As such, there is no conceivable way my polytheism could be apolitical.” “Gods of a Radical” – Chris Scott Thompson, 2016
So there’s been a lot of talk about “political paganism” and some people have come out and said “I can’t imagine my paganism not being political, it informs all my political choices!” or words to that effect.
I often find this ironic, because the vast majority of their political choices look like those of people who have nothing to do with Paganism, and often go against fundamental philosophies both religious and political from when their Gods were most promenently worshiped. Still, this is not a post about who is practicing the right politics based on their religion. This is about making their religion political because they view their politics religiously.
I’m a rather amoral mother fucker, and I’m pretty religious (in the sense that I am devoutly faithful to certain Gods/Goddesses, if not a frequent practitioner of rites), and I’m pretty political. But one of the things I do not do is mix my politics and my religion. Why? Because I live in a nation that believed church and state should be seperate and I’m a legalist…so I obey the spirit of that “law.” I also try to keep them separate because while political philosophies change like the directions of tumbleweeds in the wind, religious teachings should have a bit of the immutable in them and the will of the Gods is not something subjective to the whims of whoever holds political power at the time (or at least it shouldn’t be).
The other and primary part of it though is that I like to practice a form of realpolitik when it comes to my politics and religious teachings are not always best at a realpolitik style of politics. I’m not just saying this because a lot of “political” pagans who have managed to get their voices heard preach Marxism (which is unrealistic politic for sure), but because a lot of the values enshrined in spirit of my home nation are not always the same values of my religion. And if I made the “political” values of my religion the basis of my politics, well, I’d probably be where a lot of those guys are, insisting that everything in civilization be torn down to form a nation under the politics of my religion.
I.e. A Theocracy.
Which frankly sounds like a lot of work that none of my Goddesses are insisting I do (though I think Bellona would probably be pretty happy if I did).
One thing that strikes me as both halarious and slightly odd about most of the people you see insisting the “pagan be political” or that their “paganism is political” is that they are prefectly fine with politics and religion being joined together…so long as its their politics in control of the joining. One need only look at the recent scream fest that happened when a Chief Gothi Matt Flavel of the AFA posted this to understand:
Here, Flavel has made his “paganism political.” He has taken values from his religion, based on extensive research into the ancient culture and beliefs of his people and Gods, and come to a cultural and political conclusion. And so, so many people decided to hate him for it. The Troth even published as statement saying that “All are welcome,” in the face of what some have interpreted as a “cisnormative” attack on transpeople.
So it’s good when “They” do it, but bad when “He” does it. Flavel’s paganism in that moment is as political as Thompson’s, for example. Thompson takes the belief that one should fight against injustice and to aid the poor and decides Marxism is the solution. Flavel takes the beliefs that men should be manly, women should be womanly, and decides that…men should be manly and women should be womanly, and there’s not really any place for manly women or womenly men.
And I’ll be honest…Flavel has the stronger case when it comes to “political position derived from pagan religion.” If you study the old Germanic and Norse stuff…yeah, men were supposed to be manly, women were supposed to be womanly, and any man who took it in the ass or lived as if he was a woman was a man who was going to be publicly humiliated until he either obeyed cultural norms or died.
If you look at the myths of Thompson’s religion, however, one will not typically find arguments for wealth distribution or the abolition of social hierarchies.
Am I saying it’s absolutely wrong to make the “political pagan,” or “have your paganism be political?” No, if you want to do it, that’s fine. But it is very much a Pandora’s box. A lot of the hate G&R has gotten started off when they complained about the “pagan being political” when that politics was “alt-right.” But it was suddenly supposed to be good when the politics was “prog-left/marxist.” But both are “political paganism.” Both are politics informed by paganism, and paganism shaped by politics. The fact that you often could have a stronger argument for the “right” in most Paganisms than the “left” is something I see most “left leaning” pagans who insist on their paganism being political tend to ignore. And I think that’s why so many “political pagan” writers have attacked “alt-right” and even “neutral” pagan writers and thinkers…because the evidence shows that the “marxist” pagans…aren’t really keeping with any of the actual tenants that their Gods an Goddesses put forth, at least, not as well as the “alt-right” folks do.
Me, I’m apolitical because it’s easier in some ways to be apolitical. My faith and my politics separated means I can keep my faith to the Gods pure, untainted by political ideologies that might wish to try and use the Gods for my political ends. It also means that I can keep my politics pure of religious obligations, thereby allowing me to seek politically what is best for all peoples of my nation, and the nation itself, regardless of religious dogma.
Because I’ll be honest, and I’m sure my Heathen readers would be aghast at me saying this, but…if my politics and my religion became one, being a Heathen…well, our political religion probably wouldn’t be that visibly different from say ISIS. We’d be violent, we’d be carving our nation-state out with the blood of our enemies. You’d see the bodies of our foes hanging from trees as offerings to Odin so that he might grant us victory in battle. There probably wouldn’t be a lot of “Trans” rights or “Gay” rights, because those behaviors were considered degenerate under the old religious world view. There would be clearly defined gender roles, and while there would be an amazing amount of gender equality…those roles would be pretty damn concrete. The list goes on and on. Same Goes for if the Roman Cultus went political. Or the Khemetics, or any pagan religion for that matter. The entire goal politically could be to place the Gods in a position of absolute supremacy over society. All laws would be religious laws, the culture and its norms would be the culture and norms that the Gods had dictated, which would mean cultures and norms from thousands of years ago. And you can bet that there’s a lot of people who would not end up on the happy end of that stick.
And that is a reality I accept about political paganism. And I know it’s the “reality” because its the exact same “reality” I see talked about so much from Pagans whose “paganism is political.” It’s always “Deus Vult.” “God Wills, make it so at all costs.” It’s what’s happened when the Christian is political (Inquisitions, Crusades, etc). It’s what happens when Islam is political (Jihads, terrorism). The instant you start saying “The religious is political” than the political becomes religious, with all the obligations of religious duty enforced on both political belief and action. And any failure to enforce this religious politicalism then becomes an absolute moral failing if you do not do it.
For me, it is not inconceivable that my paganism become political. I have conceived the idea and I know what it means. It means enforcing my religion politically, with all the fury and power I can muster. It means removing anyone who stands in the way. It means becoming an enemy to all mankind, because all mankind is now my enemy if they do not submit to the Will of my Gods.
And that’s a terrible way to function politically. It’s not even that good a way to function religiously. So I keep them apart.
It’s something I recommend others consider strongly. Because the more people push for the pagan to be political, the more it will happen. And it’s probably not going to be the politics they want.