Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Autumn Celebrations Before Winter

Autumn is my favorite time of the year without a doubt. I may have grown very partial to late spring because of the harshness and the length of winter up here in the tundra, but I have always felt my best in the autumn. It’s almost as though the cooling off of the days, the smell of wood smoke and the barrage of colors registering from golden yellow, orange, red to brown, truly inspires me. What I am not crazy about are the hunters shooting off their shot guns at the water fowl in the shallow lakes that surround our house. They typically start shooting just before dawn, so it can be a rude awakening for those unaccustomed to hearing gun shots in the early morning hours. Also, there is no gradual drop in temperatures living up here, since winter comes quickly and without much in the way of an announcement. We have already had a bit of snow on the ground, and with the freezing weather now in play, it’s only a matter of days before our first really big snow storm changes the autumn fully into winter.

Speaking of rude awakenings, I am still battling my problem with sleeping. I have eliminated my habit of reading in bed before sleeping and moved the alarm clock out of my view (off of the night stand) to make that part of my bedroom darker and better for sleeping. No more eying the clock at odd hours of the night or morning. I have also tried to eliminate any and all distractions to preparing for bed, and with this single minded approach I have had some success. I have some good nights intermixed with bad nights, but overall, I am still suffering from some amount of sleep deprivation, and this is a problem. I going to have to elevate my response so that I might overcome this issue, and that means seeing a pulmonologist and visiting a sleep clinic.

What seems to be happening to me is that I dream far too much, my sleep has too little non-REM sleep or deep sleep, and that I often wake up after five or six hours of sleep and then have difficulties getting back to sleep again. It is a real physically debilitating ordeal for me, and one that I have taken very seriously. It’s only a matter of time before the cause is identified and then the solution will be applied. I have checked out the various sleep web pages and I have followed nearly of what they have suggested. I am temporarily taking Abien, and that seems to allow me maintain my sleep uninterrupted, but it is likely that I have some kind of sleep apnea. I think its time to apply a more intensive regimen under a doctor’s supervision, of course. I hope to have all of this resolved before December arrives.

Until such a time, I must defer to my health issues and not focus as much as I have on my writing. Thus, there will be a hiatus of a few to perhaps several weeks without any blog articles. I apologize for the lapse, but it is necessary, considering the dire nature of the health issues that I face. If I can lick these issues, then I will be able to ease back into writing my usual interesting and informative articles (as I have done previously) for my public to read and enjoy. I would also like to mention that there are a lot of articles in the archives already, and it isn’t too difficult to use the topic index on the left had side of the blog web page below all of the other displays and blog based data. Check out some of the older articles and I am sure you will find some real gems there.

Hope you all had a wonderful Samhain and Thanksgiving, and with a bit of luck and insight, I will return soon to the blogosphere.

Frater Barrabbas

Friday, November 1, 2013

A Few More Thoughts About Christianity

Someone didn’t particularly care for the article “Thoughts About Christianity” which I recently wrote. She didn’t leave any comments on my blog article, but gave me quite an earful on my Face Book page. She also didn’t like the fact that I disagreed with her statements criticizing my article, and even though I was also doing my day job, she insisted that I engage in some kind of dialogue with her about her opinions. I really don’t have a lot of time to engage in long conversations on the internet and I avoid it where possible. I figure that if someone wants to comment on my article they can leave a comment through the online blog. This person, whose name was Susan, appears to be retired (according to her FB page data) and probably has a lot more free time than I do. So, I decided to air her comments on a blog article and respond to them when I had the requisite amount of time. She does make some valid points, even though the tone of her arguments are the kind of whining “both sides do it” sort of logic that sets my teeth on edge.

First of all, she said that I seemed to be bashing Christianity or somehow being insulting to Christians by writing a culturally opposing perspective regarding what I think is the blatant sectarianism found in aspects of Christianity. Let’s keep in mind the fact that the culture of this country is Christian dominated. If you want a definition of vested privilege, then being white, male and Christian, not to mention wealthy, are four parts of the overall equation. Those of us who are not Christian get to deal with public perceptions and media exploitation that are quite overall negative and even at times, nasty. If you are a Jew, then you’re a greedy, grasping Christ-killer. If you are a Muslim, then you’re a terrorist. If you are Mormon, then you are a cultist. If you are an atheist, then you are a secular oppressor of good Christians. And if you are a witch or a pagan, then you are a Satanist, child molester, ritual murderer, drug dealer, and whatever else is foul and evil. Granted, there are many Christians who are religiously tolerant and they might even be in the majority. As I said in my article, I respect anyone’s religious activities and beliefs so long as they don’t impinge on my own rights. What I have a problem with are those sectarians who believe that their religious beliefs and practices are the only true ones, and the rest are either due to tragic ignorance or diabolical instigation.

Does it seem that I have a chip on my shoulder or that I am somehow biased and poisoned regarding the faith of Christianity? Well, I have had to deal with quite a lot of cognitive dissonance in my career as a witch and a pagan. I have been preached at, called names, temporarily held against my will while others fervently prayed over me, and even threatened by supposedly good and faithful Christians. Perhaps they were just doing their religious duty as they saw it, but as long as they interfered with my right to worship, then they were decidedly and completely in the wrong. Even the couple who initiated me into witchcraft, Bill and Sharon Schnoebelen, became fundamentalist preachers and Bill wrote a book entitled “Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie” that continues to be quoted and used as evidence that witches and pagans are actually an evil cult.

All you need to do is check out Witch Hunts on WitchVox to see the list of current lecturers and authors who are telling lots of Christians that witches and pagans are evil worshipers of Satan. I even have the misfortune of living in the congressional district represented by Congresswoman Michelle Bachman and I have to deal with her embarrassing rants about paganism and the evils of witchcraft. Others might find her to be a champion of Christian virtues while others just laugh at her idiotic statements. I don’t find her funny at all. Instead, I find her sentiments to be a chilling reminder that our religious freedoms cannot be taken for granted.

This is a cultural battle and instead of being too generous to other side (or turning the other cheek) we should at least stand up for our own rights and beliefs. We shouldn’t be idle when others are actively defaming us. Other faiths respond to bigoted attacks and so should we. We don’t seek to proselytize or convert others to our faith, we just want to be allowed to worship in peace and security. That doesn’t seem to be much to ask for in our so-called free society, but it can’t be depended on or maintained unless we are vigilant against those who might try to take our religious freedoms away from us. This is a real social issue in our post-modern times and to ignore it or pretend that there is equality, by saying that both sides do it, is terribly misinformed.

So, Susan starts out accusing me of being one of many who are hurling insults and bashing the other side without any significant point being made. In fact, she felt that my article was, for the most part, irrelevant and pointless.

Christians bashing Pagans, Pagans bashing Christians. Each scorns the other for limitless reasons. And though I am not on the proverbial fence [whatever that means], I am weary of the contrasts and comparisons, insults, and rhetoric hurled at different belief systems.”

My only issue with Christianity, or for that matter, any religion, is when it promotes itself as the exclusive truth. A Monotheistic Deity is universal, and that means that it excludes all other Deities. It also paints atheism as a rejection of that truth. When I meet Christians, particularly Esoteric Christians, I have no problem with them or their faith. They don’t judge me or consider me an infidel. I see them as pleasant religious people engaging with their faith, and how they worship is no concern of mine. Of course, if they make it a point to defame members of my religion, then I have a problem, and all it really takes is to just ignorantly deny the validity of what I believe. Certainly, I don’t deny the validity of what anyone else believes, even if they happen to be an atheist and don’t believe in any religious creed whatsoever - it is their right to do so. 

Although I enjoy educational discussion, I prefer to not impugn either faiths to explain my understanding of what it means to be the creature that I am.

Not only was my previous article educational, but it didn’t impugn Christianity. It only decried sectarianism. That was the whole point of the article! Obviously, it was something that Susan missed when she read it. Some people pretend to be neutral and fair, while I don’t see any need to disguise what I believe for the sake of appearances. 

The question of magic and Christians enjoying elaborate displays of its practice is not a subject important enough to address, however, those people who choose to worship as they will, ‘an it do no harm’, are considered, according to the Apostle Paul, ‘a law unto themselves’.

The actual quote that Susan took from the New Testament was from Paul’s Epistle to the Romans, chapter 2, verse 14 through 16. Quoting it in full gives that phrase which she used a much better context.

For when the Gentiles, which have not the law, do by nature the things contained in the law, these, having not the law, are a law unto themselves: Which shew the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and their thoughts the mean while accusing or else excusing one another. In the day when God shall judge the secrets of men by Jesus Christ according to my gospel.”

When you examine the entire passage then it becomes more problematical. Paul isn’t excusing people who work magic as long as they are not harming others, or who choose to worship differently than others. They all get judged in the same manner when the end-times are nigh. Additionally, the term “Gentiles” that he uses was actually about non-Jewish pagans who were ignorant of Christ, and anyone in our epoch who is or once was a Christian doesn’t at all count as a “Gentile.” Susan quoted this biblical passage out of its very important context, naturally.

Perhaps a clearer quotation from that same work would be from Chapter 2, verses 11 and 12: “For there is no respect of persons with God. For as many as have sinned without law shall also perish without law: and as many as have sinned in the law shall be judged by the law;”

This statement is obviously highly sectarian. It doesn’t matter if one is a Christian or a pagan, all will get judged in the same manner by the same universal God. Of course, I would reject such an idea since I strongly believe that it doesn’t apply to me. Even so, there’s lots of sectarian opinions in that epistle (just as there are in other books of the New Testament). Quoting from it is a real problem if you are not a follower of the One True Religion.

While Susan might state that the question of whether Christians can legally work magic within the tenets of Christianity is irrelevant; it was a topic that others in the blogosphere commented on recently. I was just adding my opinion to that of others.

Belief in the Holy Spirit is a bit tricky. My personal belief is we are all connected by a spirit which lies dormant in some while others have a personal relationship with this masculine/feminine phenomenon known as spirit or spirits, however you please. This unforgivable sin against such spirit is ambiguous in the various scriptures as they are written, but to not acknowledge the devine [sic] in one’s self would be death, bodily and spiritually. Either way, a mortal infraction.”

While I might agree somewhat with Susan’s statement that everyone is connected to each other and everything else in the world (including animals, plants and rocks, etc.), those who don’t believe in anything spiritual are not spiritually or bodily dead. That is absurd, and it does show an unwitting contempt for those who don’t believe in religion. It is better to state something as part of one’s experience and to leave it at that, instead of implying that others are not as “enlightened” who don’t also believe it to be true. Therefore, it can’t be a “mortal infraction” unless there is a universal truth or sectarian premise that is actually valid. I know quite a number of atheists and they are often more thoughtful and ethical than those who are supposedly governed by their religion. Thus, the concept of Spirit must have a very wide definition, much wider than anyone currently knows.

I admit that I responded to her critique with a certain brevity and then informed her that I disagreed with her opinion. At that moment, I just didn’t have any time to elaborate all of my points. Susan responded with a certain umbrage at my supposed unwillingness to have a dialogue with her. It was kind of like a temper tantrum. Here’s what she wrote in reply.

Are you often misinterpreted, sir? According to you, your last article ruffled a few Christians.”

My last article, written some years ago, floated the idea that the historical Christ was a myth and that there wasn’t any actual evidence that he existed. I still think that this is a valid point, and I backed it up with the scholarly work that I found online written by another author. I have since let this whole matter drop because I can’t prove it to be a fact. (Scholars have pretty much dismissed this line of reasoning, but I still have my suspicions.) Anyway, a couple of people strongly objected to it and left their comments on the blog article.

And throughout this article, I detected a certain amount of sarcasm veiled in defensive passivity.”

I’ve never considered myself as “passive” anything. I think if you read the article you will find that I am quite passionately and aggressively against sectarianism. And for good reasons, too.

Perhaps some residual resentment for those who read your previous article. But your paper, 'Thoughts About Christianity', was a bit scathing.”

Scathing, if one is an ardent sectarian, but to an Esoteric Christian, probably not at all critical. And resentment, how can I be resentful with comments posted about an article written over three years ago? Holding a grudge that long takes way too much energy. I have better things to do.

Read it again and you'll see it. I meant no personal disrespect; just an observation on the intensity of your convictions, and a contribution of my take on Jesus' meaning of the unforgivable sin against the Holy Spirit.

The tone of Susan’s comments are actually scathing and harsh towards me and maybe even a bit passive-aggressive, too. (She does mean to be disrespectful, but she doesn’t want to be responsible for appearing to be so.) I don’t see an open and objective examination of my written article, just a bunch of complaints and groundless criticism. I do have a certain passion in my convictions, but then again, I have often been complimented for that. I also found very little of substance in Susan’s rebuttal about the definition of a sin against the Holy Spirit. I believe that I captured it quite well in my article by stating that it is most aptly used as a judgement against apostasy. Of course, Susan has to round out her umbrage with a final insult, and I quote it in full.

If you are a sinner and should be shunned by the Christians for your beliefs, perhaps they should choose different reading material, or, you could hand them the first stone.”

I am already shunned by sectarian Christians for my beliefs and practices, as I have previously stated. I also doubt that anyone who is sectarian will bother to read my article, but you never know. I wrote this article for witches and pagans to demonstrate to them the inherent hypocrisy that it is alright to practice magic and occultism if you are a Christian, but it is not OK to switch religions and then practice occultism and magick. Or for that matter, to practice occultism and magick as a pagan or witch in a Christian society supposedly surrounded by the truth.

As for handing them the first stone to clobber me with, I won’t give any sectarian the opportunity to do so. I am also not bound by any ethical rules that says I shouldn’t either defend or avenge myself on someone who threatens me or my loved ones. I am a full fledged witch in that regard, and I don’t have a problem with working malefic magic on someone when it is justified. I hope that revelation doesn’t shock anyone (especially Susan), but then again, welcome to the real world. There are a lot of ugly, brutal and evil people in the world, and I would hopefully keep them from storming the gateway of my home and world. There are also a lot of good people, too, but I don’t need to protect myself from them. (At least, I hope I don’t.)

Think my viewpoint is too extreme or prejudiced? Just to give you an idea of how crazy right-wing fundamentalists are, how about examining this recent quote from the spokesperson of the American Family Association.

“Upset that the AFA was included on an Army training session’s list of hate groups, AFA spokesman Bryan Fischer on Friday charged that the Armed Forces will use ‘lethal force’ against Christians and Tea Party activists, and may even ‘surround’ the hotel hosting next year’s Values Voter Summit.

‘The military is being conditioned to use weapons on the American Family Association. The soldiers are being conditioned in their brains to think of evangelicals, Tea Partyers, the American Family Association and the Family Research Council as domestic enemies that may have to be neutralized by lethal force,’ Fischer maintained. ‘The people you got to watch out for, you may have to turn your tanks on, are American Family Association.’”

Based on the above rhetoric, it is quite likely that a few of these inflamed Christian sectarians might actually start some kind of armed insurrection in the not too distant future. Those who are Pagan and Wiccan authors would be easy and tempting targets, indeed.

Nuff said about this issue.

Frater Barrabbas