‘Religion’ is not a synonym for ‘Christianity’

‘Religion’ is not a synonym for ‘Christianity’ July 5, 2012

There was a time in America’s history that, when talk turned to religion, it was widely assumed you meant Protestant forms of Christianity. Eventually, and with some struggle, this was broadened to include Catholics and Jews, creating a tri-faith “Judeo-Christian” conception of faith in the United States. Groups outside this understanding were, at the time, either too small, or considered too strange and foreign, to be seriously considered. Thanks to a number of different factors, immigration, social upheaval, and shifting attitudes, different religious groups and movements took hold and found fertile soil here. Now the Judeo-Christian understanding is increasingly threadbare as Pagans, Hindus, Muslims, Buddhists, African diasporic faiths, syncretic movements, renewed indigenous traditions, and those who claim no formal faith at all, demand equal treatment and consideration under the law. This has created a unique friction as those who cling to the  old conceptions of faith in America encounter a pluralism that threatens their conception of moral and societal order.

A perfect example of this friction is displayed in the case of Louisiana’s new, expansive, school voucher program that would funnel government money to private schools, including religiously-run schools. There are a number of things that are being challenged in the new law, and it remains to be seen if it will ultimately stand, but some early supporters are having second thoughts now that it’s apparent that “religious” schools don’t automatically mean “Christian” schools.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, worried about Muslim school vouchers.

Rep. Valarie Hodges, a Republican who represents East Baton Rouge and Livingston, now says she wishes she hadn’t voted for the Jindal voucher bill. “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public schools or private schools,” Hodges told theLivingston Parish News. “I liked the idea of giving parents the option of sending their children to a public school or a Christian school,” Hodges added. The newspaper reported that she “mistakenly assumed that ‘religious’ meant ‘Christian.’” […]  “Unfortunately it will not be limited to the Founders’ religion,” Hodges told the News. “We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam anywhere here in Louisiana.”

You see, while Christianity is still the most popular form of religious adherence in the United States, they no longer operate unchallenged. Since this is a pluralistic, secular, country, the law is prohibited from favoring one faith over another, and there are people willing to fight so that ethos is enforced. However, religiously conservative (predominantly Christian) lawmakers and advocacy groups, in an effort to roll back disestablismentary reforms made in the 20th century, have floated a larger number of “religious freedom” laws, many aimed at public schools, that they hope will create a status quo which benefits the majority at the expense of the minority. Branding any space carved out for non-Christian rites as an assault on their free exercise. Driving home an ethic that says religious freedom isn’t about celebrating diversity, but clearing space for the majority.

Perhaps I’m overstating this? Don’t listen to me, listen to the Texas House Research Organization’s own analysis of a then-pending student “religious liberties” bill.

The bill could serve as a tool to proselytize the majority religious view, Christianity, in Texas schools. The United States is a nation made up of people of many faiths. Children are required to attend school and should be permitted to do so without someone else’s religion being imposed on them … A school should be a religion-free zone – leaving religion for homes, places of worship, and individual hearts.”

You see, the “other faiths you don’t like might benefit” scenario presented above is more a gambit than a true threat. In most cases the tyranny of the majority, once unconstrained by the law, proceeds to do its level best to silence all dissenting voices through threats, intimidation, violence, or simply peer pressure (and if you don’t believe that, you don’t remember high school). The real problem is that the coalition of groups working for the long-term shifts in how schools and the public square deal with religion, have to balance that with their fear-mongering that paints groups like Pagans, or more often Muslims, as a serious threat to their conception of a “Christian Nation.” If you delegitimize minority faith communities by saying they aren’t real religions, that the First Amendment doesn’t even apply to them, or that they are sleeper cells for terror, your constituents will be shocked when they learn they have equal access to the law.

Of course, religion is not a synonym for Christianity, and recently two federal appeals courts have handed down decisions against allegedly “open” public invocation policies that were too uniformly Christian. So perhaps all the maneuvering to reintroduce Christianity into our government and school curriculum through the side-door will ultimately collapse, especially as religious minorities become increasingly proactive in establishing their rights. What’s important if we want to stop these initiatives that (consciously or not) twist religion into meaning simply “Christianity” is an increasing commitment to engagement from religious minorities. Only by standing up and being heard, by destroying the notion that this is solely a Judeo-Christian nation, can we progress to a point where American pluralism means something. We have to pursue a policy of both fighting these laws that are designed to benefit the majority faith, while also promising that we will seek full and public participation in them should they pass.

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111 responses to “‘Religion’ is not a synonym for ‘Christianity’”

  1. Now that I’m living in Nashville I have been following the freak out by Christian groups in Murfreesboro (just south of us) over the mosque being constructed by the Islamic Center of Murfreesboro.  The legal shenanigans and the apparent bias of Judge Robert Corlew leaves me shaking my head in frustration that this level of prejudice still exists in our country

  2. I have noticed a growing trend in pagans (and others)  who say “I consider myself spiritual but not religious.”  I hate that the word “religion” itself has come to mean something people of faith want to distance themselves from.

    Similarly in discussions about marriage equality I often hear people say that gays can have civil unions but only religious institutions should be able to confer marriages… but my religion DOES allow for gay marriage.  Oy.

  3. The very first explicitly religious colony that the English ever set up in North America, Plymouth Plantation, established by Separatists in 1620, explicitly did not allow for religious marriages at all, but insisted that marriage was properly a secular institution that should be performed and witnessed by the civil magistrates of the colony.  (Indeed, from the 16th century onward, all forms of Protestantism insisted that there were only two sacraments, baptism and communion, and that marriage was not a sacrament at all.)

  4. There’s an historical echo here. Some 25 years ago conservatives in California were promoting a voucher system like this one. The Contra Costa County Pagan Community Center announced that it was ready to apply for public funding for a Witch School, whose staff and curriculum (specifically including spellcasting) were ready to go.

    Voucher supporters split down the middle over this. It failed.

    We have to support the Muslims in this. They are not a 9/11 style threat but are faced with the same narrow attitudes that bedevil us. A loss for them is a loss for Paganism.

  5.  “I actually support funding for teaching the fundamentals of
    America’s Founding Fathers’ religion, which is Christianity, in public
    schools or private schools.”“We need to insure that it does not open the door to fund radical
    Islam schools. There are a thousand Muslim schools that have sprung up
    recently. I do not support using public funds for teaching Islam
    anywhere here in Louisiana.”  Isn’t the nerve these politicians have just absolutely awe-inspiring, that they think they can just say sh** like that?  Fifteen years ago, no politician could get away with that garbage.  Undoubtedly they talked about it amongst other crazies, but if you hoped to have any sort of political career you kept your religious fanaticism to yourself in public.  I really miss the Clinton years.

  6. What will it take to get it through these idiots heads that the founding fathers weren’t Christians, or at least not (sic) religious. Ben Franklin belonged to every Church, Masque, and Syanagaug from Boston to Philidelphia  as a means to a political and social end, and he also belonged to the Hellfire club in England. Washington was a Deist and a Freemason and I’m almost certain Thomas Payne was an Athiest. The founding fathers were not religious Christians, I doubt they were even Christians.

  7. Actually the first religion in the USA wasn’t Christianity, it was the faith belief systems of the Native Americans. Just saying.

  8. Remember, New Orleans sees an outpouring every year of ritual with Afro-Caribbean roots. And those Christian private schools are what’s left of the white private schools set up originally to evade court-ordered integration. Along comes another crowd they probably don’t think of as white either…

  9. This is the kind of stuff that makes me be almost ashamed to say in southern . Altho prejudice is everywhere , there seems to be a heavy concentration in the south .I’m with Crystal , this woman actualy said that in public , that in itself is flabergasting .Where i am is barely southern , but is strongly southern in feel we even have an accent . I’m just glad i’m not in her local, not having to deal w/ that nonsence.Atleast here on delmarva we’re  blue states , Delaware and Maryland .what was and is known as fence riding states .     Kilm

  10. I think usually when folks say they are “spiritual but not religious” they mean they don’t limit their viewpoint to the most common one from a religion.  

  11. The word “religion” needs to be reclaimed! So often the word is used to denote belief systems that use their beliefs and holy books in violent and oppressive ways by both the Majority Religions as well as those who are more secular (“spiritual but not religious” and Atheists – I am looking at you). Anthropologists and Sociologists (the sciences that study religion) cannot agree on a definition for this word that aptly describes and includes every incarnation of spirituality and religion humans have devised. I feel it is important to use this word in a positive way or else we are creating an arbitrary divide that can lead to even more oppression and devastation, not to mention confusion – personal and legal.

  12. Apparently Hodges and other lawmakers never bothered to actually sit down and read any of the Constitution or Bill of Rights they swore to uphold. Why does it seem like Bible Belt states reserve elected office for people who weren’t bright enough to bag groceries? If you fail your third run at a GED down there, do they just assign you a statehouse job?

  13. Structured Religion is a form of social control. Individuals who are in the upper sectors of power tend to not be tied down by religion but uses it as a powerful social control on the ignorant masses.  It is still the same way today. They tell the individuals who mindlessly go to church every Sunday and to vote for them. They usually don’t go out and say that they should vote for them b/c of the shared religion but they know its a factor. 

    its sickening actually. One main reason that many Concervatives are against Gay marriage is not for the morals but because they have a set of rules that is written in religion and maintaining all those rules is key to keeping the masses in line with faith in their leaders. 

  14. This is what I think is the crux of it all…. Not all Religions oppress others or are used/have been used to control others.  To say that Religion is oppressive when only certain have been/are is casting a really wide net when really those who state that are talking about only a few religions.

  15.  ‘Religion’ implies dogma. Dogma, it seems, is anathema to a lot of Pagans.

    Unsure why.

  16.  From an outside perspective, the USA is appearing to be in the grip of a great Christian resurgence.

    Bush tried to claim that his war(s) were holy crusades, or somesuch, didn’t he?

    The reason this is something that politicians feel they can safely say is because they are expressing views that enough supporters have that it really isn’t controversial.

  17. …and this is the kind of crap you can expect to continue seeing, so long as you elect Conservatives to power.  They TALK about “small government” and reducing the deficit, but whenever they get into power, it’s all about hatin’ gays and pushing Christianity.

    Grow up.  The only viable choices for non-Christians in the USA are socially Liberal politicans (Liberals and Libertarians).  If you’re voting for a socially Conservative politician, you’re like a black guy voting for a Klansman…and that’s just plain pathetic.

  18. Thats why I said “structured religion”. For what reason would there be a Pope? Or a leadership that consumes more money than half the governments in the world. For what reason is there a designated war directed by religious leaders. One example out of many is the Catholic church of the Middle Ages. Most of the laws and institutions of the time was done in order to control the masses. Not to say that the christianity and jesus’s message isn’t something one can take solace in and it be a very good spiritual experience. But the construct of the church itself rather than the spiritual aspect of the religion was what oppressed individuals. And its not even oppressing pagans but keeping a social order with a select few on top. If you live in America is the exact same thing but its not always done by religion but rather Mass Media. Same result different tool. 

  19. At least for Wiccans dogma is a negative word . Many pagans came out of heavily dogmatic Christian faiths . Becoming or converting to paganism is/ was a rebellious act .  Rebelling against all the forced, controlling structured ways aka dogma . Many amoungst us still have a knee jerk reaction to the concept of strict dagma .Soltary Wiccans in particular tend to be extremly individualistic and unstructured in their practice , like it that way .Much of the time doing things on the fly , so to speak.At least that is how it works here in the states . Even those of us on more organised paths , most of us are ex Christians , myself included  don’t like to use the word dogma . In all reality my path have some rudimentory dogma , we just don’t like that word . On my path which is a CR style faith we are more loosly organised than the strictly dogmatic Middle Eastern desert faiths , the big 3 monotheistic faiths .As pagans as a matter of fact we resist strict dogmatic ways , are more free thinking.  Kilm

  20.  Ironic, then, that Wicca was written as a dogmatic magical system.

    I can see pros and cons to dogma, myself.

    The most obvious pro is coherence of belief. Hard for a religion to be take seriously by others when those within it are constantly arguing about how things are.

    The most obvious con is the potential for manipulation by those seeking (temporal) power.

  21. And I suspect THIS is why so many Pagans here in Louisiana are not open with their spirituality (those in New Orleans are an exception, given the rest of the state). Jindal & his ilk are simply an embarassment.

  22. …and a great book to copy/paste quotes from, when Christofascists start up with their “Christian Nation” garbage.

  23.  John Adams was a believing and churchgoing Protestant. Thomas Jefferson was a Deist. Ben Franklin was a freethinker. Washington made frequent and apparently sincere references to Divine Providence in his public utterances, so I infer that he was a Deist and possibly a Christian. I don’t know what Alexander Hamilton’s views were. All of them supported freedom of conscience.

  24. I believe that if Rep. Hodges believes that only the religion of the founders should benefit, than only the Episcopal and Congregationalists need apply, as these were the only established churches at the time of the nations independence.  None of these new-fangled baptists or non-denominationals need apply, since these were not the faiths of the founders, and definitely none of these papists who settled in Lousiana under those dirty French and Spaniards.

  25. I accidentally clicked “like” when I meant to click “reply”. Religion isn’t just for the sake of the individual. One of its functions is to promote social order; putting it another way, to help people get along and live together.

    In order to perform this function, religions have to have some internal structure and organization. Structure is the skeleton that enables the entity to grow and be active. That structure doesn’t need to be a pyramidal hierarchy with a single head. Nor does it necessarily have to promote the interests of a small elite over the interests of the mass of people, or its own adherents over everybody else. There are counter examples among the world’s religions.

    Any society larger than a small band of hunter gatherers has to have some organization, and complex societies rely on institutions that outlast individual lifetimes. Most of us see the necessity for institutions like schools, banks and law enforcement even if these often operate in unfair or oppressive ways. Why would religious institutions be an exception?

  26. Yep, recovering Catholic here.  The way I now worship ebbs and flows, as the world does.  Too often do people try to control their environment through rules and imposed structure as a way of feeling safe when they would be better off going with the flow.

  27. All this is is a legal way to segregate our schools and use your tax dollars to enforce a fundamentalist viewpoint. Jerry Falwell is smiling from his racist grave. The only thing he regrets is he didn’t live long enough to see this happen. 

  28. Since marriage is a civil institution…the church only got into giving blessings to a couple after the lord of the manner or a civil official made sure the wives property and anything she owned would go to her husband. Marriage has nothing to do with religion…but for ownership of property.

  29. Regardless of whether or not you consider them Christians.

    There may be types of Christians and non-Christians of today and yesterday they’d resemble, but they were still different people with their own subcultures and schools of thought. 

    Even if they were all by definition Christians that doesn’t mean they made this country for the varying types or a specific Christian subculture, or American subculture, of today… nor should the argument really be about whom specifically  they shaped the country for in the first place.

  30. It is called natural consequences.  It is a bit of delicious blow back on those  who eschew critical thinking skills or even low level thinking skills.  

    The religion of the founders of the US were followers of the religion of enlightenment.  Their doctrine was progressive and inclusive.  Their sacraments were Liberty, Freedom and Independence.  They wrapped that in a package that said “promote the general welfare”.  

    Now we find those that wished to establish a country club of Anglo affiliation as a church are finding that they have made tactical and strategic errors.  

    That is the way of natural consequences.

  31. Thomas Paine was a Deist. John Adams, John Quincy Adams, and Thomas Jefferson were Unitarians.

  32. It’s just not factually correct to claim that the Founding Fathers were Christian at all. Many were not and said so. I don’t personally feel private schools should get public funding…and if so no religion should be taught there. Religion has no place in publicly funded schools or governing of the people. Religion can be introduced in many other areas, but not schools. Religion and Governing were never meant to mix for a reason..Look what Washington has done with their claims of a “christian nation”?? Many people are not christian, and many of us are offended by this new breed of so called christian selfishness and judging.

  33. It is factually incorrect to assume the Founding father were christian at all. Instead of making those false claim, read a book, (many)…look at history, read books by the people who actually knew or studied the founders.  Read Jeffersons..”Wall of separation between church and state matters”in our own Constitution..No doubt he used to the word “wall” for a reason> Given the rabid, almost taliban like mentality of todays supposed christian movement, and the selfishness and judging of these radicals, I would agree with Jefferson and keep that wall up as high as possible. This country was founded on FREEDOM FROM RELIGION. Freedom to practice any religions at all. Most Republicans use the brand of christianity to win, but practice nothing of that belief at all in reality. Planned Parenthood once gave the Bush’s a plaque because of their annual generous donations until his party told him (Bush 1) that he had to practice christianity to win..It’s a brand they use and never practice in reality given their selfish, greed and cruelty in reality. To claim any other religion is “radical” is to quote Fox and just another example of your opinion mirroring Fox’s and incorrectly stated.

  34. “Dirty French and Spaniards”??? Established churches??? Paganism is one of the oldest religions /practices I know of going back to the Egypians and Romans etc….until one Roman leader married a christian and hello mass slaughter to “force change”..and so it went. Read a few books, open your mind, and close your shame us all. Religons come and go. Paganism is one of the oldest there is..and in my mind one of tleast judgemental, less cruel and selfish of all. It’s a shame they were slaughtered by not doubt if many christians had their way they’d begin another slaughter to win..Look what they have done with our countries in their almost blind ignorance. Most have not even read their book of sex, muder, incest , multiple marriages and a god with an ego larger then the thanks. Mankind survived just fine without that sickness…it’s just amazing women have.

  35. It should also be noted that they haven’t read the bible either. I have doubts that any of them can actually read or comprehend anything.

  36. The sad thing is the Republican party has been whittled down to nothing but the crazies. 

  37. Religion not being a synonym for Christianity is very much connected, in the same way, to the notion by the Christian (religious, financial, and political) hegemony’s use of “Non-believer” by Christians.  Not only does non-believer become a term coined to say one is non-Christian, the assumption that “non-believer” means godless, and that other beliefs, themselves, have no axiological, ontological, and epistemological value outside the Christian framework.  This assumption needs to be addressed, too.

  38. The coded vocabulary that is used by these people is something that will give historians nightmares 100 years from now.

    When they say “religion,”  they really mean “Christianity.”

    When they say “Christian,”  they really mean “Evangelical Protestant” (and probably “white Evangelical Protestant”).

    And when they say “Evangelical Protestant,” it has no real religious referent. As Fred Clark has pointed out in numerous posts over at Slacktivist, that term, in the U.S., has become nothing more or less than a designator for a type of tribalism (in the worst possible sense of the term).

    So, small wonder that one of “their own” (Ms Hodges is a Baptist, according to Wikipeda) got tripped up by this code-speak.

    “The very powerful and the very stupid have one thing in common. They don’t alter their views to fit the facts. They alter the facts to fit their views. Which can be uncomfortable if you happen to be one of the facts that needs altering.”–The Fourth Doctor

  39.  “Any society larger than a small band of hunter gatherers has to have some organization”
    I’ll disagree with that. Even hunter gather bands need organisation.

  40.  I think you missed the point.

    I’m guessing he wasn’t being literal, but employing sarcasm.

    ‘Paganism’ isn’t A religion, it is an umbrella term for a myriad diverse religions.

  41. ‘Religion’ is not a synonym for ‘Christianity’, but ‘Louisiana Republican’ seems to be more and more a synonym for ‘ignorant bigot’.

  42.  They want to shrink government down to a size where the rest of us can choke on it.

  43. NOt happy tax dollars are being used for any religion and that religions get to duck paying taxes off their profits.

  44. I wish they were that consistent. Ask Conservatives to stop the extremely large and expensive pursuits by the HSA of the Drug War and its snooping into people’s privacy without good cause and they stop talking about shrinking governmental size or spending.

  45. “There was a time in America’s history that, when talk turned to religion, it was widely assumed you meant Protestant forms of Christianity.” When was that? The founders in the first 13 states included Roman Catholic Christians in Maryland, Episcopalians in Virginia, and Quakers in Pennsylvania. They had fled from sectarianism in Europe, for example here in England where only Anglicans (Episcopalians) could become Head of State, be elected to Parliament, attend university or enter many professions.

  46. Us Discordians have catma. That’s why we’re a bit uncomfortable with attaching dogma to our faith. I mean some dogs and cats are okay with eachother but it takes a while for them to let go of the ancient reflex of fighting eachother…

    Paganism is about free expression of religiosity. Usually out of bounds of the institutional religion which imposes the dogmas on ppl by force when in pagan view the religion should be experienced and tried out. Felt and delt with. Not just heard and succumbed by…

    If pagans have dogmas they are not wfitten in the stone because they may change as life around changes.

  47.  It’s a constant push and pull between Orthodoxy and Orthopraxy.  Traditional Witchcraft has a great deal of Orthodoxy, but I wouldn’t say that it is overly dogmatic in the way that Christianity is. 

  48.  To echo Leoht:

    I’d argue that to be human is to have societal organization.  Society is a technology that has enabled humanity to stroll out of the forests and savannahs (depending on which form of evolutionary history you particularly follow) and spread.  I would say that it is the fundamental technology that has enabled us to be as successful as we have. 

  49.  Beg to differ.  The first religions in the USA were Christian flavored.  The first religions in *North America* were not.  There IS a difference.

  50. I for one am perfectly ok with the religious bigots claiming dominion over that word – I treat it the same way that the KKK is treated: let them spew whatever vileness they want, it makes it easier to identify them (see also: Westboro Baptist).  Now if only we could get some of the churches to be labeled as ‘hate groups’ or have their 501c (3) status removed…

  51. The early centuries of North American history were more religiously tolerant than later became the case.  There were almost certainly numerous Muslims among the slaves brought in from Africa, and there certainly were Jews (in New York and Rhode Island).  There was also a great deal of magical and esoteric activity, especially in Pennsylvania, New York, Rhode Island, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont.
          After the Civil War things changed.  One of the Presidents Roosevelt (I forget which one, but I’d guess FDR) is on record as having said something like “this is a Protestant country, and the Catholics and the Jews are here on sufferance.”

  52. Those “consistent” small government people are LIBERTARIANS, not Conservatives. 

  53. In their attempts to equate Christianity with religion as a whole, the Christians have an unlikely accomplice: atheists. I like to think of this as the spiritual equivalent of the American “two-party system”. “Debates” between Christians and atheists are very much like “debates” between Republicans and Democrats, wherein the things that really need to be addressed are meticulously excluded from the discussion.

  54.  I like the word “religion.”  Once, during at a “social justice” workshop and we (about 30 of us) were all asked to say what our “religion” was.  I said “Wicca,” because I was too afraid to say “Witchcraft” at the time.  The teacher still looked aghast at me and asked me “what kind of religion is that?” and I had to explain. It was scary, but I felt good about doing it and educating those people. 😉

    I enjoy studying etymology, and the word “religion” comes from “re-ligare” which means to “reconnect.”  For me, “religion” means to “reconnect” to the Divine or Spiritual energy of the universe.

  55. Never forget that David Duke was elected as a Louisiana State Representative as a Republican.  “Louisiana Republicans” have a pretty lousy reputation.

  56. All the groups you mention, aside from Catholics, are Protestant forms of Christianity. As for the Catholics, do you want to go over the history of anti-Catholicism in the United States? The dominance of Protestantism in America is well documented.

  57. Aye , this is a big problem within the Wiccan community , manipulation from those seeking power. In my earlier path days i had a bad coven experience from a power hungery HPSand love blind sided HP . This group crashed and burned badly w/ some emotional damage . But as they say , that which doesn’t kill you ,makes you stronger . The next time i came accross a potentialy bad situation w/ a lass we call cybil , for obvious reasons i recognised the trouble signs.Unfortunatly this is an all to common problem in Wiccan covens .All i’m saying is be careful and this is only a small number of Wiccan groups .      Kilm 

  58. “Since marriage is a civil institution…the church only got into giving blessings to a couple after the lord of the manner or a civil official made sure the wives property and anything she owned would go to her husband. Marriage has nothing to do with religion…but for ownership of property.”

    Your example ignores a large variety of cultures in which the wife maintains ownership of her own property, and even to an extent takes control of key parts of her husband’s property. There is a reason why pre-Christian Scandinavian wives wore keys as an outward symbol of their authority over the shared wealth. Those wives could divorce their husbands relatively easily, and took their property with them when they did.

    Similarly, your final statement is overly broad; there are plenty of religions in which marriage is a religious act. I’ll give you an example that I’ve been reading about recently: a kind of marriage practiced in Rome called the confarreatio. This was the most solemn of marriage rites, and for a large portion of Roman history, it was indissoluble, meaning that divorce was impossible. This was the form of marriage that the highest religious specialists in the Roman state religion had to be in: the  flamen and flamenica Dialis (the priest and priestess of Jupiter) and the rex and regina sacrorum (king and queen of rites, the inheritors of the religious duties of the pre-Republican Roman royal pair). Also, if memory serves, brahmans must be married in order to perform rites, with the brahmani (wife of the brahman) also performing key religious duties. This, and other ample evidence, shows that marriage has a religious value, at least among certain peoples. If it were not so, there would be no marriage rites at all.

    It seems to me that one of the main goals of marriage has always been the bringing-together of families to ensure responsibility for caring for and raising any children that might result from said marriage, and property is pooled to ensure that there are sufficient resources for that and (hopefully) for an inheritance for those children. This involves creating bonds among unrelated people, and the making of those bonds always has a religious character, at least in the cultures I’m familiar with. One might say that marriage is thereby a form of contract (and therefore secular, not religious), but I am unaware of any pre-Christian culture in which contracts were not seen as holy agreements, bound by oaths witness by the gods. 

  59.  I wouldn’t say it means these things aren’t controversial:  what it is is the US has this two-party system and we’re very *polarized* right now.  The Religious Right,  by now including like the Catholic Church and Mormons and all,   has been positioned as an essential voting bloc: the conservatives in general try to mainstream the radical Religious Right demands as much as they can in order to make it not cost them too many votes  out of the more moderate majorities,  and all. 

    A lot of these things are called ‘wedge issues’  for a reason,  it doesn’t mean the  Religious Right doesn’t have disproportionate influence over power and politics than would really represent the people. 

  60.  You’ll find it a problem in any community that has people.

    Can’t blame the religions, when it is a simple fact of human nature.

  61.  “Paganism is about free expression of religiosity.”
    Really? I thought it was about having non-Abrahamic spirituality.

    Anything else is open for debate.

  62. Even in more organised groups , such as ADF that i am part of there is no real hierarchy . The same applies to the large Wiccan groups . The Mother grove or coven gives a ritual structure/basic methodology , but all the seperate groups operate independantly , are autonomous. There is no real central ruling/controling structure such as the Catholic Church has.My base religion is Sinnsreachd , it operates the same way , we all have basic tenants / ways but each family is an independant unit / tribal[clan] intity or teaghlach .

  63. That’d probably be because Christianity has the years and number to have perfected over dogmatising.

  64.  They are only controversial if enough people disagree with their stance.

    They obviously have enough supporters that they can say these things without fear of (significant) recrimination – they are saying what their supporters want to hear, after all – and they can also rely on a lot of apathy in those that do not directly support them to avoid a large amount of people not on their ‘side’ to avoid a backlash.

  65.  Agreed!

    How often does the atheist argument hinge on the premise that ‘deity’ means a single omnipresent, omnipotent, omniscient, omnibenevolent deity?

  66. “The Mother grove or coven gives a ritual structure/basic methodology”
    Does it seem odd that it is the dogma (how to practice belief) that is passed on, not the religion (what to believe)?

    “There is no real central ruling/controling structure such as the Catholic Church has.”
    Whilst this is a very real strength, it also is the biggest weakness the ‘Pagan’ faiths have, when dealing with the larger world, today.

    “we all have basic tenants”
    Just checking, do you mean ‘tenets’?

  67. “Your example ignores a large variety of cultures in which the wife
    maintains ownership of her own property, and even to an extent takes
    control of key parts of her husband’s property. There is a reason why
    pre-Christian Scandinavian wives wore keys as an outward symbol of their
    authority over the shared wealth. Those wives could divorce their
    husbands relatively easily, and took their property with them when they

    When I get married (2014), the giving of keys from the werman to the wifman will be included in the rite (along with the exchange of swords.)

  68. “”The Mother grove or coven gives a ritual structure/basic methodology”
    Does it seem odd that it is the dogma (how to practice belief) that is passed on, not the religion (what to believe)?”

    You have incorrectly definied dogma; dogma IS the teaching of beliefs.    Praxis is the methodology.  ADF is an orthopraxis based relgion (right practice) vs orthodox (right belief) religion.

    ADF is comprised of multiple hearth cultures, related to the ancient Indo-European influences that can be found in said cultures.  However, the cultures are not identical, and the religions were not the same, either.   Since each culture is different, we instead have created our own ritual structure, drawing on elements common to many/most of the cultures, and use that to honor the Kindreds in a way that, while not identical to any one ancient practice, may *feel* similar in intent if someone from one of those cultures were somehow transported to our time.

    So, we teach the method, but we leave the belief to the individual member. 

    As for tenants, well…we all have bacteria in our gut 😉

  69.  Well I can nitpick that also. Considering the US was established with people already inhabiting the colonies, and since both Native Americans, Christians, Deists, etc. were already living in those colonies at the time the US was established, then at that moment all the beliefs of the people living in those colonies were “the first” religions established in the US.

    So technically, whoever had a set of religious beliefs when the US declared its independence that was living in the colonies can lay claim to being first.

  70.  My bad. I blame a Christian upbringing for the confusion between the two.

    Point remains the same, with switched definitions, though.

    Seems odd to have a religion based on the ‘how to believe’, rather than the ‘what to believe’.

    After all, historically, cultural distinction is often illustrated by the differences in the what, not the how.

  71.  Traditional Wicca has a hierarchical but decentralized authority structure. This limits the damage any single unscrupulous individual can do to the handful of people who are members of the coven. You don’t see huge Wiccan organizations in which acolytes turn over all their money and life decisions to a charismatic leader.

    OTOH, Wiccan protocols of coven autonomy and secrecy tend to isolate coven members from the wider community, giving an unscrupulous or unbalanced coven leader opportunities to emotionally or sexually abuse coven members for quite awhile before anyone outside the coven intervenes. And intervention usually takes the form of quietly warning other people away, or simply declining to refer prospective students to that leader, rather than putting a stop to him or her.

    I’ve been a member of five covens in three traditions, not counting one I was in charge of. All of them had well intentioned, relatively sane leaders,  and none of them were abusive.

  72. The conservative evangelical fundamentalist theocratic zealots are, of course, bothered by any kind of government program that would offer advantages to religions other then their own approved versions.  No surprise there.

  73.  Some people have suggested that Wicca is orthognostic (right knowledge). That approach is similar to Zen Buddhism, a set of practices which, if done consistently under the supervision of a qualified teacher, leads the individual to have insights which cannot be adequately expressed in words, but which are consistent with the insights attained by other people who have done the same practices.

    Another way of expressing this is that Wicca is a Mystery Religion.

    Traditional Wicca has beliefs and values. The values are pretty widely shared by Wiccans. The beliefs are subject to a variety of interpretations. There is no expectation that any particular Wiccan will assent to or agree with all the beliefs. If a person disagrees with the majority of the beliefs, he or she would probably seek out some other religion. None of the beliefs, even belief in the Goddess, is dogma in the popular sense of something one is required to believe in.

  74.  Leoht, you have made a logical error. I stated that all societies above a certain size have to be organized. That does not have to imply that smaller societies either do or do not have an organizational structure.
    I simply left them out of the discussion.

    “All organisms larger than a grape are multicellular.” Doesn’t mean mayflies have only one cell.

  75. Familiar with Maryland’s history. I think I misread the other comment. He was talking about Louisiana specifically, not implying there weren’t any Catholics in the original colonies. Which was all I was really referring to. 

  76.  When you say ‘traditional Wicca’ do you mean Gardnerian Wicca, or any form of established Wicca that is of a ‘tradition’, rather than one that is from a book?

  77.  Actually, what you stated was “Any society larger than a small band of hunter gatherers *HAS* to have some organization”

    The key word is ‘has’. It implies that any society not larger than a small band of hunter gathers does not need some form of organisation. Which is what I took exception to.

    Admittedly, I phrased it poorly.

  78. There are Muslim private schools here in MI, and that’s fine.  It’s not causing imminent social collapse, terrorism, ugly lawn ornaments, or other scourges of society.  The kids are learning the basic 3-Rs and their own religious tradition.  Swell.  Great.

    But taxpayers oughtn’t to have to pay for them. 

    Or Christian schools.  Or Jewish schools.  Or Pagan schools.   Or any other private religious school.

  79. You just reminded me of a positive moment like that, where in a Comparative Religion class, we went around and said what (if any and only if we felt comfortable) our religion was. At the time, I said Wicca. I expected controversy, but instead I got “I wish we’d done this sooner, we could have spent some time talking about that one!” from some of my classmates.

  80. Yes, they came over to get a chance to practice their religion in freedom, and had it for just 5 years then England said they were not legally allowed to practice their religion or vote

  81. Indeed. Humans require a social order. Normally more intelligent people find a way to control those less gifted. Religion is not bad. However “social structure” as you call it that defines who is greater than another simply by birth or place of origin is not something that is “necessary” for humans. We have a ranking and pack order. that much is fine. But there is blatent social control methods in place even today that keep the masses appeased with an illusion of what reality really is. (no i’m not  talking about the matrix or something illogical) 

    Its not tied only to religion but has (and currently is in certain places) been used as such a tool. Again I want to make you very aware I am not Anti religion. Nor am I anti-christianity. The message of Jesus is one of the most beautiful in the world. Being in a spiritual or religions state is a good place to be.

    A good way to distinguish between religion and social control is this. 

    “Love thy neighbor”- Bible “Harm ye none”- Wiccan Reed, ect ect ect. That is religion. 

    Priest telling you that Science is wrong b/c the bible is right and you should go burn Korans and piss on gay people. NOT religion. 

  82. “”Love thy neighbor”- Bible “Harm ye none”- Wiccan Reed, ect ect ect. That is religion. ”
    Why is that any different to “Thou shalt not suffer a witch/poisoner to live.”?

    Both stances are commands to the adherents. One simply advances pacifism (see this as giving your guns away) whilst another promotes aggression (convert-or-die).

    Neither are intrinsically superior to the other, they are merely opposing ideals.

    ‘judge not’ and all that.

  83.  I England, a few years ago, they introduced a concept that made opening your own school a lot easier: ‘free schools’; much like the US ‘charter schools’.

    This allows, potentially, for someone to open a school of a Pagan faith (the system has already been used for the creation of several Jewish, at least one Sikh and a Christian – CofE- faith-schools.)

    I must admit to being surprised that someone hasn’t already done it.

  84. I agree. There are tons of families who Home School in Texas. They can take the standardized tests at a public school if they wish but they are not required to and once they graduate they can take G.E.D. or go to a college and take the entrance exam just like any other student.
     My aunt had to drop out of  high school because she was pregnant and before you judge….she took the G.E.D. and the company she worked for sent her to college and she became the buyer for a BIG chain department store. 

  85. Most private schools are funded by donations from rich people and the parents of the students have to pay tuition so I do not understand why they are seeking government funding in the first place. I also think that if the government funds these schools it will they will think they have a say in how these private schools are run. Isn’t that the reason they are called “Private Schools” because they are separate from all the public schools??

  86. I had a typo in my last post I meant to say that the government will think that they have a say in the way the private schools are run.

  87. I think it is sad you have to preempt “before you judge’.  Things happen, teenage pregnancy happens; it does not destroy her credibility or ability as a human being.  I hope that there comes a day when we do not shame our kids, young or old, for pregnancy’ when they are not ready’.  The pressure alone on young parents, teen or no, is pretty big already, society’s hissing and booing aside.

  88. One motive of the right wing is to destroy public education. Siphoning off tax money to private schools is a step in that direction.

  89. Is it the fault of the individual for not being ready, or the fault of those whose duty it is to raise them?

  90.  Doesn’t seem a very good way to go about it, if you ask me.

    All that does is maintain a public expenditure on education.

  91. It funnels public money away from the system that teached evolution and sex-ed that prepares you for sex rather than abstinence, eg.

  92. Does it? I would have thought that it would require a larger budget. Or does that get in the way of buying bullets?

  93.  I mean Gardnerian Wicca and forms of established Wicca that have been strongly influenced by Gardnerian Wicca, either directly through personal contact or indirectly through published information.

  94.  They’re saying what their monied supporters want to hear, and unfortunately they are the only ones who matter at this point.  Yes, Christian extremists wield far too much influence over our politics but this doesn’t necessarily mean most people agree with them, only that the *right* people agree with them.

  95.  Unfortunately, you are right, Baruch.  The ultimate right wing goal is to do away with public education.  They cut and cut and cut and then say, “See, we told you public education doesn’t work,” when the programs fail from lack of funding.

  96.  Fair enough. I was just curious – the word ‘tradition’ could have several meanings in the context.

  97.  It is less about the people agreeing with them and more about those that disagree, isn’t it?

    What is that phase about those that do nothing? It feels somewhat relevant here.