Sunday Sermon

Real Feelings

So we went to the Samhain ritual. It was surprisingly good. The celebrants were serious about it, and the feeling in the room was definitely as "spiritual" as any church service I've ever been to. I think they could definitely add to the visual impact of their rites by spending some money on better vestments, but that may just be the costuming/theatre wonk in me talking.



At the point in the ceremony where they asked the spirits of everyone's departed loved ones to enter and be with them, several of the participants became very emotional. After the ritual, I heard several say that their loved ones (including departed pets) came and joined them in the circle. It was very moving for several of them, and everyone seemed to be enjoying a bit of a post-ritual high. The socilaizing afterward reminded me of the post-service coffee hour at a presbyterian church, but there was an excitement that was tangible in the participants.

My point in telling you all this is to address an attitude that I have encountered (and been guilty of) whenever Paganism or any 'new' religious tradition is discussed. It is common for both academics and ordinary people to dismiss the spiritual experiences of adherents of new religious movements. Often, the greater the visible emotional content of a spiritual experience, the more that experience is discounted or used as proof of the "insanity" of the participants. While this same attitude might be found in a discussion of the spiritual experiences of adherents to the Abrahamic Faiths, it's rare that anyone will suggest that their experiences aren't real to them, or that they are based in a form of mental weakness or insanity.

Believe me, I understand the impulse to be dismissive. When the pagans I know start talking about how trees healed them or how their dead cat visited them last night, I have to force myself to not roll my eyes and say, "Really? Cool... those must have been some awesome mushrooms."

But I don't do that (anymore). I listen to them, and I take it at face value. If they believe that their dead cat came to see them last night, I see no reason to argue with them about it. Unlike so many other religious traditions, they aren't telling me that I'm an evil sinner because I don't share in their beliefs. They aren't raising their children to belive that sex is a sinful act, suitable only for procreation. They aren't teaching their children that all gays and lesbians are bound for hell. They don't see themselves as masters of the planet and all life forms on it. So I can let their beliefs, some of which may seem patently silly, go by without feeling the need to argue with them.

Of course, if they were trying to legislate how I live, or telling me that they alone were right, I'd go off on them just like I go off on fundies. I guess the message of this sermon is that personal spiritual experiences should be just that - personal. Believe whatever you like, practice however you wish... right up to the point that it starts to fuck with someone else.

Go in Peace.

14 comments:

CawfeeGuy said...

great blog

Mandy said...

Thank you, Rev.

Blessed Be.

Sirus Kane said...

The ceremony was quite interesting. If I would have thought ahead I would have brought a pad and paper to write down a few things that took place, very interesting and moving for those that participated, and they seem to be better for it...

aside from the fact that they are going to burn in an eternal firey, firey hell for their abominations against Allah, Who is Good and Merciful.

His Sinfulness said...

Ben is SUCH a Muslim...

Nerdygirl said...

Meh, Ben's just in it for the virgins at the end.

Sirus Kane said...

That's IT! A Jihad be upon you and upon your ill-fated offspring. Jihad on HSBP, Jihad on Nerdy Girl, Jihad on Mandy and her infernal pink-ness, Jihad against little Christian babies that cry aloud with the wails of the innocents, Jihad against the infidels that change lanes in the middle of intersections, Jihad against the evil ones that talk in the theater... Jihad I say!

Modig_Bjorn said...

"...personal spiritual experiences should be just that - personal. Believe whatever you like, practice however you wish... right up to the point that it starts to fuck with someone else."

Too bad that is too long for a a bumper sticker!

Amen Rev.! Amen!

Raksha said...

What about me, Ben? Where's my jihad? I'm a total Heathen! Literally!

Mandy said...

I find it funny that I earned a jihad for being pink...as opposed for being Wiccan. *grin*

Mackenzie said...

There are some, though, who do criticize the Abrahamic Faiths (or any faith) just as much as the new ones: http://www.wired.com/news/wiredmag/1,71985-0.html.

This doesn't seem the way to make friends. But I don't think that's where they're going, anyway.

His Sinfulness said...

Unfortunately, your link is broken Mackenzie...

La Petite Fleur (AKA Tessa) said...

i'm with raksha... where is my jihad?

seriously... great points, linus... i really liked this blog...

Mackenzie said...

Ah, it's just not clickable. this should do it.

Emily said...

did you hear about that movie jesus camp that came out a while back? go to youtube or google it for the trailer if you haven't.

one of the biggest differences between laramie and iowa are the religion politics...it's been a bit of an adjustment.

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