 11:44 pm Leave a comment

What’s a Protestant Worldview?

I read Galina Krasskova’s latest post on Polytheist.com about Resacralizing Our World. As with anything she writes, there’s a lot to take in and think about. I don’t always agree with her, but she does challenge us to think critically about our beliefs and practices. This is probably one of the reasons people have such a strong reaction to her views! Danger! Heathen woman with opinions! Anyhow- this was not really the main topic of her post, but it came up, and I’ve seen her and others discuss it before, the idea than American culture has a dominant Protestant worldview, which frequently gets in the way of spiritual development for polytheists. So I asked her- how does this different from a Catholic worldview?

Do Pagans from Catholic backgrounds have different spiritual approaches than those from Protestant, Jewish or secular backgrounds? I’ve known Pagans who came from the same religious upbringing to develop very different paths, in terms of cultural focus, theology, type of practice etc.

I guess growing up, I just saw Catholicism as being another type of Christianity (which I guess is very Protestant of me- it was “a church” not “The Church”) I grew up in a time when the idea of a Catholic President was once controversial was rather inconceivable, and Jewish people, while not always truly understood, were definitely white*.  I was baffled by Catholic feminists and pro-GLBT activist that dutifully kept going to mass. They couldn’t do anything to reform it after all- they could keep writing letters to bishops, patiently waiting and praying for their minds to change, but unlike the Methodist church, they couldn’t vote to send delegates to national conference to make decisions about stuff. Why didn’t they just join the Episcopalians? Indeed some of them do. But it wouldn’t be “The Church”, now would it?

Protestantism also includes a hugely diverse range of sects and denominations. I believe the Protestant worldview she is discussing is a more hard-nosed Biblical sort. The theology of continuous revelation that we find in Unitarian Universalism, our congregationalist cousins, the United Church of Christ (God is Still Speaking) and the Society of Friends is very different. To have a meaningful discussion, we really need to specify *which* Protestant worldview. I plugged it into Google, and mostly have found discussion of “sola scriptura” a la Martin Luther.

Perhaps the best person to ask would be a Catholic, or a former Catholic?

Here’s an Orthodox Christian view contrasted with Protestantism (now Orthodox, that’s even more unfamilar!)

*though Jewish people can be of any ethnic background, I’m referring to pale-skinned Jews who *weren’t* considered “white” in earlier generations.

November 20, 2014 at 5:13 am 3 comments

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