Friday, September 12, 2008

What makes you more right than me?

It’s a question I’ve often been asked. Most frequently when ‘passive leafleting’ for my university Pagan Society. ‘Do you honestly believe you’re right?’
Well, duh? Yes, I honestly believe that paganism is right. Some of my friends may not realise how strongly, how passionately I believe that, mainly because I tend to keep it to myself. I’m a quiet religious-nut (and no, that’s not a contradiction in terms).
But the difference between me believing I’m right and, say, a stereotypical, fundamentalist Christian or Muslim believing that they are right, is that I don’t believe that I’m exclusively right.
Yes. That’s what I said. We can ALL be right.

How can I think this? Surprisingly easily… It helps that, as a Pagan, the idea of multiple deities is not a problem. But it also links to what deities are and what they do.
In my opinion, there is a celestial force. Something greater, wiser and more powerful than us (note that I’m not saying all-powerful, all-knowing etc – who says the gods are infallible?). We don’t know what it is. A pagan creation-myth I particularly like just calls it ‘TheOne’. I don’t know if it’s male, or female, or either. It just is.
And all deities are parts, or avatars, of TheOne.

Why do we have different religions then? Well, we have different music, we have different styles of art. We all see colour slightly differently. If we can approach these rather mundane things from completely different perspectives, why not religion? Why can’t one person feel more drawn to one belief without it being ‘better’ or ‘right’? It just feels better or more right for them. And that’s fine. Nothing wrong with that. It would also mean that all religions are a valid path to The One, as a part of the whole. All religions are incomplete, imperfect ways of understanding something that is so much bigger and greater than us – something that we can never even hope to understand, let alone really conceive of completely.

But if we accept that no human can ever fully understand that powerful thing, then who has the right, who can honestly look inside themselves and say that their way is the ONLY right way?

And if you can…. Good for you. Just don’t try and persuade me.


Richard (probably going to Hell) said...

Your discussion of multiple deities being "parts" of some ultimate being, "TheOne" as you call it, is similar (but not quite the same) as many Christians view the Holy Trinity.

People often get tied into knots wondering how God can be three-in-one and one-in-three - surely he is either one or three? Muslims even call Christians heretical and blasphemous for having "polytheistic" beliefs. Christians are often heard muttering about the "three persons of the trinity" - no wonder such accusations are made against us!

However, the word "person" (so I am told) would have had a meaning more similar to "office" or "role" in Greek. Therefore, we are not talking of three separate entities of the Trinity, but three separate jobs or roles of God (in much the same sense as I have three jobs); Father, Son, Spirit - Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier.

Perhaps there are other offices of God that He is yet to reveal to us?

My view, like yours, is that most mainstream religions are worshipping the same deity, just with different models for what offices It fulfils.

And yes, as fallible humans, there is no way that anyone can possibly have a completely accurate model of the transcendent God. That is why I am such an advocate (when asked!) of the Anglican Church. Ok, it certainly isn't perfect - indeed, if it were perfect, it wouldn't be human - but one of the principles that emerged from the tumultuous days of the reformation was that of the fallibility of the church.

Whilst there are angry minorities within the Church who bang on about orthodoxy* and what evil people we liberals are, they are missing the point: the human condition dictates that, whilst we are perfectly entitled to hold on to and defend our religious beliefs, it is imperative to admit that there is a chance we are wrong.

And, as you say, perhaps we are all right...

* Note: I am not saying that I am not orthodox. Quite the opposite. It's just that some factions of the Anglican Communion (notably GAFCON - what a great name!) would claim that I'm not.

Mylissa said...

The idea of ‘Offices’ is very similar to the idea of avatars. Ie there is a male and female element to ‘divinity’ or TheOne, and that all other gods and goddesses, throughout the ages, are aspects/avatars/offices of the God and Goddess. And different aspects do different jobs, or are responsible for/linked closely to different things (eg fire, fertility, floods, cats…)

And the ‘Father, Son, Spirit - Creator, Redeemer, Sanctifier’ fits nicely into that.

Richard, you may/may not be orthodox, but you’re being dangerously pagan!

Fallibility of the Church – its something I find very refreshing – the occasional comment in the press from an Anglican along the lines of ‘we don’t really know’ or ‘I agree with my Muslim colleague that…’
Surely this is what religion should be about - the exchange of ideas and practices with the idea of inclusion, not exclusivity or conversion being the aim.