Wednesday, June 25, 2008

If I Can't Dance In Your Religion, I Don't Want To Be A Part Of It

Carol Christ makes an important point:

The great scholar of the history of religion Mircea Eliade defined religion as the attempt to escape or transcend what he called “the chaotic and dangerous flux of things.” This definition--while allegedly not indebted to any particular religious tradition and claimed to be the universal essence of religion--is in fact rooted in a particular if widespread view that finite embodied life in a finite world cannot be accepted or understood as valuable or holy. From this perspective the recurring cycles of birth, death, and renewal in plant, animal, and human life cannot in themselves be seen to be sacred, and any religion based upon celebrating and preserving them does not fit the definition of what religion is.

Christ's point relates to my general and increasing distaste for the term "people of faith." First, there's just something squicky about it, but, second, and more importantly, even though the term purports to be inclusive, it defines my religion out of the picture, In fact, it's primarily only Abrahamic religions that require "faith" of their adherents and, if you mean Abrahamic religions, it's dishonest to pretend that you're being inclusive. The Craft, however, does not ask faith of its adherents. I'd say, as would many witches, that Wicca is a religion not of faith but of experience. Either you've experienced the unity of existence, the immanence of divinity, the presence of the Goddesses/Gods, magic -- or you haven't. If you haven't, you can still be a witch, but no one will ask you to take those concepts on faith. If anything, they'll show you methods and practices that can lead to those experiences.

For a long time, male-dominated religions and male-dominated schools of thought have been defining religion in ways that make what I do seem "less than." Christ does a good job of pointing out how they do this. If I can't dance in your religion, I don't want to be a part of it.

Picture found here.


Matt Stone said...

I can't help thinking you're drawing an unnecessarily strict distinction between faith and experience. My faith has grown through my experiences of God's faithfulness. Would I be wrong in suspecting your experiences have led you to trust / have faith in the Goddess? Wiccans and Christians may stress different dimensions of this relationship but to suggest there is no relationship? That sounds too black and white for me.

sott'Eos said...

The existence of 'Faith' is even more narrow than you seem to indicate, being distinctly Christian, and not Abrahamic. I saw an interview recently (Reza Azlan? one of Jon Stewarts frequent (Muslim?) guests (though this interview was not with Jon Stewart)). He talked about the difference between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy. Christians require Orthodoxy (correct belief) while Jews and Muslims require Orthopraxy (correct practice).

If you are born of a Jewish mother, keep kosher, honor the Sabbath, etc. then you are a good Jew. Nobody cares what you actually believe. Some practicing rabbis are publicly atheists. Nobody cares. Their religion isn't about belief, much less Faith.

As I recall, the interviewee put Islam in the Orthopraxy camp. There is one pretty important statement, "There is only one god and Mohammed is (was?) his prophet". But aside from that statement, it seems to all be about practice. (And is that statement really anathema to neo-pagans? Are the goddess and the horned god, and all the gods and goddesses, aspects of the same divinity (like Brahman)? Could Mohammed have been a prophet, just like the rest of us?)

Labrys said...

My first disagreement with Christianity, back as a teen ( long ago, lol) was that whenever I expressed frustration, I was told to have faith. I didn't want faith, I wanted RESULTS. My pagan life finally provided that...much, much later!