Apr 102011
 

An amazing, though not surprising, story caught my eye recently in Yes! Magazine on the ever-developing scientific discoveries about our closest primate relatives in the animal kingdom.

For those of us whose religious practices are anchored in relationship with the earth and its many inhabitants, the scientific world has often seemed to lag behind in its recognition of the complexity and subtlety of nonhuman experience as we witness it on a regular basis. Studies revealing the intelligence and sensitivity of dolphins, elephants, corvine birds, honeybees and even trees and other plants, confirm what many of us have long known to be true of the many denizens that share the planet with us.

Yet for all the reluctance and skepticism of modern science, the general knowledge of the nonscientific layperson often lags another decade or two behind that. Such is the case when it comes to our closest animal relatives: primates. Most people are familiar with research from the 1960s and 1970s when scientists first began to document examples of violence and even a kind of proto-”warfare” among chimpanzees and other primate species. Advocates of patriarchy and warfare as inherent aspects of human nature often cite these examples to make their case, stating that efforts towards peaceful and egalitarian societies are bound for failure in the face of our “natural” animal instincts towards violence and domination.

Yet, as biologist Robert M. Sapolsky points out:

…all along there has been another chimp species, one traditionally ignored because of its small numbers; its habitat in remote, impenetrable rain forests; and the fact that its early chroniclers published in Japanese. These skinny little creatures were originally called “pygmy chimps” and were thought of as uninteresting, some sort of regressed subspecies of the real thing. Now known as bonobos, they are recognized as a separate and distinct species that taxonomically and genetically is just as closely related to humans as the standard chimp.

A layperson more up-to-date on their popular science may have also heard of the bonobos, especially their reputation for “free love” sexuality.

Bonobos have sex in every conceivable position and some seemingly inconceivable ones, in pairs and groups, between genders and within genders, to greet each other and to resolve conflicts, to work off steam after a predator scare, to celebrate finding food or to cajole its sharing, or just because.

Within their female-dominated social system, bonobos often engage in sharing food (and sex) along with other well-developed ways of easing social tensions and establishing community bonds. Bonobo males tend to be smaller than their chimp relatives, and far less aggressive. Yet, like the chimpanzees with their aggression, bonobos seem to be “peaceful by nature,” and it’s difficult to say exactly why they are the way they are. While their genetic similarity to human beings certainly puts a damper on arguments drawing too heavily from the example of chimpanzees alone, as Sapolsky says, “the bonobo has little to say to us” as a species with an undeniable history of both war and peace to reconcile.

Perhaps far more fascinating, and far more relevant to conversations about the “naturalness” of peace versus violence in the human animal, is the latest research coming from primatologists on the adaptability and elasticity of primate nature.

This adaptability appears most strikingly among some of the most violent of primates: the savanna baboons of the African grasslands. An expert with thirty years experience researching this species, Sapolsky describes them as aggressive “warriors,” noting the strict hierarchies among males based on violent rivalries to establish dominance, the high rate of aggression directed towards third parties (e.g. subordinate bystanders), and the fact that most males die as the result of violent conflict of one kind or another. Yet even in this species, with violence so apparently innate, surprising adaptability can be found. Sapolsky cites one particular study of a troop of savanna baboons in Kenya (known as the “Forest Troop”) whose dominant, aggressive males were all wiped out by disease in a “selective bottleneck” in the 1980s, resulting in a population of less aggressive and more social than average males and a doubled female-to-male ratio. Sapolsky writes:

The social consequences of these changes were dramatic. There remained a hierarchy among the Forest Troop males, but it was far looser than before. Aggression was less frequent, particularly against third parties. And rates of affiliative behaviors, such as males and females grooming each other or sitting together, soared. There were even instances, now and then, of adult males grooming each other—a behavior nearly as unprecedented as baboons sprouting wings.

But the real surprise came almost twenty years later. To this day, this particular troop of baboons retains its less aggressive, more peaceful behavior despite the rarity of such behavior among others of their species. Furthermore, this change in behavior is not due to genetic selection. Male baboons leave the troop of their birth at puberty, ensuring genetic variety; as a result, by the early 1990s all of original high affiliation males of the Forest Troop had died and their male offspring moved on, to be replaced with male baboons from other troops. These new males, rather than causing a resulting increase in aggression among the members of the troop, adapted to the more social, more peaceful culture.

The use of the word “culture” here is no accident, either. As Sapolsky explains:

As defined by both anthropologists and animal behaviorists, “culture” consists of local behavioral variations, occurring for nongenetic and nonecological reasons, that last beyond the time of their originators. Forest Troop’s low aggression/high affiliation society constitutes nothing less than a multigenerational benign culture.

What implications does this new research have for human beings grappling with questions of nature versus nurture when examining issues of violence, war, peace and justice?

For generations, human beings viewed themselves as unique or special among the creatures of the earth, able to rise above their degraded, violent, “fallen” animal natures and choose instead lives of peace, morality, justice and kindness. Today, both earth-centered, embodied Pagan traditions and modern research in biology and neuroscience challenge the false dichotomy that would separate human beings from the other animals of the world. While some might see this as reason to embrace the “inherent violent tendencies” of human nature and revel in the destructive and aggressive behaviors that result, growing evidence in many fields of study suggest that “nature” is far from the cruel, brutish, “red in tooth and claw” realm of fear and struggle that we have long assumed it to be. In fact, the natural world is full of examples of affection, compassion, sympathy, friendship, altruism and, yes, peaceful community living — even among our close relatives.

But more importantly, studies by contemporary primatologists continue to uncover examples of how our closest animal relatives are not just capable of peace, but of astounding adaptation, flexibility and elasticity in their behavior. Evidence for the existence of culture among nonhuman primates, in which behaviors of sociability and cooperation can be learned and passed down for generations, suggests not only that humans are far from unique in this respect, but that our striving towards justice, fairness and peace — our longing for “thinking to replace killing” — may itself actually be an expression of our primate natures.

The philosophy of pacifism has been built on this very notion. The word itself — from the Latin roots pax and facere, meaning “to make peace” — invokes the idea of creating peace even in the midst of violence. Pacifism does not deny that violence is an aspect both of human nature and of our shared history of warfare and conflict. Rather, it celebrates the creativity and adaptability of the human animal, and our capacity to respond to conflict and destruction with kindness, patience, compassion and altruism. Pacifism looks to human culture as that reserve of wisdom and tradition that we inherit from our ancestors, who have seen the violence and war of history firsthand, and that we will pass on to our descendants in our turn, and it asks us the simple question: what kind of culture are we willing to create?

The natural world is no longer the world of unbending, immutable physical laws scientists once believed it to be, even by their own admission. More and more, we see the evidence in nature — both in nonhuman animals and in ourselves — that there is room for chance, there is space for choice, and there is, always, the possibility of change.




Now would be a good time to mention the newest PNC blog, No Unsacred Place, which launched last week and has already featured several excellent pieces by writers such as Ruby Sara, Cat Chapin-Bishop, Meical abAwen and more! There is a great variety of both talent and expertise among the writers of this project, who’ll be covering everything from animal rights to nature-based liturgy to green living. The blog administrator, I will also be participating as a writer, focusing especially on topics of deep ecology, environmental ethics and issues of “ecojustice.” So if you’re interested in more articles exploring “the relationships between religion and science, nature and civilization from a diversity of modern Pagan perspectives,” definitely head on over and check it out!


* My friend and coworker, Arthur, can be blamed for the title of this post. Enjoy the literal video version.

Mar 232011
 

(…Continued from yesterday’s post.)

It might seem strange that a supposedly secular society would be so concerned with the use of its cultural symbols as to codify their exclusivity into law, especially when those symbols themselves appeal to universal values like equality and freedom. The evocation and use of cultural symbols has more traditionally been understood as the realm of mythology and religion, and here we see how religion, shading into philosophical ideology, fades further into political philosophy and politics, with no hard and fast line between them.

This flexibility of cultural symbols in creating and shaping our political system and the very laws of our government reminds us not to grow too comfortable with ideas of “secular” government being easy to define, let alone simple to realize. Personally, I have often wondered if “secular” government as we understand it in the West may not simply be a new and more recent kind of civil religion, based on its own particular mythos and set of practices and taboos. David W. Ingle and Carolyn Marvin argue as much in their research into totemism and blood sacrifice in their modern manifestations in United States political and social discourse. In his recent book, Dark Green Religion: Nature Spirituality and the Planetary Future, Bron Taylor skirts a similar theory in his exploration of environmentalism, and its expression through political activism and eco-terrorism, as constituting a form of nature spirituality in contemporary American society.

The implications of civil religion may often be overlooked by minority religious traditions such as Paganism, even while we see the potential conflict between “secular” civil religion and alternative spiritualities unrolling on the global stage, expressed best in the conflict between “the West” and Islam. More than a few Americans now claim, as Pat Robertson stated in 2007, that Islam “isn’t really a religion, but a political movement.” Such statements rely on a strict dichotomy between political ideologies, and “real religions” — which can coexist peacefully with the civil religion of Western liberal capitalism, either because their social expressions are sufficiently in line with its own, or because they offer no coherent, cohesive vision of community religious life as an alternative. In a “secular” civil religion that associates itself with the cultural symbols of freedom and equality, and in particular with freedom of religion, those religious worldviews that conflict with or threaten Western liberal capitalism are redefined as “political” ideologies instead. Since, as we’ve seen, religion, philosophy and politics make up more of a continuum rather than a set of distinct categories, this strategy works fairly well. Even defenders of Islam often respond with arguments about why Islam, rather than presenting an alternative socio-cultural approach, can be incorporated into the overarching civil religion of the West — that Muslims can be ordinary consumer capitalists like you and me proves that their worldview is a “real religion,” not a political philosophy.

But the nature of religion can hardly avoid some political implications. Praxis-centered, “embodied” and/or nature spiritualities, perhaps even more than faith-based, doctrinally-focused religions, must eventually turn to questions of how spiritual ideas express themselves in and through community. For now, Pagan traditions exist in such a small minority that they are hardly considered a threat to any but the most rabid fundamentalists, and certainly not a viable alternative to the socio-political structures of the United States. For the most part, Pagan traditions benefit from appeals to “secular” politics, where protections for religious minorities are enshrined in theory, if not always upheld in practice.

On the other hand, experimentation with alternative forms of community creation, identity and structure have been part of modern Paganism almost since the beginning. Revival Druidry traditions of today have their roots in the social clubs and workers’ unions of Britain in the 1800s, which concerned themselves primarily with providing both financial and social support to workers and their families. In the United States, goddess traditions grew up together with the feminist movement in the ’60s and ’70s, experimenting with matriarchal, non-heirarchical and anarchistic models of community organization. The Druid Network recently succeeded in gaining religious charity status under UK law without having to compromise its explicitly-stated anarchistic organizational structure. Conversations in the Pagan community have focused for several decades now on questions about the relationship between community support and infrastructure, and the commodification of religious tools and services, sometimes playing a role in conflicts such as the recent Feri/Faery schism.

With all of this history to consider — not to mention the growing concern among nature-centered Pagans about the potentially environmentally devastating consequences of consumer capitalist practices — it would be naive not to wonder about the future of Paganism and its relationship to the civil religion of the United States. Indeed, one form that this relationship might take is already beginning to express itself, as some Pagans appropriate cultural symbols associated with American patriotism and identity, incorporating them into overtly religious contexts. Worship of the “revealed goddess” Columbia on the Fourth of July and treatment of the U.S. Constitution as a sacred text, for instance, are two examples of the blending of Pagan spirituality with American civil religion. (Keep your eyes peeled — as we enter the warm, sunny summer months of outdoor picnics and barbecues — for more examples of the increasing coincidence between Pagan seasonal festivals and American patriotic holidays.)

The use of political symbols in religious contexts may seem to be just a quirk of modern Pagan spirituality, an intentional revival of more ancient concepts of community and tribe. But as the case of the Liberty Dollar and the existence of Title 18§486 in U.S. law both illustrate, such religio-political overlap lurks just beneath the surface of secular society as well. Though for now Pagan traditions may be “mostly harmless” and even at times benignly supportive of American civil religion, we may do well to remember the lessons of ecology. The poisonous monarch does not benefit from a dilution of its associative power. And the United States government can, and will, exact a high price from those who are too successful in utilizing its symbols for their own purposes.

Jan 222011
 

A follow-up to my previous post about the relationship between politics and insanity: I recently came across this fascinating interview with Manfred Schneider, professor of aesthetics and literary media who has recently written on the subject of assassins and paranoiacs, exploring their stories throughout history and the role they play in present-day politics. In the interview, Schneider places the shooting in Arizona earlier this month into an historical context, describing the shooter, Jared Loughner, not as crazy or irrational, but as “hyper-rational”:

Every assassin is a perceptive observer and interpreter of signs and events. For him, nothing happens by accident. He scrutinizes the world in search of hostile intentions, and he imagines conspiracies everywhere. To us, the outcome seems insane. Yet logic and rationality are key components in the paranoid suppositions arrived at by the assassin. Paranoia is not irrationality but hyper-rationality. Loughner is a very typical example.

Yet this type of hyper-rationality can also characterize the minds of great thinkers and geniuses (such as the fictional character, Sherlock Holmes), who may also be skilled at discovering patterns of meaning in apparently random details or coincidental events. What makes the difference between a perceptive genius of analysis, and the hyper-rational delusions of the paranoiac and would-be assassin? In part, of course, it depends on how accurate or true to reality one’s conclusions are. Yet as Schneider points out, this may be particularly difficult to determine for oneself (Loughner certainly thought his conclusions were accurate), and so another check against paranoid hyper-rationality is the self-reflection and perspective to be gained from engagement with a broader community, which provides a means of examination and communication. Schneider explains, “Without a communicative means of reconciliation with the world around him, he [the paranoiac] begins to create his own system to explain the things that concern and oppress him.”

Once again, we see that the “insanity” of hyper-rationality has social and political undercurrents. Disconnection from a community capable of providing a sounding board for our individual psychological need to seek out meaningful patterns can result in paranoia and delusion. However, as I mentioned in my post last week, there are times when a community or society may itself be neurotic or psychologically unhealthy. The example that Schneider uses to illustrate the difference between delusional and insightful hyper-rationality is itself very telling:

[T]he analysis that then US Secretary of State Colin Powell presented to the United Nations Security Council in February 2003, which concluded that there were mobile biological weapons laboratories in Iraq, was based on the same structure as the lunacy of Adelheid Streidel, who critically injured (German politician) Oskar Lafontaine with a knife in 1990. She believed that there were underground factories in (the Bavarian town of) Wackersdorf, where people were being killed.

Here, the difference is that Powell was speaking for a nation, a community which confirmed and supported the suspicions of WMDs in Iraq, while Streidel acted alone, based solely on her own delusions. Yet we have since learned that there were no such weapons in Iraq, and that the reasons provided for the Iraq War were largely disingenuous, when they weren’t downright fabrications. What does this say about our ability to rely on community to provide us with a trustworthy check on personal paranoia? (And what of the role of dissenters, such as myself and millions all over the world, who were shouted down as traitors and cowards for opposing the war and calling its justifications into question?) Schenider himself cites the societies of Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia as examples of communities in which the majority had succumbed to paranoid delusions. We find ourselves faced with the same troubling question that haunted Freud in his later years: what do we do when the society we live in might just be “crazy”?

Especially interesting, to me, is that statistical studies have found a correlation between an increase in paranoia and suspicion within the very societies that tend to be more secular, open and transparent. As Schneider theorizes, it’s as though the more information freely available and accessible to people, the more they tend to doubt its veracity and suspect “something else” is going on behind the scenes. Though Schneider doesn’t offer an explanation for why this might be, it may have something to do with our need to seek out meaning even when confronted with overwhelming amounts of information, or patterns of cause and effect so large or so detailed that they appear to the casual observer to be merely random. Paranoia rears its ugly head in the face of uncertainty and confusion, when we are ill-equipped by our community and by our own mental capacity to integrate and make sense of the world around us in any meaningful way. One of the primary signs of delusion, Schneider points out, is a total lack of uncertainty:

When all of the non-rational moments that are part of reason disappear. That’s when it turns pathological. When there are no longer any doubts in a person’s thoughts, and there is no hesitation in his actions. When empathy is no longer possible and the person becomes consumed by the feeling that it is absolutely necessary that certain things be done to prevent the worst from happening.

How does this relate to Paganism, and to pacifism?

For the latter, I take my cue again from Schneider, in discussing the events of 9/11 — he describes the tragedy as “a lesson in uncertainty,” in which the U.S. faced extreme pressure to step into the paranoid perspective of the terrorists, who imagined the stage of global politics as an epic battle between the West and the Muslim world. In many ways, socially and culturally, this is precisely what happened in this country, and we are still seeing the ramifications of this increase in paranoia in the rhetoric of many politicians on the Right. Yet Schneider also notes a much healthier way of responding: accepting such “black angels of chance” for what they are, unpredictable and often meaningless moments of grief and loss, moments that we may never be able to fully explain or predict. Yet, by acknowledging that it is not mere madness that drives such individuals and leads to such events, we can learn to understand the way that hyper-rationality functions both in individuals and in societies. Such understanding gives us precisely the insight and perspective necessary for the kind of self-reflection that can help us check our own tendencies towards paranoia.

Pacifism, ultimately, is an exercise in confronting uncertainty in just this way — learning to cope with the potential for violence (in both ourselves and in others) without resorting to violence in retaliation or defense, without stepping into the delusions of our attackers who might claim with paranoid certainty that no alternatives exist. Instead, the philosophy of pacifism encourages us to see in the actions of others reflections of our own potentials, so that we might learn from them with empathy and insight while also acting with intention to create alternatives to violence even in the face of doubt or uncertainty.

Paganism, too, can provide a check against the paranoia and delusions of unhealthy hyper-rationality, in two important ways. First, as I discussed in my previous post, it can provide us with a more-than-human community to which we can turn for a “communicative means of reconciliation” with the larger world, even when our human communities seem mired in neuroses. I think it is no coincidence that the societies in which paranoia seems to increase also tend to be societies that encourage a disconnection and isolation from the natural world.

The scientific comprehension and appreciation of ecology provides part of this engagement with the more-than-human natural world, yet Paganism and nature-centered spiritualities more generally also supplement and extend this engagement further through religious activities like prayer, meditation and ritual directed towards the natural world and its many beings and inhabitants, rather than towards a transcendent, supernatural deity. The modern Pagan movement also embraces certain aspects of postmodern philosophy, such as deep play and the celebration of meta-narratives and self- and group-identity creation, which can help to remind us of the “non-rational moments that are part of reason.” Grounded in healthy community, an engagement with the non-rational can provide the perspective, and the wilderness, in which uncertainty and doubt can find a proper home, without giving way to either hyper-rationality or the pure lunacy of irrationality.

Dec 082010
 

I was reading a post today in PoliticusUSA about the legal battle over Proposition 8. The author, a fellow writer of mine there, takes the position that Christian bigotry is behind opposition to same-sex marriage and I have no argument with that; I think it is self-evident. There is no reason beyond religious objections – nor were lawyers for Proposition 8’s supporters able to muster any – when the case went to court. The battle lines are clear. Opposition to same-sex marriage is based on Christian biases (real or imagined) originating in their holy scriptures, the Bible.

There is no cogent reason to object to total equality in the marriage sphere. All other objections that have been raised have been proven myths, as I argued the other day at A Heathen’s Day, where I named Bryan Fischer a nithing for misrepresenting research to make these myths look like truths.

These myths dismissed, we are left with religious bigotry as the cause, and that is what I wish to address here.

It must be understood by those of us who are endeavoring to revive or reconstruct ancient forms of religion that our polytheistic ancestors did not have the most enlightened view of the matter either, with the proviso that their views were informed by cultural prejudices and not religious. To that extent, arguing over whether our polytheistic ancestors were tolerant or intolerant of homosexuality is problematic.

It is rendered meaningless once we understand that we can’t even talk about homosexuality in an ancient context, because the ancients did not have the same attitudes we have today, either of homosexual acts or of gender. I say this, and I believe it is an important point, because there are Pagan groups today that object to LGBT equality. Such objections, I argue, are misplaced.
Homosexuality has not been universally seen as immoral; it has not even always been seen as homosexuality. As often happens, the truth is much more complex than the simple black and white model offered modern Western audiences.

We claim to live in an enlightened age yet we are trapped by our own understanding of gender roles and categories. We are brought up to believe that there are boys and there are girls. Boys have penises and girls have vaginas. This is known as dimorphism (the belief that anatomy defines women and men). According to this view there is nothing in between and it is obvious how the pieces are supposed to go together. And no surprise: we are brought up to see the world in this way. But is this an accurate reflection of how things are? Is gender to be understood as biological or as a social construct?

Archaeologist Joan Breton-Connelly speaks of “presentist” assumptions – arguments based on or colored by “late twentieth -century political sensibilities.”[1] With regard to genders as “fixed” categories Breton-Connelly appeals to Judith Butler’s questioning of “woman” as a fixed category in her Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity (1990) in which she “exposes the ways in which traditional feminist constructs decontextualize individuals from their historical, political, and cultural settings and identities.”[2] The same can be said of homosexuals as a fixed category.

Few people realize that homosexuality is a modern concept. The pathology of the 19th century created the category from the male/female conceptualized as abnormal.[3] Ancient ideas about sex and sexuality are far more ambiguous.[4]

To claim therefore that modern distinctions and prejudices are simply continuances of ancient Pagan feeling on the subject is to misstate the case. As Marilyn Katz puts it, “the nineteenth-century notion of sexual pathology was unknown to antiquity.” As she goes on to say, “[T]here is a radical discontinuity between the ancient and modern discourses on sexuality.”[5]
But what if gender was based on gender roles and not strictly on plumbing?

Take for example my own Norse ancestors. While a boy might be born with male sex organs, that simple fact did not in itself make him a man. Gender categories were not fixed and manhood was something that had to be earned – and maintained – through the activities normally associated with that gender category. This meant that while a boy and his penis could aspire to manhood, so could a woman. By laying aside one set of gender roles and embracing another, a woman could “become” a man. Conversely, a man could “become” a woman.

“This is a world in which ‘masculinity’ always has a plus value, even (or perhaps especially) when it is enacted by a woman,” writes one scholar.[6] It was “a society in which being born male precisely did not confer automatic superiority, a society in which distinction had to be acquired, and constantly reacquired, by wresting it away from others.” Because women had no theoretical ceiling and men no theoretical floor, gender categories were flexible and movable.[7]

Like the Norse, the Romans and Greeks lacked a modern understanding of “homosexual” and “heterosexual.” Once again, it was not what a Roman “was” but what a Roman “did” that determined things. A Roman male was supposed to be a penetrator, the “active” partner in sexual activity. It was manly to penetrate; it was feminine to be penetrated.

For example, a man would brag about penetrating another man, like Sinfjötl in the First Lay of Helgi Hundingsbani:[8]

On Sága’s Ness full nine wolves we
Had together – I gat them all.

He is reminding Gudmund of how often he has “had” him sexually. One attempt to convert Iceland floundered on such accusations made against the Saxon bishop who had been penetrated by Thorvald, and Icelandic Christian working for him.

The bishop gave birth to nine children,
Thorvald was father to them all.

The Norse understood things in the same terms. “Anal penetration constructed the man who experienced it as whore, bride, mare, bitch, and the like – in whatever guise a female creature.”[9]

The evidence suggests that for the Norseman’s “character was not either male or female, but lay on a spectrum ranging from strong to week, aggressive to passive, powerful to powerless, winner to loser.”[10]

To be called a man was the highest compliment a man could pay a “woman,” as we see in Laxdaela Saga when Snorri of Helgafell says of Gudrun the Fair, “Now you can see what a man Gudrun is, when she gets the better of both of us.”

To be a man was to be hvatur – bold, active, and vigorous – and this was to be admired, whatever sort of plumbing you had. Likewise, to be blauður – soft and weak – was to be despised, whatever sort of plumbing you had.[11]

We who seek to revive the religions of the past should not bring into the present the attitudes of our ancestors towards gender and especially not something as historically nebulous and indefinable as “homosexuality.” We do not share cultures with our ancestors even if we seek to share their religions. And we certainly cannot base our objections on religious grounds; the Christians can claim their god told them homosexuality is wrong (debatable) but our gods have told us no such thing. There is no real reason not to be open-minded and tolerant about gender and sexuality because there are no real arguments to be made against doing so.
Notes:

[1] Joan Breton-Connelly, Portrait of a Priestess: Women and Ritual in Ancient Greece (Princeton University Press, 2007), 19-20.
[2] Breton-Connelly (2007), 22. See also Cynthia Eller, Am I a Woman?: A Skeptic’s Guide to Gender (Beacon Press, 2004).
[3] Marilyn Katz, “Ideology and ‘The Status of Women’ in Ancient Greece,” History and Theory 31 (1992), 92. With regard to “homosexual” or “gay/lesbian,” and the effect of using one term over another see Steve Williams, “Gay and Lesbian or Homosexual? What’s in a Word?” http://www.care2.com/causes/civil-rights/blog/gay-and-lesbian-or-homosexual-does-it-matter/
[4] See Ray Laurence, Roman Passions: A History of Pleasure in Imperial Rome (Continuum, 2009), 84-86 for a discussion of views of “homosexuality”in the Roman world.
[5] Katz (1992), 92.
[6] Carol Clover, “Regardless of Sex: Men, Women, and Power in Early Northern Europe,” Speculum 68 (1993), 372.
[7] Clover (1993), 380.
[8] Robert Ferguson, The Vikings: A History (Viking Penguin, 2009), 234.
[9] Clover (1993), 375.
[10] Nancy Marie Brown, The Far Traveler: Voyages of a Viking Woman (Harcourt, 2007), 74.
[11] Brown (2007), 74.

Oct 072010
 

It’s hardly a secret that certain elements in the United States desire to overturn the Constitution and bring America to a theocratic form of government, in the process turning the clock back on the European Enlightenment and re-writing the history of the past thousand years or so.

The process has already begun. The United States dodged a bullet during the Bush administration, when dominionists came closest to controlling the government. It was a near thing and while one would think the election of a left-leaning centrist president would put the brakes on the drift, it has not. The Religious Right is as potent a force as ever.

Though Evangelicals comprise only about 25% of the population, and extremists/fundamentalists only about half that, their influence is all out of proportion with their numbers thanks to their wealth and their positions in government. Eight years of owning an administration did not hurt their cause at all, however much they might complain after the fact.

Today, xenophobia and Islamophobia have become central to the conservative platform. We are told that Sharia Law threatens to overturn our Constitution, but it is not Sharia Law that we are threatened with but Mosaic Law, which to all intents in purposes is identical, save for the name of the god involved, and who will be calling the shots.

For those who are either irreligious or follow spiritual paths other than Christianity, one is as bad as the other, and neither of these essentially Bronze Age law codes has any place in a modern liberal democracy which enshrines ideas of diversity, pluralism, and individual human rights. It must be remembered that the Old Testament enshrines none of these things. The Mosaic Law is not about rights but about obligations and restrictions; it is not inclusive but exclusive.

Where does this drift leave those belonging to alternative religions, minority groups like modern Paganism, which itself is a diverse collection of spiritual paths? Clearly, a theocracy – Christian or Islamic – is not to be desired. Pagan religion was suppressed for many centuries. As late as the 18th century, some American colonies had law codes as repressive as the fifth century Theodosian Code. A prison term awaited anyone who denied the Trinity or the Scriptures.

The American Revolution and the Constitution that was its aftermath, that was the highest development of the European Enlightenment, changed all that. State sponsored religion, that scourge of the Old World, was banished from these shores by liberalism and its victory over the status quo.

So modern conservative Christians want to turn the clock back, and to a period that left Paganism – or any other religion, even other monotheisms – outlawed. Do not forget that in the early days of the colonies both Catholicism and Judaism were outlawed. Do not forget that some of these prejudices remained so ingrained that the United States did not get its first Catholic president until John F. Kennedy in 1961. He remains our only Catholic president.

The religious landscape of America has changed greatly since the 18th century, when most Americans were Protestants of one denomination or another. We have more Catholics (of many varieties) and more Jews and we have Muslims and Hindus and Buddhists and others, including Pagans. That this religious diversity did not emerge until state-sponsored religion was banished is no accident and no mystery.

Historian A.H. Armstrong relates for us the legacy of Christian intolerance:

The choice of the way of intolerance by the authorities of Church and empire in the late fourth century has had some very serious and lasting consequences. The last vestiges of its practical effects, in the form of the imposition of at least petty and vexatious disabilities on forms of religion not approved by the local ecclesiastical establishment, lasted in some European countries well into my lifetime. And theoretical approval of this sort of intolerance has often long outlasted the power to apply it in practice. After all, as late as 1945 many approved Roman Catholic theologians in England, and the Roman authorities, objected to a statement on religious freedom very close to Vatican II’s declaration on that subject.

If this is not damning enough, Armstrong goes on to say,

In general, I do not think that any Christian body has ever abandoned the power to persecute and repress while it actually had it. The acceptance of religious tolerance and freedom as good in themselves has normally been the belated, though sometimes sincere and whole-hearted, recognition and acceptance of a fait accompli. This long persistence of Theodosian intolerance in practice and its still longer persistence in theory has certainly been a cause, though not the only cause, of that unique phenomenon of our time, the decline not only of Christianity but all forms of religious belief and the growth of a totally irreligious and unspiritual materialism.

Conservative Christianity has driven people away from traditional religion but it has not forgotten them, and has in the process created a whole new group of non-believers known as atheists who find religion reprehensible. By religion, of course, they mean religion in the Christian sense. But alternative religions – unfairly – share the fallout. Religion in the modern sense has become the problem. In the ancient world, religion was the solution, transcending cultural and ethnic barriers and bringing people of diverse beliefs together. It can be that way again. There is no reason religion has to remain defined solely by one restrictive group of believers.

But only if theocracy is kept at bay. The threat is real. More than a few Republican candidates belief that the Ten Commandments should be legislated into law. They speak openly of bringing prayer back into school, and of making social work the sole domain of Christian groups, which would make all needy Americans victims of unwanted proselytizing, of re-writing school textbooks to bring them in line with conservative ideology, of teaching Christian creationism in our public schools. In ways large and small, all over America, the First Amendment of the Constitution is under attack.

It is essential, I think, for Pagans of all religious minorities in this country, to remember their history, and if they do not know it, to learn it. We have everything to lose and nothing to gain by a rightward turn in matters of religion. We can argue about conservative and liberal politics and until conservative politics became so closely tied up with conservative Christianity, these did not matter so much where the First Amendment is concerned. But until the Republican Party divorces the Religious Right, religious minorities must remain on their guard.

Aug 272010
 

Islamophobia has been on the rise since 2001. The latest cause célèbre of conservative opponents of Islam is the Park 51 Islamic Cultural Center. The extent of this opposition is shown by the intentional mislabeling of this project as the “Ground Zero Mosque” despite the by now well known facts – that it is not at Ground Zero but two blocks away (it is not even visible from Ground Zero) and it is not a mosque, cut a community center with a prayer area. Imagine a hospital with a chapel. Do we call that a church?

I don’t. I go into a hospital quite frequently which has not only a chapel but pictures of Jesus on a little table by the door.

Things have gotten so out of control that it is being suggested by some on the right that great Americans “give up their rights” and that Muslims ought to forfeit their Constitutional guarantee of free exercise and go somewhere else, or that Islam is not really a religion at all but a cult, and is therefore not protected by the Constitution. Qur’an burnings have even been announced; an act of violence by Christians somehow meant to demonstrate “once and for all” that Islam is a violent religion.

What is a Pagan to think about this feeding frenzy of angry monotheists? One possible response would be to say, “Well, it’s between them; it doesn’t concern me.” I am here to argue that such a response would be mistaken. It does concern us. It concerns everyone because it concerns a Constitutional guarantee that is under attack by the dominant culture.

Conservative Christians have constructed a new narrative for America, a Mythic America that was founded by and for Christians, an America in which free exercise applies only to Christians, and in which the wall of separation is a myth. The First Amendment ensures that all Americans can practice their religion of choice – or none at all. When the dominant culture – in this case Christianity – takes it upon itself to decide to whom Constitutional guarantees apply, it is time to worry.

Naturally, anyone who defends Islamic rights is accused at worst of being a terrorist, or of being somebody who is “soft” on terrorism. Islam has become the communism of the new millennium, and we should all be searching under our beds for Islamofascists, one of the wonder new terms the right has gifted us. I have been attacked myself, and just recently, for defending Islamic rights in this country. For it is not just conservative Christians who are up in arms and misinformed, but Pagans too. The hysteria is widespread.

But I am not here to defend Islam. My own views on monotheism are hardly a secret to anyone who has read my pieces over the past few years. But my views on monotheism in general or Islam in particular are hardly applicable to this case, for this case is not about Islam but about the Constitution. And the Constitution says that a Muslim group can build a community center wherever they want. There is nothing illegal about it. They did not steal the land. They made a deal with a developer and they are using the site of an old coat factory in the same way that some Christian-oriented group might.

The only difference is that they are Muslims.

And it was Muslim terrorists who attacked the World Trade Center on 9/11.

The thing is, it wasn’t THESE Muslims. And mis-characterizations of Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf, a man with a reputation as a progressive interfaith leader, as an agent of America’s destruction are simply character attacks aimed at creating at atmosphere of fear and resentment. Fear is the coinage of Republican politics and has been since 2001. Fear of minorities, fear of immigrants, fear of non-Christians, fear of feminists, secular humanists, atheists, the LGBT community – and fear of Islam. It is easy to rally people around fear-inspiring causes – Irish immigrants, Germans in WWI, Japanese in WWII, communists in the 50s, Muslims today.

The situation gets very confused – as it’s meant to – fear mongering inspires neither calmness nor rational thought. Fear demands that people respond on a visceral, atavistic level, from the gut, in the same way that George W. Bush ran the country for eight years, from the gut. It is an anti-intellectual stimulant, fear is, and it brooks no argument.

For a Pagan, to get back to my original point, such attacks should resonate on a level invisible to most monotheists, who have a long history of being the persecutors rather than the persecuted. Once upon a time it was the witches who were being sometimes literally fed to the fires of hate. It isn’t all that long ago that being a Pagan was against the law, or that being a Pagan could cost you your job or your home. Rather than jumping up and joining those who would tear down freedom of religion, we ought to be defending those whose rights are under attack. Because next time, it could be us.

Can anyone forget the words of Jerry Falwell or the agreement of Pat Robertson in the aftermath of 9/11 on the 700 Club?:

JERRY FALWELL: And I agree totally with you that the Lord has protected us so wonderfully these 225 years. And since 1812, this is the first time that we’ve been attacked on our soil and by far the worst results. And I fear, as Donald Rumsfeld, the Secretary of Defense, said yesterday, that this is only the beginning. And with biological warfare available to these monsters — the Husseins, the Bin Ladens, the Arafats — what we saw on Tuesday, as terrible as it is, could be miniscule if, in fact — if, in fact — God continues to lift the curtain and allow the enemies of America to give us probably what we deserve.

PAT ROBERTSON: Jerry, that’s my feeling. I think we’ve just seen the antechamber to terror. We haven’t even begun to see what they can do to the major population.

JERRY FALWELL: The ACLU’s got to take a lot of blame for this.

PAT ROBERTSON: Well yes.

JERRY FALWELL: And, I know that I’ll hear from them for this. But, throwing God out successfully with the help of the federal court system, throwing God out of the public square, out of the schools. The abortionists have got to bear some burden for this because God will not be mocked. And when we destroy 40 million little innocent babies, we make God mad. I really believe that the pagans, and the abortionists, and the feminists, and the gays and the lesbians who are actively trying to make that an alternative lifestyle, the ACLU, People For the American Way — all of them who have tried to secularize America — I point the finger in their face and say “you helped this happen.”

PAT ROBERTSON: Well, I totally concur, and the problem is we have adopted that agenda at the highest levels of our government. And so we’re responsible as a free society for what the top people do. And, the top people, of course, is the court system.

Can we so easily forget that it was Pagans Falwell blamed first, and not Islam? Does anyone seriously think that if they succeed in depriving the world’s second largest religion of their Constitutional rights that they will hesitate to do the same to Pagans?

The threat to the Constitution is very real. Conservative Christians, religious zealots known as dominionists, wield a degree of power in this country far out of proportion to their numbers. Study right-wing Christian theocracy; study the New Apostolic Reformation (NAR). Study Sarah Palin and her witch-hunting pastor. People like to scoff, but then, people scoffed at Hitler too.

And look where they ended up.

No, I don’t have to think twice to know where I stand. With religious freedom and with the Constitutional guarantees I was born with, and not just for me, but for everyone.

May 052010
 

Outside my window right now, a breeze lingers and turns through the riotous green of the trees, and the climbing ivy clings to the mottled red brick of the house next door. My cat sleeps curled on the futon next to me, making a gentle noise that is sometimes a purr and sometimes a snore. The pale yellow curtain billows to brush my arm, and above everything, the sky crests blue.

I want to begin this way because I know that writing for Pagan+Politics as a pacifist and an anarchist is likely to be a difficult and sometimes daunting task, that my views will likely stir up a lot of criticisms and objections among some of you, maybe even provoke a few unkind accusations. Comments might get heated, and issues will definitely get complicated as together we tease out the many implications, false assumptions and unacknowledged fears tangled up around words like “peace,” “freedom” and “responsibility.” I have been writing publicly about pacifism for several years now, and it still remains a challenge to face down my own anxieties about misinterpretation, hypocrisy, judgement and impotence. It is not always fun to write about ideals and ethical principles that can make not only my readers but even myself feel uncomfortable, uncertain, inadequate, angry or sorrowful.

So why do it? Because I honestly believe that, despite our discomfort and uncertainty, despite our habitual resistance to the idea, the truth is that peace is easy and freedom is innate. Though we are surrounded today with myriad examples of violence, war, hatred and rage, though we have complicated systems of government control looming over us at every step — ordinary, everyday life for most of us is still characterized by spontaneous, consensual cooperation and moments full of the profound simplicity of peaceful relationship. Outside my window and here in this room, the world revels in this sunny spring afternoon, a spring that came without coercion or malice, that arose delicately and swiftly out of the interplay of countless creatures and forces, gods and forms, all organizing themselves through their striving and reaching and vying and dancing, rooted in the necessary rot of autumn, preserved through the inevitable cold of winter, and deeply engaged in the ceaseless process of becoming something beautiful.

It is undeniable that violence, too, can be all too easy, and this is why I believe that Paganism needs committed pacifists among its ranks. As a small but quickly growing, often chaotic community cobbled together from the bits and pieces of memory, history, scholarship, creativity, identity and hope available to us in a modern/postmodern, globalizing/global-warming world, we are not only wild and strong-willed on the fringes of mainstream culture — we are also vulnerable and clumsy, still finding our feet. The Wild Hunt‘s coverage last month of the child abuse case involving a self-proclaimed “druid” reminds us in no uncertain terms that we cannot take for granted this vital process of forging healthy relationships both as individuals and as communities, relationships based on values like honor, honesty, kindness and love. Even simple, natural things like peace and freedom can take a lot of hard work to realize in the face of resistance.

As philosophical schools with a history of hundreds of years across many cultures and religions, both pacifism and anarchism have sturdy roots in the spiritual as well as political world community. Like Paganism itself, they are often misunderstood, misapplied and intensely debated even among their practitioners. Yet the broad, mind-bogglingly diverse community that is today’s Paganism can benefit greatly from a study of these philosophies. While most of us are familiar with the popular, often-quoted Wiccan Rede, as a community we have grown beyond the point where its simple eight-word instruction can serve as a meaningful starting place for conversations about harm, violence, intention, freedom and peace-making. Though the Rede’s laissez-faire moral code may work very well for some of us, it cannot possibly speak to the huge range of perspectives found among those practicing Druidry, Asatru, Neo-Shamanism, Ceremonial Magic, Feri, Dianic and eclectic Witchcraft traditions, Hellenic, Khemetic and other Reconstructionist paths, Voudon, Santería, and the almost endless permutations and combinations thereof. Pacifism and anarchism can provide the Pagan community both with a fertile common ground for conversation, and examples of effective direct action from the past and present day. Each has its theorists and activists, its intellectuals and apologists, its heroes, martyrs, tragedies and holidays. What Pagans can learn from the history of struggle, debate, defeat and subtle triumph of these philosophies, which have existed on the vulnerable, breath-taking fringes of the mainstream for generations, cannot be underestimated.

Yet there is something perhaps even more important about what we as Pagans can bring uniquely to the philosophies of pacifism and anarchism. Grounded in acts of civil disobedience, conscientious objection and nonviolent resistance, pacifism has long suffered under the common misperception that it is passive and detached in nature, characterized by a refusal to engage or participate. The muddy, sweaty, full-bodied liveliness of modern Paganism, expressing itself creatively through engaging ritual, drama, sensuality, art, music, poetry, story-telling and writing, can bring an earthy energy and a sense of sacred embodiment to our understanding of pacifism as peace-making, an active process of attending and creating, in which new choices are made and new alternatives forged even in the midst of violence. Likewise anarchism, breaking free from the rule of law and the comforts of government, can too often flounder into mere chaos as passionate individuals pursue disparate goals without grounding in a common vision. As Pagans, our engaged experiences of nature provide just this needed grounding, building organically from the natural laws, energies, currents and forces of the earth as a living, spirit-filled organism and ecosystem. As people aware of our place in the natural world, we can discover and honor a shared but intrinsically local emergent order and structure to community life without reliance on externally-imposed rules or hierarchical rulers.

Even as there are leaders and role models in the Pagan community whose spiritual and political lives are guided by the theories of pacifism and anarchism, there are many critics who would argue that pacifism is, at its most basic, against our human nature, or who claim that anarchism is fundamentally opposed to peaceful, cooperative social existence. My own view of peace-making and free community, however, has been guided with every breath by an honest and reverent relationship with the natural world, one that does not rest easily with the naïve view of nature as safe, cute and cuddly, but pushes instead towards a more expansive understanding of the roles that destruction, death, power, passion, will and conflict might play — roles that do not degenerate into violence and oppression, but instead lead us human animals in the ceaseless process of becoming something beautiful.

Mar 052010
 

In March of 2008, Vice President Dick Cheney was interviewed on ABC by Martha Raddatz. During the conversation, Cheney claimed there was a general consensus for our success in Iraq, and Raddatz then asked how this could be, when two-thirds of the American people opposed the war.

Cheney’s now famous answer, “So?”

I certainly remember what it felt like to hear that from someone in charge of our nation’s destiny. I was angry, frustrated, and scared. I wondered, again, how the American voters could have re-elected the Bush-Cheney team in 2004. I wondered what the future of this country would be, if the majority of Americans voted for paternalism (not one of this Pagan’s family values), for “I’m running things and don’t care what anyone else thinks” and for just plain obfuscation (despite the fact that millions of viewers heard that “So?”, sources say it was not included in the transcript of the interview released by Cheney’s office).

Recently, seeing Senator Jim Bunning’s standing in the way of the Senate majority waiting to move on unemployment benefits and bringing construction projects to a halt, I was reminded of the Cheney interview. If you had reminded Bunning, as many did, of the lives he was affecting by becoming a one-person roadblock, his answer would probably also have been “So?”

But wait…Bunning had a point to make. After all, whatever happened to running government on a budget, as we run our businesses and households. If you watch MSNBC (yes, I’m a Rachel Maddow fan) you already know the answer: pay-go was abandoned during the Bush administration, during which Congress dutifully spent us into a huge deficit by passing legislation like tax cuts for the rich with no regard to the cost.

Now, of course, those same members of Congress are standing in the way of health insurance reform, of extending unemployment benefits and repairing our decaying infrastructure, all because they have suddenly decided that, while it was OK under a Republican administration to spend with no regard to matching revenue, we can no longer do it under a Democratic one.

Expect your legislators to be straight about what they believe, and vote accordingly? You can expect it, but what you’ll actually get is “So?”

Now what’s the point of all this? Here’s my thought: we just should not accept that fact that the people we elect can do whatever they (and their lobbyists) please with no accountability. They need to run for election, and they need our votes (and those of most of the people we know) to win.

Politics is a matter of simple math: you get enough votes to win, you get re-elected. Say what you want about stolen elections; I believe that we are still in a position to influence outcomes.

As Pagans, we understand that we are personally responsible for our actions, and for how those actions affect others. The only way the politics of “So?” continues to exist is because we, the voters, also say, “So?” instead of shutting down our computers and our televisions, and getting involved in grassroots organizing.

Think about it.

Then do something about it.

Feb 182010
 

Raise your hand if you’ve never, ever been to a ritual which involved healing of some sort. OK, I’ll bet I can count the number of hands raised on the fingers of one of those hands.

Most Pagans see healing as an integral part of their path, one of the ways in which they commonly choose to interact with Nature, the world around them, and their fellow human beings. Just off the top of my head I can remember working to heal many things, from the salmon in the Penobscot River to a friend with an impacted wisdom tooth. We heal the earth, we heal people (and animals) in need, but how much effort have we put into healing this nation?

We as a people are more divided than we have been since the Civil War. Families cannot talk about critical issues around the dinner table without someone walking off in anger and frustration before the pie is served. Civil discourse has become something wistfully remembered but rarely attained.

I know, I know, there is blame to be shared. Most of us seem to get our “news” from sources that validate our particular points of view, rather than those which present facts in an absolutely neutral way without any “spin”.

Conservatives have Fox News and Glenn Beck; liberals have MSNBC and Rachel Maddow. Gotcha media feeds gotcha politics, as the US Senate, and this wonderful nation, appears to grind to a halt.

Last night, as many times before, I held the hand of a woman (a politically independent former Republican) who looked to me for hope because she honestly believed that this country was circling the drain and that there was just no way to prevent inevitable disaster.

And surely she isn’t the only one of us with those concerns.

So, I would like to suggest that some healing is in order. If we reach out to the salmon in the Penobscot, if we put our voices and hands together to relieve the pain of a friend (human or otherwise), how can we not do the same for our nation?

How? Well, let’s think about it. The first thing I ask, when someone requests my help, is “what are you doing to help yourself?” Only when every possible effort is made in the material world, in the “seen world”, will I offer to work in the “unseen world” as well. The Gods help those who help themselves, in other words. Feel free to disagree, but that’s my basic premise. So, in this post I’m talking about acting in both modalities, OK?

What can we do in the material world? Try listening, open minded and open hearted, to a friend or family member with a different political point of view; then try to find some common ground that you share, and point that out. Once you’ve done that, stop, respectfully and well short of trying to change his or her mind about anything. Do that as frequently as you can (I do it daily), consciously replacing some negativity with positive energy. It feels good and, in some small way, is a start at healing what ails us. Of course there are lots of other options for political action, but let’s start with the most simple, one on one.

In circle, healing can also play a part. How you do this is, of course, yours to determine. If you need a suggestion to get you started, here’s a call for peace often used in Druidry: “May there be peace in this circle; may there be peace in all the world.” Simple, but it works for me.

I hate to give my readers homework, but this retired teacher is going to do just that. If you agree that this country needs healing, and if you feel that healing is part of your Pagan beliefs, try reaching out gently to look for common ground. Try putting some positive energy (as well as a good sense of humor) into this work, and let us know what happens.

Feb 112010
 

Hello, my name is Jason Pitzl-Waters, co-founder and Projects Coordinator for the Pagan Newswire Collective. The PNC’s purpose is to share and promote primary-source reporting from within our interconnected communities. Building off the successful “Pagans at the Parliament” site, which raised the profile of Pagan involvement at the Parliament of the World’s Religions, and helped break important stories as they happened, the PNC has decided to pursue more targeted single-topic blog projects. The first will be an ongoing group-blog entitled Pagan+Politics.

This group blog is about modern American Pagans, from across the ideological and theological spectrum, commenting on the politics of the day. Giving insight and opinion, and sharing how their religious faith shapes their political views.

Why this project? Because the last few years have shown us that contemporary Paganism, whether we like it or not, is a part of today’s political discussion and process. We have two openly Pagan elected officials currently serving in the United States of America, Democrat Jessica Orsini, Alderwoman, 3rd Ward, City of Centralia, Missouri, and Republican Dan Halloran, New York City Councilman for District 19. There were two openly Pagan delegates at the 2008 Democratic National Convention that chose Barack Obama to be the Democratic Party’s candidate, military widow Roberta Stewart successfully fought the VA, under the Bush Administration, to win the right for Wiccan soldiers to place a Pentacle on their graves, and recently, Obama Administration officials met with Pagan chaplain Patrick McCollum to talk about discrimination towards minority faiths in our country.

It is fair to say that modern Paganism, as a movement of interconnected yet individual faith communities, is long overdue in having a more active and ongoing say in the issues and policies that affect our lives. Pagan+Politics hopes to become an important part of our faith communities having that say.

In addition to discussing politics, this blog is also about eradicating myths. The myth that we are politically homogeneous, the myth that adherents to our faiths aren’t invested in the political process, and the myth that we are incapable of acknowledging and embracing our true diversity. This blog will feature heated discussions and broach divisive issues, but I hope it will also build bridges within our communities, and provide a human face to those outside our movement.

I’m extremely proud to introduce the (lucky) seven initial blog authors, Laura Allen, a political moderate, and student at Cherry Hill Seminary, Duane Clemons, a former Republican-turned-independent who delivers mail in Kansas, Hrafnkell Haraldsson, a progressive Heathen and founder of the Mos Maiorum Foundation, Daniel Allen Maine, a Witch and long-time conservative currently serving in the U.S. Army, Rita Moran, chairperson of the Kennebec County (Maine) Democratic Committee, who served as an openly Pagan at-large national delegate for Obama at the Democrat National Convention in Denver, Eric Robbins, who is partnering with Rita Moran on this project, and who organized of Maine’s first chapter of Drinking Liberally, and Cara Schulz, a conservative with a rich background in broadcast journalism who was recently elected Tamias (Treasurer) for Hellenion.

As we progress, I envision that we’ll expand to include even more political and religious diversity at Pagan+Politics, and also undertake special coverage of political events that resonate within the wider Pagan community (I’m also interested in initiating projects for Pagan political commentary in other countries, but that’s for another time). But for now, please warmly welcome them as they start this exciting new endeavor. I hope you’ll add this site to your blogroll, subscribe to the RSS feed, follow it on Twitter, and become a fan at Facebook. I also hope you’ll (respectfully) engage them in the comments at the site as they start to post on Friday. Each blogger is committed to making at least one post per week, so there will be plenty to digest and interact with.