Think!

Why are we not encouraged to think for ourselves, have you ever wondered? This isn’t the prelude to a vast Orwellian conspiracy theory, don’t worry. But in the interests of freely available media (and free will), when we are presented with nicely-packaged information every day of our lives, would it not make sense to actually encourage the understanding of it – and question it.

Tabloids such as The Daily Mail give the illusion of challenge, by presenting a certain perspective on any given story, while virtually wearing its own agenda on its sleeve. Yet people lap it up and gulp it down, no questions asked, even when the information given is so clearly biased it’s virtually fiction.

Liberal media does this as well. Stories presented in a matter of fact manner, so that the reader is encouraged to see their point of view as the only possible manner in which a normal, common-sense person would think.

This morning, I was reading Mark Townsend’s excellent forthcoming book, ‘Jesus Through Pagan Eyes‘. His writing is absolutely brilliant, conversational, engaging and inspiring – yet the subject matter was, for me, initially quite difficult. As a Pagan, why should I be thinking about Jesus? Surely the two paths are incompatible, even conflicting. It seemed almost sacriligious, in its way.

Then I caught myself. Where on earth had these thoughts come from? Why should I be blocking out an entire religion, with its deep and valuable stories, ethics and modes of thought, just because my own beliefs were considered ‘alternative’ (and that’s not even getting into that lovely misquote about not suffering witches)?

The difficulty in modern life is that we may be taught to believe one particular ideology, or way of living, is correct to the exclusion of all others. Then, when we are old enough to look elsewhere, we find alternatives… and become resentful of those perceived ‘lies’ that we were originally fed.

Is this irrational knee-jerk disregard not as bad as those ranting, obsessive right-wing extremists (of whatever faith)? We’re ignoring something entirely on the grounds that our own beliefs are different. Not because we have explored all sides… when we might begin to notice that there are in fact as many (if not more) similarities than differences.

Those who kill in the name of deities who taught love. Those who condemn children to hell because they aren’t baptised. Those who prefer to preach ultimate truths rather than encourage free will. These will only drive folk away from the doctrines they dictate.

I would love to learn about the historic Jesus, the man who walked his land telling stories and encouraging unity. It’s certainly about time someone threw the bankers out of the temple! And yet seeking such knowledge is considered heretical. In the same manner as Jesus’ teachings caused him to be killed to a political system that could not bear his challenges. Faith and society are constantly evolving in their paradox.

It’s human nature to be curious. Look at children. Then consider how many times we get tired of their constant questioning, and tell them to stop. We’re told to just accept what is, from teachers, priests, family members, the media – Those Who Know Better. Newspapers seek gossip, telling us it’s in our interests to find ‘the truth’… when that truth isn’t really relevant (celebrity secrets, scandals and so on). When real events, passionate life-affecting events are happening, they stay silent (notably the recent Occupy Wall Street protests). Those who inform us are themselves biased.

Currently, church and state are combined in the UK by law and (interestingly) tradition. Yet this is preventing the ethics of certain actions to be questioned, while the overly-secular ‘society’ is being encouraged to disregard moral thinking and philosophical questioning as irrelevant or pointless. At worst, faith-based ethics are a ‘fairytale’ rather than a cautionary tale.

As Mr Townsend says in his book, we’ve become too literal. It’s a fact that life is not black and white, right or wrong, and yet we try to force the belief that it is. How often do we hear of people taking action because they are right on moral grounds, yet because of a generalised law or policy, they cannot live as they wish? Everything is being considered in terms of ultimate truth, which is itself a lie. George Orwell was prophetic.

One word I’ve been thinking about lately, but which has somehow sneakily avoided being used in recent blogs is ‘integrity.’ Personal honour has been mentioned, but where does the limit of your integrity lie? What are your ethics, your moral code? Do you even have one, or is this like the religious fervour with which atheists tell us not to believe?

We do not teach or encourage philosophy (how to think), ethics (why we think) or even effective communication of those thoughts. Even analysis of the thoughts of others (English literature/language) is confined to a set level of understanding. Go beyond that and you fail the exam, so don’t get too clever. Don’t think, don’t be inspired – just copy what’s in front of you.

How brave would it be to emulate Jesus, Gandhi and all those others who were killed for standing up for their beliefs, to challenge the establishment because of your own personal integrity? How necessary is it becoming, as we see the world changing in ways that we do not agree with?

The ancient Druids were killed for maintaining their beliefs, their lands, against lethal opposition. Yet now, those calling themselves ‘Druid’ are sought out, as others are curious. We know that we need something more than what we’re told – and I’m overjoyed that people are having the quiet strength in themselves to really look. But at the same time, we too have to be aware of our personal integrity. Some modern Pagans are teaching their own ways as doctrine, with Christians as ‘ultimate evil’. While we may need security in ultimate truths, such goals are impossible, castles built on sand.

I consider this every time I sit down to write, or stand up to speak. My words are listened to, so what am I saying? I’m wondering now if this post will be considered inflammatory. That doesn’t make it any less my own truth. I try to use my worry, my anger, to look deeper, to consider the multiple truths involved in every tale, in each of our lives.

Some words need to be spoken. Our ancestors knew that, even if we have forgotten. Let’s seek the wisdom in the stories, not the literal text. Question the media. Remember that the systems that support us were set up by us – so we can change them. Question motivations – your own, and those of others. And once again…

What are you (not) doing – and why (not)?

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2 Comments »

  1. Marly said

    Kat, I hope you don’t mind me going slightly off your subject of the need to question everything, and talk about what all the religions or non-religions, can learn from each other. As you point out, anybody who says they are the only ones who have the absolute truth is a fool. Whether you are talking about Druids or Catholics or Baptists or Quakers or Amish or Jewish or Buddhist, they all have something to teach us that is at least worth thinking through, and all have things which are less than helpful, (to put it nicely.)

    Yes, Catholics say babies will go to hell if they’re not baptized, but they are also really concerned with the poor; think of all the hospitals and schools.

    Yes, Baptists will teach you how to come to Christ and be saved, as no other religion does, but they are devastatingly horrid to singles, (spoken from the perspective of a recovering (and single) Baptist.

    The Amish are wonderful about practicing hospitality, and they are conscientious objectors to war, but personally I think they get a little carried away with the clothes thing.

    Kat, I hope you don’t take offense to this, but I don’t read your blog because I’m interested in your religion. Personally, I can’t imagine trying to get through life without Christ to guide me; not his bible, not his morality, not his teachings, but him personally. And that’s okay. Kat, I read your blog because you think. You do indeed make me slow down and question things, and you’re better at it than most. Not to mention that you simply have a beautiful way with words, and you’re a very good story-teller.

    • druidcat said

      Marly – I really couldn’t take offense at the truth in your words (and the wonderful compliments!). I love to hear comments, as I know my readers come from all walks of life, many countries and a wide variety of worldviews. One of my oldest friends is a Christian scholar, and we have had some fine arguments/discussions over the years! If people have something to say, I’m glad to listen.

      I do honestly think that there are more similarities than differences between the major faiths. I’m a firm believer that ‘all paths lead to God’, and that belief systems are natural as we muddle our way through life. Not as a crutch, not as doctrine to be thoughtlessly obeyed, but as connection and relationship, to the wider world and our fellow creatures (including love of God/god/goddess). I believe that’s a tenet of most of the major faiths, of course including Christianity. I find it very hard to understand atheist points of view – I’d imagine they’re very lonely on their rationalist pedestals. But ultimately, if they’re happy in their beliefs and not harming others, that’s fine with me.

      As you say, I question, in an effort to understand. Blogging is a (slightly egotistical) expression of this, as I work out ideas publicly, hopefully inspiring others in turn… so I can’t really be offended when others question me! Thank you for your words – and do check out Mark Townsend’s book, I think you’ll like it.

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