In thinking about how much my religious views influence my political views, I’ve found that its impact is limited, yet profound. My views on abortion, which political Party I support, campaign finance reform, or just about any other issue that you could name are not dictated by any teachings within Hellenion or Hellenismos. What has been influenced, and to a high degree, is how I approach political discourse.
Hellenion is a religious organization dedicated to the revival and practice of Hellenic polytheism, using a reconstructionist perspective, which includes both an emphasis on historical precedent and respect for personal spiritual inspiration. We are orthopraxic. Our common bond is through the forms of our worship which allows a wide range of theological and philosophical beliefs.
If you are or know someone who is part of a reconstructed or revived religion, I’m sure you have noticed the tendency we have to debate endlessly about matters large and small. Our obsession with separating historical facts and data from personal opinion or experience. At times it can be maddening, this endless stream of words on even the most trivial of matters. Why meditate when you can talk? And talk. And talk.
All that talk and debate and citing of sources can have a significant upside. The insistence on clearly separating data from opinion encourages you to view data dispassionately and be more open to taking in new information. Citing sources pushes you to research carefully and to grant less weight to purely emotional arguments. Yet opinions, personal experience, and Unverified Personal Gnosis (UPG) are given respectful consideration even when they stand in contrast to your own. Disagree as passionately as you want, but keep it civil. Even though I’m almost 40, I am just a young Padawan in this.
Unfortunately, there appears to be a different and more common way of framing opposing views. The line of reasoning goes something like this: I am an ethical, sane, and rational person. I have thought deeply about this topic. If others are also ethical, sane, and rational and take the time to think deeply about this issue, soon they will agree with me. There may be some small divisions, but not many. If the divisions are large or numerous, it is a sign that the other side is unethical, self-interested, and illogical or they have not given this matter proper consideration. After all, if both sides are motivated by the greater good, have researched the issue carefully, and have thought it through – how much divergence can there possibly be?
Quite a bit, as it turns out. That’s ok. In fact, it’s good. Ethical, sane, rational people can look at the exact same information and come to different conclusions. When there’s a difference of opinion within Hellenion, I’m always amazed how receptive they are. They treat it as a strength. It isn’t seen as a threat to the group’s unity or harmony because the group is not bound by belief, but shared practice. So why get pissy if we don’t agree on every little belief as long as we mostly agree on the practice? Just as I was writing this blog entry, this message was sent as a reply from one Hellenion member to another, “I always enjoy discussing these topics with you. You always make me think deeper, so I hope you always disagree with me!” We have our share of blow ups like any group of humans, but that kind of exchange is typical.
Carrying that over to politics, I think that most people and political Parties want the same outcome; a happy, healthy, open and caring populace. Just because we disagree on how to accomplish that outcome, why should we denounce one another as evil and hateful? Our unity and harmony should derive from the goal, not the method. Many paths can lead to the same destination.
My political path is usually termed “Conservative” and that makes me a minority within a minority. Sometimes an unwelcome minority. Well meaning friends have asked me, “I know you are a kind person, so help me to understand how you could be one of them?” Others, after finding out a person is politically Conservative, react with dismayed surprise, fear, or contempt. This experience is by no means universal, but it’s not unique, either. While most are enjoying that wonderfully freeing feeling of “coming home” at Pagan festivals, many Conservative Pagans rarely have that feeling. They have fewer people they can be truly “out” around. Which is disappointing since Pagans are widely and justly known for their cheerful and tolerant acceptance of diversity.
I am so pleased that Jason Pitzl-Waters created this blog project and took care to include voices from all over the political spectrum. The most important of those voices, though, are yours and I wish for you to feel welcome here. Hopefully, in the coming weeks, if we happen to disagree, we can to say to one another, “I always enjoy discussing these topics with you. You always make me think deeper, so I hope you always disagree with me!”