Nov 212012
 

Yet another way that Sinnsreachd is unique from many other Pagan religions is that we have a laity. We don’t really think of the laity as such, it’s a little more organic than that, but they are  the bulk of Sinnsreachd.

Most Pagan religions today boast that every member is their own priest. But functionally this makes little sense. Certainly, the individual can and should be responsible for their own relationship with their gods, but that is not really priesthood. And, a religion without a priesthood (in some form) is not really a religion. Honestly I think that the whole notion of “everyone is their own priest” is another response to bad experiences with “organized” religion and its necessary hierarchy. It also serves as a way of giving solitary practitioners a sense of legitimacy if one is needed.

However, a priest serves a specific purpose in their community. Nowadays the priest’s main purpose is to officiate the rites and ceremonies on behalf of the group. Traditionally, there was a deeper role of making sure the rights were done correctly, that the gods were properly worshiped. In Sinnsreachd, the role of the priesthood is both of these combined with the role of religious teacher, much like a Jewish Rabbi. Everyone in the community is capable of these things of course, but it is the priest, the Druí, that makes it their primary responsibility and takes things to a deeper level.

I talked about this a bit on the Sinnsreachd Yahoo Group back in March. I outlined three main religious roles that Sinsearaithe fall into: priesthood, laity, and lay-priesthood.

Priesthood – This is the Druí serving as spiritual mentor, ritual leader, counselor, etc. In addition to the normal day-to-day honoring of the gods and ancestors that everyone does, the Druí is also concerned with more esoteric matters. These include things like pondering the nature of the gods, the structure of the cosmos, the principles and functions of ritual constructs, etc. The Druí is most concerned with the group rather than the individual. Right now this role is fairly rare and undeveloped; however, ideally every tribe will have at least one someday.

Laity – This is, broadly, everyone else. We are individually responsible for our own relationship with the gods and communing with our ancestors. We need no intermediary for this. The laity concern themselves primarily with the day-to-day prayers, offerings, etc. They are of course encouraged to learn as much as they can and even explore more esoteric aspects of our religion, but it is not expected or required. In contrast to the Druí, the laity are concerned with the individual (normally just themselves) rather than the whole group. This is by far the largest role, easily 90% of Sinnsreachd.

Lay-Priesthood – This is a member of the group performing some of the group religious functions in the absence of a Druí. This can be anything from a recognized tribal leader to a parent or spouse leading their household in prayer or celebration of a Féile. As with the laity they are encouraged to learn all they can, perhaps more so than the laity because of the higher responsibility, but it is not expected or required. I think more often than not people are thrust into this role by circumstance. This is especially true of the tribal leader. It becomes more of a “well someone has to do it” rather than a primary calling. There are more lay-priests than we give credit. After all, every household has to have at least one.

The laity have by far the most freedom within Sinnsreachd. The Druí is expected to be the “go-to” person for spiritual matters, so they never stop learning, exploring, adding to their religious and esoteric toolbox. The lay-priest is by definition a leader and has all the responsibilities that leadership requires. The lay practitioner can learn and explore until they are on par with a Druí or they can just do a quick prayer now and then. They are limited or encouraged only by their own needs and not by some expectation to be a priest, scholar or magician.

Nov 192012
 

Okay, this was just too good to wait on. Posting schedule be damned! Special thanks to Drew Jacob for posting about this, which is how I found it.

This post from John Halstead over at The Allergic Pagan, really sums up a lot of my misgivings about the bulk of Paganism. In Being Ashamed of Paganism he alludes to some of the issues he has with modern Paganism and how it differs from his own practice. Mostly he seems put off by the more counter-cultural and “woo-woo” antics of Neopagans.

Much of this could have been plucked right from my own experiences.

 

 

It is a Paganism that I do not recognize.  It is a Paganism of wishful thinking and self-delusion.  It is a Paganism which suffers from the same flaws as the 60′s counterculture hippie movement from which it sprang: an overemphasis of idealism over realism, endemic disorganization, and an inability to communicate its vision to the wider culture.  And it is frankly a Paganism I am embarrassed to be associated with.

This embarrassment is one of the main reasons that I don’t really associate with the general Neopagan groups. I don’t really isolate myself completely, after all that is where I started. Actually, I have hopes of finding others that are only part of that crowd because they feel it is all that is available and showing them another way, freeing minds so to speak. But in my infrequent dealings with Neopagans I find myself repeatedly having to explain that I am not that kind of Pagan.

I think that the reasons that many people come to Reconstructionism, of one flavor or other, are similar to the reasons for John’s embarrassment. I talked a bit about this back in October in Biggest Difference Between NeoPagans and Recons. Quite simply we are collectively “not that kind of Pagan” and more often than not embarrassed to be associated with them, or worse mistaken for them.

Go give John’s post a read; I’m sure you will enjoy it.

Nov 172012
 
godagainstthegods

God Against the Gods: The History of the War Between Monotheism and Polytheism
Jonathan Kirsch
336 pages
ISBN: 978-0-14-219633-5
Penguin Compass

As the title says, the book chronicles the back and forth fighting between monotheism and polytheism, pretty much. The author covers the period from first known introduction of monotheism to the final victory that secured its apparently permanent place in the world. I am not enough of a scholar to fact check the author, but nothing really seemed fishy to me either. So, this seems to be an accurate portrayal.

The book is divided into two main sections. Book One: The God That Failed chronicles the various failed and semi-successful attempts to introduce monotheism. Book Two: The War of God Against the Gods deals with the early influences and rise of Constantine, his successors and ultimately the final victory of monotheism. Pages 285-288 contain a very handy chronology of the major events discussed in the book. There is also a summary of the major historical figures, thorough notes and a very extensive bibliography.

One thing that I really liked about the book is that it is very readable. History books are often dry and difficult for the average reader to follow. God Against the Gods is definitely an exception. I also really liked that the author went through some trouble to show both sides of the war rather than favoring one over the other. Although, at times it does seem slanted against monotheism simply because most of the misbehavior was monotheists against pagans and each other. Still, the bibliography shows a good mix of books critical and favorable of both mono- and polytheism.

One major criticism that I have is that the bulk of the book is focused on Rome and the struggle between classical paganism and Christianity. True, this is certainly the most famous struggle, but hardly the only one. Judaism is covered in various phases although the most in-depth coverage is the introduction of monotheism among them and a frequent sideline of events alongside and against Christians in Rome. Oddly, Islam is hardly mentioned at all. Another criticism is the scope of the book. The time period covered does follow events up until monotheism, Christianity really, has an undeniable foothold, but 415 CE is hardly the end of the war. We never got to the Crusades for instance, or the battles between Christian and Pagan kings in early medieval Britain. I would like to have this scope expressed in the title. The title makes it sound like it encompasses the entirety of the struggle. Although, that struggle continues to this day in many, if usually less bloody, ways.

All in all I think it is a great book and highly recommend it. In fact, it should be required reading for Christians and Pagans alike.

Nov 102012
 
Demopublican-Republicrat

Now that the election is over, let’s talk politics.

Sinnsreachd as a whole really doesn’t have a political stance. We don’t endorse any party or particular direction. However, we as a people certainly have strong political views. This I think is another thing that sets Sinnsreachd apart from most of the rest of Pagandom. Most Pagans are Social Liberals, Democrats and/or Environmentalists (or some combination of these). This is in line with that fact that most Pagans are Wicca-ish as that political combination fits well with an Earth-as-Goddess, Harm None paradigm.

Individual Sinsearaithe run the gamut of the political spectrum. However, I would say the majority support political platforms that encourage responsibility, self-reliance and practical rather than passionate decisions. Even those of us that lean more toward Environmentalism do so more from a standpoint of growing our own food, knowing what’s in commercially grown foods, etc. They are more likely to plant a tree than chain themselves to one. :-) Those of us at the more Conservative end of the scale tend to support the military, responsible economics and are wary of social support programs, but at the same time side with Liberals on many social issues like abortion and gay marriage.

Truly, for us the whole idea of a “scale” with Liberals at one end and Conservatives at the other makes little sense. In reality, the vast majority make a stand on issues independently and so do not fit into any neat political box. I imagine we would drive pollsters crazy.

My own views…

As an example of how we bounce around the political spectrum here are my personal views on various issues (No, I’m not running for office! :-D ):

  • Abortion – I do not believe that that abortion should be illegal. I think that the woman affected is the best one in a position to make that decision, not any government body. That said, I do think that an effort should be made in education, family planning, family support, etc. to discourage using abortion as a method of birth control. Ideally, abortion would only be used in extreme circumstances and not to prevent inconvenience or other social disruption. But, again, I don’t feel we should legislate that.
  • Gay Marriage - Marriage does not need to be legitimized by a legislative body, period. Religiously, the government should have no say whatsoever. Otherwise, marriage is a contract and should be governed by contract law. (Sinnsreachd views about marriage is a whole post in itself.) So gay, straight, or multiple, everyone can get married so long as you are legally able to enter into a contract.
  • Gun Control - I think that there should be a reasonable training requirement in that someone purchasing a firearm should be able to demonstrate basic competency. I think a background check should be done to limit purchases by certain felons. Otherwise, no record should be kept of the purchase beyond a sales receipt just like with any other purchase. There is no (good) reason for the government to track who owns guns. There should be no restrictions on carry, open or concealed. If you are legal to purchase, you are legal to carry. Although, private businesses have every right to not allow firearms in their establishments; gun owners also have every right to take their business elsewhere.
  • Defense - I think we should maintain the most powerful military on the planet, period.
  • Foreign Affairs - We should not use our military to interfere in the affairs of another sovereign government for our own gain. That said, I think that it is acceptable for us to use our military to aid another country if they are requesting it and reasonable compensation can be arranged. Care should be taken with this, however, so that we don’t just become a hired enforcer. We should not be the world’s police force or bully.
  • Economics - I support a truly free market in which government does not provide bailouts, provide legal advantage to one business over another, or require absurd regulations which inhibit growth and innovation. In a truly free market basic business principles like supply and demand will serve to balance things on their own. The only purpose of legislation should be to maintain the opportunity for balance and resist companies’ natural tendency to tip it to their advantage. Our monetary system should not be based on fiat, but representative of an actual commodity with actual value actually held by the issuing agency.
  • Healthcare - The limits of care are extremely complicated, but I do think that every citizen (and that’s important) should be entitled to basic health care for free. The key here is basic, which is also where it is hard to define. I think you should be able to take your sick kid to the doctor or get regular physicals without a cost, but I don’t think you should necessarily get to charge the government when you get lung cancer from chain smoking. This is a very sticky issue altogether and I don’t have real solutions to offer.
  • Immigration - I think we should make every necessary effort to control illegal immigration. If we can keep the Koreas from killing each other for 70 years, we can control our own borders. There should be a reasonable process for gaining citizenship. I think that process should primarily be available to people, and their immediate families, that would be a net gain for our society. They should have some needed skill in other words. I think that work visas for temporary labor should be available, but extremely limited. We have a LOT of people out of work that could use jobs. Many of them would be willing to do basic labor jobs at a reasonable wage.

I could go on forever, but this should be enough to show that I, and many other Sinsearaithe, don’t fit in a neat political category. I expect I will get interesting comments from this one. Hee hee.

[Support Star Foster's Hardcore Pagan Blogging Project. Go, chip in a few bucks!]

Nov 072012
 

Star Foster is a talented blogger and has great ideas and plans for Pagan-centric online resources. She has put together an indiegogo campaign in order to raise funds to allow her to dedicate more time to her blogging. Is it worth it to support her? I think so, and have. She headed up the Pagan Channel over at Patheos until very recently. She now is out on her own at Pink Beyond Pink. She is one of the only bloggers that I have seen that uses video content, including video conference interviews and discussions! I am very excited about this as more use of video would effectively make widespread communities (like Sinnsreachd) be able to work together more often than just when we can travel. Her blog entries are often thoughtful and deep and, while she is not strictly recon and certainly not Celtic or Gaelic recon, her take on pagans in general and the future of Paganism really resonates with me.

So, go visit Star Foster’s Hardcore Pagan Blogging Project and send her a few dollars, or more than a few. Frankly, I want to see what she can accomplish with the resources to do so. Then, share her project with everyone and encourage them to send something, too.

Nov 032012
 
moregods

Yes that’s really my car. If you see me be sure to tell me how much you love the blog and feel free to shower me with snack cakes. ;-)

“Bumper sticker evangelism” is a term that Christians sometime use to describe plastering your car with “Jesus Loves You” and “WWJD?” and any number of a thousand other sayings. Sometimes this is used as an insult intimating that the driver is only going through the motions. Sometimes it is considered a genuine way to spread the Word. I’m not really sure why they do it, but I have been giving some thought to why we do.

I have a bumper sticker on the back of my car that reads “Don’t Piss Me Off! I Have Way More Gods Than You.” A couple weeks ago I had a woman comment on it negatively. She wasn’t insulting really, but the gist of what she said was that I was wrong, there was only one true god. It didn’t offend me and I politely shared my difference of opinion and moved on. That and similar incidents got me thinking about what really was my intent when I put the sticker on my car. Certainly I wasn’t deliberately setting out to offend people, or was I?

A lot of Pagans really love their bumper stickers and t-shirts and other overt expressions of our Pagan-ness. Hell, as I type this I am wearing a shirt that reads “The Druids Are Coming! Plant A Tree” (from Teo Bishop‘s CafePress store). We love the humorous, cryptic and sometimes insulting messages that attract attention to us. But then often we don’t really like the attention we receive. So why do we make such displays?

I think there are several reasons:

  • Revenge. Well, revenge isn’t really the right word. What I am getting at is that we are constantly bombarded by Christian messages and want to push back. Maybe to let people know that Paganism is a religion, too, or maybe just to show that we can also be obnoxious. I think this is certainly true of deliberately provocative slogans like my sticker, “My Goddess Gave Birth to Your God” (a Dianic Wiccan favorite), or “What Would Cthulhu Do?” If you display these then you really have no right to be offended when someone takes issue with it. After all that is the point of it.
  • Pride. Well they do it, why can’t we? Some slogans are just statements of faith. This certainly true of ones like “Wiccan”, “Druid”, or “Heathen”. (I should make one that just says “Sinsearaí”. Of course the reaction would just be “Huh?”) Another version of this are the self-directed humor ones like “Druids Do It In Circles,” “Tree Hugging Dirt Worshiper,” and “My Other Car is a Broom.”
  • Support. For some the main reason for such public displays is simply to let other Pagans know you are there. I know this is my main reason for doing it. Although I do like poking fun at Christians (old habits die hard). Bumper stickers, t-shirts, even open wearing of religious symbols work as a banner to let other Pagans know that they are not alone; there are others out there. Of course the funny part of that is that even if you are open and obvious about your Paganism other Pagans are often hesitant to approach. It is like they are afraid that if they same something it will “out” you as a Pagan. Pretty silly if you are wearing a “PAGAN” t-shirt and sporting a pentacle the size of a dinner plate. Or in my case putting stickers on your car and openly displaying a triskele (that is NOT the size of a dinner plate).

Honestly I think the Christians that put on such displays do it for at least the second and third reasons above as well as a (usually) passive form of evangelism. In that sense we are no different. We are bumper sticker evangelists. :-)

Oct 172012
 
post-it mania

Now there’s a different topic…

Okay, I have been slacking on my writing lately so I am a bad blogger to give advice, but I’m going to anyway. :-)

When most people start a blog, they want it to be successful (i.e. popular). Actually, blog popularity has turned into quite a business. Many professional bloggers make a pretty impressive income. Needless to say a lot has been written on how to develop a successful blog. (An excellent starting point, if a bit dated, is How to Blog: Blogging Tips for Beginners.)

When I started this blog I of course wanted it to be successful (still do :-) ), so I did a lot of reading about how professional blogs are developed and managed. I have no real desire to make money with this blog. I may offer things for sale at some point (Sinnsreachd Life t-shirts?), but I’m not in this for money. The success I’m after is popularity. The more people that read this blog the better. It spreads the word about Sinnsreachd and makes me feel good. Anyway, I have tried to apply some of the things I have learned about professional blogging to this site. I thought for a change of pace I would offer some tips based on what I have learned (most of which I currently do to some degree). Maybe some of these can help your site.

  • Blog Platform – The most popular platforms these days are WordPress and Blogger. Between the two, WordPress seems to offer more features (especially if you install it on your own server), but Blogger is easier to use. From a professional standpoint I would recommend WordPress  Both are free, although it will cost if you want your own domain name. Also, avoid using the blog feature built into many of the free website packages. They are convenient, but are often ignored by search engines and are difficult (sometimes impossible) to subscribe to using a RSS client (program that collects posts from blogs you subscribe to for easier reading).
  • Domain Name – The free platforms give you a subdomain (yourblog.platform.com), but if you really want to be professional you should get your own domain. Domain names are offered through both of the above mentioned platforms. If you want to take things to the next level I would go ahead and get a hosting account. Then you can have your own sites all day long and have complete control. A bit pricier, but not too bad (less than $10 a month normally). For a web host I recommend FatCow.com. They have great service and features and have an installer that will install WordPress automatically.
  • Customize – No matter what platform you use do something to it to make it yours. At the very least change the stock header/background/whatever. I see excellent blogs in terms of content that on first site look very amateur because they are just the stock install of the platform. Obviously this has to be within your abilities, but it is not hard to change images, layout and such. Also, the platforms have themes available that will let you completely change the look with minimal effort.
  • Style – Relax. Most readers prefer a relaxed, personal style of writing. They want you to talk to them rather than offer a dissertation. Of course this depends on what your blog is about. A technical or academic blog should probably set a more professional tone.
  • Pictures – True, the blog is about the writing. However, pictures set the mood and keeps the blog from becoming too book-like (a blog is certainly not a book). I try to have at least one picture for each post, sometimes more if it helps reinforce the text. Don’t get too carried away, though. Too many pictures make the post cluttered and hard to read. A couple good sources for free (legal) pictures are Stock.Xchng and MorgueFile.
  • Frequency – The more often you have something to say the more it will hold your readers’ attention and keep them connected. The ideal would be a post a day. I would caution against posting more than once a day. The blogs that I read that often have several posts a day often lack depth in a lot of posts, making the posts like extended Tweets. I’m a bit off these days, but I try to post something twice a week on average. Also, a predictable schedule will also help to keep readers coming back.
  • Post Length – There really is no magic number of words. Try not to go overboard (he says as the word count goes above 750…), but you want the posts to have some meat to them. That said, the occasional short blurb, or dissertation, is okay. I try to keep it to around 500-1000 words.
  • Links – Search engine ranking is king. One way to increase ranking is by linking to other sites within the post. You will notice several links in this post. I try to have at least one per post. Bonus points for linking to another popular blog post. The specifics of how linking helps search ranking are a mystery to me, but I know it is important.

This is getting rather long, so I will stop here. If you do some research on “professional blog” and “search engine optimization” you will find many, many more tips.

Any questions on these? Anything to add? Comments welcome.

Oct 062012
 

There are of course many differences between NeoPagans (Wiccans, etc.) and Recons (Sinnsreachd, Asatru, Hellenism, etc.). To me though there is one that stands out above all others: the gods.

Last week I mentioned a guy that thought that pagans were silly people that worshiped themselves. It irritated me that he would even think that. I know where he gets the notion of course, some pagans can be pretty “out there”, but “ourselves and trees and stuff”?? Exaggeration, surely. Then I saw a clip of the cast of a new pagan television channel that is in the works. One of the cast members, with stars in her eyes, said that they “honor ourselves, the Earth and each other”*. Wow.

That’s when I understood that the primary difference between NeoPagans and Recons is that they don’t believe in the gods, not really. I can here some Wiccans screaming in the background, so let me clarify. They don’t believe that the gods are real, individual beings with Their own wills and Their own wants and desires. To most NeoPagans the gods are thought-forms, archetypes, projections of our psyche, etc.–anything except actual beings. So, in their rituals they focus primarily on themselves (personal projections of power) or the Earth (sometimes called a goddess, but really a personification of nature). This also comes out in their preoccupation with magic. I have always said that magic is prayer for those that don’t believe in the gods.

By contrast, Recons believe the gods to be as real as we are. They may not always be personified, but They actually exist and have will. They often have a direct interest in us, although I haven’t made up my mind how often They actually interact with us as opposed to how often we think they do. Throughout time people have sought to interact directly with the gods, to praise Them, ask Them for help. We do not seek to connect to some Jungian super-consciousness (I remember it being called The All, or maybe The One, back when I was Wiccan). In our rituals, our primary focus, our primary reason to have ritual, is to interact with the gods in some way. It is not about “raising power”, “turning the wheel”, or “expanding our consciousness”. It is about honoring the gods.

NeoPagans sometimes insist that what they do is not a religion. Maybe that’s true. Every religion is about the relationship between us and the gods. {I do not consider Buddhism, etc. to be religions. Rather, they are spiritual philosophies. This is mainly because they do not worship gods.}

Another similar perspective on this is an old blog post I keep referring back to, if only in spirit at times (I am certainly not THAT kind of pagan.). Good reading: Not That Kind of Pagan by The Infamous Brad

 

*Maddenly, I cannot find that clip now. If anyone knows what I’m talking about please send me a link and I’ll update this post.

Sep 262012
 
PPD

…or doing my best to subvert them. :-)

First the craziness: I am (very) tentatively planning to have a table for Sinnsreachd at the Northern Virginia Pagan Pride Day, next year. Now let me explain myself…

Two blog posts have gotten my attention lately. The first, Pagan Orthodoxy (and the wife of Jesus) observes that Neo-Paganism is slowly coalescing into a sort of orthodoxy. The vast majority of those who identify as Pagan see Earth as sacred, honor the Goddess and God (although the names may change), call quarters in ritual, assign the classical elements to the quarters, etc., etc. I will note that while Pagan should include recon religions we are left out of this category by default, by the growing orthodoxy of Pagan = Eclectic Wicca.

I like the term Pagan. I think it neatly defines the “otherness” of our religions when compared to the Big Three of monotheism. Many recons would say that we should leave the Pagan label to the Neos and either stand on our own or have another category for ourselves. I like both options really, but I am pretty practical. Standing on our own is the curse of a thousand names. Each recon religion will be seen as an independent oddity by the overculture and given all the respect of a cult. Another category for ourselves, Polytheism would work since the Wicca-ish are primarily duotheist, has potential. However, I want us to be seen and known. “Pagan” is well established; “Polytheism” is not. We would be starting over. If we can manage to coexist under the Pagan umbrella with Neos then we gain around 70 years of name recognition.

Also, I want to coexist with Neo-Pagans. That seems odd since I often criticize them. I don’t want to compromise; I don’t want to meld our ways into some Recon-Neo hybrid, but I think we can coexist. I think we can share the stage with them. Heh, maybe they will someday share the stage with us. Someday, I want people like this clown (at 1:48) to know that we are not all “silly people” that “worship [ourselves] and trees and stuff”.

The other blog entry that got my attention was Third Parties, Choices, and Our Place in Paganism. One of the main things the author talks about is how Pagan Pride Day is predominantly Neo-Pagan. Anything else is severely under-represented if at all. For instance, at the PPD she attended the only non-Neo table was a single table shared by a Heathen group and a Shinto one. Everything else was Wicca-ish. She points out that one reason that there are very few non-Neos at these events is because they aren’t represented. Well, we have to start somewhere.

So, this is my plan. I plan to get a table at our local Pagan Pride Day 2013 for Sinnsreachd. There will be handouts, maybe a book giveaway (if my intro book is published by then, which I am aiming for), snacks, etc. Most important it will give me an opportunity to talk to the wider Pagan community, let them get to know us, share the stage together. Maybe I will even find some new Sinsearaithe among them. Additionally, I am hoping to get a local Heathen Group and a nearby ADF Proto-Grove to get tables as well. I suggest that everyone else do this, too, at your local PPDs. You don’t have to put on a ritual or make crafts or anything like that. Just put some info on a table, stand there and answer questions.

Sep 232012
 
gunman

I just watched Religulous again. I love the movie, but I am sick and when I get sick I think too much. Okay so I often think too much. Anyway, the movie of course focuses on the nuttiest people that Bill could find. So, taken as a whole it is not a fair commentary on religion itself or the majority of believers. Religulous makes the statement at the end to the effect that people shouldn’t believe in religion because religion leads people to radical, and inevitably destructive, behavior. But my religion, and Pagan religions in general, doesn’t seem to do this.

The obvious question is why? What makes our religions different? I’m not sure I really have an answer. I was initially thinking that it is because we don’t have an end-of-the-world motif, but many of us do. Germanic Heathens have Ragnarok, Sinnsreachd has the Morrigan’s Prophecy, even Wiccans have a vague understanding that everything is a cycle. But I don’t see any Asatruar causing chaos in the hopes of bringing about Ragnarok sooner.

One major difference I do see is that we do not have a sense of eternal punishment for doing the wrong thing. Having eternal damnation hanging over your head can be a pretty effective motivator. I will talk about this in another post, but we do not need threats to our lives or souls to beat us into doing the right thing. We have codes (or guidelines) that we live by that define right behavior. We expect reward for living rightly, but not horrific consequences for living wrongly. In the religious radical’s mind this whole concept becomes, “God says I should do this, so I must do it or I will go to hell.”

The issue I see with the believers in the movie is not that they believe strange things. Let’s face it, we worship a race of divine superheroes. Rather, the issue is that they believe so strongly that they lose any sense of reason. I am devoted to An Daghda. I pray to Him and sometimes I think he comments in the back of my mind. However, I am rational enough that if He were to say “Your children are possessed by Scientologists. You must kill them!” I would take a step back and wonder if I was going insane rather than hearing the command of my god. But something is broken in the true believer. Their response could well be, “Really? Holy shit! I’ll take care of that right away.” I even recall seeing a church sign once that said something like “Intellect is the enemy of faith”. Say what? Their books even feature stories about God telling people to do something really stupid just to test their faith. To the truest of the true believers faith is above all obedience without question.

We have believers, so why don’t we have true believers like the monotheists do? I think partly is a matter of size. Our numbers are small, so there is less of a tendency to need to be guided by a charismatic figure. In a grove of 10 or a kindred of 100 things are still small enough to think things through. The mob needs numbers. Even in a future tribe of thousands we would have individual clans and households, so it would still be difficult for a single Druí to lord over them all directly. However, in a church of 50,000 lead by a single preacher? A sect of millions led by a politically motivated imam? Definitely the makings of horror if the leader knows how to work the mob.

Another reason we don’t have true believers like that is a matter of doctrine. Pagans generally don’t have any doctrine that encourages radical behavior. The Big Three (Judaism, Christianity, Islam) all have wording in their scriptures that either says outright, or can be interpreted to say, that one should kill, convert, or otherwise oppress the non-believer/sinner/etc. In true polytheist still we have a more live and let live approach. Our doctrines generally say that we should live a certain way, but people who live differently are just not us. They do what they do, we do what we do. A possible exception could be in Sinnsreachd. Some of us believe in what we call The Pact (An Comhaontú) that basically says that the Gaels’ troubles were caused when they turned away from the gods and their glory will be restored when proper worship and living is reestablished. I can see where a fragile mind could turn that into some sort of “kill the infidel” silliness.

The reason that we don’t have the same issues with crazy people as the Big Three do may just be because we are comparatively young. I wonder if 500 years from now we will see Wiccan terrorists or a Sinnsreachd Doomsday cult? I certainly hope not. Radical behavior historically seems to be contained to monotheists for the most part. Maybe that will be our protection.