beckett, Christianity, cultus deorum, faith, halstead, Heathen, Pagan, piety, Rhyd Wildermuth
“Have you heard the news?”
“No, what news?”
“Rome is burning, and they say Nero did it while playing a fiddle.
That’s terrible! But I have to ask…what’s a fiddle?
I don’t know…I don’t think it’s been invented yet?”
You know, sometimes the Gods do give us in abundance. Yesterday, someone sent me an article by an Archdruid of some renown who weighted in on this whole Marxism issue. It’s quite the read, and I enjoyed it highly. Then of course Rhyd has written his own latest piece here, which I was planning on writing about. And then, guess who decided to throw his hat into the ring to try and either profit from the distraction (or create a distraction so his buddy Rhyd can profit?) than Halstead himself.
Well, you can imagine my reaction to his latest piece.
Well, ladies and gentlemen, it’s time to grab some popcorn and dank memes. Because everyone’s favorite atheist is here to do what he do, so a Helsen has got to Helsen.
Let us enjoy:
Fiddling With The Gods While Rome Burns
John Beckett says that Pagans need to learn from Christian fundamentalists how to be “in the world, but not of the world.”
Yeah, you read that right … he says we need to learn from Christian fundamentalists.
Wow, two sentences in and already Halstead is showing us (remember kids, it’s show not tell) how to be a perfect Bigot. Huh, wow, maybe we could all go home now? I mean, literally two sentences in and already we’re seeing Bigotry levels that I didn’t think were even possible outside of people who set…things…on…fire…
Wait a minute!
We’ve already won … no wait, we can’t win.
Beckett’s most recent post, “What Can Pagans Learn From Fundamentalists?”, is yet another response to the perceived “politicization” of Paganism.
Three sentences! The bigotry continues. Holy crap this is may end up being a long series if I have to keep doing this.
So two things here.
1) Halstead seems to believe there is absolutely nothing one can learn from Fundamentalist Christians. which is wrong. You can learn a lot from Fundamentalist Christians. You can learn a lot from lots of people who are outside your religion. In fact, I’m mulling around a post in the vein of my recent ones about how different pagan religions can grow and maintain their integrity by learning from groups like Christians, Jews, and maybe even Muslims. This is why I said Halstead is a bigot. Christian fundamentalists have different ideas from him, and he sees no value in them because they are different from his own Atheo-Paganism. I mean, the fact that he was formerly a Mormon apparently I’m sure has nothing to do with his foaming hatred either. But yes, Halstead here is being a bigot towards Christian ideals simply because they are Christian.
2) There is no “perceived politicization” of Paganism. There is the “actual politicization” of Paganism, kicked off by the site Gods & Radicals for which Halstead is a contributing writer. Of course, Halstead is not posting this article on G&R, but on Patheos, much like Rhyd posted his explanation for his G&R post on Patheos rather than Patheos. So really, we’ve got two major Pagan websites engaging in politicization acts here. One to accuse and roast, the other to butter that roast. But it is very hard to deny that ever since “Confronting the New Right” dropped, Paganism has not become a political battlefield.
Well, hard to deny unless your Halstead, apparently.
Beckett argues that we shouldn’t mix our politics and our Paganism because … well, it’s futile. By way of example, he says the politicization of Christianity by Evangelicals and Christian fundamentalists has failed. Beckett points to the success of marriage equality and describes the spread of “religious freedom” laws as “an act of desperation.” He dismissively states that the Right has “won a few battles here and there, and reproductive rights are in serious jeopardy,” but he concludes that the Christian Right has “lost, in rather decisive fashion.”
Well, he’s not wrong. At ever turn where the Christian Right has tried to put lines in sand and even defend their own right against those who disagree, they’ve pretty much gotten their asses kicked. Most of those religious freedom laws, despite most of them actually defending the freedoms of all religions, have been struck down. Even attempts to keep the “sanctity” of gendered bathrooms has imploded in spectacular fires.
So Beckett is right in that the Christian Right is loosing heavily. And he’s not entirely wrong about how tying our own Pagan religions to politics is a good recipe for failure. Halstead should have learned that back when he tried to push his atheistic eco-paganism onto people last year…which started a war that ultimately seems to have left his paganism much the worse for wear and far less attractive to people than it was before.
Really?! We won? Why didn’t anyone tell me? What about reproductive rights? Oh, don’t worry about that little detail. What about the “Religious Freedom” Restoration Acts in over half the states? Trifles!**
You just won’t ever be happy without an enemy, Halstead. As soon as you see your foe even having a chance at possibly getting their way rather than fully capitulating to yours, you will hold that up as irrefutable proof of the vileness that is your opponent. How dare Christians want the same thing that you want, political control for what they view as morally right. This is why I call him a bigot.
Beckett then proceeds to say — contradictorily, I think — that “mainstream culture” is too strong to fight against, and while we shouldn’t abandon the political process, “we can’t change the world.”
Yeah, you read that right … he says we cannot change the world.
(If there were such a thing as Pagan heresy, I think that would be about as close as it gets.)
Well, I guess we know what is heresy for Halstead. Sounds like the same kinda Heresy they talk about over at G&R. “I can change the world! I can make in my image, and if you say otherwise, you’re a heretic!”
Look, I’m not saying Beckett is right there (though I suspect that Halstead may be taking things out of context) where he says mainstream culture is too strong. That being said, I can understand why Beckett feels that way. Political Correctess, Social Justice, and Marxism are everywhere politically. They have infiltrated almost every part of society and are pushing their agenda with success in universities, in politics, in media, everywhere. Just watch “this week in stupid” by Sargon and you’ll see what I’m saying. The Christian Right has had its handed to it on a silver platter. In Paganism, it does seem like all our media outlets are tied together with the anarchist-marxist group. It can feel amazingly hard to get anything done if you are not part of the “in crowd” or if you believe differently than them. It can feel like “mainstream culture” is too strong to fight against, so that the only real option is to retreat.
Hel, I’ve been basically arguing for a retreat the last couple posts and I’m not the only one. Beckett is but one person out there of a growing number who are taking up the idea that the different Pagan religions should fall back, regroup with themselves, and then seal the gates of their cities and try to endure the storm, rather than go out and wage war against the mono-culture that is attempting to strip us down and make us conform.
I have to wonder how Beckett thinks marriage equality was achieved, if not by people who believed they could change the world.
Well, I could tell you how I think it was achieved. But that’s a different post.
Fiddling With The Gods While Rome Burns
Beckett’s recommendation is that we change ourselves “[a]nd if enough of us change ourselves, then we will change the world.” We should turn inward, he says, away from the world. Specifically, he says, we should make offerings to gods, meditate, and take nature walks.
Pretty sure it was a bit more complex than that Halstead. But hey, go ahead and infantileze your opposition’s arguments so that you can look smarter and more mature.
Also, let us take a moment and savor the fact that Halstead is basically saying “do not engage in the spirituality that has defined Paganism since its creation.” Apparently, stepping back from the world, looking into yourself (to find what you believe), commune and make offering to the Gods to discover what they say, and just go have a walk in the park are now, apparently, bad things. Instead, you should engage in the political process to change the world!
But remember, that politicization of Paganism is only “perceived.”
I wonder, Mr. Beckett, where do you imagine you will be taking these nature walks while the world burns … or floods? Do the your god you offer to have no concern for the suffering of mere mortals? If not, I would suggest they do not deserve your offerings.
Actually, I was talking with Jupiter about that the other day about “what happens if the world floods like all the environmentalists say it will?” Guess what he told me.
“We’ll build an ark. A big beautiful ark. And we’ll put all the faithful in it. And it will be beautiful, and we’ll make the environmentalists pay for it. And every time one of them complains, the ark will get ten feet bigger.”
Which I suppose should tell you about how seriously Jupiter takes this whole “the world is burning, or flooding, I don’t know, but it will be bad!” thing the environmentalists keep harping on about.
You gotta love the hyperbolic tone Halstead takes in this paragraph though. I mean, dear gods, I haven’t heard such tearfilled rage since that lady on the Simpson’s was crying about “won’t someone think of the children.”
I don’t know, maybe I’d take Haltead a bit more seriously if he wasn’t a lawyer putting his kids through an apparently fancy school and likely driving around in nice cars in a big house. Like I’d take Rhyd’s anti-capitalism a bit more seriously if he didn’t actually have a patreon. But look at me, wanting people to practice what they preach as their ideological standards.
Beckett’s suggestion that we should worship the gods* instead of being political would be laughable, if it weren’t such a dangerous idea — and if Beckett’s delivery weren’t so deceptively benign.
Wait, I though that Paganism being politicized was merely a “perception” but not a reality? This is sounding a lot like Paganism is being politicized here. Much contradiction. Because here it looks like Halstead started his article saying “Paganism isn’t being politicized,” but here he’s saying “Paganism must become politicized.”
The truth is that the political struggle against the Religious Right is hardly won. As Beckett himself acknowledges, the Right is more aggressive than ever in restricting women’s control of their bodies and in discriminating against LGBTs. The same people continue to disenfranchise people of color through draconian voting restrictions, and the same people still resist the phrase “Black Lives Matter. Meanwhile, the largest fossil fuel project in history is continuing to devastate the Canadian wild and the lives of First Nations people — a project which is driven by the Right’s investment in global capitalism and the Christian belief in the human right of dominion of the Earth.
Jesus Fucking Christ man!
Halstead here is literally talking about Christians the same way Rhyd talks about fascists. You’d think these people were blood thirsty Nazis out to murder everyone that wasn’t a Christian.
Yes, the Christian right is “trying to control women’s bodies” because they think unborn children are living people who have a right to live rather than be murdered in the womb!
Yes, the Christian Right does discriminate against LGBT peoples because a) they believe those people are commit an immoral act and want no part in helping them do that and because b) The LGBT community for the last several decades has been nothing but complete monsters to the Christian Right and attempted to destroy everything they hold dear. Now I am fully for Marriage equality, but I can also admit that the LGBT community have been completely tyrannical bigots about getting there, going so far as to use the courts to overturn the lawful democratic choices of their fellow citizens. So while I in no way agree with the Christian Right’s position, I can certainly understand their attitude at this point.
And yes, the Christian Right does resist the phrase “Black Lives Matter.” I resist the phrase black lives matter. The Christian Right, and myself, insist that “All Lives Matter,” and refuse to give into the entirely racist statement and ideology that is “Black Lives Matter.”
And who know, maybe the Christian Right supports that pipeline deal with Canada because we’re in an economic recession and people want jobs to feed their fucking families.
But NOOOOO, the Christian Right is inherently evil and everything they believe inherently evil and the fight will not end until those evil Christians are exterminated from the political landscape and maybe even the planet!
And these are just a few of the fronts where the battle for justice is still being waged. Saying that there has been a “decisive” victory is not just wrong — it threatens to lull us into a false sense of security.
I’m going to break this down.
Wanting jobs is…unjust.
Insisting that all life matters is…unjust.
Insisting that unborn children be afforded the right to live is…unjust.
And resisting their own marginalization at the hands of another group who believes differently than they do is…unjust.
But that seems to be Beckett’s point. Beckett’s optimism about the imminent demise of the Evangelical politics seems to contradict his own pessimism about our ability to change the world. Which is it? Have we already won the fight or is the fight impossible to win? Apparently, for Beckett, it doesn’t matter, because the message is the same — we can stop fighting, we can stop worrying about the world, and we can focus on ourselves.
You know what, I’m going to say this. They’re both wrong, and their both right.
Halstead is right, the Christian Right isn’t completely depowered in politics. They still have some rights and some say in matters, and for him the fight will never end until they are completely expunged from our political map. Because as long as they exist, they will fight for their “Evil” ways.
Beckett is right. We probably should step away from the politics and focus on ourselves. Maybe Beckett has realized what I’ve pointed out in regards to people like Rhyd. The more you try to fight something, the more you become the thing you were fighting.
The Progressive Left rose up to break the totalitarian power of the Christian Right in politics. And they did, they broke it. And now, the Progressive Left is working ever more to become just as totalitarian and discriminatory as the Christian Right ever was, they just have different targets. Really, it’s like toppling some third world dictator only for a new dictator to pop up three weeks later and be just as bad.
So maybe Beckett is wrong, and the idea is to play politics so that at least “our dictator” is the one in charge, like Halstead seems to argue for. Or maybe Halstead’s wrong, and the best way to play the game is not to play.
All I know this far is that Beckett is at least willing to say his “opponents” might have something to teach us, as opposed to Halstead who is gone full bigot.
Matt James (@matthewrjames) said:
Oh for goodness sake. Really? You talked to Jupiter and he told you he doesn’t care about the environmental devastation? Well I talked to Jupiter the other day and he said it was the most important thing on his agenda. It’s funny how what we supposedly hear from the gods is what we want to hear isn’t it???
And then you go and attack LGBT people but you think that’s ok coz “you agree with marriage equality”. So how exactly have the LGBT community been mean to Christians? It’s not LGBT people forcing their kids to go to “re-education camps” to be turned straight. It’s not Christian young people committing suicide at rates far higher than young people in the general population or being forced to leave their homes by their families who don’t like that they don’t fit into what their bible tells them. It’s not Christians who have had to spend decades fighting for basic rights like being able to serve in the military without being fired for who they love, or fighting to be allowed to marry and have the same legal rights as 95% of the rest of the population. Yes, in the last few years things have begun to turn in LGBT people’s favour, but its been a very long fight and many LGBT people still fear for their safety. LGBT people are at much higher risk of bullying at school than many others. Also many who dare to hold hands or kiss in public like straight people get to do find themselves the subject of verbal and often physical abuse. But as far as you seem to be concerned, this doesn’t matter because the right wing interpretation of Christianity should be allowed to force their beliefs on everyone and those who oppose this are “tyranical bigots” or “monsters” to them.
Before you go attacking LGBT people again, please at least read up on the facts about the persecution we face both in western countries like the US/ UK and around the world.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
You’re right, it is kinda funny we hear from the Gods what we want to hear. Of course, I’m not invested in environmentalist issues so I can’t say I was wanting to hear anything in particular. Wonder why that might be?
Also, stating facts in not attacking. Totalitarian actions are totalitarian actions, regardless of any and all persecutions faced previously or even currently. The LGBT community has suffered much over the years, and I am very aware of it. However, now, the LGBT community does have a track record of destroying absolutely anyone who stand in their way, including the violation of other peoples rights, and the use of en mass political force against any attempt to define the rights of counter groups for said groups protections. You cannot blame the Christian Right at this point for feeling as if their complete annihilation at the hands of the GLBT community is desired when even the most basic religious freedom laws are struck down, their democratically placed votes are ignored, and entire states are boycotted in solidarity with the GLBT community against any move by the Christian right to preserve even the smallest fractions of its own freedom. Hell, they do that to any group that stand in their way, like the Dianics (maybe you remember them?)
I do not support the Christian Right. I do support the equal rights of the GLBT community But I can at least see a fact for a fact and an action for an action without an ideological lens excusing the bad actions of people I do support against people I do not support.
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Matt James (@matthewrjames) said:
They aren’t passing “religious freedom” laws. They are passing laws to allow them to discriminate against LGBT people. They want to live in a world where a landlord can throw out an LGBT person when they find out they’re gay. They want to live in a world where a boss can fire an LGBT person when they find out they’re gay. They want a world basically where LGBT people must live in constant fear of being “found out” and then fired/ made homeless and so on. Just as it became socially unacceptable to discriminate against black people, so its now becoming socially unacceptable to discriminate against LGBT people. (though it still goes on….a lot). Just because some right wing Christians claim that they are concerned about “religious freedom” in these laws, doesn’t mean that’s what it’s truly about. Maybe if the media started listening to more moderate and left wing Christians who are usually quite supportive of gay people, right wing politicians would not get away with pandering to these people.
There is no such thing as a moderate or left wing Christian, not if they actually live like their book says, and READ said book. Just like there is no such thing as a moderate or left wing Muslim for the same reasons. Apostates yes. Heretics yes. But actual believers and practitioners of those religions, NO. People mistake Jesus for some hippy love peacenik all the time. “I come not to bring peace, but a sword.” THAT’s the part about Jesus people don’t like to talk about. And he NEVER said ANYTHING in the old testament was nixed. That was Paul. Jesus was a violent radical who threatened social order. As a former Christian who actually READ the book cover to cover and walked away as a result, I can assure you of this.
Matt James (@matthewrjames) said:
I was a former fundamentalist Christian and read my bible from cover to cover too…and you are wrong. There are plenty of left wing and moderate Christians. There are plenty of people who hold a passionate Christian faith and don’t find they need to attack gay people. Research the “red letter Christians” – the ones who think Jesus actual words should be their primary guide and you’ll find they are radically left wing or moderates. If you look at catholic social teaching and the pope, you can see that on economic issues, peace-war issues, environmental issues and the like they are on the left of the political spectrum (although right wing on lgbt issues). Jesus did threaten the social order, and yes he never dismissed the old testament the same way some Christians do, but his words were very clear on matters of money i.e. luke 14.33 – you cant be his follower if you dont sell all your possessions. And Jesus never mentioned LGBT issues the same way Right wing Christians have become obsessed with it. My point is this – there are left wing Christians and moderate Christians. There are the Quakers and other whole denominations who are very pro-lgbt rights.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
You’re right, they want to pass laws so that in the name of their religion, they can do all those things.
Just like the LGBt community works to pass laws so that they can force Christians (or anyone who doesn’t agree with their lifestyle) to do anything the LGBT community wants, feels is appropriate in the name of “equal rights” and so forth. Such as force business people to perform whatever desired service (baking, photographing, housing, employing, aiding and abetting LGBT sexual activities, etc) the LGBT community wants no matter how horrific said person finds it.
Each side is trying to legislate their morality into law so that they have the freedom to act against another lifestyle they find inherently immoral. That is a simple fact about the situation. So don’t get mad and try to ad hom me as a homophobe simply because you don’t like facts. 😛
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As someone who is LGBT, I couldn’t agree more about the tyranny of the community. They do it to their own, too, if you dare to disagree with their militaristic methods. For the most part, I don’t have anything to do with the community anymore, simply because it makes me sick to see how they’ve become the very thing they claim to be fighting against.
Excellent post, as per usual. I look forward to seeing part two!
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Carl Bonebright (@HeathenTech) said:
” Like I’d take Rhyd’s anti-capitalism a bit more seriously if he didn’t actually have a patreon.”
Capitalism – A system whereby a person pays another for their labor, then sells the fruit of that labor at a higher cost to a third party.
Patreon – A voluntary system whereby a person pays another for their labor.
I might take your own arguments a bit more seriously if you weren’t so disingenuous.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
Capitalism – A voluntary system whereby a person pays another for their labor, allowing the creator to profit from their labor. The buyer may then sell the product of that labor at a later date to another person, who may not be able to buy from the original producer, for a different price to cover the costs of their labor to transport said product and make their own profit from that labor.
Patreon – a voluntary system where by a person pays another for their labor, allowing the creator to profit from their labor.
I might take your counter argument a bit more seriously if you weren’t so disingenuous.
Carl Bonebright (@HeathenTech) said:
So, what? He’s just supposed to never be paid? Ever?
The crux is that Capitalism introduces a middleman (or several), while Patreon is a direct transaction between creator and purchaser. I really don’t see how your counterargument changes that in any way.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
Because the “crux” of capitalism is not the middleman. The crux of capitalism is being paid for your labor or product, typically with coin. “Middlemen,” more appropriately called Merchants (or maybe managers), have existed in every economic system (except for perhaps communism), and while merchants can be viewed as “exploitative” because they buy a good for one price and then sell it somewhere else at a higher price, or managers seen as exploitive because they get paid not to produce but rather to oversee production, often to seemingly greater profits compared to the original producer, they are not and have never been a crux of “capitalism,” just a crux of trade or large scale production, regardless of which economic system that trade uses.
So yes, in a sense he’s “just supposed to never be paid.” If Capitalism is inherently evil (as Rhyd puts forth) due to the fact that people can be “exploited” and he seeks to resist that capitalist system, then actions taken as part of that capitalist system (being paid coin for his labor in this case, rather than trading that labor directly for food/shelter/etc via a non-monetary or even Marxist format) do go against his supposed principles. He says in one breath “Capitalism is evil,” and in the second breath says “pay me capital for my labor.”
It’s a lot like that scene in Casablanca, where the Police Chief shuts down the club because he’s “Shocked, shocked I tell you, to find gambling going on in this establishment,” and not a second later receives his winnings from all the gambling he was just doing. And while I may not personally judge Rhyd too harshly for such hypocritical behavior (all humans are hypocrites to one degree or another) it also means I am going to take his position much less seriously while he raves about the “Evils of capitalism.” Because look, here are his “winnings.”
Carl Bonebright (@HeathenTech) said:
I might have conceded an argument that Patreon *is* the middleman here, so he’s still participating (a thought which occurred to me this morning). However, unless he actually became a manager or merchant (like paying someone to ghost-write for him), I dunno if he’s so much a hypocrite as trying to survive in the only system available to him. There are reports of people who have managed to eke out an existence with the barter/trade system you describe, but they are rare, and every story I’ve seen (maybe 4 or 5) has been European Citizens utilizing the EU’s loose internal border structure to hop from place to place when the barter opportunities dried up. Couple that with the fact that Europe has a much more established history both with a kind of quasi-anarchist collective and flirting with the more extreme ends of socialism, and it’s plausible that it’s just not an option here in America.
I mean, the only full barter/commune-type collectives you find in America are either gun nuts or End-Time Christians or both. Neither is likely to accept him, or us, lol.
The problem with your counter-argument, is that coin in some format could still exist in a Marxist system. It’s nature likely altered, but existing nonetheless. Absent a complete return to insular, self-sustaining communities (which would likely only occur in event of a total collapse of global markets, highly unlikely), even uncoupling scaled value of labor (a doctor is “worth” more than a sanitation worker,say), a medium of exchange of labor for goods is necessary. With the flirtation with BitCoin, it’s also possible that currency completely decoupled from government might arise organically. Would he be less of a hypocrite if he only accepted BitCoin (honestly curious)?
Your square-shaped analogy, while humorous, doesn’t quite fit the round hole of Rhyd’s. The Chief is an authority figure, using that authority to both cease the action as demanded by his job, while silently also using that authority to ensure he gets his own winnings. Rhyd is literally begging for donations. He’s not, AFAIK, doing what most Patreon users do, which is hold back exclusive content for Patreons (which *would* validate your argument, so if I’m wrong, I’ll graciously concede that point). In the age of the Internet, Patreon (with all of it’s pseudo-Capitalist baggage) is the equivalent of a bowl in front of a beggar.
FWIW, I think unfettered Capitalism has fucked this country and planet over in uncountable ways in the last century, but Marxism isn’t the answer. I’d like to see a lot more employee-owned businesses and collectives (King Arthur Flour is a perfect example of what I’m talking about), and the US desperately needs a comprehensive social safety net.
Anyhow, thanks for keeping this (relatively) civil, I rarely agree with your points, but you make good arguments and I can’t hate someone who uses memes that efficiently. 😉