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Subscribe to this list via RSS Blog posts tagged in pagan ethics

Big Questions


How long have you been pagan? Five years? Twenty-five? All your life?

Time, then, for some big questions.

Has your paganism made you a better person?

Has your paganism challenged you to grow?

Has your paganism bettered the lives of those around you?

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  • Steven Posch
    Steven Posch says #
    Mark, you're my hero.
  • Mark Green
    Mark Green says #
    Absolutely, it has. It has confirmed my values and strengthened them. Deepened my love for the Earth and Cosmos. Sustained my act

 River, Stream, Movement, Turbulent, Stormy, Flow, Turbulence, Commotion,  Water, Wave, Aquatic | PixCove

A Thought Experiment


I believe in the peoplehood of pagans.

Here's my contention: that, collectively, pagans constitute—in effect—a transnational and transethnic people.

I would contend, in fact, that pagans are, essentially, an emergent ethnic group.


So: a pagan and a non-pagan fall into a river. You can only save one. Which one do you save?

In reality, of course, moral decisions are rarely so clear-cut. But ask yourself: under these circumstances, which one would it be?

The pagan moral universe is one of graded responsibility. (Yes, there may be a few heroic souls out there who have managed to transcend such petty restrictions and truly love everyone equally. Well, good on them. I'm talking here about the rest of us poor unwashed unenlightened.) I have more responsibility to immediate family than to more distant relatives. I have more responsibility to distant kin than to non-kin. I have more responsibility to non-kin members of my tribe than to those not of my tribe. And so on, expanding outwards from self.

That said, would I save the pagan, or the non-pagan?

Usually, of course, a question of this sort implies some sort of moral weighting. I'd be more likely to save someone that I knew over someone that I didn't know, the one that I liked better, the one that I perceived as less able to help themselves.

(In the funniest set of pre-flight instructions that I've ever heard, the way-gay air steward mugged: "If you're traveling with a child, please see to your own needs first. If you're traveling with two children, please see to the needs of the most promising child first.")

All that being equal, though, Posch, which one would you save?

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs

b2ap3_thumbnail_web3_sm.jpgAny discussion of the meaning of “Harm none” can - and should – generate plenty of questions. That’s the nature of determining our ethical behavior: our perspective shifts as we circle the problem at hand. This is necessary. The reason for ethics is to determine how to minimize damage to others, and unless we try to walk for a while in their shoes, to empathize with their viewpoint, its almost impossible to do that. This includes our own viewpoint. If we didn’t need to consider our own desire in any given matter, there would be no need for ethics. Which means we need to be very clear about why we want something, and ideally be aware of the consequences of that desire.

We might call this being good neighbors. How would you treat your neighbor if you want to continue – or create – a good relationship? That in no way means that you must be friends with this person, it only means that when you see them in person, that a smile and a wave is easily done. It might be faked, this person may have done something to mildly annoy you, but the fake is easy, and can eventually become a genuine smile if the offense is not repeated.

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Posted by on in Culture Blogs
Do the Beautiful Thing

Do you lead a beautiful life?

Ethicist Magenta Griffith once observed to me that beauty is a moral quality.

This strikes me as one of the most profound—and useful—statements on the topic that I've heard in years.

When making decisions, I frequently have cause to ask myself: What is the right thing to do? What is the honorable thing to do?

But maybe I also need to be asking: What is the beautiful thing to do?

We err if we restrict consideration of the beautiful to aesthetics. Beautiful behavior is something that we all recognize when we see it, even if we can't define it.

What is the beautiful thing to do? Well, Socrates could give you a better rule of thumb than I can. But I'll be happy to name some specifics.

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  • Megan
    Megan says #
    Perfectly written and simply put!
  • Tasha Halpert
    Tasha Halpert says #
    I do agree wholeheartedly! Nice piece.

Posted by on in Paths Blogs

I am increasingly disturbed by fellow Pagans/polytheists/occultists etc. who either so highly value gods and spirits, sanctity of sacred objects & places, or focus so much on environmental preservation and animal rights or other political ideologies that they devalue human worth and dignity. Now to be clear, I have often seen this as a critique of Pagan movement from conservative Christians and atheists alike. I am not sure if I can convince people who don't already to start truly valuing human welfare and rights and acting as if they do. It seems an ability that you to some degree either have or you don't. In my experience, a consistent commitment to human rights seems to correlate with having an experience of dehumanization oneself. This is not having your feelings hurt a little bit, being a "special snowflake" (though if that's an insult, I'll wear it with pride!)  

It's nope, you don't really count as a human being, your experience doesn't count. Even when the Powers that Be of whatever social situation, business or organization you are in repeatedly insist that they "welcome everyone" they don't really mean you. Actions always speak louder than words. Many of us who do have these experiences however still have the people will miss, the bigotries and biases we still hold. Ironically because we are human! This is a mistake I often see new Pagans make. After a happy honeymoon period of discovering Paganism and idealizing it in comparison to whatever their background is, they find out we have problems too. I too have run into this. I frequently have assumed that Pagans, or liberals/progressives/leftists, or whatever in-group I belong to will have a more enlightened and inclusive attitude towards disabled folks or other marginalized groups. And I have all too often dehumanized The Other Side in various arguments and the aftermath of elections. But this just keeps adding to the problem. Perpetuating this cycle of dehumanization just leads to more hate and violence.  Remembering the basic value of dignity & worth of human beings and human life, however interpreted, is often forgotten by both left and right, red and blue. If there's a different philosophical framework you prefer over the concept of "rights", then feel free to argue for it.  

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  • Tacy West
    Tacy West says #
    An all autistic household sounds so supportive. I had two autistic children in a time when diagnosis was not done, 50 some years
  • Mariah Sheehy
    Mariah Sheehy says #
    Yes, we are seeing that more now among the Millennial generation- choosing your family & banding together by necessity.
  • Tacy West
    Tacy West says #
    Yes, yes. I just listened to book on CD "Conversation" by a social scientist regarding the change in Empathy due to separation

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
The Ethics of Glamour

It's tax season which is every bit as wretched as you expect it to be.  I'm on my feet for over nine hours a day in the goddamn copy room which is both a safe haven and a prison, depending on the day.  My book doesn't come out until August which feels even farther away the closer we get to it somehow, probably because I could have had a baby and a half in the time I'm sitting on my hands waiting for it to come out.  I mean, I'm trying to get launch events together for when it comes out but I'm like Ali Sheedy in The Breakfast Club dumping her giant purse out all over the table and no one wants to sit by me.  No.  One.

I very nearly had, like, the awesomest event ever put together but we had irreconcilable differences over how the bar tab would be handled.

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  • Critter
    Critter says #
    Where is the diddly-darn like button?

Posted by on in Culture Blogs
What's Your Name?

What will they remember about you when you're dead?

1300 years ago, the Anglo-Saxon Hwicce—the Tribe of Witches—called it nama. 5000 years before that, it was *nomn. But they both meant the same thing.

As one whose concept of afterlife is the Grand Sabbat of the atoms, I've sometimes been asked: What, then, is your motivation for moral behavior?

The ancestors had a name for it: Name.

What's your name?

Call it name, or reputation. Name is what they know you by.

What do they say about you? What's your reputation among those that know you?

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