The Emperor has no Clothes

As I stated in the last post, I began this blog in part to confront the spirit of hegemony that’s wormed its way into Pagan and Polytheist circles. This isn’t my favorite thing in the world to do. My passion has always been to bring the tools and insights of philosophy to bear on Pagan and Polytheist beliefs. I want to follow these beliefs to their logical conclusions, discover their hidden assumptions, and defend them from common and academic-level objections. To that end, I spend my time researching Pagan and Polytheist beliefs, studying and practicing different logics, and keeping up to date with academic philosophy of religion. I see this type of work as providing a sort of meta-level service to the Pagan and Polytheist communities in that while I’m not Hindu, or Kemetic, or Druid, or Hellenic, or etc. I work for the sake of all of them. I believe in all of the Gods, I worship many of them, and I hope each of their traditions and communities flourish one day.

So, what am I doing wandering out of my niche little pasture and getting into American politics for?

Because American Paganism is not well, and someone has to say something. Before the movement gets completely hijacked by political elitism and the silent majority become entirely alienated. It’s on the verge of becoming the next victim of the American political mentality that it’s your way or the highway, and everyone else can go to hell.

Now, look. I’m not going to get all this right. I know I’m going to make mistakes. But enough is enough.

So what the hell happened? We can’t commune with one another to study or worship the Gods and pray or sacrifice for justice, or the common good. No. Our common principle isn’t religion anymore! It’s politics. Rituals are now town hall meetings where you can’t participate unless you fling yourself on to the latest, bizarrely specific bandwagon.

If you have no considered view on one of those positions or, Gods forbid, don’t find yourself convinced of them, well…then you’re not a real Pagan! You’re a Christian in disguise. Or some Puritan nonsense.

Folks…why did you even leave Christianity? You clearly weren’t ready. You still want the orthodoxy, the purity, the control. This Paganism stuff ain’t for you!

Let me illustrate this by bringing up one of the Forbidden Subjects.

Take abortion. Did you know that in order to be a Real Pagan ™, you have to have figured the abortion debate out? Yep. And not only that, but you better hope you figured it out…correctly. Otherwise. Ya know. You’re a fake Pagan. In fact, you’re in league with the Devil – or ‘Christianity’, close enough. So, suppose it seems to you that the human fetus is a child in its earliest stage of development and that children, no matter their stage of development, generally deserve to be protected by their parents – even if there are justified exceptions (a popular flavor of ‘pro-life’). Well, then, shame on you. End of discussion. The Gods don’t love you.

Haven’t you read Judith Jarvis Thompson’s A Defense of Abortion!?

As if no one had anything interesting to say in reply to her…in 51 years. I’m so serious. I know it sounds like sarcasm. Gods I wish it was.

You thought when Pagans said things like they revered Nature, cherished Life and harmed none, that this meant human fetuses at least mattered? That if all things are full of Gods, taking a life should be a sober and considered decision? Bigot.

They’re just a clump of cells (somehow, in a way that you aren’t too), and clumps of cells are entirely worthless and disposable.

The truth is your perspective doesn’t matter. They don’t care how things seem to you. It’s their way or the highway. They’ll graciously allow you to hold an opinion, such as that abortions involve dismembering children and for that reason require some moral justification beyond sheer fiat. But they will not allow you to “impose” that opinion on them. By contrast, they forbid you from reciprocating that dynamic: not only are they going to hold an opinion on the matter no matter what you say, but they’re going to shove it down your throat and you’d better say “thank you” when they’re finished. It’s okay for them to trivialize what strikes you as a morally shocking procedure, but it is not okay for you to…be…morally shocked…at child dismemberment. Because that’s forcing births! Your perspective doesn’t matter. You don’t matter.

At least unless you could be useful. You could support The Cause, which is an almost completely undefined political outlook that has more to do with emotional satisfaction than with anything in real life. But if you don’t agree with The Cause? Well, then you’re illiterate, uneducated, unintelligent, or immoral.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have considered views on these extremely complicated matters. We’re too busy with life to figure them out. But roger. Shame on us. Got it. And those of us who have dared to involuntarily form alternative beliefs? We’re the worst.

I wish I did, but I don’t know what to make of abortion: I’ve been reading the best defenders of both sides for too long, and my views have flip flopped over the years (I even defended abortion in a public debate with a Catholic speaker and apologist several years ago). But I’ll be damned if someone is going to condemn me for taking it seriously enough to let the evidence speak for itself, especially when they are lightyears behind me in research.

And the same goes for many of the Forbidden Subjects. Like, transgenderism. I tried to keep up with the literature on gender, but I don’t even know what the hell it’s supposed to be anymore.

By the way, I probably just committed career suicide by mentioning that. It doesn’t matter what I actually said; or that I am bi-sexual, or fairly socially and politically liberal myself. I spoke on not just one, but two Forbidden Subjects!

And it’s not about whether these propositions are true, but whether anything less than absolute certitude or blind faith in them is even morally permissible.

Most of us are not going to have considered views on these dogmas. It’s not even clear what we’re supposed to believe in half the time, and when someone graces us with an explanation, they’re downright aloof and unrelatable.

What started out as a well-intended fight for equality across the spectrum, and a sharp rejection of such things as racism and bigotry has turned into an imperialist bid for power and control over Paganism. The spirit of hegemony was easy to spot on the “right” side of the spectrum, especially in the form of white supremacy. And it continues to be confronted and cut out to this day. But what happens when that same spirit infects the “left” side as well? Do we accommodate it, because it’s on the “left”?

Or do we call it out for its “fascism?” – a term you’d think meant some kind of authoritarian nationalism, but which actually just refers to anything that’s…coercive?

We’re in the overcorrection stage.

So, look. Don’t worry about trying to keep up with them, you couldn’t if you tried. This is not about a list of facts, it’s about their supposed authority to declare things as factual; it’s about deferring to whatever The Cause happens to be today.

American Paganism is turning into political Catholicism at this point, and any failure to celebrate whatever its commitments happen to be right now is an indictment against you on basically every level.

Disagreement is no longer respectable. We are not peers, or equals. If you’re not on board, it’s because something is wrong with you.

It’s not enough, anymore, to protest, donate, vote, publish, pray, or make noise. Now you have to do that with the official name brand Pagan, otherwise…well you’re obviously not Pagan!

This isn’t about tolerating disagreement or playing “nice” with each other; it’s about fundamentally transforming an orthopraxy into an orthodoxy.

But once a Pagan Always a Pagan, I guess. No separation between Grove and State.

Oh, you thought you’d left Christianity? I did too. I imagine a lot of us did.

So, what about the rest of us, floundering about in our unedumacated state of sin? How do we restore sanity? How do we save Paganism from Americanization? How do we stop this spirit of hegemony?

Well, I don’t know, to be frank. But I think speaking freely is a good start. Normalize speaking your mind and take their power away. Despite what they think, this is not a damned Cathedral, it’s a Big Tent. Remind them of the fact of plurality, diversity and complexity. Maybe with time we can restore good sense and will to our communities, and even begin to repair the damages these fanatics have caused between American Paganism and other Pagan or Polytheist communities, like Hinduism.

In the end, maybe this won’t reach many of you, and for those it does, maybe it won’t embolden you. You now have reason to not associate with me, I just painted a big ol’ target on my back, and it’s risky to disagree with the Pagan Magisterium right now; or, really, to do anything but shout their pronouncements from the roof tops. But the Emperor is butt ass naked, and I hope you know that you aren’t the only seeing it.

Trends come and go, but Gods are forever.


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