Sunday, May 31, 2009


Something I keep encountering in discussions is a behaviour that I am interested in Cauldron feedback and perspectives on. Everyone is ignorant on at least some things. Some people are what we commonly refer to as willfully ignorant on at least some things. People's awareness of their ignorance on any given thing may vary widely or be nonexistent (i.e. they may know they don't know, suspect they don't know to some degree, or not know that they don't know). There are a lot of possible combinations here and a lot of possible ways of engaging them.

The one I see that strikes me as counterproductive and possibly irrational is to assume that an ignorant person knows that they are ignorant and that they are willfully so. Comments? Thoughts? Observations?

Thursday, May 21, 2009

What is UPG?

Unverified (Unverifiable) Personal Gnosis (UPG) is a basis of many of the posts that are on TC and indeed of many of the perspectives put by pagans in other settings. My question is what do we mean by UPG? Is it the same as just saying 'this is my opinion' with a twist of 'don't challenge me I don't really understand what I'm saying'? Or, are there particular things that we are talking about here (dreams, visitations, revelations, manifestations, etc.)? Where do we draw the line and what do we really mean.

This is important to me because if we are to grant UPG the place that we currently do, then I think we need to understand its limits if it's not to simply degenerate into a cheap way of presenting unjustified personal opinion as divinely based fact. To approach it in that way seems to lead to threads where there is a long list of 'my UPG says...', but with very little critical discussion or progress on the topic. Essentially it becomes not so much a conversation or discussion as a group of individuals stating positions with little reference to each other.

What do others think? What is it and does it actually matter? How can we examine statements of UPG critically without causing unwarranted offence (and should we)?

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Can Religion Lead You to Error?

God's Politics, by Jim WallisImage by elycefeliz via Flickr

On another forum I frequent, one dedicated to, of all things, text-based adventure games, a discussion arose in which thread drift caused it to focus on whether or not religion was bad. Bits of the Christian bible were quoted with the claim that such passages seemed to encourage everything from rape to genocide, and the statement was made that atheism, which has no beliefs, cannot lead people to action.

The following is one of the responses, and with Crat's permission, I'm re-posting it here. We've had some recent threads on the subject of 'evil', but what I found interesting here was the suggestion that religions, with their embedded systems of ethics, provide "a necessary control layer on a population".

Do you believe Crat's premise? Does your religion provide ethical guidance? If not, what guidelines do you use for moral behaviour?
"Religion is bad"

Religion is bad in the way that books and cars are bad. Thousands are killed as a result of their use, but in themselves they are just tools for a legitimate purpose.

"Religioners are weak"

My parents love Jesus. They're really smart people and I treat this Jesus thing as an amusing idiosyncrasy, like veganism or republicanism. Folks very often need to affirm the meaning of their lives by identifying with a thing larger than themselves. It's probably a positive trait. Tends to lead to survival. It doesn't make my parents weak, it just means they recognize a specific biological need and accommodate it in a relatively harmless way.

"Religioners are crazys"

Some people are crazy. Crazy people with religion are crazy with religion. If you're handling snakes or denying adults their civil rights, your opinion of invisible pink unicorns is irrelevant. You're now
real life roleplaying where it's a hazard to you and/or others. That doesn't mean religion is at fault. It means you have difficulty distinguishing roleplaying and real life. We know a few people like that, don't we?

I think that nobody knows what's going on, nor what, if anything, it means. It can be very very hard to establish your own set of principles for correct behavior. Generally speaking (unless you concentrate on the silly bits of their scripture), religions provide a convenient set of crib notes for what's ok and what's not. Overall I think it's not only a plus, but really a necessary control layer on a population. Without it, people without the skill to develop a socially assimilable ethics of their own would tend to generate a practical hazard to themselves and others through fairly subtle but long-term deeply destructive means.

For more clever people, religion provides a right-shaped peg for an empty slot. It doesn't have to make sense. Making sense isn't the point. It's plugging that slot.

The best example I can provide is my crazy cousin. He used to think he was a chicken, and would make a real nuisance of himself. Guests would ask us why we didn't have him institutionalized, but we'd wind up having to admit "We can't. We need the eggs."

Religion is strange and nonsensical and sometimes scary, but we need the eggs.


Do the Gods/Goddesses from Different Pantheons Talk to Each Other?

There's the Mixing Religions thread going on here:

That thread got me thinking, do the deities from different pantheons ever talk, fight, work together or interact in any ways? If you were worshipping two deities that both covered the same area, would they get angry at each other or you? Do Zeus and Odin ever have chats on how hard running things are?

Do they even know each other exist? And since many mythologies have different gods who are responsible for creation how do they work that out? Maybe the deities just don't care?

Your thoughts?

Following the Gods of your Ancestors

I have a question for those of you who follow the Gods/pantheon you do partially or wholly because they are the Gods of your ancestors.

How do you feel towards your ancestors from other groups? E.g - If you are CR partially or wholly because your ancestors were Celts, how do you feel about and relate to, those ancestors who aren't Celts, or didn't follow a Celtic religion?

If You Could Live Anywhere, Where Would You Live?

If you could live anywhere, where would you live? (Please be fairly specific.) Why there? What effect, if any, would this have on your religious life?

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Suicide: An irrational Response?

I read an article this morning that revived a topic of interest for me and that I thought may make an interesting thread here at TC. It's a followup piece to one in which another author had focused on suicide as an act of cowardice and selfishness. The whole article is viewable here. The following quote interested me in particular.

Quote: "This is impossible to understand from a rationalist viewpoint. Attempts at self-harm and/or suicide are, by their nature, not rational."

When you are mentally unwell to the point you want to die, you are — quite literally — not in your right mind.

What do the various belief systems represented at TC have to say on the issue of suicide and other voluntary acts of dying? Is a lack of desire to live inherently mentally unwell and irrational?

Monday, May 11, 2009

When Jews get a civil divorce, they may also get a religious divorce. If you are Orthodox, you must have the religious divorce before you are allowed to marry again in the synagogue. Traditionally, this consisted of the man giving a get (divorce contract to his wife). Women could not initiate religious divorce. (As usual, things are different in the Reform tradition. Many Reform Jews don't bother religious divorce, and those that do make a ceremony that is right for them. For example, in my synagogue, one divorcing couple brought their ketubah (wedding contract) to the rabbi's office and cut it into pieces.)

My question is this: do any of your religions have rituals associated with divorce? If so what are they? What useful purpose (if any) do you think divorce rituals serve?

Friday, May 08, 2009

Tolerance (and Pagan Gatherings)

Before I get into the questions, I need to tell the story of what sparked this topic.

A poster was griping on a local pagan email list today. She's been to a large outdoor festival held on private property over the weekend, and was annoyed that the owners of the property/organizers of the festival had the audacity to limit the smoking areas to two small portions of the property. These areas were also inconvenient for her as she as mobility issues.

I've probably not made myself a lot of friends on that list for pointing out that (a) the property owners can set any rules they want and (b) smoking is not a civil liberty and I'm tired of hearing smokers whine about being discriminated against.

This got me thinking about larger issues of "tolerance" in our communities. I've heard of folks equating intolerance with not allowing wide-spread smoking, or public drunkenness. I've heard of folks getting bitchy because someone got offended that their children were running unsupervised and amok during a ritual or gathering.

So my questions are:

Do we have to allow anything and everything at our gatherings in the name of "tolerance"?

Conversely, if we set limits (no public drunkenness, nudity only in certain areas, no smoking, etc) are we unnecessarily curtailing someone's rights/freedoms?

I don't like the idea some folks have that anything goes in pagan communities (or non-mainstream communities, to be more broad about it) simply because we're not mainstream. Many of our paths emphasize personal responsibility, or hospitality, or both... how is either virtue served by being inconsiderate to others (sometimes to the point of completely disrupting the gathering or ritual)?

Am I just being a heavy? Have other folks had similar run-ins with folks with the same sense of "entitlement"?

Thursday, May 07, 2009

Threads (usually from those who are newer to Paganism) come up pretty frequently here on TC about "how should I and/or am I allowed to mix religions and/or make up my own religion," although this thread here has mostly been inspired by this one.

It seems very easy to move toward eclecticism, but what are your thoughts about resisting that shift? I realize our experiences and ideas from other religions are likely to creep into our practice whether or not we like it; I realize there is probably no such thing are being purely of one religion. Or is there? Who of you follow just one path? Why? What does everyone thing could be the pros and cons of deliberately sticking to one religion?

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Choosing not to have Children?

Would any of you consider not having children because of various religious issues: your spiritual goals, problems with family in terms of religion, the global environment?

Would you ever chose not to have children? How did you come to terms with this decision?

Monday, May 04, 2009

How Religion can Affect a Child?

When thinking about how religion can affect the life and mind of a child, I automatically think of the more obvious examples. For instance how my five year old neice tells me that she is going to see her Great Grandpa again one day even though he died. She has been told this by her grandmother, and understandabley she thoroughly embraces the idea.

But how about the more simple ways that religion or religious practices can affect a child?

I came from a very non-religious family. Thus I had no religious messages given to me by my parents. And yet, nowadays, when I want to talk to my Goddess, I sometimes find myself pressing my palms together as if in prayer. Where have I got this from? Have I picked this up from television? Perhaps the few times I went to Church as a child? My Goddess has not asked me to do this (in fact I think She even finds it somewhat comical) but often I catch myself about to do it.

I often wonder what children think about the religious things they witness. I remember being fascinated by the enormous crucifix my Great Aunt had on her living room wall, and my mother urging me not to stare at it. I wonder what I thought of such a thing?

Do you think children should be explained the meaning of such religious messages, or do you think it is better left unsaid? Why?

Do you remember being confused, intrigued or influenced by a religion or religious practice when you were a child?

Friday, May 01, 2009

Foods for Religious Holidays/Festivals

{{pl|kolacja wigilijna - dania}}Image via Wikipedia

Are there any foods you prepare for religious holidays?

Are they specific to the specific holiday/god?

Do you only prepare this food on these occasions? If not, then how often do you prepare them?

Is this food traditional? If so, how? Is it something close to what the ancients had? A family tradition?

Is it offered to the gods or eaten in a ritual feast? Or both?

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