On Critical Thinking

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Atheism has an allure to it. It really does.

See, with atheism, there’s no room for blaming divinity instead of science, or for claiming that god has a reason to hate X group of people. Theoretically, this would lead to a group of very logical people that use reason, and Science! to justify their thinking. It doesn’t always do so- atheists are just as human as the rest of us- but it should.

Now, the problem with religion is that many people allow it to take the place of critical thinking. They allow belief to take the place of observation, or proven history, or evidence. Then, they often push their beliefs on other people, trying to make sure that everyone else also believes. So that their thinking– which is rarely their thinking– is validated by everyone.

In this example, of course, I’m talking about extremist Christians.

I really, really wish that I could say it was just extremist Christians that did it.

It’s most definitely not.

It’s a little harder to discern this type of thinking within the pagan community, because- well- we are a minority. And unlike other minorities, we’re a minority in which most of the members choose to be part of that minority. It means that we’re more likely to have placed thought into why we want to be part of enter pagan religion here, and that we’re less likely to have cultural reinforcement helping us maintain our fallacies.

That doesn’t mean that we don’t have them, however.

The easiest example of belief trumping fact would be the “burning times”- a myth about how millions of “witches” were burned at the stake for their pagan beliefs. (I don’t think I have to tell you that none of the people burned for witchcraft were casting spells in Diana’s name, or dancing under the moon to worship the Goddess.)

Another, more serious example, would be people using their religion to encourage white supremacy within the Norse Pagan community. (Not all Norse pagans, of course. It’s a very tiny minority. Unfortunately, though, it’s also vocal.)

Or the appropriation of Native American practices in the general pagan community.

People often take their prejudices into their religion. And, after a couple “talks” with the divine, they decide that the deity also thinks the same way that they do. And that because the deity thinks the same way that they do, they’re now excused to do what they want to do, whatever that is.

For that reason, it’s important to remember that you should never, ever use religion to justify your morals. Use your head.

“Because God said so” is not a valid reason for anything(Beyond, of course, certain situations involving ritual practice or- in very rare cases- .)

Another way people allow their beliefs to take the place of logic in their lives is when everything becomes a sign. Their lives are constantly About to Change; casting a spell is going to Fix all their problems- and if it doesn’t work, that just means that they didn’t do it right. I worry that these people are often very unhappy with their lives.

But religion is not a cure-all.

Religion doesn’t solve your problems. Religion rarely brings major change. Signs are rarely signs.

The gods work slowly, guys. And they’re subtle, most of the time.

Thinking about it, I don’t think I should say that the gods don’t bring major change. It’s just that usually it happens slowly, over several years. And they don’t do things for you. I doubt that they can.

And ultimately, I think that religion is about working with cycles- slow cycles, seasonal cycles. It’s not about major OHSHIT changes, and it’s not about forcing the world to work the way you want it to, and it’s definitely not about harming other people.

I love my gods very much. I couldn’t imagine not worshiping them. And ultimately, I doubt that religion (or lack of religion) really has any effect whatsoever on one’s moral code. But if you’re going to be a jackass (and I doubt that you are, dear reader, don’t worry), you shouldn’t be blaming your gods for your actions. Not only does that smear your religion as a whole, but it’s a way of shifting responsibility away from yourself.

Use your head. The gods gave you a brain for a reason- not so that you could slavishly do what they order, but so that you could think for yourself. You- not the gods- are ultimately responsible for your life and your actions.

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