Things I Don’t Believe In … In My Own Religion

I should put a disclaimer here that my religion is more Hellenist-leaning than actual Hellenic reconstruction. I respect reconstructionists for all their study and hard work, but that’s not something I do or find personal value in. In other words: it doesn’t blow my skirt up the way it does for some other people. My religion is more like a revival than a reconstruction. The gods to whom I am devoted are the gods of Hellas. I keep some ancient practices such as libations and honoring Hestia first and last before any formal prayer or ritual. I celebrate the Hellenic holidays—one way or another—usually in small acts and offerings to charity. I keep a jar in my cupboard for Zeus, to thank him that my pantry is always full. I think that’s about it. I pray. I pray pray pray. I pray informally, but I do pray.

But, as teased, here’s the big list of things I don’t believe in or do:

I don’t make lustral water. I don’t always remember to wash my hands before I pray.

I don’t wear robes to do rituals. I hardly ever do rituals.

I don’t make burnt offerings. I don’t set aside part of my meals for Hestia. (I really should though. That is a practice I embrace.)

I don’t believe the gods are all how they are described in the various hymns, epic poems, and myths. I believe those things give us some idea about the nature of the gods, but the gods reveal themselves differently a lot of the time.

What else don’t I do?

I don’t believe in miasma. I believe a good god who is a “friend of humanity” understands that we’re dirty creatures and that sometimes we need them most when we’re dirtiest. I don’t believe a god discriminates based on whether or not you smell of sugar and spice or sun and sweat.

That’s an important one.

Other than candles or incense, I don’t give material offerings at my shrine. I don’t believe offerings of that kind are in the spirit of ancient offerings. I believe offerings are, in part, about sacrifice. What sacrifice is an orange and a flower to me when I can just go to the grocery store and get more anytime? I believe the money spent on things like fruit and flowers that would rot and go to waste is better spent on a charity in the god’s sphere of influence.

I don’t say things in Greek because I would butcher the pronunciation and because I don’t think it’s necessary. I believe addressing the gods in your native tongue is an intimacy.

I don’t believe gods get offended by a whole lot except active ingratitude and hubris. I don’t believe there is such a thing as sin and, therefore, it is impossible to sin against the gods.

While I do believe in divine retribution, I think you have to really, really push the limits in order for it to be enacted on you. If you’re worried about incurring divine retribution, you probably haven’t done anything near awful enough to incur it.

That was weird—making a list of things about my own religion that I don’t believe in. Like a backward, hand-walking catechism.

I’m sure if I have any Hellenic Reconstructionist followers, they can give me another whole big giant list of things I don’t do. My practice is, admittedly, awfully minimalistic and my spiritual beliefs are broad and extremely liberal. (Lazy future cult leader’s way out.)

What don’t you believe about your own religion? I’m fascinated to find out. Let’s go to our cult clubhouse, sit on our lily pads, and discuss. I’ll make French onion soup, (I make a mean French onion soup), and this time I’ll even remember to save a bowl for Hestia.

-M.

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Losing The Sacred Canopy

Put The Sacred Canopy sociology of religion book down for intractable arrogance and picked up an intro to the sociology of religion textbook instead. It’s a much more pleasant read. It’s also a much easier read, but that’s not why I like it better. I swear.

-M.

Future Cult Leader

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Couldn’t Remember Today…

…who the main guy is in The Odyssey. … Really.

Starts with an “O,” Michelle. Starts with an “O.”

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Bodhi Day—All the Enlightenment in All the World

Today is Bodhi Day. It marks the day when the Buddha attained enlightenment while sitting under the Bodhi tree. Today is a day for meditation, reflection, and spiritual peace. Here are some ways to celebrate:

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Soul Bites Quotes: Sacred Dance

“Dancing in the precincts of the dead renews the will to life.” -Walter Burkert, Greek Religion

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Ring the Bell at Your Own Risk

I belong to “the theological community” the way a tangle-bearded cave dweller belongs to the Junior League.

But my cave is sumptuous. There are rich carpets and the light is soft gold. The worn out La-Z-Boy by the fire with the 1970’s burnt orange afghan thrown over it is for visiting deity. My Most Beloved God comes over once in a while and lets me sit in his lap while he combs out my beard.

The blue velvet couch is for you.

-M.

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Dear Theologians, Don’t Be THAT Theologian

In pursuit of my self-schooled divinity degree, I started reading The Sacred Canopy last night which is a sociological study of religion. It’s a leftover book from a class I had on religion in pursuit of my school-schooled sociology degree. In the class, we never touched the book, but I thought it might be useful and informative to my writing here and my general, personal understanding of religion.

(It also makes me realize that if I’m going to get into this heavy theological material seriously, I am going, at some point, to have to learn academic Latin. That’s also part of being an educated future cult leader… dammit. Et tu Textbook?)

In the preface, the author talks about an appendix in which he addresses the theologian so, of course, I skipped right to that. Who needs prefaces anyway? What does the context of a book matter to me?

In the appendix, the author tries to reconcile his interpretation, which he calls “methodologically atheism” with the work of the theologian. He stresses, essentially, how a mature theologian will find ways to incorporate his theory without her faith being shaken, while a newbie might end up in a theological crisis because he asserts that all religion is a human projection or a product of social engineering.

He gives examples of the works of several theologians who have managed to reconcile the two perspectives and wow. Let’s just say it got a bit… thick.

It occurred to me then that if I am a theologian after all (“theologian” is acceptable academic and religious code for “future cult leader”), that isn’t the kind of theologian I want to be. Their work seemed only to be written for other theologians. (The jargon! For gods’ sake!) What is the point of speculating on religion–which is all a theologian actually does—when your speculations are completely inaccessible to everyone except those high up in your own field and other well-entrenched academics? What’s the point of solving the mysteries of God and the Universe if no one can understand your solutions?

It all sounds like a big circle-jerk to me. I don’t want any part of that.

Another thing that got under my skin was the notion that, in this circle-jerk, these theologians and sociologists of religion sit around and try to shake each other’s faiths all day. I don’t want any part of that either.

I truly don’t understand—way down in my soul I don’t understand—why either of those things are appealing to anyone. Why beat the hell out of each other with your brains? Quit it. That’s not what brains are for. You’ll put someone’s eye out.

Reading that appendix wasn’t all bad news though. It inspired me to sit down on my gilded lily pad and define what kind of theology blogger/theologian/future cult leader I actually want to be.

Here’s what I got:

First and foremost, I want to be accessible. I’m spending a lot of time here and all that time would be a waste to everyone if the only people who ever were able to read and understand what I wrote were my own choir, so to speak. I want to be understandable to everyone. While what I write may be challenging at times, (I do tend to wander and there was that whole Physis and the Law incident a few days ago), I never want that challenge to be insurmountable. I want it rather to be exhilarating to both the mind and the soul.

I don’t want to break or even shake your faith. I want to bolster your faith, whatever it may be. I want to help out. I want what I write sometimes to inspire you to ask questions of your god or gods and to open you up to receiving answers. I want my writing to get you to a place where every day you do a little more smoochy schmoo with your god or gods—a little more “How do I love thee?”

I don’t know if I’m there yet, but now that I know for sure where my brain and heart lie, I know I’ll get there one day.

-M.

(I have to say I’m pretty damn proud of myself that I just finished writing a theology post that included the term “circle-jerk”… twice!)

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