What are ethics based on?

I often see Pagans, polytheists, and Christians talking about ethics and morality as if they were mandated by a deity, and as if that deity was the ultimate arbiter of what is good.

I mention Christians because it’s all too easy to pretend that Pagans are so much cleverer than Christians — but only because we don’t yet have the Pagan equivalent of a “What would Jesus do?” bracelet (as far as I know).

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Halloween and Samhain

The season of Halloween is fast approaching, and with it, the opening of several different silly seasons. It’s the season for racists to dress as caricatures of other ethnic groups. It’s the season for journalists to find the gothiest witches they can, and write dramatic articles about them. And it’s the season for spooky films on TV, and (gods help us all) pumpkin spice latte.

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Totalising systems

A totalising system is one that seeks to subsume all other paradigms within its paradigm, rather than accepting that other paradigms exist alongside it. It regards itself as a complete and universal system which can explain all experience and needs no supplemental systems.

A non-totalising or pluralist system recognises its particularity to its local culture and sees that different philosophies emerge out of different cultural contexts and local histories. A totalising system ignores local contexts or seeks to explain them through its paradigm.

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Spiritual nourishment

Spiritual and religious experiences can vary, as William James described more than a century ago. He described how different types of people get spiritual nourishment from different styles of religious practice, and in the process probably contributed to an increase in tolerance of religious diversity.

When examining our own spiritual experiences, or seeking out spiritual experiences, I find it helpful to identify experiences that are nourishing in the long-term, rather than just providing a temporary high.

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