Theodish Thoughts

Musings on Theodism, religion, mythology, history, and contemporary Heathenry

Category: Paganism equals Liberalism

On Heathen Leadership

Ah Gods & Radicals, you are truly the gift that keeps on giving. This time out, we have a piece by none other than HUAR founder (and, rumor has it, 33% of the actual membership) Ryan Smith. Yes, the same Ryan Smith who so hilariously bungled the identification of a slavery apologist image, and who thought it was more important to condemn someone for saying “everyone should worship the gods of their ancestors” than to condemn people for actually physically raping women. Let’s see where “wrong way Ryan” takes us today.

Today’s topic is Heathenry and Democracy. And right off the bat, the sharp elbows of Marxist egalitarianism are flying:

There are many who argue, in Heathenry and the broader polytheist and Pagan communities, for vesting leadership and decision-making in an anointed elite who will guide the rest based on their wisdom and superior abilities. They claim these ideas are rooted in the practices of the pre-Christian ancients and natural hierarchies even though, in truth, the argument they make is far more recent than they assume.

The position advanced by these would-be theocrats is rooted in modern political theory. In the liberal democratic societies many such Heathens, Pagans, and polytheists live in there is the central assumption of an unceasing, ongoing clash between democratic governance and rule by the few. 

There are links in the original to the Asatru Alliance website, Galina Krasskova’s blog, and something called the Sons of Odin 1519, which I’ve never heard of before, and which seems to be an explicitly racist, Odinist, outfit that seems to be one or two people with a website (and that really seems to have it in for Valgard Murray of the Alliance). So he’s got a folkish source, a universalist source, and a racist source. Okay; he’s got “non-Marxist Yahtzee”. Let’s unpack this.

“…vesting leadership and decision-making in an anointed elite who will guide the rest based on their wisdom and superior abilities.”

I think you’re confusing leadership
with being a commissar.

Just speaking on a practical level, as someone who has been in the trenches organizing Heathen groups for twenty years or more, it’s not about someone who is an “anointed elite” or “wisdom and superior abilities”. It’s about having the willingness to take on an enormous amount of work, unpaid and often unrecognized, to bring people together in a place where they can worship the Gods together. Sure, there are skills that are required; some level of organization, for example. But it’s not the purview of any sort of elite. In fact, the Alliance article that Smith links to puts it excellently:

If you think that you have all the qualities of leadership and determination that are required of the Gothar, if you are willing to promote Asatru, the worship of the Holy Aesir and Vanir, and the right to self determination of our Folk… then I would encourage you to start that Kindred. 

Leadership and determination. Of course, any sort of leadership, which implies followership, offends the Marxist egalitarianism that G&R in general espouses, but the willingness to be the guy who puts together the meetings isn’t some sort of Divinely Inspired Ability. It’s just old fashioned grit.

And Gods Forbid that someone have more knowledge about Heathen history, or mythology, or runes, or literature, than someone else. After all, Marxists have shown they know what to do with… intellectuals.

Marxists leaders?
I thought that was un-possible!

Now, in fairness, there are some strains of Heathenry that espouse a concept called Sacral Leadership (aka Sacral Kingship). Theodish Belief is best-known as the proponent of this arrangement, but it’s by far not the only one. And yes, Theodism has ranks (arungs) to recognize ability, and a sacral leader who serves the function of intermediary between the folk and the Gods. But in that respect, he’s just the High Priest of the tribe.

And we know that the ancient Germanic people had priests. More on that in a minute.

“They claim these ideas [that groups do better with leaders] are rooted in the practices of the pre-Christian ancients and natural hierarchies even though, in truth, the argument they make is far more recent than they assume.”

Is that Zeus on a throne?
With a crown? And
a scepter? Like a… KING???

Somehow, Smith seems to think that the fact that the Germanic peoples had the institution of Þing (a sort of popular assembly), that that is somehow proof that “the pre-Christian ancients” didn’t have kings with real power, priests who acted as intermediaries between the folk and the Gods, or other forms of social and political stratification.

Now we’re rolling.

Setting aside the history of just about every pre-Christian culture, from ancient Egypt to Sumeria to Persia to Greece to Rome had monarchies (and noting the exceptions, such as Athens and Rome, which were by no stretch of the imagination democracies in the modern sense of the word, lacking any concept of universal suffrage), let’s turn to the Germanic peoples.

“The position advanced by these would-be theocrats is rooted in modern political theory.”

Apparently, anyone who thinks that a group does better with a leader, or that espouses anything other than pure Marxist egalitarianism, is a “would-be theocrat”. Leaders rising to the top of any sort of social structure, by dint of the fact that they’re doing most of (or in many cases, all of) the work, and people just naturally look to them for the qualities of leadership because they’re doing the work that leaders do, is in and of itself theocracy.

This fixation on the vilification of hierarchy is fascinating to watch. It’s like a bacillus, moving from one writer to another over at G&R. They must’ve had a staff meeting or something.*

Smith makes a great deal about the fact that pre-Christian Germanic kings were somewhat beholden to the Þings. And it’s true; the reason there was a check on the power of kings, and why their rule was not absolute (i.e., not an example of “the divine right of kings”, which is not at all the same as “sacral kingship”) is because the Þing and those who ran it were the local powerful warlords, who together could gang up and tell a king to shove off if he overstepped his boundaries.

Wait… what? What about the Þing where, according to Smith,

Every free person, man or woman, could speak before the Thing and seek redress of their grievances and in some cases even thralls were given voice and space before these assemblies. These Things were the bodies that made and deposed kings. The leaders of the Germanic world, quite contrary to the assumptions cultivated in popular culture, ruled at the behest of the Things.

Well, yes, Þings made kings. They elected a king from a body of contenders based on their ancestry; a candidate for king had to be related to someone who himself had been a king. And those semi-divine royal lineages all traced their ways back to either Odin (in the case of the Saxons, Anglo-Saxons, and others) or Freyr (in the case of many Swedish lineages).

In other words, not anyone could get elected king. The kings that got elected were from a pool of people quite literally descended from the Gods. How’s that for an “anointed elite”? As William A. Chaney puts it in The Cult of Kingship in Anglo-Saxon England (p. 20):

‘Let us sit and weigh the Races of Kings,’ the goddess Freyja says in the Hyndluljoð, ‘of all men that sprung from the gods’; in one of the oldest epics, the Hamðismal, ‘the god-sprung king roared mightily, as a bear roars, our of his harness’. If, as shall be seen, Anglo-Saxon monarchs also came of a divine race, they shared this in common with other Germanic ruling houses.

As has been observed, the entire royal kin and not merely the holder of the kingship was elevated into the divine race by the descent from deity. The royal dignity was transmitted to the family; ‘the realm belongs to the royal race’, as Libermann says.

Not exactly the picture of the proletariat assembling in their soviets** to overthrow a king who cut their ration of bread, eh?

Hilmar Örn, allsherjargoði of Iceland.
Wait – I thought they were supposed to be the good lefty types?
Don’t tell me they have leaders, too!?
Could they be… fascists?

And thralls given voice at Þing? Gonna have to ask for a source on that one, Ryan. It’s certainly possible, maybe as a witness in a court case or something, but I can’t recall anything saying it was a common practice just to air some grievance.

So much for the egalitarian election of leaders by the Þings. But leadership (and thus anti-egalitarianism) in general?

Amazingly, Smith non-ironically undercuts his whole argument in his choice of quotes when he describes the power of the Þings to overthrow rulers:

“As soon as the king had proposed this to the bondes, great was the murmur and noise among the crowd.”

“We bondes, King Hakon, when we elected thee to be our king…”

“…we bondes have resolved among ourselves to part with thee, and take to ourselves some other chief, who will so conduct himself towards us that we can freely and safely enjoy the faith that suits our own inclinations.”

“The bondes gave loud applause to this speech, and said it expressed their will, and they would stand or fall by what had been spoken.”

Who are these “bondes”? It comes from the Old Norse term bóndi, which according to Cleasby-Vigfussion means:

“…originally a tiller of the ground, husbandman, but it always involved the sense of ownership, and included all owners of land (or bú, q.v.). from the petty freeholder to the franklin, and esp. the class represented by the yeoman of England generally or the statesman of Westmoreland and Cumberland: hence it came to mean the master of the house…”

Yes, that’s right. the Þings that Smith is so laudatory about, and which he claims were examples of true democracy in pre-Christian Germanic society… were led by the fucking landowners! The wealthy! The leaders! The ones who had men under them (the griðmaðr, or land-tiller) and who provided the troops for the king’s army.

In other words… the only reason the Þings had the authority to even stand up to kings was because the kings at the time were too weak to stand up to the powerful bondes under them. It had nothing to do with democracy as we know it today; it was just an example of the stratification of power. King at the top, bondes under him. Get enough bondes together, and they can stand up to the king.

But it’s also interesting that Smith omits a crucial example in his article; Iceland.

They famously had Þings in Iceland; a whole system of regional Þings, and then the central Alþing. And who ran these Icelandic Þings? The goðar (that’s where modern Asatru gets the word “godhi”, which is pretty much what Smith is railing against – the concept of a priesthood or leadership of any sort, even if it’s self-selected and affirmed by acclamation of the folk he or she purports to lead).

*You* tell Ragnar Lothbrok
he’s not a king

The topic of Icelandic goðar is far too interesting and detailed to get into here, but suffice to say that they didn’t just serve as priests, but they were, for all intents and purposes, the leadership of the island. They were the wealthy landowners, and they took on clients among the people, which would give those people the protection of the goði to whom they were allied. This would help them in court, in disputes with other farmers, and in many other ways.

And the goðar ran the Þings. They made the decisions. They were in charge. Don’t believe me? Read Medieval Iceland: Society, Sagas, and Power by Jesse Byock, or (for a Scandinavian point of view), Society and Politics in Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla by Sverre Bagge, which says (p. 125):

The real aristocracy is not confined to men with these titles [hersir, earl, lendr maðr – landowners]. In his narrative, Snorri repeatedly refers to men as esteemed, mighty, and so forth, who have a strong position in their region and act as spokesmen for the people and local leaders. Such men may or may not be attached to the king’s service as lendr menn. The term “magnate”… is meant to include those men as well as those holding formal titles.

Its aristocracy and leadership all the way down, Ryan.

It’s not surprising that Smith didn’t include that example, but it is telling. He has no argument. Leadership in general was certainly present in pre-Christian Germanic society, and the fact that a bunch of sub-leaders could band together and overthrow a high-leader that got too big for his britches doesn’t alter that fact.

Ryan Smith: Fascist

In closing, I must say I am shocked, shocked! to find out that Gods & Radicals would even publish such a counter-revolutionary piece as the one written by Ryan Smith. After all, weren’t we told not too long ago that one of the warning signs of creeping fascist/New Right influence is a respect for tradition? Yes, I’m very sure we were:

Our Sacred Traditions: The New Right advocates a return to ‘older relationships’ between humans and the Sacred. As part of their critique of modern civilisation, they believe that the sacred order of the world has been disrupted (through Democracy, or Marxism, or Monotheism) and humanity must embrace pre-modern traditions, be those Christian, Pagan, Polytheist, or Heathen.

And yet, here we have Ryan Smith making an appeal against kingship (and leadership in general) on the basis that it wasn’t historically practiced by the pre-Christian Germanic peoples. The fact that his arguments fall flat on their face on examination is irrelevant – what matters is that he attempted to make an appeal to “Our Sacred Traditions” (in this case, a democratic tradition).

There’s a sure sign of creeping fascism in your ranks, Rhyd. Might be time for a purge.

_____

* If so, did someone call the meeting to order? If so, xe may be a fascist. Keep your guard up! They may be infiltrating you even as you read this, G&R!

** “Soviet” just means “council”. One can’t help but wonder if Smith doesn’t make that, dare I say romanticized connection. From the way he describes the power of the Þings, it doesn’t seem impossible.

Over the Rainbow, Part One: Recon = Racist?

The Marxist anarchists over at Gods & Radicals are at it again. In their latest piece, Shane Burley (an author whose biography, tellingly, says nothing at all about his religious background, but rhapsodizes about his ultra-left-wing political activism) takes the requisite shots at folkish Heathenry (which I’ll get to in another post), but the thrust of the latest article is aimed straight at reconstructionism in general. Which, given their mission to obliterate anything that smacks of tradition or traditionalism, makes sense. The trouble is, most recons are universalists. But of course their knowledge of Heathenry is as skewed as their ideology, but it’s still remarkable that the author wouldn’t realize that simple fact.

This time, they ask the rhetorical question, “Rainbow Heathenry: Is a Left-Wing, Multicultural Asatru Possible?

Their answer, of course, is yes, but their version of Asatru has to be a lot more eclectic. You know; sort of like Germanic Neopaganism would be. Which of course would destroy what makes Asatru, Asatru. True to form, G&R comes out and says that reconstructionism is racism:

If people from the polytheist traditions want to challenge racialized interpretation of the Asatru faith, there has to be a conscious Theology and Philosophy that can undermine the folkish traditionalism that has dominated much of the ideas inside of the “cult of Odin.” Many pagans see that this could come in the form of eclecticism that allows for openness and integration of other traditions. Many folkish Asatru oppose eclecticism* and prefer a stricter form of reconstructionist fidelity, which often comes from the fact that the traditions they see as bound to their blood. 

Anyone bothered to tell the
Celtic Reconstructionists
that they’re racists?

This will doubtless come as a shock to the great majority of universalists, who actually tend to be more on the reconstructionist end of the spectrum than the folkish, in my experience. Indeed, folkish organizations like Balder Rising even explicitly distance themselves from reconstructionism:

“They [reconstructionists] were so concerned with recreating what once existed, and had forgotten that pagan religions, including Germanic heathenery, were not the creations of some religious sage or prophet, but was a set of traditions and spiritual (magical) knowledge that slowly evolved with the folk that it originated with over many generations.”

The Asatru Folk Assembly (AFA) also takes a stance not entirely approving of reconstructionism:

In the AFA, we don’t have to dress up like Vikings to live true to the Gods, nor do we turn our backs on the age in which we live. We practice Asatru in the here-and-now, and make it available to our kin.

Folks like Kveldulf Gundersson (aka Stephan Grundy), who just about embodies the space where universalist and reconstructionist meet, or the Troth, which according to its website “provides excellence in its resources, up to date research in Northern European Heathenry” and which runs a Lore Program explicitly designed to aid in the reconstructionist mission through scholarly study of the ancient sources, will doubtless be shocked to learn that opposition to eclecticism is in fact often a sign of racism.

And G&R’s solution? Asatru should look more like Starhawk’s “Reclaiming”:

An example of this: many of the ideas that have fueled Starhawk’s Reclaiming movement, which takes a uniquely panentheist understanding of the Gods and specifically sees an importance in the progressive values inside of Myth and practice. These ideas were never God/Myth specific, yet a strong sense of syncretism could allow a new synthesis that builds an emerging tradition that is both coherent and Philosophically strong.

And what does Reclaiming look like?

We are an evolving, dynamic tradition and proudly call ourselves Witches. Our diverse practices and experiences of the divine weave a tapestry of many different threads. We include those who honor Mysterious Ones, Goddesses, and Gods of myriad expressions, genders, and states of being, remembering that mystery goes beyond form. Our community rituals are participatory and ecstatic, celebrating the cycles of the seasons and our lives, and raising energy for personal, collective and earth healing.

Wow. That sure sounds like Asatru. </sarcasm>

The thing is, once you take the Germanic-specific aspects out of Asatru, you get… well, you get a watered-down, eclectic neopaganism that has no structure, no uniqueness, Just a bunch of people doing whatever, with the only common denominator being that they do it together. Gone would be those things that make Asatru, Asatru. The moral principles that Asatru has are quite distinct from those of the vast jelly-like blob that is eclectic neopaganism. Gone. The focus on a specific set of gods and goddesses that were worshiped by a specific group of people historically. Gone. Specific rituals unique to Asatru, such as blót and sumble. Gone.

I’ll leave you with one more quote from the original piece, for now:

The pagan traditions, both old and new, often evolve based on what parishioners bring to it. The ideas that evolve both inside and outside of spiritual practice, where it is the broad experience of life, relationships, and the earth that guide some of the most profound insights that are brought into practice. With Asatru, pagans can again bring those experiences in and make it more of an exchange between the living world and that of tradition, between the follower and the Gods.

There you have it. Be more eclectic. Be more like neopaganism. Be more egalitarian; even when it comes to our relationships with the gods. And the best part? It all comes from the outside-in; “Many pagans see that this could come…”. This is the eclectic neopagan prescription for “saving” Asatru, coincidentally by making Asatru look just like eclectic neopaganism.

This is a prescription for “saving” Asatru by destroying it. Which, of course, is precisely what G&R wants. Anything that is traditionalist, unique, or looks to the past rather than the Glorious Marxist Future, must be crushed. And G&R has the prescription, in the guise of “saving” Asatru from those elements it deems evil. And in so doing, it places all reconstructionists, including the universalists, right in their crosshairs.

So, have fun with that, my uni recon friends.

_____

* The article does conflate reconstructionism with anti-eclecticism, which aren’t necessarily the same thing at all. But let’s just go with it for now.

You can take your umbrella and…

Not Asatru

Asatru is not the same as, or part of, Neopaganism, period. It’s time to acknowledge that and move on.

There are, to be sure, some similarities, both theological and practical. We’re both polytheistic. We both find ourselves as relatively new religions (at least in a contiguous sense) in a culture that is dominated by Christianity and/or materialistic secularism, depending on who you ask. We’ve come into being and grown up mostly at the same time (in North America, at least). Some Neopagans worship Germanic deities, or at least occasionally include them in their rituals. A lot of newcomers, not knowing any better, find Neopaganism first and then eventually realize that Asatru is an option. Both movements are struggling to gather the resources and numbers necessary to provide the sort of basic infrastructure that even the dirt-poorest Christian church in Appalachia takes for granted. Like a place to meet that’s not someone’s living room or back yard.

But culturally, politically, and on many issues of theology, we’re polar opposites, and it’s high time folks on both sides admit the chasm exists, shake hands, and walk away from a relationship that many on one side never wanted in the first place, and some on the other side are now saying, “wow, maybe this wasn’t such a good idea after all”.

Sikhs are pagans? That will
come as a shock to them…

Part of the problem stems from Neopaganism’s inherently eclectic nature. Over-enthusiastic Neopagans tend to want to bring everything that’s not Christianity, Islam, or Judaism under their “umbrella”, using the rationale that, since a Neopagan ritual could include Odin, or Kwan Yin, or Coyote, that makes Asatru, traditional Chinese religion, or Native American religion Neopagan, too.

The fact that this is a logical fallacy, and is often done over the strenuous objections of the practitioners of the faiths being dragged under the “Neopagan umbrella”, is irrelevant to the holders of the umbrella. It makes the Neopagans feel better about themselves (because they’re being “inclusive”), and allows them to artificially inflate their numbers. I actually wrote about this several years ago, as part of a larger discussion about pagan identity: Is there a “Pagan community”?, At least we all worship the Goddess, right?, and We’re all in this together.

I came to the conclusion that there really is no such thing as a Pagan community. I stand by that conclusion, and would take it a step further to say, “…and even if there were, Asatru isn’t part of it.”

So when some BNN* says that There are Some People I don’t Want Under the Umbrella, my reaction is, FINALLY! We never wanted to be under your umbrella in the first place! Just because you rip off some deity names, start making up your own runes, and a take few myths from their ethno-cultural context† that we happen to share doesn’t make you us, nor does it make us a subset of you. And fuck you for trying to make us.

Similarly, when another BNN says Racism Cannot Be Tolerated, aside from saying, well, DUH! We’ve been fighting the folkish-vs.-racist fight since the 1970’s, where have you been? We would also say, you don’t really have any standing to tell us what to do, any more than you could assume that lecturing the Mormon Church on aspects of their doctrine would have any meaning to them whatsoever. I’m not the only person to have made this point.

We don’t want to be under your fucking umbrella. We never have before, and we don’t want to now.

Neopagan, you’re an outsider to us, and we value the inangard/utangard distinction. You tend to be overwhelmingly liberal politically, where we tend to be conservative/libertarian (there are exceptions on both sides, of course). You are eclectic to the point of appropriation or even cultural genocide, whereas we stick to our own ethno-cultural heritage. Historically, you’re based on 19th century ceremonial magic and an invented persecution myth, while we’re a reconstructionist faith that values academic rigor and, you know, historical sources.

But more to the point, you feel entitled to tell everyone else, especially those you have dragged under your “Pagan umbrella” or “Big Pagan Tent” or whatever, how they should practice their religion. You think slapping your label on our faith gives you the right to say that merely saying ancestry is relevant to religion is something to be not only condemned, but enough to ostracize people.

Riddle me this: How can you ostracize someone who doesn’t want to be part of your group in the first place?

Kenny Kline. Google him.

You don’t see Asatruar making pearl-clutching posts about the (very real) rampant pedophilia problem within Neopaganism, and demanding that prominent Neopagan leaders who either actively condoned it or turned a blind eye be tossed out. You know why? It’s not our business. It’s not our religion, it’s not our problem. It’s your house, your mess, and it’s up to you to clean it up. We might call out the specific instances as being horrific (which they absolutely are), but as a community, it’s not for us to “tsk-tsk” your community as a whole about it and start demanding outlawry. But Neopagans seem perfectly content to do so to us, and in the process side with SJW fanatics who erroneously conflate being folkish with being racist, making it all the harder for us on the folkish side to combat the real racists.

There are many, many evils in the world being done under the banner of religion, all much worse than saying “you worship the gods of your ancestors, and we’ll worship ours”. Where’s the Neopagan outrage over present-day Islamic slavery? Let’s see the calls from Jason Mankey or John Beckett insisting that king Salman of Saudi Arabia or king Hamad bin Khalifa Al Thani of Qatar be ostracized. Maybe it’s because you haven’t tried to drag them under your umbrella.

We don’t want to be under your umbrella. We never have, and we don’t now. Asatru is one religion, and Neopaganism and Wicca is another (or a whole bunch of others; I really don’t care, any more than I care if Catholicism and Mormonism are different religions).

So please. Take your umbrella and…

__________

* Big Name Neopagan

† Yes, there are some who call themselves Asatru who deny the “ethno-” half of that word. I’ll discuss them in a separate article.

A question for John Halstead

Well, to be honest, I’d welcome some answers from anyone who identifies as a pagan atheist, or humanistic pagan, or religious humanism, or whatever the heck they call themselves.

Why do you include the word “pagan” in your self-identification?

The reason I ask is that Mr. Halstead has been on a bit of a crusade lately, both on Patheos and Pagansquare, beating the drum that Pagans (and, presumably, Heathens) who actually believe in Pagan gods are misguided at best, and actively harmful to his favored causes (which he conflates with his own definition of atheistic paganism) at worst.

So it begs the question, why does he, and why do they, bother to call themselves Pagan in the first place? Why not just call themselves atheists, or humanists, or whatever? What additional value is there in the hyphenated identity for them? I’ve had my own bouts of denial of the divine, and never once was I tempted to undertake some sort of hybrid approach. It’s a mindset outside of my experience.

Is it to mark their belief in the importance of nature? That doesn’t work, because there are plenty of environmentalist atheists. I’d be willing to bet the intersection between those two groups was pretty significant, actually.

Is it a cultural thing? Do they feel an affinity for the neo-Pagan subculture that has evolved since the 1960’s? If so, there are plenty of hippy wannabes who don’t use the Pagan label.

Is it about the rituals? Well, here he might have something, if he’s just looking at rituals as psychodrama (although I’m sure he won’t enjoy being reminded that Anton LaVey got there first in his Satanic Bible and Satanic Rituals). But if it’s about the plain efficacy of ritual, it still doesn’t explain why he doesn’t take the final step and just start his own religion, with its own rituals that hit the psychological buttons he feels are their purpose, but which doesn’t rely on any supernatural agency for its undergirding premise, and thus distance himself from those Gods-believers he seems to despise so much.

So I ask; John Halstead if he happens to read this (which I doubt), or any atheist Pagan who happens across this; why retain the “Pagan” label when all it does is link you with a bunch of people who do (at least on some level), in fact, believe in the existence of our Gods and Goddesses, who believe in the efficacy of our prayers and rituals beyond mere psychological impact, and condemns you to what will surely be a lifetime of writing and talking about the differences between you and us, despite your conscious use of the term, when all that fuss and confusion (and, to be honest, implicit attempts to “convert” Pagans to your purely materialistic point of view) could be avoided by simply dropping the moniker?

Or is that the whole point, on some level? To use the hyphenated term as the camel’s nose to try to bring some self-identified Pagans around to your point of view? Again, I don’t claim to know. And thus I ask.

Religious Rights vs. Gay Rights

As just about everyone by this time knows, Indiana and Arkansas recently passed versions of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) which was originally acted into law on the federal level by then-President Bill Clinton in 1993. A number of states have similar statutes, and until now their enactment hasn’t been too controversial a proposition.

The current opposition to RFRA laws is rooted in the new perception that they are being enacted for the benefit of majoritarian religions (i.e., Christianity) so as to allow them to promote anti-homosexual discrimination. But that is not at all what RFRA laws do. Rather, they were (and are) enacted to protect the religious rights of minority religions from governmental overreach, such as:

  • Lipan Apache religious leader Robert Soto
  • Sikh federal employee Kawal Tagore
  • Santeria priest José Merced
  • Adriel Arocha, long-haired Native American kindergartner
  • Muslim prisoner Abdul Muhammad
  • O Centro Espírita Beneficente União do Vegetal (UDV), a Christian Spiritist sect with origins in the Amazon rain forest
  • Orthodox Jewish prisoner Bruce Rich

Hardly a list of typical supporters of Westboro Baptist.

Now, the kicker is that the RFRA bills as originally passed by Indiana and Arkansas wouldn’t have changed anything in those states regarding the ability to discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation. That’s because it was already legal to discriminate against gays in those states:

At most, all that RFRA does is to create an exemption from a legal duty for the religious objector. Neither Indiana nor Arkansas has a statewide public accommodation law that prohibits discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. Since there is no requirement in either state’s law for bakeries or florists or caterers to treat same-sex couples equally in the first place, the religious objector does not need an exemption in order to refuse to provide goods or services for same-sex couples.

So much for RFRA being enacted as an excuse to discriminate. What RFRA laws do is say that the government cannot restrict religious activities without a “compelling interest” in doing so. How horrible!

The fact is that the Pagan and Heathen communities have a lot more to gain by supporting these sorts of laws than they stand to lose. The homosexual community (and the left in general) has essentially thrown Pagans, Heathens, and other minority religions under the bus in the name of supporting gay rights (specifically gay marriage). I’m personally in favor of gay marriage, but not at the expense of my freedom to worship the Gods in the manner of my choosing. Lucius Svartwulf Helson puts it brilliantly:

They [the Gay Commuity] do not care about Pagan Rights. In leading the charge to have major business and other state government boycott states that try to affect a Religious Freedom Law, the GLBT+ community shows not only a complete disregard for any attempt to enshrine into law legal ways to defend and help Paganism obtain its full legal rights, they have shown a completely Fascist attitude to the rights of anyone but themselves, but especially to anyone that identifies themselves as religious. To further this end, Christians (like Memories Pizza) have been repeatedly threaten with real physical harm and the firebombing of their businesses.

(Read the whole thing; it’s terrific.) “Witchery in the Express Lane” makes a similar point, from a slightly different angle:

However it’s been all about the LGBT community and not about people that actually benefit from this law. People like me, a pagan, witch, Hellenist, Heathen and United Stated Citizen. I demand that my religion not be attacked by the federal government and not to be interfered by the federal government. But what really burns me up is that everyone is more concerned about the rights of the LGBT community then about the rights of people who call themselves something that, back then would of gotten you burned alive.

The gay community really seems to be burning a lot of bridges here. Heck, the push to legalize gay marriage in general seems to have just cost them around 34,000 black churches. Folks are finally starting to realize that fighting for their own religious rights is just as important, or even more important, than fighting for the sexuality rights of other people. Especially when the people they’re fighting for suddenly turn on them and attack a law that is designed to, and does, ensure those religious liberties, even though it doesn’t do anything to affect the rights of homosexuals in practice, because they don’t like three of the nineteen people who were present at the signing ceremony.

Meanwhile, homosexuals are being executed – actually killed – by Muslim fanatics in the Middle East, and the pro-gay protesters are silent.

Given a choice between fighting for my real rights, and someone else’s imagined slights, I’ll take my rights every time.

Left, Right… A Bigot is Still a Bigot

The Reverend Dr. Frederick W. Schmidt, Jr. has posted a piece over at the Progressive Christian section of Patheos that I think everyone who complains about the “Religious Right” needs to read.

The piece specifically addresses the efforts of American Atheists to have a piece of the ruins of the World Trade Center that coincidentally happens to have two beams welded together orthogonally (gee, how many times would that have happened in the steel infrastructure of a building?) because their inclusion is at the insistence of Christians who think that it’s somehow “proof” that their god was there, protecting them, etc.

Pity their god didn’t get there a few minutes earlier to actually stop the planes from hitting the buildings and killing three thousand people, but I digress.

Whether or not one agrees with the AA position that the cross is inappropriate in the memorial museum or not is immaterial to my argument. What I’m most incensed by is the position taken by Dr. Schmidt that (quote):

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

Really?

It’s not “I think your lawsuit will fail the legal test”. It’s not “I think you’re doing your own side harm in the court of public opinion by pursuing such an unpopular lawsuit.” It’s not “the law doesn’t support your argument”.

It’s “you are not entitled to argue”. To hell with the point you want to make; you don’t even have the right to make the point in the first place. You should preemptively be prevented from even opening your non-Christian gob and complaining that Christians are expressing their point of view, no matter how you personally feel about it. In fact, you should shut your non-Christian gob even if you think you have a legal point.

“You are not entitled to argue” your point. Period.

It is the ultimate expression of Christian hubris. It’s stating, in no uncertain terms, that anyone who thinks that Christianity is anything but beneficial, in the public good, and especially “for your own good” if your one of those benighted non-Christians, you should just shut up. And it’s not aimed at Atheists exclusively; anyone who doesn’t like Christians pushing their religion in our faces needs to wake up to this fact. Including, especially, Pagans, Heathens, and Witches.

The wonderful folks at the Lady Liberty League, run by Circle Sanctuary, might have something to say about this assertion.

You think you’ve been hurt by the fact that a public school district hands out Bibles to students, but then turns around and rejects Wiccan and Pagan books that are supplied for the same purpose?

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

You think you’ve been hurt by the fact that your child, in a public school, has been told that “paganism is not a religion”, had your 11 year old’s faith questioned in front of the class by a teacher, harassed by teachers and fellow students alike because of his faith, and told that school assignments on cultural and historical topics must contain only accounts relating to a particular religion? (And guess what… it just happens to be Christianity…)

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

You think you’ve been hurt by the fact that certain businesses, which are otherwise deemed public accommodations, close their doors specifically to shut out those in attendance at a Pagan festival, and state their bigoted reasons publicly and proudly?

You are not entitled to argue that the expression of a Christian point of view “hurts you” in any fashion that has legal standing.

The list could go on and on, but you get the point.

Bigotry against non-Christians is not the exclusive province of the Right, and anyone who believes so is simply deluded. Christians by definition think that theirs is the only path to salvation (John 14:6) and feel that this gives them the exclusive right to walk over and obliterate any other faith “for your own good”.

The next time someone starts whining about “The Religious Right”, remind them it’s not a right/left issue. It’s a Christian/non-Christian issue.

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