Executive Pagan

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Pagan values – need a baseline?

Posted by Erik on June 1, 2009

NB: What follows is a lot of questions that I am not even going to attempt to answer, for the most part – they’re the questions that are in my head, and I thought others might get some sort of benefit from hearing about them as they work on their own Pagan Values Month posts.

In thinking about this month’s challenge, the first thing that comes to mind is that I’m not clear on what “pagan values” necessarily are.

Are all the values that I hold “pagan values” because I’m pagan, even though I have inherited many of them from my Christian upbringing and the surrounding culture? Does the fact of my bringing them with me into my pagan life transform them into pagan values, even if nothing about them necessarily changes? And what of values that I hold dear that are demonstrably NOT part of our pagan heritage, such as the imperative to do at least something towards alleviating the suffering of people I’ll never meet, in places I’ll never go? Should I only consider values that I have taken up or modified as part of my pagan journey? Xenia would count, then, but my belief in my responsibility to support my family would not?

As a Hellenist, I have a rich and varied well of ethical and moral philosophy from which to draw – but what do I do with the parts of that heritage that I not only disagree with, but find morally repugnant? Do I discard or ignore them as “that was then, this is now”? If so, then am I discounting an important piece of the cultural environment that also yielded the parts I do like? And if I engage with them seriously, what do I do with the result?

Head whirling now, must go watch Galactica… :)

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5 Responses to “Pagan values – need a baseline?”

  1. R.D. Hammond said

    In my own upbringing, I was learning about virtue from Athene, Perseus, and Heracles at the same time I was going to Sunday school for bible studies. I always found the myths more interesting precisely because they were down in the mud with actual human beings. (Although, I think this was due more to the sanitized environment I learned Christianity in than anything else.) Still, if the myths taught me valor and respect, Christianity hammered home the values of generosity and honesty, and serving for Catholic mass taught me the importance of ritual.

    [Controversy incoming. Those with a weak heart may want to end here.]

    As far as the repugnant areas go, I understand completely. I’ve been a Hera apologist for years, and a lot of myths about Zeus have him looking like a complete lout. Given context of the times—kings can do whatever they want, and the people weren’t always on board with it—it makes more sense how Greeks saw their gods.

    Still, I refuse to handwave this one away with “puny mortals have no right to criticize a God.” I also can’t gloss it over with “depends on who you believe.” The guy in charge of our pantheon is a rapist in multiple stories, including with his own wife. It’s bothered me, and it still bothers me, and it’s one of the reasons I stick closely to Athene and otherwise mind my own business.

  2. executivepagan said

    Ayup… and while I did talk a little bit about interpreting those particular stories way back at the beginning of this blog, the fact remains that they are highly problematic. And as for having a right to criticize, I can’t put it better than Cat did – we are responsible for the Gods we choose to worship.

  3. Feral Boy said

    You also have the benefit that Greece is where philosophical & religious debate was born. And a like-minded spirit in Socrates, who chose death instead of compromising his values (reached mostly through reason).

  4. annyikha said

    I thought about your post to jump-start mine … you brought up some really good issues, and I’m hoping that us Hellenists who are blogging about this stuff can do some kind of dialogue. ^_^

  5. executivepagan said

    Sweet! That’s exactly what I was hoping for… I do have at least a couple more PVM posts planned through the month that will actually say something more definite, once I finish thinking through them…

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