Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Ethics and Belief

A comment on a The Wild Hunt post got me to wanting to write about this topic - Pagans, Belief and Ethics.

For many of us, when someone asks the question, "what do pagans believe," we tend to give the answer to the stated question. "Paganism is an umbrella term for many earth centered.... " What we often fail to do is to answer the question they really wanted the answer to, "What do YOU belive?"

In this post I am going to ask myself some questions and give myself some answers. I would enjoy seeing others answer the questions too in comments.

1. What do you believe?
Skipping my "about what?" response, I am going to assume a religious connotation here.

A. - about God? I belive that there is One Source of Creation. I believe that the Source is Creation and that all Creation is part of the Source. I believe that we are unable to comprehend the Source in it's entireity. I believe that all the gods are a part of the Source and they are all as real as we are. So, if you want to call the Creator "the Divine" then we are all Divine, as we are all part of the Source. We are each a small part of the Source, the same as a blood cell is a small part of each of us. The gods are each a bigger part of the Source. As for my personal Gods, I follow Cerridwyn and Cernunnos. (Kear - id - win and Kur - noss )
B. - about the Soul? I believe in the more and more scientifically accepted idea that everything is energy, that we are all interconnected - to everything, each other, the Gods and the Source. Energy can not be destroyed, only transformed. Therefore, I believe that the Soul (our divine spark, conciousness, spirit, whatever you want to call it) does "live" on after we die. I also believe that our "Soul" is not defined by what we incarnate as this go around - which kind of reflects my belief in re-incarnation. Is there an "End" to reincarnation, some 'nirvana' or 'ascention' of some sorts? I don't know. Having all of eternity to exist, I think we would find any one situation, incarnation, existence, place, whatever, to become a bit boring after a while and want to move to forward or back to something different.

2. What are your Ethics
Well, Ethics is a philosophy or study of "right conduct" and a "good life." So, I suppose I can sum up my Ethics with one of my "mottos" - "Do that which is Right." Given that "Right" is highly subjective, I suppose that is hard to pin down without a situation to analyze. As a Pagan and a Druid Shaman, I suppose my definition of "Right" is whatever I am willing to be held personally responsible for. I'll cover the big three subjects relevant to the issue.

A. Murder - is, of course, wrong. I define Murder as an intentional and unjust taking of life, premeditated or not, whether with malice or (worse) indifference. I have no problem with intentionally killing a murderer. I have no problem killing someone who needs killing, ie, killing them is justifiable and/or necessary due to circumstances. In an admittidly contrary position to many Pagan and New Age people, I support the death penalty and lament that it is not handed down as much as it should be. There are people whose mere existance (not to mention their coddling) is a blight on society. That being said, any time someone kills someone else, it is a horrible thing to have to go through, at least for any reasonably moral and sane individual, whether it is the Right thing to do or not.

B. Theft - Stealing is wrong. No big explanation here. Taking something from someone against their will, whether by force or by subterfuge, is, was and always will be wrong.  Of course, mitigating cirumstances come to bear here - as in, stealing bread when you are starving and penniless kind of things.

C. Lying - One should never lie - which is to tell an untruth.  I try to adhere to only telling the absolute truth.  One issue that often gets in the way of that is the sad fact that many people prefer to be lied to.  Telling the truth has very often gotten people mad at me.  So, often, telling a partial truth has to suffice, "No, I don't think you are stupid," leaving off the "but you are certainly behaving like it."  I prefer the level of "truth" as exampled in this bit about "Stranger in a Strange Land" by Robert A. Heinlein : "Fair Witnesses are prohibited from drawing conclusions about what they observe. As a demonstration, Harshaw asks Anne to describe the color of a house in the distance. She responds, "It's white on this side". Harshaw explains that she would not assume knowledge of the color of the other sides of the house without being able to see them. Furthermore, after observing another side of the house would not then assume that any previously seen side was still the same color as last reported, even if only minutes before."
But, in practice, that is a bit impractical and tends to get one yelled at often.

"Do that which is Right" and "Harm None" are both big parts of my morality and ethics.  Do what you need to do in order to survive and live well, try not to hurt anyone, even their feelings and try not to hurt yourself.

Any questions you would want to ask?


  1. Morality and ethics are the domain of philosophy, not religion.

  2. Adam - I agree, mostly, but try telling that to priests, nuns, preachers or rabbis, etc... :D
    For many, their "morality" is dictated by their religious choice (or indoctrination). (many)Christians, for example, believe all morality and ethics are based in the teachings of the bible and that anyone who is not christian can not, therefore, be a good moral person.

  3. Finally another Pagan who believes in death penalty! Though I think it's unfortunate, I also believe that for some cases, it's the only way to deal with a criminal.

    Wonderful blog, by the way :-)


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