You know, it’s really, really hard for me to read Patheos’ pagan blogroll sometimes. Generally, it’s good for a short read now and again, but sometimes it makes me squirm. Like throw-my-computer-across-the-room-angrily squirm. Generally, the Christmas holiday makes me hate most pagan-type folk. You may have noticed my complete lack of cyber interaction lately- no Facebook, no Yahoo groups, no Aspis of Ares. There’s a reason I hate the holiday season, and I want to discuss that right now.
Now, there’s always some baseline animosity one group has for another, especially in the religious sphere. It’s pretty a common strain that exist between polytheists and monotheists, at the very least on the Internet. Unfortunately, it’s my number one complaint that the vast majority of polytheists comes across as extremely bigoted when discussing monotheism, Christianity in particular. I left one of the the Facebook groups I was on because I just felt very uncomfortable with some of the members’ comments which I felt crossed the line from understandably critical to downright hateful. I’ve been asked a few times why it bothers me so much, and I’ve been accused of being a closet Christian or Catholic spy more than once, in more than one group.
To bring things into a more focused direction for example’s sake, I want you all to take a look at a post written by Sannion over at The House of Vines. He’s discussing the Pagan reaction to an event in North Carolina where Bibles are being offered to students at their public school. The comments can get pretty interesting. One can foresee a possible devolution happening quite quickly, as Eris pokes her head in to join the fray. I agree with Sannion as to the nature of the Bible- it’s noted as part of the Western Intellectual canon for a reason. Additionally, to say that the works of Llewellyn authors are on par with the Bible is also absurd. Unfortunately, very few people are Biblically literate, or even religiously literate in general (see Professor Steven Prothero’s books Religious Literacy and God is not One for more details). I would consider myself passably literate (religion is my major), but to me, even a PhD in religious studies wouldn’t be enough.
I understand one of the many reasons people come to polytheistic religions is due to a lack of satisfaction with their previous religion, which in the Western world, usually means Christianity. I was the same way. For some reason I don’t seem to hold the same animosity many of my coreligionists seem to almost evangelize. This may seem odd at first; as a devotee of Ares, I generally relish conflict and the opportunity to knock heads, so to speak. Religious conversions all include an apostasy phase, wherein a member newly divorced of another group will continually demonize his former community. This is an immature phase, and with time will mature into a reconciliation phase, where things are live and let live. I understand that there is legitimate persecution in this world. Some people are not nice; I’m generally one of the folks in the not-nice camp. However, there are just too many people who can’t move past their own wounded egos and recognize that acceptance isn’t something you are given by right, and that Christianity, no matter how you paint it, is not wholly evil and every Christian an enemy.
Now, to me, this taint within the Hellenic community is even more tenuous to me. I understand things in Greece are bad with the Orthodox Church. Rhetoric is nasty on both sides. What I don’t get is the nasty behavior on the part of Hellenes. I know not every practitioner of ancient Greek religion, recon or not, ascribes to the same set of principles, but in my limited experience, the Delphic maxims are as close to panhellenic as one can get. There are quite a few maxims I would interpret as particularly relevant to the situation between the polytheist and monotheist communities, but they seem to be conveniently ignored by many. Here, let’s take a look:
Find fault with no one (Ψεγε μηδενα): Granted, we’re only speaking ill of over a billion people on earth, as well as their ancestors…
Do not make fun of the dead (Επι νεκρω μη γελα): Oops!
Despise a slanderer (Διαβολην μισει): We could all use a little help here.
Flee enmity (Απεχθειαν φευγε): I have a hard time with this one, but so does everyone else.
Those are just a few I chose to highlight. Granted, you may not interpret the situation as I do. My spiritually and intellectually formative years were spent in the military, which despite some folk’s opinions, is a rather tolerant and diverse environment. Perhaps it’s just my personality to accept religion for what it is and not make a big stink if it isn’t mine. I know, love, and respect many Christians, many of whom have relied on me for spiritual support in the past.
Ares challenges us every day with conflict. The greatest conflicts we engage in are conflicts of the self- and we all know the most famous of maxims is to know yourself. In Islam, the struggle against oneself is called the greatest jihad. I think, and this is just my opinion, we are failing at this simple charge in the eyes of the Gods. Can we be called good men if we do despicable deeds? Can we wish our religion to spread and replace one set of bigots for another? I pray that Ares can guide us to the heart of the matter and show us the bitter, unrelenting truth of our own souls, or that He does us a favor and strikes us from this earth.