The Avengers Won the War, But Lost the Argument: How Our Heroes Doom Our Future

This is not a review of Avengers: Endgame, but there are spoilers, so if you haven’t seen it and want to, don’t read ahead.

For those of you who haven’t seen it and don’t want to, the last two Avengers movies, Infinity War and Endgame are about a struggle between the “Earth’s Mightiest Heroes”, the superhero team called the “Avengers”, and a villain named “Thanos”. Thanos believes that life has exceeded the universe’s carrying capacity, and he wants to wipe out half of all life so as to bring things back into a state of balance. Thanos explains his motivation in two conversations with the heroes: Continue reading “The Avengers Won the War, But Lost the Argument: How Our Heroes Doom Our Future”

The Wizard & the Prophet … and the Microbiologist?: 3 Visions of Our Future

It’s April 1946, and two men are standing on the edge of a field of dying wheat on the outskirts of Mexico City. They are looking at the same field, but they see two very different visions. Both look at a field stricken by stem rust, a condition largely unknown today, but which was responsible for millennia of famine and untold human deaths. One of them sees the potential to grow a strain of wheat resistant to stem rust, and thereby to feed billions. The other sees the need to drastically reduce the human population to within the carrying capacity of the planet.

The two men are Norman Borlaug and William Vogt, and they are, respectively, the Wizard and the Prophet in the title of Charles Mann’s 2018 book, The Wizard and the Prophet: Two Remarkable Scientists and Their Dueling Visions to Shape Tomorrow’s World. Mann presents Borlaug and Vogt as archetypes, representatives of two different visions of humankind’s relationship with the natural world: the one viewing nature as a something to be bent to the will of humankind, the other viewing nature as something to which humankind must bend.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE

Paganism Isn’t Where You Think It Is

Anna Walther is one of my favorite pagans. I say that because she consistently reminds me what being pagan is all about.

Most recently, it was in her essay, “Walking with my Dog is my Most Sacred Practice”. There, Anna explains that her most sacred practice involves no ritual paraphernalia, no casting of a circle, no calling the quarters, but simply walking through her neighborhood with her dog, Poe. Because she walks with Poe, explains Anna, she knows what phase the moon is in, when the trees are leafing and the flowers are blooming, when the birds and bats return, and what her neighbors are about. In short, she knows when and where she is.

“I experience a sense of place and belonging, when Poe and I walk through our neighborhood. I’m grounded, connected, and relating with intention to the human and more-than-human world around me. I’m aware that the very real world of spirits is here, right now, and not somewhere else, far away. This is it!, to borrow a Zen Buddhist proverb. To experience this world as radically alive, all I have to do is keep walking and pay attention.”

Amen.

Anna reminds me that being pagan is about being here, now.  But more than that, it’s about loving here, now. …

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THE ARTICLE

Jesus & the Goddess: A Christo-Pagan Story-Ritual for Easter-Equinox

Since my wife is Christian, it makes sense to find ways to incorporate Christian themes into our Neo-Pagan celebrations. Easter tends to fall around the spring equinox (not so much this year), which causes me to think about the ways in which our two faiths overlap.

 I came up with this story/ritual after reading a small book called Jesus and the Goddess by Carl McColman. In this story/ritual, the children of God and the Goddess, Jesus and Magdala share three gifts with each other and with their parents. The gifts remind them that they have more in common than they had thought.  The story can be read by one person or performed by four people.

I hope you enjoy it. Continue reading “Jesus & the Goddess: A Christo-Pagan Story-Ritual for Easter-Equinox”

Review of *Godless Paganism* by Holli Emore

“… a beautifully-nuanced picture of today’s non-theistic Pagans. … At a time when many are being loudly vocal about what they call hard polytheism, Godless Paganism is refreshingly non-dogmatic. By telling their own stories, the writers show that just as in any religious/spiritual group, there are infinite shades of gray in both experience and practice.”

A version of this review was previously published in Witches & Pagans #35.

To read the full review, click here.

“Paganism Has Failed Us & We Have Failed the World” by Dayan Martinez (REBLOG)

Please go and read Dayan’s entire essay at Atroposian Musings.  Here is a short excerpt:

“…the [Pagan] movement has not prepared most people involved in it to step beyond their personal self-healing/comforting in order to grapple with larger issues….

…We are meant to be a healing balm for our ancestors and our modern cultures, going forward. We are meant to make peace with a tortured past so that institutions might be restructured. We are meant to be the chorus of the dead, for those beings that pass without notice. We are meant to give voice to those that yet remain, and affirm the relational bonds that weave the Immanent Divine.

With every calling of Mother Earth, great and bountiful Gaia, we are meant to assert the irrevocable obligations life makes upon life and all other beings of Nature. We are supposed to make kin with beings whose lives are our fortune and live in ways of mutual benefit. We are meant to teach this way of living–more than just a way of believing–to a world much in need of it. By creating little and grand rituals, we are supposed to reaffirm the belonginness due to every human….”

My Grandchildren May Never See A Monarch Butterfly

I have Monarch corpse pinned inside a shadow box on my bookshelf.  A few years ago, I found it dying and waited for it to die before taking it inside. One day, I will show the corpse of the Monarch to a grandchild and tell them the story of the Monarch’s multi-generational migration. And I will tell them that my generation and those before mine forgot the lesson of the Monarch.

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE, CLICK HERE.

When Death Comes

Mary Oliver died today. Through her poetry, I negotiated one of the most difficult passages of my life.

She taught me to leave behind those other voices, so that I could hear a new voice, which I slowly recognized as my own and which kept me company as I strode deeper and deeper into the world, determined to save the only life that I could save. Continue reading “When Death Comes”

Syllabus for Paganism & the Law

Paganism and the Law
Instructor: John Halstead

Register Here

Introduction

This will not be a typical “Know Your Rights” class. Instead, we will be taking a critical look at the American Legal Tradition from a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective. For the purposes of this class, a Pagan/ecological/systems perspective is one that sees community as interconnected, biocentric, and cooperative, rather than mechanistic, anthropocentric, and adversarial. Continue reading “Syllabus for Paganism & the Law”

Excommunications Show that the Mormon Church Really Doesn’t Get Jesus

Another September Six?

This past September, Sam Young was excommunicated by the Mormon church. Young, a former Mormon bishop, had publicly criticized the Mormon church’s practice of asking minors sexually explicit questions in interviews with bishops. Young even went on a 23-day hunger strike to draw attention to the issue.

The Mormon church’s response?

Excommunication. Continue reading “Excommunications Show that the Mormon Church Really Doesn’t Get Jesus”

There is only one truly free choice we can make.

I was raised in a Christian religion which taught me that human beings have the gift of free will or “agency” from God.  I was never really explained how this was gifted to us, but I understood it to mean that God had chosen not to force his will on us, which apparently he could do if he wanted.

As I grew up, I learned more about the myriad factors that influence human behavior, including genetic predispositions, socialization, biological drives (like the need for food, sex, and security), psychological needs (like the need for esteem, love, and meaning), social influences (like peers and the media), etc. Continue reading “There is only one truly free choice we can make.”

You wanted justice, but there is none … only love.

This morning, I knelt down in the snow
in my favorite place to pray,
a little garden off the side of my porch,
now bare and stark,
where My Lady of Tears keeps her vigil.
And these were the words which came
to me like a prayer … or an answer to one:

You wanted justice, but there isn’t any.
There’s the world.
Cry for justice, and the stars
will stare until your eyes
sting.
Weep, and enormous winds
will thrash the water.
Cry in your sleep for your lost children, and snow
will fall … snow will fall.
You wanted justice, but there is none … only love.
God does not love. God is.
But we do. We love.
That’s the wonder.*

Wise words, I think, for one contemplating the end
of his world.


*paraphrased from Archibald MacLeish’s play, “J.B.”, a modern retelling of the story of Job

12 Reasons Why I Wish I Could Quit the Mormon Church All Over Again

I left the Mormon church almost two decades ago.  My reasons were primarily theological, though the church’s misogynistic, racist, and homophobic policies were part of it too.

Since leaving, I’ve continued to keep my eye on the Mormon church–which has been in the national news more and more, usually because of its misogynistic, racist, and homophobic policies.

In fact, quite a lot of Mormon B.S. has piled up in the years since my left.  So much so, I wish I could leave the Mormon church all over again.  This time, these would be my top 12 reasons. Continue reading “12 Reasons Why I Wish I Could Quit the Mormon Church All Over Again”

Re-Thinking the Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism

Over at The Postmodern Polytheist, the Anarcho-Heathen published a critique of an older essay of mine, “The Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism”.   At the time it was published, my essay provoked a quite a bit of controversy in the Pagan blogosphere. In it, I argued that certain forms of polytheism which view the gods as radically distinct individuals contribute to the ongoing disenchantment of the world, just as do certain reductive forms of scientism which view human and other beings as radically distinct individuals.  In contrast to both these forms of alienation, I contrasted a form of Paganism which emphasizes the interconnectedness of everything, including humans and gods. Continue reading “Re-Thinking the Disenchantment of Hard Polytheism”

“Die Early and Often”: Being Attis in the Anthropocene

In yesterday’s post, “‘What If It’s Already Too Late?’: Being an Activist in the Anthropocene”, I faced the fact that we are … well, f**ked.  Our civilization is rushing toward its inevitable end.  And it’s going to take out a big part of the biosphere with it.

Cap and trade is not going to save us.  Renewable energy is not going to save us.  Nuclear energy is not going to save us.  Carbon capture is not going to save use.  The politicians are not going to save us.  The scientists are not going to save us.  The activists are not going to save us.

We are not going to be saved.

For so many reasons, we are going to fail … and fail badly.

Once we come to terms with that fact, the question becomes …

So What Do We Do Now?

TO READ THE REST OF THIS ESSAY AT GODS & RADICALS, CLICK HERE.

Paganism: The Little Religion That Could Have Been

We’re going to lose the fight against climate change

and we’re probably going to lose badly.

(The fact that we think about it as a “fight” probably has something to do with why we’re going to lose.)

If you look at the numbers and you consider the realities of human nature and the intertia of late capitalism, the conclusion seems inevitable:

Human civilization will collapse and the human species will be lucky to survive.

Continue reading “Paganism: The Little Religion That Could Have Been”

“What If It’s Already Too Late?”: Being An Activist in the Anthropocene

I had a terrible thought recently …

“What if it’s already too late?”

Actually, this idea has been haunting me, hovering on the boundary between my conscious and unconscious mind, for some time.

In 2016, Bill McKibben, founder of the climate activist organization 350.org, came to speak at a rally at the BP tar sands refinery in my “backyard” in the highly industrialized northwest corner Indiana.  The occasion was a series of coordinated direct actions around the world against the fossil fuel industry, collectively hailed as the largest direct action in the history of the environmental movement.

What struck me about McKibben’s speech, though, was its tone of … well, hopelessness. Here’s how he concluded his 10 minute speech:

That’s pretty sobering material for a speech at an environmental activist rally, not to mention a speech by one of the leaders of the climate movement:

“We’re not going to stop global climate change. It’s too late for that.”

At the time, I was caught up in the enthusiasm of participating in my first act of civil disobedience, so I didn’t think much about McKibben’s words.

But they kept coming back to me.

CLICK HERE TO READ THE REST OF THIS ARTICLE AT GODS & RADICALS.

Dancing Naked in the Woods: Pagan Nudity and Christian Shame Culture

I recently attended a pagan gathering. It was held on private property, deep in farm country, in a secluded wood. During parts of the gathering, especially the rituals, many of those gathered, both male and female, were in various stages of undress, from wearing revealing clothing to being topless to being fully nude. Continue reading “Dancing Naked in the Woods: Pagan Nudity and Christian Shame Culture”

The Real Pagan Deal

“Religious morals, in a healthy society, are best enforced by drums, moonlight, f[e]asting, masks, flowers, divine possession.”

— Robert Graves, “Food for Centaurs”

I’ve been to my share of public Pagan rituals in the last decade or so.  The vast majority have ranged from disappointing to excruciating affairs.  (See “Gods Save Us from Bad Pagan Rituals: 10 Signs You’re Half-Assing Your Mabon Ritual” and “Lowered Expectations Is Not the Answer to Bad Pagan Rituals”.)

I have been fortunate to have participated in some notable exceptions.  I think Reclaiming rituals tend to be on the better end of the spectrum.  I would attend any ritual led by Thorn Coyle or Shauna Aura Knight.  The Kali Puja which Chandra Alexandre and Sharanya led at Pantheacon is truly exceptional.

But the absolute best pagan ritualist I have ever met is Steven Posch.  So, I was very excited to receive Steven’s invitation to the Grand Sabbat held at Sweetwood Temenos in Southwest Wisconsin this past weekend.  It was not a festival, at least not like others I have attended.  There were no workshops, for example.  Rather, it was tribal gathering, a gathering of the Tribe of Witches. Continue reading “The Real Pagan Deal”

7 Types of Religions (or Why I Was Never Going Make a Good Pagan)

Over the years that I have been writing online, I have been accused many times of retaining some elements of Mormonism, my religion of origin.  Some of my meaner critics like to call me “Mormon”, as a way of refusing to recognize my claim to be pagan.  Those criticisms never made sense to me, but there is one way that my former faith has continued to influence me: the idea that the world needs to be change and that we human beings have the power to make that change happen. This is one of the ideas which has frequently brought me into conflict with other Pagans. Continue reading “7 Types of Religions (or Why I Was Never Going Make a Good Pagan)”

Are People Who See Fairies Insane?

Recently, on the Naturalistic Paganism Yahoo discussion group, a new member asked what to make of a Pagan author who claimed to have traveled to Faerie.  His question was basically this: Should we assume this author is speaking poetically? Or should we conclude he is insane?*  This question can be applied to just about any religion, from Pagan fairies to Christian angels to indigenous ancestral spirits. Continue reading “Are People Who See Fairies Insane?”

Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)

Note: What follows arose out of a discussion in the comments to a recent post entitled, Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions, in which I described my growing disinterest in most Pagan discussions and the change in the questions that most concern me now. One of the commenters, Phil Anderson, challenged me to continue to be “a purveyor of sense and reason in the paganosphere”. His comment prompted a long response from me, which I have edited and reproduced here. Where important for context, I have reproduced parts of Anderson’s comment here.


For a long time, I believed that a naturalistic* version of Paganism was the most genuine expression of contemporary Paganism. When I came to Neo-Paganism, I thought it was naturalistic at its core, and I thought the supernaturalism I saw was aberrant. It seemed to me to be an unfortunate consequence of a historical accident, the infiltration of occultism into the neopagan revival via Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. And there are several academics whose work support this notion, including Robert Ellwood & Harry Partin, Joanne Pearson, and Wouter Hanegraaff. I thought these strands–the occultist and the neo-pagan–could be separated, and so I set about trying to unwind them. Continue reading “Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)”

Naturalistic “Pagan” Books You Won’t Find in the Metaphysical Section

What naturalistic pagan books have been an inspiration to you?

Humanistic Paganism

I love bookstores and libraries.  Honestly, I feel more at home surrounded by books than I do surrounded by people.  But since becoming a Naturalistic Pagan, my trips to the bookstore have become a lot more complicated.

Every time I go into a bookstore, I visit the Paganism section, or rather, the Metaphysical/Occult section that Paganism is grouped with.  I don’t know why I still do it.  Hope springs eternal, I guess.

Each time I approach the Metaphysical with the hopeful expectation that this time I will find something that speaks to me.  I stand there for a while, feeling embarrassed, afraid someone might see me.  I look for an escape route.  The Philosophy section is close by.  The Psychology section even closer.  Once I establish that I have plausible deniability, I relax a little and quickly peruse the books.  Inevitably, though, I discover that I have once again wasted…

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Then they came for an evangelical whistleblower and the Patheos Pagan writers said nothing …

Last week, I unsubscribed from my weekly Patheos Pagan channel updates. It had been quite a while since any of the posts in the email blast had interested me enough to merit a click. It was the latest step in distancing myself from what goes for mainstream Paganism today.

But last week, a couple of friends shared links to reports that a writer at the Patheos evangelical channel, Warren Throckmorton, had had his blog taken down. Throckmorton has been described as an “evangelical whistleblower” and an “evangelical watchdog”. He had previously written about the scandals involving Mark Driscoll, Mars Hill Church, K.P. Yohannan, and Gospel for Asia. Driscoll and Yohannan both have blogs at Patheos, which continue to be hosted there. Vistors to Throckmorton’s Patheos URL, however, will now see an error message. Continue reading “Then they came for an evangelical whistleblower and the Patheos Pagan writers said nothing …”

Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions

When I left the Mormon church in 2000, I had to figure out a short way to explain to people why I left.  I knew nobody wanted to hear my Mormon version of Luther’s 95 Theses.  I think the most succinct (if not the most satisfactory) explanation I came up with was this:

I started asking different questions. Continue reading “Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions”

Review of “The Reluctant Radical”

“The Reluctant Radical” is excellent visual storytelling. There were lighthearted funny moments, poignant sad moments, exuberant triumphant moments, and tragic despairing moments. Through it all, I felt Ken Ward’s internal struggle with how to act in the face of seemingly insurmountable indifference. Even if I didn’t already acutely feel the same way, I would have loved this film, for its portrayal of one man’s attempt to live moral life … no matter the cost.

Pray With Your Feet

This past Earth Day, two of the activist organizations I am a part of sponsored a screening of “The Reluctant Radical”, a documentary about Ken Ward, by Lindsey Grayzel.

Ken Ward is one of the “valve turners” who was arrested and prosecuted for closing the emergency valve on oil sands pipelines in October 2016. He argued in court that the urgency of climate change compelled him to act. “The Reluctant Radical” follows Ken as he struggles to find an effective way to combat the fossil fuel industry. Director Lindsey Grayzel was also arrested and charged for her role filming Ken’s actions.

Following the movie, we had a Q&A with Ken Ward himself and director Lindsey Grayzel over Zoom, which was a special treat.

First let me say that Ken and his fellow valve turners are my heroes.  Michael Foster, 53, a family therapist and longtime environmentalist from Seattle, shut…

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21 Ways to Celebrate Earth Day: Beware of Lists

Reposted from PrayWithYourFeet.org

Each day of the month of April leading up to Earth Day (April 22), I will be offering a suggestion for how we can really honor the Earth this year. This list will go beyond the usual suggestions to change your light bulbs and take shorter showers. Instead, the focus is on collective action working toward radical social change.

My last bit of advice is to beware of lists, including this one, but especially those premised on an individualistic value system and those that sound suspiciously like advertising.

Most of these kinds of lists–“Things You Can Do to Save The Earth”–focus on changing your consumer habits, and therefore leave the underlying structure of capitalist society unexamined.

There are good reasons to change our individual consumption habits.  I look at these as a kind of spiritual practice.  Changing how I consume is one way of transforming my relationship with the earth.  So I included a few of these kinds of things on my list:

Source What You Consume

Eat Local

Learn Old Skills

But remember, our task is not to try to navigate destructive social systems with personal integrity, but to help change those systems. And we will never change those system until we stop thinking about change as something that individuals do.

The most radical thing we can do in a capitalist system is to build community.  Capitalism alienates us from each other and nature.  Any action which connects us to the wider human and other-than-human community is a form of resistance.  Several items on my list address this:

Organize Your Community

Protect Biodiversity

Use Your Privilege for Good

Build Community

Support Front Line Communities

Talk About Climate Change

Reconnect With Nature

Fight Capitalism

And of course, we cannot forget about more familiar forms of political action:

Support Divestment

Vote Responsibly

Direct Action

Get Money Out of Politics

Because this site is focused on the intersection of spirituality and political action, I included some ideas for spiritual transformation as well:

Ground Your Religious Rituals

Restory the World

Let Yourself Grieve

Face Your Death

Take Care of Yourself

I hope you find something in this list that helps you honor the Earth in a new way.  Happy Earth Day!

No really, I’m done.

Being a blogger is a nasty business, I’ve learned.

I started writing this blog for myself, as a kind of spiritual journal.  But it quickly drew attention of others.

And then I started to notice that the negative things I wrote drew a lot more attention than the positive things.  So I wrote more negative pieces.  And that drew more attention.  And that trend has continued. Continue reading “No really, I’m done.”

“An Inescapable Network of Mutuality”: Martin Luther King’s Ecological Thought

Reblogged from Pray With Your Feet

“A Single Garment of Destiny”

In his penultimate sermon, delivered on March 31, 1968, at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., spoke of our interconnectedness:

“Through our scientific and technological genius, we have made of this world a neighborhood and yet we have not had the ethical commitment to make of it a brotherhood. But somehow, and in some way, we have got to do this. We must all learn to live together as brothers or we will all perish together as fools. We are tied together in the single garment of destiny, caught in an inescapable network of mutuality. And whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. For some strange reason I can never be what I ought to be until you are what you ought to be. And you can never be what you ought to be until I am what I ought to be. This is the way God’s universe is made; this is the way it is structured.”

Continue reading ““An Inescapable Network of Mutuality”: Martin Luther King’s Ecological Thought”

Why Wiccans Get Made Fun Of

An article was recently published at World Religion News urging people to “Stop Making Fun of Wiccans”. (The Wild Hunt reported on it here.)

The author observes that “Wiccans can have a difficult time being taken seriously by mainstream culture.”  That does seem to be true generally of Wiccans and other Pagans.  (The author seems to conflate Wicca with contemporary Paganism.)  Though, it should be said, I don’t think being mocked by Fox News is necessarily a bad thing. Continue reading “Why Wiccans Get Made Fun Of”

“Pray Working” at PrayWithYourFeet.org

There are vigils being held around the country right now for the victims of the latest school shooting. I think these vigils are important: They bring home the tragedy of what has happened. Without these rituals, there is the risk that these terrible events will just sweep by us in the 24-hour news cycle, leaving us unchanged.

But vigils and prayers are not enough. Continue reading ““Pray Working” at PrayWithYourFeet.org”

6 Reason Why John Beckett is a Tool: Reflections on the Pagan Exodus from Patheos

Patheos-apologist John Beckett has written a 1-year anniversary retrospective about the exodus of about two dozen Pagan writers from the Patheos blogging platform, which just highlights again why Beckett still doesn’t get it.

If you need some background to the Pagan exodus from Patheos (or “Pexit” as those who like to be dismissive have been calling it), then check out this summary at Huffington Post or this one at Gods & Radicals.

Now back to why Beckett is a tool … Continue reading “6 Reason Why John Beckett is a Tool: Reflections on the Pagan Exodus from Patheos”

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