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09 November 2012 @ 10:56 am
YaaD Work: Class 1: Pantheons and Traditions  
This is one of the reflection papers I wrote as part of my Year and a Day (YaaD) of study with Fieldhaven Coven.

The question is drawn from the Greenhaven Tradition; the YaaD course is not published on the Greenhaven Tradition website, but is made available on a person-to-person basis. Material that is not so closely held is available at http://greenhaventradition.weebly.com/

Class 1, Paper 1 (after reading, before discussion): Take the test on the Religion Selector and be prepared to discuss whether you agree or disagree with the results.

Assignment submitted July 24, 2011.

Spiritual Belief System Selector Quiz, By Selectsmart.com Staff

Question Answer Priority
Check the position(s) that MOST CLOSELY reflects the one(s) that you believe, or want to explore. Important: Some answers include more than one view separated by the word "or." It is an appropriate answer if you agree with just one option within a choice.
  Number and nature of deity, i.e. God, Gods, higher power. (pick one) No God or supreme force. Or, not sure. Or, not important. (pick one) Medium
  Human incarnation(s) of God / Gods / Goddesses. (pick one) No Incarnations as there is no God. Or not sure. Or not important. Medium
  Origins of physical universe and life on earth. (pick one) Only natural forces (like evolution) and no Creator or spiritual forces. Or not sure. Or not important. Medium
  What happens to humans after death? (pick one) No afterlife; no spiritual existence beyond life; no literal heaven and hell. Or not sure. Or not important. Medium
  Why is there terrible wrongdoing in the world? (pick one) No supernatural or spiritual reasons. Human nature, psychology, sociology, criminology, etc. explain wrongdoing. Or not sure. Or not important. Medium
  Satan's presense results in much suffering. (pick one) Disagree High
  Why is there so much suffering in the world? (pick all applicable) Unwholesome thoughts and/or deeds (greed, hatred, and violence) in this or prior lives return as suffering (karma). Medium
Instructions for Questions 8-12: What must we do to achieve salvation, or exaltation, eternal reward, spiritual liberation/enlightenment, spiritual harmony, merger with God, et al?
  Worship (pick one) Not applicable High
  Baptism or initiation ceremony (pick one) Not required High
  Regularly confess/repent (pick one) Not applicable Medium
  Doing good works (deeds) and acting compassionately (pick one) Is necessary High
  Choose all that apply from the list Learn all life's lessons through rebirths.

Humankind is "saved" through human effort rather than through religious or spiritual means.
Instructions for questions 13-20: What stance should your belief system take on the following contemporary issues?
  Elective abortion should be accepted (not proclaimed or treated as immoral). Agree High
  Homosexual behavior should be regarded as immoral, or out of harmony. Disagree High
  Roles for women and men should be prescribed. Disagree High
  Divorce and/or remarriage should be restricted or punished or condemned. Disagree High
  Social programs (e.g. equality, anti-poverty, education) should be fundamental to my belief system. Agree High
  Non-violence (e.g. pacifism, conscientious objector, etc.) should be fundamental to my belief system. Disagree Medium
  Prayer, meditation, or spiritual healing practices should be favored at the exclusion of conventional health treatment (for all serious conditions or certain types of serious conditions). Disagree High
  Worshipping, or revering, nature should be fundamental to my belief system. Agree Low


Secular Humanism -- 100%
Unitarian Universalism -- 97%
Liberal Quakers-Religious Society of Friends -- 90%
Theravada Buddhism -- 85%
Mainline-Liberal Christian Protestants -- 81%
Reform Judaism -- 77%
Neo-Pagan -- 75%
New Age -- 75%
Non-theist -- 70%
Taoism -- 68%
Mahayana Buddhism -- 67%
New Thought -- 63%
Sikhism -- 58%
Scientology -- 57%
Christian Science-Church of Christ, Scientist -- 51%
Bahai -- 47%
Orthodox Quaker-Religious Society of Friends -- 47%
Jainism -- 43%
Orthodox Judaism -- 36%
Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints (Mormons) -- 32%
Islam -- 32%
Mainline-Conservative Christian Protestant -- 26%
Hinduism -- 23%
Eastern Orthodox -- 20%
Roman Catholic -- 20%
Seventh Day Adventist -- 14%
Jehovah's Witness -- 7%


One of the tenets of the Greenhaven Tradition is, "There is no One True Way." In my case, that leads to the corollary, "I just don't know." Even though I have become an affiliate member of Fieldhaven Coven and begun formal Year and a Day studies, I'm still fairly agnostic about a lot of things, including whether there are one or more gods, and if so, whether those gods are individual entities, aspects of a singular Divine, some sort of Jungian archetype, or just plain inventions by humans who need a framework to make sense of the world.

Despite this general agnosticism, I'm perfectly willing to act as if there are gods who are either individual entities or aspects of the Divine. I'm comfortable calling on them both generically ("gods" or "Lord and Lady") on a day-to-day basis or by name in a ritual. In my own personal formulation of Pascal's wager, I figure it this way: If I'm wrong, and there are no gods at all, well, I was wrong, but in a way that did me no harm. If I'm wrong, and there is a single deity who is reasonably benevolent, well, I was wrong, but in a way that did me no harm. If I'm wrong, and there is a single deity who is the jealous god of the Religions of the Book, I'm screwed. And If I'm right, then I'll be pleasantly surprised. Three chances out of four are reasonably good odds.

Based on all that, I'm not at all surprised that Secular Humanism and Universalist-Unitarianism ranked so high in my results. I'm surprised that Deist didn't make the list, but that may not be one of their options. I'm dismayed that Scientology ranked as highly as it did (57%), but my mentor suggested that this just means Scientology is 57% similar to Secular Humanism. I can live with that.

I've been thinking, as part of this assignment, about what I want and do not want in a religion. As best I can work out at this point in my studies, some of the things I do want are:
  • A fairly egalitarian structure, without strongly defined roles for men and women. I recognize that many NeoPagan traditions do have at least some defined roles, but many don't, and some say things like, "You should have both a man and a woman to perform this ritual, but either can take either part." This derives at least in part from the number of people I know who are trans, intersex, or genderqueer.
  • A fairly egalitarian structure, in terms of direct, personal contact with the Divine. I grew up mostly sorta-kinda Jewish, and learned to think of rabbis as teachers but not intercessors, unlike priests in many of the Christian religions, and I prefer that.
  • An interest in social and economic justice for all, or least as many as humanly possible.
  • Less dogma and more thoughtful consideration.
  • Respect and acceptance for those following other paths, unless those paths appear to be causing active harm. That is, I don't want to follow a religion that says, "If you're not one of us, you're going to hell," but I don't have a problem with one that says, "I'm worried about that doomsday cult," or "We believe that Church X is wrong to promote Law Y, and we are going to work against them on this issue."

Some things I absolutely don't want include (in addition to not wanting any of the converses of the requirements):
  • A religion that includes a Satan or equivalent, or a Hell or equivalent. I grew up without either of those, and I'm not looking to add them to my life.
  • A religion that penalizes any form of consensual sexual behavior. I'm much happier with "all acts of love and pleasure are My rituals" than with "only one-man-one-woman within a church-approved marriage and not during certain holy days and not if the woman is menstruating and only for procreation."
  • A religion that encourages privation or deprivation or suffering in the physical world in exchange for salvation after death.

All those things considered, I'm comfortable with the results and with my intent to pursue a NeoPagan path.

This is NOT part of my reflection paper; it's something I wrote in 2004, but it seems relevant here: http://janetmiles.livejournal.com/234735.html

Janet Miles, CAP-OMjanetmiles on November 9th, 2012 04:18 pm (UTC)
In retrospect, I should add to one of the "don't want" points:

A religion that encourages privation or deprivation or suffering in the physical world in exchange for salvation after death.

I do not mean that I would reject a religion that suggests short-term voluntary discomfort such as fasting as a means to an end within the physical / metaphysical world. And I certainly don't have problems with people's own, voluntary choices; for example, if someone chooses to be celibate and focus the energy that might have gone into intimate relationships on some other aspect of his/her life, it isn't my business to tell them not to.
Johnjohnpalmer on November 9th, 2012 10:05 pm (UTC)
Re: Satan and such, I've often had a hard time understanding a sufficiently powerful evil being.

I mean, here's the thing: what does Satan *want*? Assuming he existed, of course. He wants to tempt us from God? Why? What's his motivation? An eternal "if I can't be the brightest star, I'll be the darkest despair"? That's pretty fucking childish. I mean, it's *human* - for a year or two. Or, hell, a millennium or two, in eternity. But eternal opposition? It just doesn't make any sense.

Most evil doesn't make sense once you step outside of the mortal realm. People are driven by pettiness and instincts gone wrong and greed and fear and so forth. But once you're an immortal being beyond all that, don't your motivations change?

But as a worker with spirit, I realize that the idea of evil can be animate - or, if this is preferred, "the idea of an animate evil can be a good metaphor".