Amanda Marksdottir (ragnvaeig) wrote in dublincircle,
Amanda Marksdottir

Religion without Beliefs, part 2

I've finally finished the book, and I'm relieved to say that while the scholarship didn't much improve over the course of the book, there were one or two points Lamond raised that did get me thinking:
1. He points out Christ's assertion that "No one can enter the kingdom of heaven except through Me," implying salvation through the self. Have decided to go look into the Greek and Aramaic translations of the Gospels in order to check this out, and it's actually provoked some thought.
2. He dealt with the problem of ethnic deities; calling them in their native lands, whether ethnicity should play a role in ethnic deity worship (e.g. should Irish gods be worshipped only by those with Irish descent?).
2b. He brought up the idea that specific thought-forms, and thereby specific gods, may be imbued with the characteristics of those who worship them. The example he used is Odin, claiming that a fair number of Odin-followers have felt their personal opinions turn more to the right after opening themselves to this god, due to the use of Odin and the Norse pantheon at large by the Nazis during the 1930s and 1940s. I don't think he's right necessarily in this particular case (I've never felt myself drawn to conservatism) but it was thought-provoking. Are the gods what we believe them to be?
3. He does point out some of Paganism's relations with other modern religions.

That said, Lamond still needs to work on whether he's being inclusive or not. On page 116, he states, rather definitively, "Just as there are no required Pagan beliefs...there are no forbidden ones." Thirty-two pages later, though, he makes an equally definitive statement: "Anyone who believes in the words of the [Anglican] General Confession of Sins is no Pagan." I know it may be difficult to reconcile certain aspects of paganism and Christianity, but I don't think he should rule out of hand some lucky person's ability to balance the two to their own liking.

Another problem I had with his adamant disavowal of Christian elements was his pressing requirement that certain pagan practices be purely initiatory, and guided by a Coven with High Priest and High Priestess. I don't see how, according to his explanation of the process, it's all that much different from a Catholic hierarchy of priest->laity, or the requirement of salvation through the Church. While some people may feel better guided by a Coven, others are perfectly content to allow karma (or what have you) to judge the ethics of their actions, without the intervention of a priestly class. I worry that the author doesn't treat Solitaries with sufficient seriousness.

Overall statement: It does have its thought-provoking moments, but I'm sure you could have these same thoughts provoked by a more well-written, balanced, scholarly text.
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