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Religious Discourse: Invasive Orthodoxy or Abrahamic Religion?

Religious Discourse: Invasive Orthodoxy or Abrahamic Religion? May 30, 2021

The Modern Witchcraft paradigm could be the cure for the wounds of systemic oppression inflicted  by the baneful aspects of the dominant religions. I’d like to introduce the term “Invasive Orthodoxy” as an alternative to the problematic term “Abrahamic Religions” in religious discourse, discerning the characteristics of the baneful mode of dominator religion, from their more beneficial cousins. I’ll conclude with how the cooperative structures offered by Modern Witchcraft and Neopaganism stand in contrast, offering a healthier alternative upon which to rebuild an egalitarian society, as we dismantle the systemic oppression, racism and sexism of their patriarchy.

Until recently, when writing comparatively about that family of religions originating with Father Abraham, I also used the term “Abrahamic Religions.” Every time I used that term, I would get slammed in the comments by members of those sects who don’t like to be lumped together with the others. Like my blogs here, and here. However, the historical truth remains that they all share common roots, and worship aspects of the same deity. Whether or not they are comfortable with that history is irrelevant.  The ‘god of Abraham’ is known by many names including Yahweh, Jehovah, El-, IVHV, Allah, Adonai, and many more…

Painting of Father Abraham and the attempted sacrifice of his son Isaac
Painting by Francesco Guardi – The Sacrifice of Isaac, Tobias and the Angel, The Angels Appearing to Abraham, Abraham Welcoming the Three Angels (painting series) – 1952.235 – Cleveland Museum of Art

For historical context, Abraham’s family story features in the book of Genesis of the Old Testament, or Torah. This Hebrew patriarch was born in the early second millennia BCE, in the city of Ur in Mesopotamia (modern-day Iraq) and instructed by his particular god to migrate with his family into lands known as Canaan, between modern-day Syria and Turkey. Through Abraham’s wife Sarah, and her son Isaac, the people and religion of Judaism. are descended. Later in the first century CE, his descendant Jesus of of Nazareth founded the religion of Christianity. From Abraham’s wife’s maidservant Hagar, and her son Ishmael, later descended Muhammad, who would found the religion of Islam, in 7th century Arabia. While those are the branches with the most adherents, there are other “Abrahamic” sects such as the Baháʼí Faith, Druzism, Samaritanism, and Rastafari.

For my perspective, know that I am a woman who was raised in an Evangelical cult in the southeast United States. Then I came of age during the three years I lived in the Islamic theocracy of Saudi Arabia – in Jeddah, a mere 30 minute drive from the holy city of Mecca. In my uniquely-informed opinion, the mythology attributed to these religions is a horror-show from Eden to the apocalypse. In a nutshell, it is based on exclusive worship of an abusive and distant father god, who instructed his devotees to commit atrocities in exchange for his favor. Humans are meant to live fearfully on his battlefield where ‘good’ and ‘evil’ have been locked in a death-match for eternity.

I call this divine relationship “abusive” because if any earthly father tells you he’s still mad at your distant grandma for disobeying him, and so he’s condemned you to suffer and die, that is heinous parental abuse. The first symbolic act of devotion he demands of his first devotee, Abraham, was to murder his only son…but that was just a cruel test of his willingness to murder without question, so as a second prize, he only had to mutilate his son’s genitals without the child’s consent (circumcision). By any decent standard, that is abusive. If you don’t obey this father god without question, he promises to throw you into a dark pit to be tortured eternally. Unless you obey his every psychotic whim, invade other minds, other lands, to recruit and press other people into his service, then maybe he’ll forgive you for “sins” that had nothing to do with you, and MAYBE show you mercy for that distant Grandma’s curiosity. Oh, and all the dad’s are in charge – do exactly as the men-folk on earth say, too. Only men may lead the family, the church, the government.

Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden/ N. Currier (Firm), Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

That is an extortion racket, y’all. The whole system looks like a ponzi scheme to me, that mostly benefits the men, and is built upon spiritual conquest and slavery, that returns nothing to the investors, but makes the top dog very “rich.” But that is just my hot take as someone who’s clearly rejected this mythology a patently horrific.

However, not all branches of that family tree are guilty of the same heinous crimes against humanity and the earth, nor do they all share the same, exact ideas or motivations – especially today. For example, the Bahai Faith, as a relatively new sect out of Iran, “stresses the unity of all people, explicitly rejecting racism and nationalism….ensures the prosperity of all nations, races, creeds, and classes.” (source) While still hoping to impose their moral values on everyone in a New World Order.

Nobody likes being indiscriminately painted with one huge, condemning brush. I personally know some amazingly loving and peaceful and inclusive Christians and Muslims, and I have always admire the beautiful family traditions of the very fine Jewish people I’m lucky to know. Those of us who attempt to discuss this stuff comparatively, especially as viewed from outside of the big three monotheistic religions, are better served by describing common ideas, actions, and results. Grouping these religions by lineage, ethnicity, heritage or the devotion to a particular god, inevitably takes the short trip to unjustified discrimination, and that’s not cool.

For example: In the same way that NOT every Northern European is a devotee of Odin or a Heathen, and not every Heathen is a white supremacist, it is also true that not every Middle Easterner is a devotee of Allah or a Muslim, and not every Muslim is a terrorist. Fair is fair.

Embed from Getty Images

For this reason, when we are referring collectively to the majority of baneful religious sects that threaten our interconnected planet, we need to use a more precise term. In my forthcoming book, Elemental Witchcraft, when comparing Modern Witchcraft to the baneful religious aspects of the over-culture which have traumatized us, I chose to call them Invasive Orthodoxies.

Just to be really clear about my opinion, any ideology that qualifies as being an “Invasive Orthodoxy” is a malignant cult whose mission inflicts harm on this middle world, both the people and the environment. From my Hermetic Neopagan point of view, the motivations and actions of Invasive Orthodoxies result in an aberration against the divine natural order that I think is “evil,” and their toxicity should not be tolerated. Their harms impact everyone, and are incompatible with a civilized, pluralistic society based upon “liberty and justice for all.” So, allow me to define the characteristics, “the ideas, actions and results,” by which I identify the cults of an Invasive Orthodoxy. The following individual characteristics aren’t necessarily terrible things, but collectively can be a recipe for disaster.

Defining characteristics of Invasive Orthodoxy:

  1. Monotheistic: They are either monotheistic, which is belief in a single all-pervasive deity. Or, they are a monolatry which is the radical worship of one among many gods within their cultural pantheon. Technically, Abraham founded a monolatry.
  2. Orthodoxy: Their religion is an orthodoxy, based in dictating a “right belief.” That one and only right belief demands exclusive acknowledgement and worship of their one deity. Their ideas demonize every other possible deity along with the devotees of those other deities, and threaten doom of all those people outside of their belief system.
  3. Invasion: Their divine mandate requires they spread their religion beyond their region and culture of origin. Through either military conquest, colonization or missionary infiltration, they are radically bent on conversion of all other people to their exclusive form of worship.  They invade and violently force their deity with their right beliefs, their preferred lifestyle, their power structures, and their dictated forms of worship, on the peoples of other lands.
  4. Domination: The devotees of Invasive Orthodoxies are indoctrinated by dominator tactics, traumatized and brain-washed, told they must earn their spiritual salvation from existential harm (inflicted by their own god or people) by converting other people to join their cult, by inflicting the same dominator tactics to traumatize others. So, they go out and threaten spiritual or physical harm on other people through social control, fear mongering, creating false scarcity of resources and security, which requires dependence on their authority for survival and validation. This is enforced by violence, denial of personal sovereignty, imposition of religious laws and lifestyles: comply or else (extortion.)
  5. Patriarchal: The largest, most destructive Invasive Orthodoxies from earth’s history also share the characteristic that their exclusive deity is distinctly a male god, with particular domination over all notions of femininity, both divine and human. Their society becomes a patriarchy, with a hierarchy of a predominantly male-led priesthood,  government, and family structures, which systemically oppresses the other genders.
  6. Radicalized: The devotees of Invasive Orthodoxies tend to be radicalized through the trauma of this system, such that they are willing to commit heinous crimes to save themselves and their loved ones from the abuses of their god and his human leaders. They often do not even recognize their actions as being crimes at all. For example: torture and execution of heretics, sexual enslavement of “wives,” death fatwas, suicide bombings, etc. Unfortunately, these radical religious ideas can become conflated with other forms of discrimination, such a racism, sexism, and homophobia – all perpetrated in the name of their god.

We can look down through history and point out countless examples of how the dominant religions of the western world fit these characteristics of Invasive Orthodoxy: the forced conversion to Christianity throughout Roman Empire, the Crusades of European Christians against the Muslims of Jerusalem, the Spanish Inquisition, spread of Islam through Jihad wars, Christian zealots brutally murdering Hypatia of Alexandria and burning the library, the Persecution of European Witches with the Malleus Malificarum, the Salem Witch trials.

mullica, CC BY 2.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0>, via Wikimedia Commons

I’m most interested in what these sects are doing right now. Not every devotee of Jesus Christ goes door to door threatening damnation, or terrorizes abortion clinics, or conflates their religion with white supremacy. Not every devotee of Allah inflicts Sharia law or executes gay people. Not every Jew invades the homes of Palestinians, or bombs their children and cultural heritage sites into oblivion. Unfortunately, a few of them still do, and I really wish they would stop.

I know there are other radicalized cults worshiping other deities, invading places they aren’t welcome and harming the web of life as they metastasize…er…I mean…spread. They would be equally on my shit-list, regardless which god or prophet they worship. However, throughout the modern world, the largest, most insidious perpetrators are those few radicalized sects still bullying in the various names of Abraham’s god, our society is built upon those blood-soaked foundation stones. Wherever “systemic” racism, sexism and oppression linger in the United States, Yahweh’s fingerprints are all over it.

To recap: not all sects still worshiping Abraham’s God qualify as Invasive Orthodoxies today. If you quietly worship this particular deity, and live as a peaceful neighbor and responsible steward of the earth, coexisting nicely among those of other faith traditions and lifestyles, there is no issue here. I personally know Witches within the Neopagan paradigm who remain in devotion to Yahweh, the Cosmic Christ and his Mother Mary. Modern Witchcraft’s ethical maxim is “Do as ye will, so as it harms none.” That good advice applies to everyone, so you do you.

As a Modern Witch, my beef is with the modern-day patriarchal crusaders, like the KKK and fascist, white-supremacist militias that are popping up everywhere, missionaries, door-to-door proselytizers, theocrats like Mike Pence infiltrating the government to limit women’s reproductive rights and equality for LGBTQ+ folks. My problem is with any spiritual terrorist pushing their (lack of decent) morals and puritanical lifestyles onto the rest of us like church-yard bullies. If they are inflicting their ideas on others through fear-mongering, oppression of free-will, and violence, that is a crime against nature with no legitimate place within modern society. I don’t think we should “coexist” with that.

Embed from Getty Images

Perhaps a reason that so many people are abandoning Invasive Orthodoxy, and flocking to Modern Witchcraft and Neopaganism, is because our world view is based in cooperation and interconnection, protecting our environment for the benefit of everyone on the planet, long term. We are inclusive of the entire spectrum of humanity, gender identity, and sexuality, through mutual respect and free-will. Witches set a place at the divine table for everyone, and serve a delicious and nutritious buffet of healthy, responsible ideas. Our God/dess says that our whole witching purpose is to enjoy material life and claim our personal sovereignty, harming none.

The gifts our egalitarian God/dess offers can aid our approach to balance, through trustworthiness and unconditional love. These are the tools that can heal the wounds left by the patriarchy, and build an egalitarian society. As we continue to discuss and refine our Modern Witchcraft and Neopagan religious movements, I hope that we’ll utilize the power of language to carefully distinguish the bane of the Invasive Orthodoxies, from their more beneficial cousins. Then let’s built bridges of encouragement and interfaith relations in the direction of those churches, synagogues, and mosques who truly live the wholesome, loving and peaceful ideals of their traditions.

~Heron

If this topic interests you, my forthcoming book The Pentacle Path of Elemental Witchcraft: A Guide to Living A Magickal Life through the Elements offers an introduction to the Pentacle Path of Modern Witchcraft system of magick, which employs the cooperator tools of the God/dess to peacefully dismantle the patriarchy of Invasive Orthodoxy within our own lives, heal the wounds and traumas they inflicted on us, and build a healthier, more balanced world through our personal magick. Due to be released December 8, 2021 through Llewellyn Worldwide.

Please visit my new author website as a hub to all my content creations: https://heronmichelle.com/

Cover for Elemental Witchcraft by Heron Michelle, Llewellyn Publishing, Dec. 8, 2021
About Heron Michelle
Heron Michelle is a witch, high priestess and author of the forthcoming book, Elemental Witchcraft, to be released Dec. 8, 2021 through Llewellyn Publishing. She is a co-founder of The Sojourner Tradition of Modern Witchcraft, a mom of two, Reiki Master, tarot card diviner, clairvoyant and shopkeeper living in Greenville, North Carolina. Check out her website for social media connections and content creations at heronmichelle.com. You can read more about the author here.
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