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18.11.10

More on God's voting preferences

My friend Allison sent me an interesting response via email to my post on how God wants us to vote, which I'm publishing with her permission:

This struck me as interesting in a couple of ways, but the only one I'm probably qualified to comment on is my own viewpoint, that of an eclectic path pagan with a Patron who couldn't be less interested in politics. I think that the usefulness of the theology depends a lot on what you want from your religion. Personally, I'd hate to have a belief system that didn't involve my getting to make my own decisions and learn my own lessons. I don't even know offhand what my Patron wants me to do with my life (I've never asked.) As far as the specific example of politics go, I'm an anarchist (I know, wishful thinking, but what can you do?) My Patron just doesn't give a damn about how the world is run, and I think if I asked him for guidance in the elections he'd laugh himself sick. Most pagans that I know seem to have their own relationships with their Patrons along a similar line- something I liken to the relationship between a parent and an adult child. Sure, they'll always listen to you, they'll help you through grief and stress with a few kind words, and if things get really bad they'll bail you out (as long as you're doing your share of the work) but they don't spend a lot of time telling you what to do- they figure you're probably old enough to figure it out on your own. Christianity, as far as I can tell, has a more father/young child relationship with their Patron, where he tells them exactly what they can and can't do to avoid sticking their finger in a metaphorical light socket. I can see where that would involve something believing they had to interpret their gospel into what their Patron wants them to do in every single instance of their life, but I imagine it gets pretty tiring after a while. That much effort (and limitation of growth, since you're not making the decisions yourself, you're leaving them to your parent, and thus whatever happens afterward isn't your fault) would seem to me to be a useless system, at least from the viewpoint of how I like to live my life.


I think this topic has caused both Allison and myself to bump up against the "my religion with different names" fallacy. This fallacy involves assuming that all religions work basically like the one you are most familiar with, with just details like the name(s) of the god(s) changed. I wrote broadly about the usefulness of a theology being dependent on whether it can give you guidance on questions like how to vote because I had in mind a "metaphysical" religion like orthodox Christianity. What I mean by a "metaphysical" religion is one in which God is a sort of ultimate being, something of a very different order than a person. This is God's world, and he defines right conduct. Indeed, my own drift away from Christianity came via making God even more abstract and metaphysical, e.g. by taking the Biblical statement "God is love" to be a strict definition, so that God is just another name for the principle or force of love. On this sort of view, asking what God wants you to do just is asking what the right thing to do is, because God's will just is morality.

Allison's religious viewpoint, on the other hand, treats deities as beings of the same general type as humans -- more powerful and wiser, perhaps, but still with a fundamentally person-to--person relationship. On this view, it makes sense to imagine either that your god doesn't care how you vote, or that your god would not give you direct orders on how to vote. And a personal god who would give such orders then comes off as a strict parent who doesn't allow his followers room for maturity and growth. It seems to me -- and here I'm entering more speculative territory -- that if and when when a pagan like Allison decides how to vote, she's pursuing something greater than her Patron -- maturity or peace or justice or whatever -- albeit perhaps with her patron's help. For an orthodox Christian, on the other hand, God is that "something greater."

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