Welcome to the latest installment of Unleash the Hounds, in which I round up articles and essays of interest to modern Pagans. Before we get started I wanted to give an update on the Pagan journalism crowdfunding experiment I launched on March 21st. The very excellent news is that not only have I reached my fundraising goal of $1850 dollars to send The Wild Hunt to Chicago in November so that I can cover the American Academy of Religion’s 2012 Annual Meeting, but I’ve surpassed that goal by hundreds of dollars. All in less than a week! Thank you! Your enthusiastic response not only means I’ll be covering the AAR’s Annual Meeting, but that we have a head start on the next crowdfunding assignment (all monies raised beyond the goal will be rolled over into the next campaign).
Once the month-long campaign officially ends I’ll update my affiliates page with all those who chose to become underwriters, and update all who’ve donated on other promised perks. Considering the success of this initial go, I think it’s fair to say that I’ll be using this model to fund other assignments. The big question now is, where would you like me to go, and how often do you think I should hold a crowdfunding assignment campaign? I welcome your feedback, and once we have some solid ideas for events you’d like to see me at, we can even hold a poll to gauge reader interest. Some initial ideas for future assignments include the Esoteric Book Conference in Seattle, and Paganicon in Minnesota. Make your voices heard, and if there’s enough demand, we’ll try to fund them one at a time. Ultimately, I would like to build this up and work towards funding a trip to the 2014 Parliament of the World’s Religions in Belgium.
So again, thank you to my generous supporters. You made this happen. Now then, let’s unleash the hounds, shall we?
- Pagan Newswire Collective Managing Editor Cara Schulz got to spend the day with presidential candidate Gary Johnson, who is likely to run as the Libertarian Party candidate in November. Johnson famously did a virtual “town hall” session with representatives from Pagan and Hindu media and advocacy outlets back in October, and Schulz got a chance to follow up with the candidate to see if he regretted courting our community’s vote. Quote: “There was no consternation within my campaign about any of the feedback that we got on that event. No consternation.” I recommend reading the entire piece, especially if you’re a Pagan who leans libertarian. You can read all of my coverage of Johnson, here.
- Politicker covers Monday’s official announcement of Dan Halloran’s congressional run, including a video clip of the event. Halloran’s prospective Democratic opponents have already started criticizing Halloran’s claims to being an “independent” Republican, but not, thankfully, his religious beliefs. For more on Halloran’s candidacy, check out yesterday’s post.
- The Catholic magazine America takes a quick look at the Occupy Faith National Gathering, which was coordinated by the Interfaith Tent at Occupy Oakland. Tom Beaudoin, who is part of Occupy Faith NYC/Occupy Wall Street, mentions that there were “Wiccan-identified participants” and “multiply-identified persons” in attendance. Beaudoin notes that he is “most interested in what actually happens to people’s faith/religion/spirituality when we meet and work with other people of different faiths/religions/spiritualities, in their integrity, working for the common good.”
- Pope Benedict XVI, head of the Roman Catholic Church, is currently in Cuba. I’ve already mentioned the pontiff’s unwillingness to meet with “non-institutional” religions, even though Santeria is a dominant faith in the Communist country. The Havana Times looks at Cuba as religious melting pot, interviewing Babalao Lazaro Cuesta who says “it’s an error for the Catholic Church to consider us deviants. We simply have our own religion: the Yoruba religion.” CBS says the Pope as a “tough fight” against the ubiquity of Santeria in Cuba. Meanwhile, Luis Perez-Simon looks the “Vatican two-step” regarding Cuba and notes that “as successor to St. Peter — the Guardian of the Keys of Heaven — the pope is also a representative ofOggún for the Regla de osha and of Zarabanda for the Palo mayombe Santería religions.”
- John Gray at the New Statesman engages in the time-old tradition of blaming pagans for flaws in Christianity. In a review of “Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer’s Guide to the Uses of Religion” Gray sniffs that the “fixation on belief” in Western Christianity “results mainly from the distorting influence of Greek philosophy.” Greek philosophy, to paraphrase a famous meme, is in your religion, distorting your theology. Perhaps John Gray should look a bit deeper, because Greek philosophy never diminished the value of praxis in pre-Christian religion.
- Lawyers for Christopher Vaughn, accused of murdering his wife and three children, are trying to block any mention of his Druid religion from court proceedings. Public Defender Jaya Varghese said that “The word ‘Druid’ alone is prejudicial,” and would “significantly impact” his right to a fair trial. At issue are posts Vaughn made to a Druid listserv in 2007 that prosecutors say point towards motivation for the killings. A ruling on the matter is scheduled for this Friday.
- The New York City Department of Education is looking to have around 50 words/subjects removed from standardized tests given in the state, saying certain words can make children feel “unpleasant.” Among the words? “Halloween,” “Occult topics (i.e. fortune-telling),” “Parapsychology,” and “Witchcraft, sorcery, etc.” Apparently “Halloween” was targeted because it “suggests paganism.” I now have to wonder if standardized tests in New York had word-problems involving Witches celebrating Halloween or something. Could tests have truly been that awesome? I never got anything like that growing up in Nebraska.
- Rev. Dr. C. Welton Gaddy, President of the Interfaith Alliance, lets us know that the “war on religion does not exist.” Quote: “Let’s move past the idea that opposing the imposition of one set of religious doctrines on the rest of society is a war on religion. Let’s move past the idea that asking people to follow the laws of our democratically elected government is somehow a challenge to religious freedom. Let’s move past the idea that the fact that a majority of Americans are Christians somehow makes this a Christian nation. Instead, let’s celebrate the diverse nature of faith in this country that has thrived in large part because of the religious freedom guarantees in the First Amendment.”
- Unitarian Universalist Association President Rev. Peter Morales writes about his trip to Japan, and participating in a Shinto ceremony. Quote: “As I reflect on all the ceremonies I attended as the ambassador of our faith, the role of ritual in religion is very much on my mind. An ancient faith has rituals with centuries of tradition. These rituals connect people over time and, with repetition, induce a state of reflection and centering.” Rev. Morales then talks about the importance of having ritual in ones religious life, even in the “heretical” UUA.
- The Pew Research Center says that a growing number of Americans are uncomfortable with the amount of religious talk that is being inserted into modern Politics. Well, except for supporters of Rick Santorum.
That’s it for now! Feel free to discuss any of these links in the comments, some of them I may expand into longer posts as needed.