Friday, October 13, 2006

Ideas on Modern Theology

The One-God theory, the principle position of modern theology, exists as, what I believe is, an attempt to unify and synthesize both religious experience and divinity itself. The tendency for civilizations to move from animist to polytheistic to pantheistic to monotheistic is circumstantial evidence in support of this point. While this is not a universal social pattern, it has occurred often enough to make us question the reasons why monotheism has occurred. Is monotheism a better reflection of human experience than polytheism? If it isn’t, then why have so many civilizations moved toward monotheistic theologies?

Philosophy and Theology have demonstrated a tendency to move toward unification and synthesis as to establish a structured and consistent worldview; but I question whether or not human experience warrants such an ambition. Modern science suggests that the universe is indeed ordered and dependant upon natural law, and it is not ridiculous to ask where this order came from. If the universe is ordered and designed, then it would make sense that it was ordered and designed by a single maker. Though, it is not unimaginable that an architect would design an ordered universe and place responsibility for the management of that property in the hands of other beings as mystical as Itself. This line of reasoning leads us toward something like Aristotle’s unmoved mover. But what evidence is there that a creator is involved in the daily activities of the universe? How do we know that His investment was anything more than mere design? Unless we assume that this designer had some purpose, there is no way of making any assumption about the Designer’s character or form, other than that It is a designer and creator by nature.

Still, our assumptions about the purpose of God or of gods is dependant upon our own personal experience. We know, as a matter of fact, that different cultures have produced different theological interpretations of religious experience. Therefore, we must admit that our theological ideas are dependant upon our continued religious experience. This justifies the superstitions of both modern and antiquated pagan religions, and of the supremacy of monotheism in the modern world. Certainly, pagan religions draw their religious beliefs from human experience in as certain a manner as monotheistic religions draw their religious beliefs from theirs. Yet, if monotheism is the dominant theological attitude of the modern age, ought we to assume that it is more indicative of modern experience and therefore worthy of greater consideration?

I suspect that monotheism retains its current popularity based on its capacity for unity and synthesis, but I do not think it rules out the reality of polytheistic and pagan experience. These two ways of thinking are not necessarily at odds, for the wisdoms of the past are still wisdoms today. What has changed is our knowledge and our understanding of our terms, but natural law remains. Truth exists independently of our knowledge and understanding, and while we may continue to find new ways of unifying and synthesizing religious experience and theology, the individual truths of antiquity need not lose their value or significance. In the absence of objective knowledge, each individual is left to define the universe in terms of their own subjective experience, and it is impossible to expect all individuals to agree. It is the sincerity with which men pursue the truth that leads them toward wisdom, and not the modernity of their beliefs. Nevertheless, the further removed a theology is from the mainstream, the less it is capable of communicating wisdom to the majority and the less relevant it is to society. Eventually, a greater synthesis and unity will occur and will obliterate our dependence upon antagonistic theologies, setting dogmas aside and focusing on the objective consequences of each individual’s professed perspective.

Each individual belief is justified relative to its correspondence to and consistency with the truth, as it is understand in a given time and place. A kind of institutional agnosticism will develop in the absence of self-righteousness (which is the result of dogmatic faith). In the place of institutional dogma, each individual will feed upon the wisdom of his or hers age and will strive to demonstrate the fruits of most religious ideals: "salvation", love, character, and goodness. Without dogmas to criticize, we will know “the lost” by their slavery, their treachery, and their depravity. We will know “the saved” by their love, their character, and their goodness. No theology is necessary for salvation – only a sincere pursuit of truth is required. As long as theology holds sway over religion, we will continue to try to define religion in terms of greater unity and synthesis, because it creates greater clarity into our interpretation of our collective expeirences. Monotheism is the theology of the presen and of the future - to one day be overcome by Agnostic-Theism (I think).

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

God is Love

Too often the religious envelop themselves in their own self-pity and their pessimistic attitude toward life, the world, and their own natures. Self hatred, the hatred of the self, pushes them toward a God that condemns and forgives just as the religious condemn and forgive themselves. Self-pity persuades the masses to shrug their shoulders at their own frailty and fear, and to resolve to find salvation and satisfaction, not in their lives, but in their afterlives. Mankind seems to have realized its ideals, not in themselves, but in their gods. And yet, at our fingertips is an ideal that can be achieved here and now, on earth, in accordance with nature, and unopposed to the will of any god.

The God we know as the personal God, the Holy Spirit, the “creator”, and the “sustainer”, is love. Thus, to ask, “who is God”, is to ask, “What is love”? What is being loved? Why?

Sadly, we have committed ourselves to legalism and dogma, and have abandoned love. We have committed ourselves to beliefs for which no knowledge exists and have ignored the experiences set before us. We spend our time arguing over the laws and demands of a God that our experiences tell us is Love. What else is there to do then, if not to accept the love of God, and through it learn to love each other? What other knowledge can we have of truth, than that it is better to love than to hate? What other wisdom can come from religion, than that honor is built through a virtuous temperament and an upright character, upon which the talents, arts, and skills associated with real, proactive love are founded.

What is love?

Religion seems to glorify human weakness because it is our human weakness that drives us to god. It is our frailty and fear that compels us to search for a higher power, and we are willing to give and sacrifice any amount of our humanity liberty and individuality to attain salvation and grace – for it is in God that Man finds security, hope, and confidence.

So what of this is sincere? Do any of us love God because we first loved truth? Do any of us sacrifice or worship because we want to, or do we perform our religious rites and rituals in the hope that God will have mercy on us?

The gods all seem to have their own will and agenda; do we submit to them for our own good or have we been blinded by our own frailty and fear? Do the gods love us for us, or do they love us the way the slave owner loves his free labor?

For those who pray to the personal god, do we know who it is we pray to? And if we do not know Him, can we love him? Is fear of God truly our inspiration? Or is it out of love what we discover his true identity?

If we are God’s beloved, then all we must do is make ourselves available to his race and salvation, and to allow him to build in us the conscience and character we need to act righteously. If we are loved by a loving god, then we can learn what it means to love each other from god’s example. And if joy is the result of love on earth, then it is in God’s love that joy is born. Through His love we learn to love each other. To love each other is God’s law.

So how does the glorification of human frailty and fear promote God’s love in Man? How do we learn to overcome our frailty and fear if we’ve come to depend on them for our identity? Must we be in sin to feel forgiveness? Must we be sick to feel healing? Must we be wretched to feel grace?

What benefit to religion is it for mankind to deny itself? What good can come from the sacrifice of the will? How is it that the man that sacrifices the most is viewed as the best among the religious types? My religious instinct is a glorification of the self – in god – and not a rejection of it!

No! It is in God – that personal agent that connects Man with the Divine – that I find a great affirmation of the mortal man, of his life, of his will, of his potential, and finally of our capacity for joy. From our subjective experience of this personal God comes the truth that we are great; why else would a god have an interest in the best and worst humanity has to offer? Man has the greatest potential to love – ourselves, each other, nature, and God.

To promote the good in all things is the natural consequence of love. What other being in nature has such a capacity for love, but Man? And through man, love itself can be unleashed. Not in the form of sacrifice and suffering, nor for the glorification of our frailty and fear, but for the purpose of promoting the good through love in a heavenly affirmation of Life itself.

So while the common man must first sacrifice himself, then nature, and finally God itself – the wise allow the world to see God in Love and the good it promotes. All these religions with their hatred of Man and Nature, and their fear of God, worship God with such a sincere cruelty that life and death are turned from being the most significant realities, to the least significant. Those that “love” God but hate the world are hypocrites and are the most vile and dangerous parasites in any civilization. Those that “love” God but hate nature are anti-realists; thus, it is no great curiosity that even their God was forced to die terribly at the hands of Man!

For if anything, the death of Christ represents the common man’s hatred of God and failure to embrace love. Christ’s death is not God’s glory, but Man’s catastrophe. God loves Man and the world. Nature is a reflection of His Nature. Love is God’s will on earth, his language, and his home. Those that reject life, reject the God that fosters and loves life.

All of my religious instincts point me toward an idea of God as that which loves existence and hates with the most terrible wrath, that which opposes truth: Dishonesty, self-deception, distraction (idleness), and fear.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

On Religious Experience

Religious experience is a common occurrence in every culture throughout history and there is, as of yet, no empirical or diagnostic understanding of the cause of such experiences. From an agnostic perspective, these experiences seem to indicate a function of the imagination, because these experiences are interpersonal and utterly subjective. However, the results of religious experience that include unexplained healings and what seems like unimaginable coincidences are objectively demonstrable. Yet, because religious experience is interpersonal and subjective, the descriptions of these events, along with the inferences about the nature of god(s), allow for immense diversity and seemingly inexhaustible contradictions.

It is impossible for me to come to any objective conclusion about the nature of religious experience, but it seems reasonable, in the absence of alternative empirical explanations, to accept these experiences as “real” without judgment with regard to the absolute and universal claims inferred from these experiences. It must be a mixture of arrogance and pride that lead people to conclude that their religious experiences tell themselves more true or real than other people’s experiences. It is, furthermore, a logical error to reject an individual’s lack of religious experience. There are no objective logical conclusions to be made concerning the true nature of divinity, nor are there any unprejudiced scientific evidence for the existence of concepts like “spirit”, “soul”, or “supernatural”. Thus, there are no conclusions to be made concerning religious experience, other than that they are real, that we don’t know their cause, and that no absolute or universal dictums can be derived from any individual experience or testimony – that is, barring any advancements in science.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

Searching for a Personal God

Of all the religions I have searched, which is nearly all of them, I have yet to discover a personal god. Therefore, I have decided to search for one in the only way I know how.

If there is religious truth, then there is a logic that will accompany it; for that reason I believe in religious experimentation. With that in mind, I have begun to pray to a personal god. I am trying hard not to make any assumptions about “who” this god is, but if there is a one true God, then the god I will find will be that God, for there would be no others. If there are many gods and goddesses, then I will wait for that knowledge to be made clear. I will make no judgments, but will simply begin praying and listening. If there is a god that is interested in having a personal relationship with me, I will open the door. By beginning with no judgments I will remove my bias and put forth only my sincere desire to know the truth.

For prayer, I will both speak to god through a kind of conversational mediation and I will also ask for specific favors. Then I will spend time listening. This should create a situation where if I do discover a personal god, I will be able to determine this god’s character. If I am led toward any particular scripture, then I will read it. It the character of the personal god is consistent with what a particular religion says about its god, and then I will begin to assume that the god with whom I converse is the god of that particular scripture.

I will pursue truth with sincerity and without judgment, as far as I am capable. This is the only logical way I have discovered of approaching the question of divinity. I will learn nothing by simply sitting here thinking about it. I must do something. I will begin with prayer.

Friday, August 11, 2006

On Jesus Christ and Salvation

The story of the death of Jesus Christ, the man hailed as the Son of the Jewish God and the Savior of Mankind, does not, in truth, reveal a savior, but a victim. Jesus Christ was a man that believed in goodness, honor, and love, and was therefore a threat to a religious institution whose power and authority rested in the law and in its dogma. Jesus Christ’s attempt to overthrow the religious establishment, through the perpetuation of a theology of love and sacrifice, was the reason why the religious establishment wanted him killed. His death, however, came at the hands of a political establishment, whose power and authority rested in the maintenance of law and order. Under the threat of a rebellion by the Jewish tribe, the Roman authority chose to sacrifice one innocent man in order to preserve the security of their own soldiers and the lives of their citizens. In truth, Christ did carry the burden of human sin, for all of his suffering had its roots in the fear, insecurity, selfishness, and greed of the religious powers under which he lived.

However, to say that Jesus died for the sins of all men is truly a leap of faith. It is true that Jesus faced the worst of human nature. He faced the corruption of religious institutions, injustice at the hands of government, hatred in the hearts of an ignorant and fearful mob, and the abandonment of his disciples. His message of goodness, honor, and love was a call for change, but those who seek to change the world are often killed by those whose interests are preserved by maintaining tradition. What makes Jesus Christ different from Martin Luther King, Jr? What makes him different from every other man and woman whom were killed for preaching a message of love? All the men and women that have died in the pursuit of saving Man from His hatred, fear, and selfishness have not served to overcome them. There has been no universal salvation.

Once we free ourselves from the belief in a fallen world and a battle between good and evil, the story of Christ is not a religious one, but a human one. It was not Christ that was divine. He was born, he lived, and he died. What was divine was his message of goodness, honor, and love, for these are the seeds of harmony and happiness. They promote the good of all things and allow men to live in peace and cooperation with one another. Long before the birth of Christ, there were good and loving people. There have been many since his death. The battle is not between good and evil, but between hope and fear. Those of us who hope after a better world, promote goodness, honor, and love, while those who fear the world, promote selfishness, cruelty, and hate. Those who fear the world divide it. They divide the people and set them against one another. Those who fear the world are enslaved to their need to control it, but they cannot. The world is free and insecure, and it cannot be mastered through force. The wisdom of Jesus Christ was that the only way to live free is to love. The illusion of control sets us against one another, but when we realize that there is no control, we desire to live together and to cooperate. The illusion of evil, as a force in Man and in Nature, is derived from exclusively from Fear. We look into the world and see freedom. In Nature we discover our mortality and our uncertainty.

Moral men and women approach their morality with goodness and honor that they might live on in the positive consequences of their actions. Moral men and women approach their weaknesses and insecurity with love. In love, we promote each other, instead of attacking and ambushing each other. In love, we discover hope and joy. In fear, we are left paranoid and anxious. Goodness, honor, and love, not Christ (though these were apart of him), are our salvation. The reward is freedom on earth, not in heaven. We have but one life and one truth, and nothing besides.

Purpose and Choice

We have all been blessed with reason, emotions, instincts, intuition, passion, and imagination, the combination of which allows for what most people consider to be free will. Free Will is not completely free, as we are always constrained by the past and by the laws of nature. However, because we can form ideas about the future and because we can utilize our reason in order to moderate our passions, we are able to make choices concerning the direction of our lives. This constrained liberty of choice is the reason why we are responsible for our actions and their consequences. We are intimately tied to the seemingly infinite chain of events of which we are apart and of which we influence.

An individual’s religion tells us a great deal about their perceived role in the world and gives us an indication as to their intended purpose and aspirations. There is purpose to be found in any agnostic pagan tradition. Through sincere introspection, we can discern our own unique strengths and weakness, and determine a purpose for which we are uniquely suited. Some people are blessed with an intuitive knowledge of this purpose from a very young age. Others are cursed with a sense of purposelessness. Nothing in the universe strikes them as particularly suited for them, and they are forced to drift aimlessly through life. Yet, this aimless drifting isn’t inevitable. While we may not know what our grand purpose may be, we can find small and specific purposes through which we can discover greater self-actualization. By dedicating ourselves to a greater fulfillment of ourselves, we will continue to open doors, as opposed to burning bridges.

The creation of opportunity is the only way to realize our destinies. Opportunity cannot be created through idleness. We must trust our instincts and intuitions to brighten our paths and we must have the courage to act. For most of us, life is a mystery. We do not know where we are going, nor where we want to go. For this reason it is said that men live lives of quiet desperation. Uncertainty creates fear and fear is the enemy of purpose. Fear prevents us from making choices, encouraging us to stand still. Trust your instincts and intuitions to guide you. If you have a personal god, trust that god to guide you. But move forward.

We each have a responsibility to pursue a purpose, for our own good and the good of others. In the absence of clarity, we must make continual efforts to build opportunity in order to increase the chances of realizing our destiny. In the absence of clarity, we may rely on our instincts and intuition to guide us.

Methodological Naturalism

The use of methodological naturalism in religion isn’t as unpractical as it seems. In the absence of knowledge concerning the gods, we are free to choose where to look for the gods: either in the natural or in the supernatural. I do not believe in the supernatural or the spiritual, I have never experienced them, and I find them to be unnecessary for religious beliefs. Thus, I choose to look for the gods only in the natural, as correspondences and symbols. I am open to the idea that gods are actual beings with actual powers, but for that to be true, these gods must have a natural form. They must be as much a part of the natural world as I am. The fact that we approach the idea of gods with our imagination and instincts, does not take away from our ability to judge our conclusions according to logic. If we conclude that no truth about the divine can contradict a truth about the material world, then we prevent ourselves from extending our imaginations beyond a potential truth.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

On Ritual and Symbolism

The oldest expressions of pagan religion are ritual and symbolism, which may in fact be how the gods were derived in the first place. My failures at incorporating symbolism and ritual into my religious life in the past were a result of my mistaken belief that there was some power in the symbols themselves. There isn’t. All powers and meanings associated with symbols are born of the mind and live in the mind. Symbols are a language used to express complex concepts and philosophies. The yin-yang is an excellent example.

The yin-yang represents competing and cooperating dualism in the universe. It’s the female and male, light and darkness, good and evil, and even life and death. The power of yin and yang exist in the philosophy, not the symbol. The symbol simply expresses the philosophy. The Christian cross and the Pagan pentagram are similar symbols.

Ritual uses symbols in order to surround the consciousness with cues, painting vast number of ideas in a small number of representations. Take bathing rituals as an example. Often the lights are dimmed, candles are let, bubbles are poured into the water, and appropriate music played. This ritual is intended to produce relaxation. Religious ritual is the same. The ritual employs symbols and symbolic actions in order to produce a result, such as calling upon a particular god, or invoking a particular mode or state of mind.

One cannot simply perform a ritual for its own sake. For symbols and symbolic actions to have an effect on the human psyche, they must already be a fastened ingredient in the subconscious. One mistake people make is to use symbols and actions that don’t mean anything in particular to them. They see other people use them, and because they mistake symbols and actions as having inherent power, the simple try to duplicate the rituals they’ve seen. However, once we realize that symbols and symbolic actions only affect us when they mean something to us, we are free to create and design our own rituals. We are even capable of designing our own symbols, though I have found it hard to fashion a symbol that genuinely reflected some truth or passion inside me.

Ritual can be a deeply moving experience, but remember that there is no power in any symbol or action, that the power is in the philosophies and ideals inside your own mind and consciousness. Using rituals to invoke feelings and instincts, associated with those philosophies and ideals, to the surface is exciting; but it isn’t easy.

Superstition, not Knowledge or Faith

As much as I have hoped for divine revelation, or the slightest glimpse into the celestial, I am content with my ignorance and agnosticism. For my ignorance is a sincere ignorance and my agnosticism is a sincere agnosticism. I am open to believing in any truth should it present itself to me, but in the absence of experience I am obliged to remain receptive and unconstrained by dogma. While I indulge certain superstitions, derived both from my heart and mind, I do not know what truth there is in them; only that my superstitions serve to strengthen my faith in goodness, honor, and love, the foundations of humanity and civilization. Superstitions are seeds sown in the heart and mind, by way of hope and imagination, to serve the instincts and our reason in place of our absent understanding. Until the truth becomes apparent to us, it is in our nature to suppose, to suspect, and to guess at what the truth might be. When choosing what superstitions to hold and which to reject, it is wise to allow experience to decide. When a superstition is reinforced and goodness comes of it, retain it. When a superstition is not reinforced and nothing good comes of it, drop it. Hold that which helps, if only for its utility.

Why feign wisdom? Why feign knowledge? Do your best to understand the things you do not know. Seek truth sincerely. Trust your instincts and the gods to keep you on the right path, but be honest with yourself. When your superstitious beliefs harm you or others, it is wise to let them go. Being honest with others is a part of being honest with yourself; it is irresponsible to tell others that you know things you do not know. Deceiving others for the benefit of your own vanity is selfish and not a path to any good.

It is neither shameful nor stupid to believe in something of which you are not certain. Most people are not as certain as they pretend to be and many who are have deceived themselves. There is a difference between superstition and faith. Superstition is a belief held to explain the things we feel and suspect, but do not know. Faith is a feigned certainty in a belief unsupported by empirical knowledge. It is wise not to feign certainty for things of which we are not certain. When we are honest with ourselves, we become clearer to ourselves. When we are honest with others, they will understand us better. When we are honest about our weaknesses and ignorance, we help others to face their own uncertainty with courage, instead of faith.

On My Ignorance of Spirit

I have no experience of spirit, either inside or outside of my person. Yet, the overwhelming majority of people on this planet believe in spirits and souls, afterlives, and spiritual realms. There are three possible issues at stake here. Either I am wrong, and spirit exists and everyone has spirit, or I am partially correct in that while most people have a spirit, I do not; or my experience is correct and everyone else is wrong, and spirit does not exist.

If I am wrong, and spirit exists and everyone has a soul, then why have I had no experience of spirit or spiritual realities? If something is true, then it is true whether or not I believe in it. Thus, if it is true that I have a spirit and that spiritual things exist, then I should have at least some experience of them irregardless of my skepticism. However, the fact that I don’t have any experience of spirit doesn’t mean that other people don’t.

But if the people who claim to have souls and knowledge of spirits are correct and I am correct in my belief that I have no spirit or soul, then why does such a difference exist? Why should some people have spirits and other people not? Is this a mistake of evolution or an arbitrary act of some divinity? Am a better or worse, freer or more constrained for my lack of spirit? Is my ignorance of spirit the consequence of self-honesty, or self-deception?

If am right, and spirit does not exist, then why do so many people believe in it? If it is impossible to believe in something that has no meaning, then I must conclude that when people are talking about spirit, they are talking about some thing. If it is not what they claim it is, what is it? Is spirit derived simply from the concept of immortality? Is spirit simply that which lasts and exists outside of the material world? And if it does exist outside of the material world, how can anyone experience it? It would seem to require blind faith.

If there is no spirit, then what are gods? If they naturally accrue to their spheres of influence, then they must exist naturally and corporally. Can gods exist solely as a product of the imagination and still carry any objective reality?

Insomuch as I have experienced a sense of identity and function as a part of the nature of things, there seems to be no harm in interpreting these identities and functions as gods. Because even if they are not gods, nothing about the identities or functions of things I experience are unreal. Therefore, what I believe in is real, but what is in question is how I define them. But that is what gods are to me; they are the identity and function of things. I am utterly agnostic with regard to whether or not gods carry any consciousness. I certainly have no objective experience of a conscious entity called “god”. If gods really are the identity and function in things, is there any harm in viewing them anthropomorphically as conscious and sentient? If I am here to pursue the truth, is it hypocritical to hold superstitious beliefs?

In the absence of knowledge, I am completely free to believe whatever I wish, so long as I do not hold any two contradictory beliefs. Thus, if my belief in the existence of gods does not contradict some other objective truth, then I am free to hold such superstitions. Especially if these superstitions allow me to further promote and encourage goodness, honor, and love. It is impossible for me to speak of gods and spirits as if I had experienced them as objective realities. Therefore, they are place holders in my imagination. They are things that may or may not exist, but nevertheless encourage and fuel positive beliefs concerning the promotion of what is good.

On Love, The Good, and The Truth

Love is the foundation of religious and moral wisdom. Irregardless of the mythologies love has become associated with; it remains the most important seed of human sociology and relationships. Love can be whittled down to this: It is the investment of an individual in something or someone else for the purpose of promoting and encouraging the object of our love. The more we invest ourselves in someone else, the more stock we own in that person’s life.

There are four stages of love: Determination of value, initial investment and commitment, establishment of goodness / developing love skills, and equality.

Each of us, as individuals, has a developed sense of value that we derive from our personal experience. We learn that some things matter more than others. We also learn to associate that which promotes what we value with what is good and that which demotes what we value as bad. We tend to invest ourselves in what we think is good, in order to further advocate the things we value.

Because human beings are social animals, we have a need for relationships. We are constantly seeking out people and gods to invest themselves in us, and people who strike us as valuable and worthy of our own investment. Love begins when we come across something or someone indicative of our primary values. We instinctively seek out people and things that reinforce our values in the world. By promoting and encouraging them, we promote and encourage The Good, as we see it.

Christians believe that God is Love and that His Will is The Good, and that to Love God is to promote His Will on earth. This formula is exceedingly logical and can be applied in a myriad of pagan worldviews. Whatever we view as being The Good can be encouraged through our active investment in things upon which The Good rests. Once we determine what The Good is (once we determine what we love), we can begin to develop skills for loving it.

In the Bible we find this definition of love:

“Love is patient, love is kind.
It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking.
It is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil, but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails” (I Corinthians 13:4-8).

If God is Love, then the fruits of The Spirit may be viewed as the effects of love applied in the Christian life:

“But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law” (Galatians 5:22-23).

Therefore, according to the Christian Worldview, the act of loving may be considered that which promotes love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control. In order to promote any of these in our own lives, we must develop skills through practice. This is how we learn to actively love. It is the same for pagans as it is for Christians, and differs only inasmuch as our Worldview’s differ. Once we commit to loving something, we begin the process of practicing the skills necessary to promote whatever it is we love.

It seems to be a universally experienced truth, that when one commits to loving something, whatever it is that is loved becomes equally important to the individual as the individual themselves. This equality is the inevitable consequence of unconditional love. It even appears to be selfless for this reason, even though all the initial steps toward equality were taken for our own good.

Once an individual’s love matures, they will develop the ability to extend their personal responsibility, initially a selfish obligation, to include that which they love. It is here that honor develops, as we become advocates of all that we love. Honor is a highly developed moral code that incorporates learned behaviors capable of constantly promoting an amalgamated assembly of things which one loves. Honor is both the seemingly selfless preservation of The Good and the moral code developed for this purpose.

No one can know The Good anymore than they can know the gods. We are dependant upon our personal experience and therefore suffer the responsibility of being honest about the truth as we experience it. Self-honesty is exceedingly difficult in practice, because we are all naturally biased toward interpreting experience, not as it is, but as we wish it to be. If we do not learn to pursue Truth, not for our own good, but for Itself, we will remain unable to develop productive beliefs about The Good. None of us are able to be completely objective, but all of us have the ability to pursue Truth honestly and humbly. Thus, while we’ll spend our entire lives suffering from our continuous failures in this regard, we will benefit from each singular success.

To live a moral life is to pursue truth honestly and to love what is good. We must become tireless advocates for what we love. This is what it means to be honorable.

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Knowledge & Choice

As human animals we have no knowledge of the divine. We see them in and through our imagination, our ideas, Nature, and anthropomorphisms. Each of us imagines them differently and understands them in a myriad of ways. Our own understanding changes with time. We do our best to draw logical conclusions, derived from our experience, but we are constantly taking guesses. What we do know is what we value about these “gods”. Each god represents a collection of correlated ideas, connotation, and denotations that we imagine to have the ability to self-perpetuate. Just as that which lives endeavors to sustain itself, and often to procreate from itself, we imagine the gods to be analogous. We imagine them as functions of some will and purpose, and that which they govern is their sphere of influence. Most people believe themselves to be within the sphere of a particular god or collection of gods. For these people, to perpetuate the will of their particular god or collection of gods, is an obligatory part of their religious duty.

But this raises a serious question. If gods, like everything else, try to further their own will, to promote and perpetuate their own existence, why should a human being be any different? What are our values? How shall we promote and perpetuate them? We are in the sphere of our own influence, with our own individual reason and instincts to guide us. To blindly serve a god against ourselves is to be a slave or a fool. And if we choose to serve Gods whose values are our values, then who is to say we are serving gods and not ourselves? So long as we promote goodness, honor, and love, what other interests we seek to advance are expressions of our own. As living beings we are obligated to express ourselves and to advance our will. As human animals we have no knowledge of the gods, and cannot imagine them to be responsible for our values and decisions. To accept blindly what another man says to be the truth about the gods is ridiculous, especially when it contradicts our own experience and judgment. How much suffering have we seen at the hands of men who claimed to have knowledge of some gods will? How much happier we might have been, had religious expressions been the providence of the individual, to express and share with his kith and kin. What good is religious dogma? Are we in any way wiser for having been told who the gods are and what they want, without seeking these truths on our own?

Like all living things, including the gods, Man is left to promote and perpetuate His own values: goodness, honor, and love. These are what improve our condition and improving our condition is our responsibility. We must work with, not for, the gods and the rest of living Nature, as rational cooperation is in our best interest. Because the price of life is death, living things must not only cooperate, but also compete. Everything in Nature is bound to this reality. When we serve the interests of others, be they gods, men, or any other living thing, against our own interest, we are living as slaves. Freedom is a state of competition. Morality is the art of cooperation. We are most productive when we foster both freedom and morality. As slaves, men have slaughtered each other to fulfill some perceived desire of their gods. This is why we must choose to believe that the gods wish nothing more than for us to promote goodness, honor, and love, so that while we compete to stay alive and to remain free, we can still cooperate as peacefully as possible with each other, with the gods, and with Nature.

Once you admit what you do not know, you become free to choose what you believe. If you choose to believe in that which promotes goodness, honor, and love, then you will be cooperating with everyone and everything else that perpetuates them. You will be an advocate, not only for yourself and the human race, but for all of nature and all the gods as well. When you simplify your understanding of that which we can only imagine, you increase your ability to form functional and coherent beliefs. So when forming beliefs about the gods, why not start with this? All gods exist and they all perpetuate the goodness, honor, and love within their sphere of influence. As individuals, we each have our own instincts and reason to perpetuate, as we are our own sphere of influence. We are responsible for ourselves. By choosing to be advocates of goodness, honor, and love, we will find ourselves in cooperation with everyone and everything else with the same mission, whether they are aware of this fact or not.

A RELIGION OF STONES

I am a pagan and I have chosen to believe that all the gods exist, or none do. While it is not possible that both the gods exist and none do, it is impossible to know the Truth of such mysteries, even as the gods appeal to our hearts and our imagination. The complete collection of religious history is not sacred because it is religious, but because it has encouraged piousness and wisdom in those that sought to live good lives. That the gods inspire goodness and truth is enough for us to believe in them, insomuch as our faith allows us to promote goodness and truth. And while goodness and truth can promote themselves without any concept of divinity, one cannot deny the traditional unity of God and Goodness. It is in this tradition that I have discovered a Religion of Stones, a religion of the Earth. This Earth is both Heaven and Hell. It is in our power to choose.

The gods are neither good nor evil, but accrue to the ideas they represent. So long as these ideas exist, their gods exist by necessity, in our faith and in our imaginations, and quite possibly, in truth as well. To make peace with all the gods is to make peace with all the world. To love all the gods, is to love the good that they inspire and to promote that good in ourselves and in others. Have faith in this and this alone, that goodness, honor, and love are the foundations upon which our humanity rests. Promote these and love all the gods.

When dealing with men and women of only one god, or one set of gods, or of no gods at all, that we might be bastions of peace, love them and honor their gods as if they were your own. To show respect for any god is to show respect for his people and for his will on earth. Despite what fanatics and vicious men claim about the will of their gods, choose to believe that gods wish only to promote goodness, honor, and love, and reject all claims to the contrary. Surely, this is our rationalization, that the gods promote only the good, but were they to promote evil, they would be our enemies. To make peace with gods and men, we are called upon to place our faith in the optimistic good. Not because it is true, but because every day we are granted a choice between promoting goodness, honor, and love, and rejecting them. We can fulfill ourselves and make a better world through faith, not in any one dogma, but in our aptitude for righteousness.

The world is neither good nor evil and nothing is demanded of us. Our imaginations give us the ability to choose to promote our good or ill. It does not matter to the world which we choose and the natural consequences will come irregardless of our intentions. Therefore, what harm is there in an optimistic faith? Foster that which is good in Man and that which is good in the Gods. Why not? Our imaginations give us the ability to choose how we wish to live and how we wish to believe. We can believe anything, or nothing. The universe is reactive and will judge us by our actions. Why not believe then that which promotes healthy actions and healthy lives?

It would be impossible to love Man if we did not have faith out their ability to do good. A Religion of Stones is a religion of hope and service. It is a religion of the Earth. There are those who love the gods, the earth, and all living things upon it, and there are those who love singularly and selfishly. There are those who hate the gods, the earth, and all living things upon it, and there are those who hate singularly and selfishly. It is a choice. The sooner men realize that their beliefs are a choice and that they must bear responsibility for them, the better we all shall be. Responsibility is our oath before Nature. We act and accept the consequences for those actions.

Before all the gods I accept responsibility for my life and choose to promote goodness, honor, and love. I will ask neither god nor man to accept responsibility for my life, bearing that responsibility alone as my religion and philosophy. I reject all varieties of hatred, greed, and bigotry, choosing instead to respect and honor Life. I will be intolerant of intolerance alone, for the sake of peace; and I will fight to preserve the freedom, honor, and lives of the innocent and righteous. Finally, I choose to believe in hope – hope that Man will fall in love with life and choose to promote it. With my reason and instincts to guide me, I take responsibility for my one and only life. I pray that the gods will sustain this oath.