Faith, Agency, and Dogma

Pope CarlinI have heard there is a war on belief.

In the appropriate context, I can understand the sentiment.

Just to be clear, I’m not agreeing with right wing nut jobs who insist that Christianity is under siege by Koran wielding psychos; there are more reasons for Muslims to be afraid of Christians then the other way around.  Now, if we’re talking about the very act of having a strongly held belief leading to contention?  Different story.

When I originally started writing this, it was before a few heavyweights in the Polythistic Pagan world decided to take a month off.  Half in protest over their treatment by the quasi-agnostic hero worshiping and half out of having something better to do, some people have decided that they will be taking July off to recenter themselves and opt out of the pissing contest that a lot of the debates have turned into.  I’m not going to comment on the matter further; it just seems to display my point very well.

A lot of people look to this disquiet and antagonism that springs up around religion, leading them to think that faith and hostility are inseparable.  What it actually comes down to, in my opinion, is agency.  Specifically, agency within your own faith.  The capacity to say “Yes, I believe in a thing…but not because a pastor/high priestess/Discordian Pope/Non-Discordian Pope told me to believe in them”.  The ability to explore what you believe and why you believe it without guilt, shame, or restraint.

A friend, dubious of my own faith, once asked if I believed in the literal creation story depicted in the eddas.  If I believed that Ragnarok was coming, and similar things.  At the time, I stated that I wasn’t sure.  That was a question I had to answer for myself.  I could have gone to any number of fellow Heathens, asked for an answer, and than taken that answer as my own.  That I didn’t, however, gave me a stronger and more rational sense of faith.  Taking ownership of what I believe has made both my faith and rationality stronger forces within my own person.

That process of self-analysis and theological exploration was invaluable; it protected me from a dogmatic consideration of the lore.  It made me consider their weight both separately from everything else and as a part of everything else.

In short, it gavee me a belief as opposed to a dogma.  It gave me, as Kevin Smith might put it, an idea.

It is my belief that all people who truly take their religion and faith seriously do this.  This includes Athiests; to parrot the words of another as if they were your own is idiotic, whether you believe in infinite divinity or none at all.  It isn’t the belief in a god that leads people to the horrors in humanity; it’s the dogmatic consideration of any belief.  How many mistakes, horrors, and evils were done in the name of science because no one decided to consider things for themselves?

That’s not a cheap shot, either.  Go look up “Scientific Racism“.  Believe me, if we didn’t need religion to have ethics?  Than we didn’t need it to be petty, monsterous, or amoral either.  The capacity for either was apart of the human condition long before we were were born, and it will exist long after we are gone.

Some people say that monotheism is the enemy of modern paganism.  Some people with say atheism.   Some people will reverse this statements to their opposites.  No matter how you fill out the madlib, I can’t agree.  Religion and faith are living, breathing things.  They take the shapes we give them, and they are closed fists or opened hands so long as we make them that way.

Dogma is a record.  It does not live; it records what was once alive.  It is a historical record devoid of context, dragged into the present by the bizarre notion that the older something is the better it becomes.  It is the slow moving poison that leads belief to death.

That is the enemy.  Of religion.  Of belief.  Of everything.

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