Thursday, July 05, 2007

Of Paganism and Pundits

So, I'm checking Memorandum today to see if there is anything there of interest to blog about and I see a WaPo/Newsweek article titled "Paganism May Not Pass Religious Muster" and thinking it might be referring to Pagans in the military I drop by and instead discover it is an amazingly discriminatory blog post by Charles W. "Chuck" Colson minister and radio commentator (politely) attacking a minority group of religions that he admits to not be familiar with (in his third to the last line),"Not being as familiar with paganism in its various forms, I do not wish to condemn it unfairly."

So without further adieu...

"It is debatable whether paganism is a religion, per say. It is generally defined as a pre-Christian state, but it takes a wide variety of forms—all the way from relatively benign New Age-style nature worship, to pantheism, to witchcraft, and even human sacrifice.

Those who publicly identify themselves as pagans are at best a marginal number and are basically no different from dozens of other cults." defines a cult as :

6: a religion or sect considered to be false, unorthodox, or extremist, with members often living outside of conventional society under the direction of a charismatic leader.

Most pagans tend to practice their religion alone, in small groups of family and friends, and larger more organized groups frequently splinter off to form smaller groups usually due to doctrinal or personality conflicts. Modern western paganism is by its nature an unorganized religion partly due to the lack of prohibitions of worshiping alone

Additionally current estimates of the North American population put it at nearly one million members (based on an average of a 1999 Covenant of the Goddess survey and the 2001 American Religious Identification Survey and assuming the standard 3% population increase) which isn't an inconsequential number.

"I see no reason why Wiccans or pagans generally should have the services of taxpayer-paid chaplains. It is perfectly appropriate, if a group meets court tests for religion, that outside priest/ministers be allowed to come into federal facilities and minister. But historically, with standards that have been spelled out carefully by the courts, chaplains are appointed to represent mainline religions."
In 1999 John Machate, executive director of the Military Pagans Network, made the following comment in an interview first published in Connections magazine: "I estimate that there are at least 10 Pagan families or people on each mid-size military base. With the number of military bases in the world, that would put it at about 300,000 military Pagans, that is including dependents."

"The more difficult question is whether I would vote for a pagan for public office. The answer is that on one hand I fully respect the fact that there should be no religious test for public office; on the other hand, I would have great difficulty supporting an explicit Wiccan or pagan for high public office. There are tenets of their belief that, I think, are incompatible with the requirements of American democratic governance.

Lest this sound discriminatory, I think it is very clear from reading the writings of our founding fathers that a sound adherence to the values of the Judeo-Christian tradition—or at the very least, deism—was essential as a basis of the moral law that would sustain a free society.

The writings of all the founders are clear on this. I would refer anyone interested particularly to Michael Novak’s book On Two Wings, in which he describes the influence of the Judeo-Christian tradition on one wing and the influence of the Enlightenment on the other. They were finally balanced in our founding. But everyone, devout believer or deist or otherwise, saw the necessity of a strong moral law which would provide self restraint. Without self restraint, free governments cannot succeed."

John Adams famously wrote, “We have no government, armed in power, capable of contending with human passion unbridled by morality and religion . . . our Constitution was made only for moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate for the government of any other.” And George Washington said, “Of all the dispositions and habits which lead to a political prosperity, religion and morality are indispensable supports.”

The operative words there are morality and religion. Since the vast majority of Neo-Pagan religions usually work on a," Do what you want as long as it doesn't harm anyone else." rule I don't see where morality is lacking. Additionally the government has already recognized the more "orthodox" Wiccan tradition as a valid religion. Hence both criteria are met.

"Not being as familiar with paganism in its various forms, I do not wish to condemn it unfairly. But from what I know of it, I do not think it can provide the “indispensable supports” Washington wrote about."

But that didn't stop you from doing so in an indirect manner now did it?

So I would not appoint pagan chaplains, nor would I, as a personal decision but influenced greatly by the founders, vote for a pagan.

I'm not a pagan but crap like this just gets my goat. Assuming that one's religion of choice is the only possible source of morality and then using that erroneous belief to attempt to deprive others of the benefits/rights afforded to your religion is arrogant and discriminatory at best and if you're a Christian blasphemous at worst. (And the King shall answer and say unto them, Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me. Matthew 25:40)

The last time I checked our troops were fighting people that shared the same mindset but were of a different faith. That Pagan soldiers should have to come back from that battlefront only to have to fight similar minded countrymen in the public and political arenas is beyond shameful.