Many of the great major religions and philosophies of the world have similar values.
I wanted to make a twitter where I could post one quote a day from an influential prophet, philosopher, or God of a different religion, so we could learn from the wisdom of all the religions.
“Wherever you know of harm
regard that harm as your own;
give your enemies no peace.”
– Havamal 127
DISCLAIMER: The ideas on this blog do not represent all Paganism, just my own opinions.
First of all when I discuss paganism, I have to make clear that I am talking about the modern practice of Pre-Christian religions. This includes a wide-gamut of practices: Neopaganism, Wicca, Druidry, Asatru, etc. Everyone within these groups has different ideas on what makes a pagan, and some of these people don’t even like being called pagans.
But with that aside, I am going to attempt to tackle an important questions about warfare, pacifism, flower power and so on in the practice of modern day paganism.
Much of the interest in neopaganism got activated in the West a little before the cultural revolution of the 1960s. Wicca was introduced to the public by Gerald Garner in 1954. Other similar traditions started to also go public at that time. And as these traditions grew, they — like any other belief system — came to include many of the popular notions of the era.
Since the cultural revolution of the 1960s took place after the tail end of a massive era of war and violence in the twentieth century (after WWI and WWII), people were understandably sick of violence and embraced ideas of peace. And if peace can be achieved over war, it goes without saying that peace is a good solution.
But is pacifism always the answer? Does it represent some eternal truth? If one thinks of paganism as the ideals inspired by the Vikings, the Celts, the Greeks, the Romans, the Hindus — none of these civilizations were pacifistic by any means. The Bhagavad gita was told in the middle of a battlefield. (Not saying all pagans are inspired by Hinduism, but its concepts of Dharma and Karma are certainly key concepts for most). But I’ve heard Westerners try to rationalize this away by saying, “Oh but it was a metaphorical battlefield!” only for Indian Hindus to tell me…”Uh yeah, our Gods fought wars because sometimes war is necessary to defeat evil.”
If anything, some of the ideas of pacifism incorporated into the writings and teachings on modern day paganism may even be influenced by Christianity. And it’s impossible for anyone in a Western culture not to be influenced by Christianity, since that has been the predominant cultural lens for the past thousand or so years. (Not that the broad practice of Christianity has been pacifistic in any means in the West considering the history of genocide, witch hunts, colonialism, inquisition, and so on, but that there are many pacifistic teachings from Jesus in the Bible).
So this article is my response to certain voices in the pagan community who say that the pre-christian world was predominantly peaceful. Or that the ancient Gods value peace above all. Or the Californication of both pre-christian and Eastern religions. There is an attempt to make these views and practices non-threatening, so people will buy into them (literally and figuratively).
First of all, the pre-christian world was not predominantly peaceful. As stated above, the Celts, the Norse, the Romans, these were cultures that had wars, celebrated warriors, told tales of brave warriors, and even had entire gods and goddesses dedicate to war. Part of the reason why the Roman Empire collapsed is because they were having too many damn wars.
In Lawrence Keeley’s War Before Civilization, a book written by a man who lived with modern tribal people, and studied ancient tribes, he discusses how ancient times may have actually been even more violent than today, stating that with tribal people, a greater percentage of their populations participated and died from violence than people do today. Certainly with what the news may show about terrorism and school shootings people may think, “Oh what violent times we live in.” But at least in Europe and the United States, less than 5% of male deaths are caused by warfare. Compare that number to the Jivaro tribe where the percentage is something like 60%.
Human sacrifice was also practiced in ancient times, as I detail in my article about that topic. There is plenty of proof for this. Written accounts. Human skeletons found with the bones of animal sacrifices. Tales of human sacrifice in ancient myths. Historical accounts. Sure, human sacrifice may have been used as a tool of the Christians to smear non-christian people. But the idea that this NEVER happened and is some evil lie propagated by the haters is laughable.
I have read in multiple neopagan sources that paganism is a peaceful religion, based on peaceful cultures in the ancient world where everyone apparently celebrated flower power. But this is a sweeping generalization that oversimplifies a group of people, deletes a large chunk of their history and ritualistic practice, and more than that — is a glaring misunderstanding of basic human nature.
Humans at our core are aggressive and territorial beings. Tell me you’re not territorial when you get a bug infestation in your house and decide to kill hundreds of living creatures for the mere crime of being in your space (even when they’re doing nothing harmful to you).
As a species, we also bare a strong genetic resemblance to chimpanzees, which are one of the most aggressive primates.
The idea that humans weren’t aggressive or territorial until Christianity came along is fallacious.
Like any truth, it is important to understand that aggression is a normal part of human behavior, and should be accepted as such.
Does that mean that it’s okay for people to go around and pick fights and kill each other for no reason? No. Of course, peace and diplomacy should always be the first course of action, with violence being the very last.
But in order to control aggression, the first step is to accept that we have it. In order to control our violence, we must accept that we are violent beings.
And any real spiritual practice that is worth its salt must encompass all aspects of humanity. Peace. Warfare. The Feminine. The Masculine. Earth. Air. Fire. Water. And so on and so forth.
Many ancient traditions had a cult of the warrior, religious practices for warriors, rites of manhood that emphasized learning how to fight, protecting oneself and enduring suffering (as well as rites for women too). Ignoring that violence exists doesn’t protect one from it. It just makes one weak when the time comes to defend oneself. Modern day practices like self-defense and martial arts actually give people discipline, and make them less violent overall because they learn to control themselves and their own aggression.
And some even say that metal-heads are actually less violent and more well-adjusted because they listen to music that explores themes of violence, aggression and warfare.
So I’ll try to post some articles and sources here that can better understand traditions of warriors in the ancient world.
ONLINE SACRED TEXTS
VIOLENCE IN THE ANCIENT WORLD
Genre: World, Spontaneous, Primal
Location: Lyon France
Group Members: Héli Andrea and Quentin Thomas
When Héli Andrea put the first song of her band Olane on the Metal-Gaia facebook, I was pleasantly surprised to find a musical project that reminded me heavily of Dead Can Dance, and somewhat of Wardruna. The song I listed above is their first, but there is more to come.
Below is a discussion I had with Héli about the project.
MG: First of all, what are your influences in your music? And what themes are you trying to convey?
HA: I listen to many types of music, a lot of metal, ambient, classical, jazz… And I love to travel in my imagination when I listen to world music like Indian Carnatic songs, Mongol voices, strong ethnic drums or even Celtics songs. I composed Olane with Quentin Thomas, and we both share a passion for film music too.
What I try to do in Olane is to create spontaneously, without any thought about what it means. I’m not trying to talk about concrete issues. I just want to share a feeling. In Olane I want to spread this feeling of strength coming from the earth under our feet. Like something really deep-rooted in us.
When I sing this song, I feel like I’m traveling somewhere, far away.
MG: Are you influenced by groups like Dead Can Dance?
HA: To be honest, I know Dead can Dance since yesterday! Someone told me that Olane was in the same style, so I checked this out and it’s great! I was not influenced by them, but being compared to their style is really nice.
MG: Haha yes, that’s what your style reminded me of as well. What are you and Quentin’s plans for future songs?
HA: Now we are working on another song which will be maybe more epic. To me, it will be interesting to put other types of voices in this one. We consider this as a musical crash test, everything is possible, we can move from a country to another, from a period to another in our music.
I want to try many types of voices, many instruments. We are like kids who have eaten too much sugar. We don’t think about what we do, but it’s really fun! Plus, for the next song I would love to make a video with “Above Chaos,” who is a talented artist. He made all the visuals for the current project.
Oh no! According to this video, the fastest growing religion in the world is “no religion.” 1 in 5 American adults have no religion and this trend is growing quickly among internet savvy Millennials. This surely means that everyone is now going to throw morality out the window, and much like the citizens of Sodom and Gomorrah, we’re gonna start having sex with rocks, raping angels and having gay orgies with the Anti-Christ! The horror the horror!
I mean, isn’t that what life was like before Judeo-Christian religion ever existed, didn’t people just rape babies and cannibalize each other left and right? I mean, there certainly weren’t tolerant, sophisticated pre-christian civilizations in the world like Egypt, Rome, or China – am I right?
Hopefully you understand that so far, this post has been very sarcastic, although much of what I mentioned above about Sodom would make cool content for a metal video.
EDUCATED PEOPLE ARE BECOMING LESS RELIGIOUS
But yes, it appears that all around the world, in the areas where people have more access to the internet and education, they are becoming less religious. Yet the lack of “religion” doesn’t mean that people aren’t spiritual. Even several of the atheists I know take solace in practices like meditation and yoga.
Yes, I did make a post a while ago about how Paganism had one of the fastest rates of growth out of all the religions in America. Yet Paganism is still a very small minority, 0.3% of the population. In terms of rapidly growing religions with a large following, the religious “nones” are quickly booming.
So as I mentioned above, much of this development is because of education. Now that we live in a world where information about a plethora of religions and philosophies are available at the click of a button, people have a greater ability to think for themselves about what they think the truth is. The internet is also helping to bring people together at an ideological level. Before the internet, people were limited to their geography if they wanted to become part of a community, and of course, the central social network in most communities is the church. Many atheists felt isolated from a religious point of view. Yet now many of these atheists have found a sense of community among like minded non-believers on the internet.
THE WORLD THAT EXISTED BEFORE THERE WAS “ONE CORRECT RELIGION”
Is the decrease of religion a bad thing? Does this spell out the moral decline of civilization as we know it? As I sarcastically mentioned earlier, many of the world’s most advanced civilizations existed before the spread of Christianity and did quite well for themselves. If anything, the growth of non-religion will simply take us back to the natural order of things. Monotheistic religion was splinter, a minor aberration in the scheme of time. Why do you think that Pagan holidays such as Easter and Christmas persisted, even as Christianity was shoved down people’s throats at the edge of a sword? Why do you think ideas like hell had to be invented to keep people religious? If religion is so appealing, why do people have to be scared into it? It’s because it is an unnatural system with laws that are not consistent with the laws of nature.
Pagan ideologies were diverse, and they certainly weren’t perfect. But they were the natural outgrowth of a people’s spiritual connection to their surroundings and culture. Paganism represented man’s attempt to live alongside the laws of nature. People revered Gods who were strong, and represented ideals of survival and health. Today’s “religious nones” are not pagan, but as they learn more about science and the natural world, they will hopefully use rational thought and debate to come up with a moral system that exists closer to Natural Law, and represent more realistic ideas about the environment and human sexuality. Nature is the weed and religion is a manicured garden. You can use all the pesticide you want, but at the end of the day Nature and her followers will always win out.
The ancient world was a much more spiritually diverse and tolerant place than the world we live in today. I’m not saying that the ancient world was a nice place. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very brutal place in a lot of ways. The Romans killed a large number of Druids to subdue the Celtic resistance. Leaders like Augustus and Tiberius Caesar were also weary about the cultural influence of Eastern Religions – such as the Cult of Isis in Rome. Yet despite the fact that some ideas were preferred over others, people had the freedom to worship their own Gods as long as they followed the law and paid homage to the emperor.
In a debate about the morality of religion, it has also been brought up that people can develop a framework of values without having a religion that carves such values into stone. For example, the Chinese have followed Confucianism as a key moral ideology of their society for 2,000 years, and while Confucianism promotes good character and social order, it is not a religion.
NOT ONLY CAN YOU BE MORAL WITHOUT RELIGION
BUT RELIGION ITSELF MAY ACTUALLY BE VERY IMMORAL
Is religion dangerous? I think so. Is religion immoral? I think so. If you watched the video above, one person states that the number one book that convinces people to become atheists (even more so than any work by Richard Dawkins or Christopher Hitchens) is the bible. It’s a book replete with genocide, rape, sexism, racism, homophobia, incest, pedophilia, and the celebration of slavery. Here are some wholesome verses for the whole family:
COMMIT A GENOCIDE OF THOSE WHO DON’T SHARE YOUR RELIGION:
“This is what the Lord Almighty says… ‘Now go and strike Amalek and devote to destruction all that they have. Do not spare them, but kill both man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.’” (1 Samuel 15:3)
…but what about “thou shalt not kill? ” Now I’m confused.
GO MURDER A BABY:
“Happy is he who repays you for what you have done to us – he who seizes your infants and dashes them against the rocks.” (Psalm 137:9)
…yes, because a merciful and just God glorifies the death of babies.
TIME TO GANG RAPE A HOE:
“So the man took his concubine and sent her outside to them, and they raped her and abused her throughout the night, and at dawn they let her go. At daybreak the woman went back to the house where her master was staying, fell down at the door and lay there until daylight. When her master got up in the morning and opened the door of the house and stepped out to continue on his way, there lay his concubine, fallen in the doorway of the house, with her hands on the threshold. He said to her, ‘Get up; let’s go.’ But there was no answer. Then the man put her on his donkey and set out for home.” (Judges 19:25-28)
…ah yes, good old gang rape, that’s some quality family values right there.
GOD SPARED ABRAHAM’S SON BECAUSE HE IS MERCIFUL, BUT FUCK JEPHTHAH’S DAUGHTER:
“And Jephthah made a vow to the Lord, and said, ‘If you will give the Ammonites into my hand, then whoever comes out of the doors of my house to meet me, when I return victorious from the Ammonites, shall be the Lord’s, to be offered up by me as a burnt-offering.’ Then Jephthah came to his home at Mizpah; and there was his daughter coming out to meet him with timbrels and with dancing. She was his only child; he had no son or daughter except her. When he saw her, he tore his clothes, and said, ‘Alas, my daughter! You have brought me very low; you have become the cause of great trouble to me. For I have opened my mouth to the Lord, and I cannot take back my vow.’” (Judges 11:30-1, 34-5)
…So God was nice enough to prevent Abraham from killing his son, but I guess the life of a man’s daughter is less important. I mean, women aren’t people – at least not in the bible.
SLAVES, SUBIMIT TO YOUR MASTERS!:
“Slaves, submit yourselves to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the cruel.” (1 Peter 2:18)
…Good old fashioned slavery.
ONE PROPHET, TWO BEARS AND 42 DEAD BOYS:
23 Then he went up from there to Bethel; and as he was going up by the way, young lads came out from the city and mocked him and said to him, “Go up, you baldhead; go up, you baldhead!” 24 When he looked behind him and saw them, he cursed them in the name of the LORD. Then two female bears came out of the woods and tore up forty-two lads of their number. (2 Kings 2:23-25)
…My personal favorite, this must be the original Goldilocks story.
You see, I’m one of those people who read the bible cover to cover. In fact, I didn’t do so as some atheist looking for a good source of snark. I actually did this back when I was still a Catholic. I was looking for answers and hoping to improve my faith. Instead, reading the bible and going to church are probably two of the greatest catalysts for my loss of faith. I ended up finding much more solace in Edith Hamilton’s mythology.
Thus, my read through of the bible made me realize that most Christians must not read the entire bible. Because surely this book of peace, love and wisdom that they discussed was not the same book that I was reading. And if they did read the whole bible, cover to cover, they must have done a triple back flip in mental gymnastics to assure themselves that the parts about not touching pig skin (a foot ball), or eating seafood, or marrying your rapist were simply metaphor, but the parts about gay sex were literal law.
Therefore, after reading the bible, I’ve come to the conclusion that it’s not only a silly book, but that anyone who truly follows its commands – down to the last letter – must not be a good person. A man named A.J. Jacobs tried one year of living biblically and even wrote about it. Yet the truth is that it was impossible for him to truly do everything the bible commanded. There is even one humorous part where he tries throwing rocks at people he sees as being guilty for sin.
Honestly, most people I know who follow a religion, even the very conservative ones, are ultimately picking and choosing which verses they are going to follow. What makes them pick what is a good verse and what is a bad one? They are ultimately using their own logic, rather than doing everything the bible says. Therefore, if they are going to use their own logic anyways, they might as well just create their own spirituality at the end of the day, instead of half heartedly following one they don’t entirely agree with.
You see, Religion is just an ideology like any other. Yet here is the difference. Most ideologies open themselves up to room for debate. Ideologies like politics, education, and philosophy can be subjected to the scrutiny of reason, so that they can be improved or altered to produce the best possible results. Even in China, a place where Confucianism was a key framework of morality, there was always the dialectic between Legalism, Confucianism and Taoism.
Yet Religion is different because it is an ideology backed up by a powerful Sky Daddy. It is not allowed to be debated, scrutinized or changed because it is a set of laws written in stone. Such an ideology can support the most murderous of intentions, and no one is allowed to disagree or else they are branded a “heretic.” It is no small wonder that the Roman Empire fell apart after its conversion to Christianity. Without the freedom to question who was in charge, and why things were being done in a certain way, the empire fell into a state of ignorance and decay.
As Christopher Hitchens once stated in a debate, it wasn’t the crusades that halted the power of Christianity, it wasn’t the bloody Reformation that brought about the deaths of millions, and it wasn’t the slaughter of indigenous people in the new world. What halted the power of Christianity was when the Christian nations finally controlled a majority of the planet in 1914. What was the result? Two world wars and a total destruction of the environment. Suffice it to say, people are not impressed, and now the influence of Christianity at a world stage is beginning to fade.
So am I scared of a world that is becoming less religious? No. I am hopeful. I am hopeful that there will be more chance for people to discover their own spiritualities, and find the best way of living through rational debate, rather than superstition and fear.
THE SONG FROM THE VIDEO ABOVE:
SCORPION FROG – BY INFECTED MUSHROOM
I don’t usually post techno/dubstep, but this song was catchy.
Former Christian Minister Leaves Christianity and Starts Atheist Church (Alternet, 11-6-14)
Trying to understand the layout of the world tree is something that always confused me, so this simplified picture is pretty helpful.
Did you know that Agriculture is a much bigger cause of Green House Gas emissions than transportation or waste? According to a new report from the UN, modern Agriculture accounts for 28% of all Green House Gas emissions (See Figure 3)! This seems like quite a feat for flatulent cows, but it makes sense when you think about it. Agriculture is a system that requires mass deforestation and crowds millions of animals together in cramped quarters who are busy emitting their own gaseous poisons into the atmosphere – if you know what I mean.
In addition to farting cows, there are many more serious dangers to our modern agricultural machine: it poisons the soil, it is feeding us hormones and pesticides, and it has been shown that there is a strong connection between the use of neonicotinoids (a pesticide) and the death of the bees. The European Union has already made a decision to ban this particular pesticide (EPA).
Some people believe that the current, modern agricultural system is necessary for feeding a majority of the people on the planet. Soon we will have 8 billion people. However, a new report was released from the UN that discusses how Organic Agriculture could solve world hunger and climate change at the same time.
Read the UN Report Here (PDF)
Why Take a Census? Much of the information we have on the existence of Heathens, how many there are world wide, and where they are located is limited. Most religious surveys commit the fallacy of lumping Heathens in with other Neo-Pagan groups or an “unspecified” category. Many Heathen survey takers even get lumped in with Wicca, which is a completely different practice. Therefore, for the sake of having accurate information that is specific to Heathens, this survey would be very helpful for the Heathen community. Taking this survey will probably only take a small amount of time of your time, but have positive results for your community at large.
Who counts as Heathen? The site issuing the survey decided to go with the term “Heathen” since it is the most general of the Germanic/Norse religions. A term like Odinist or Asatru is much more specific. But who counts as a Heathen? According the survey site:
- Anglo-Saxon Heathenry, Ásatrú, Asatro, Firne Sitte, Forn Sed, Forn Siðr, Germanic Heathenry, Germanic Neopaganism, Germanic Paganism, Heathenism, Heathenry, Norse Paganism, Norse Religion, Northern Tradition, Odinism, Old Way, Theodism, Urglaawe, Vanatru
How does this census work?
- “The census has been designed to be (1) anonymous and (2) easy. Simply scroll to the bottom of this post, select your home country from the pull-down menu and click the “submit” button. That’s all there is to it.”
So please, take the survey and spread the news.