A Study In Life:

"The way I see it, every life is a pile of good things and bad things. The good things don't always soften the bad things, but vice versa the bad things don't necessarily spoil the good things and make them unimportant."


In Defense of Religion

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on November 15, 2012 at 10:25 PM Comments comments (0)

I’ve have many occasions in the last few weeks that I have heard absurd, incorrect, and offensive statements of the LDS faith, or Mormonism as it’s more commonly known. Being born and raised in the LDS church, I know the belief system of it pretty well.  I am no longer LDS, some of my previous posts make it pretty obvious that I am now Pagan.  While I did turn away from the LDS church for various reasons, and I do obviously have some issues with it, especially some of the things that the church as an organization does, I am unable to sit silent and listen to ridiculous lies about the religion.   You can call it a residual defensiveness for what used to be my religion, but honestly I would get just as defensive to hear someone speak offensively about any religion. I simply do not find it appropriate.

There is room for an intellectual discussion about what people consider to be problems with any religion, or why they disagree with it.  I am more than willing to enter into such a conversation and have on many occasions. However, a prerequisite for such a conversation is a factual understanding of the topic, in this case the religion, being discussed.  If you want to have a discussion about the pro’s and con’s of a religion you need to know what that religion really is.  

For example, you cannot have an intelligent and worth-while discussion on the LDS church when one of the parties involved believes that the Mormon church worships demons, prays to Satan, isn’t Christian, and doesn’t believe that Jesus died for their sins. The Mormon church recognizes the holy trinity(although they do not refer to it as such) of God(Heavenly Father as they refer to him), Jesus Christ, and the Holy Ghost.  They do not worship demons, and they do not pray to Satan.  They pray to Heavenly Father, Jesus Christ, and occasionally Heavenly Mother(though that’s not a common thing).  If you define a Christian as someone who accepts Jesus as the son of God and their Savior, then Mormons are indeed Christian.  Mormons do believe that Jesus died for their sins.  It is an integral aspect of the whole Jesus is the savior idea. 

If anyone is wondering where these particular examples come from, these are a few of the statements that I had to listen to today.  Of course I was offended, especially when they got their self-righteous attitude of ignoring everything I was saying.  This left me in a state of outrage that had boiled to a head after dealing with weeks of intolerant and offensive comments about the LDS church. In my anger at the mass ignorance that I have been dealing with, I expressed my frustration on my facebook. Now before you start thinking, oh facebook everyone can see what you post there, my facebook is something that I tend to keep very private.  I purposefully have a relatively low friend count, and I have an assumed trust with my friends that my posts will stay with those that are my friends on facebook.  If I post something for friends only, I do not expect it to become a public forum issue outside of those friends. 

I understand that this is probably starting to sound very high-school drama-ish, and unfortunately that is what happened.  My post, which did not implicate any single individual as having been the one who said these ignorant comments(I'm not the type of person that would tag someone with this sort of thing), was then shared throughout an entire room of people whom would not have otherwise had access to this post.  The person that had said the ignorant comments got extremely angry at my comments, and a mob-type mentality quickly developed with me being the monster that needed to be fought off.  I don’t know exactly how this whole situation developed, only that by the time I got out of my history class only an hour and a half later, I discovered that it had been decided that I was to be ostracized from the group.  I don’t know what all was said, as I wasn’t present, nor was I ever allowed to defend whatever allegations were ledged against me. 

The anger that I am now experiencing comes from a couple of different places.  Firstly I am extremely angry with the fact that something that I had posted as private was brought by someone I had considered a friend into the public forum, something that he had no right to do.  Secondly I am amazed that in this situation the person that was spouting offensive lies about a religion has come off as the victim, while I, who was acting as the voice of religious tolerance and honest discourse, have been demonized so thoroughly.  Apparently trying to defend a religion against vicious lies is a terrible offense now.  The kicker is this entire thing played out with the Speech and Debate team, which is outrageous, because if there is anywhere that should be open for honest, intelligent, and tolerant discussion it should have been there.  

So here I stand being demonized and punished for trying to defend the LDS church against mean-spirited lies. This is something that I would do for any religion, and will continue to do despite this situation.  While there are now less people that I can call my friends, at least I know that I stood up for something that I believe in.  It is not OK to degrade something that you do not understand simply because you do not like it or because it is different.  Again, I am no longer Mormon, nor am I Catholic, Muslim, Jewish, or any other of a large number of religions, but I will always stand up to defend any religion from vicious lies, and I will always stand up to defend religious freedom.   Those who don’t want to be around me because of that, well I probably am better off without them in my life anyways.


Showing Your Religion

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on November 5, 2012 at 10:05 PM Comments comments (2)

If you wear a religious symbol regularly, what situations would you remove it for?  Personally I wear either one of my pentacles or another symbol daily, and if I don’t have it on I feel physically uncomfortable.  For me I feel as though Ihave a spiritual connection to my pents(short for pentacle, which is that starsymbol that a lot of people think means I worship Satan, which I don’t).  I have more than one, and each of them are special to me, most have been gifts from people close to me.  My boyfriend knows better than to bother with getting me necklaces because I would almost never wear them because the pent does not come off.  He has gotten me some pents, and I trade off which ones I wear every so often.  But one of them is always on. 

The point of this lead up is; what do you do if someone asks you to take it off, for whatever reason? For me, the only times that I have removed a pent has been when I am going to a funeralin a church, and for the sake of those in attendance who are grieving I don’twant to cause a fuss.  In those cases I switch to a less obvious pagan symbol, like a spiral goddess, or my jade Quan Yin that looks like a Buddha.  I’ve even gone to Christmas Eve mass wearing my pent, because I only take it off for rare occasions.  Simply attending another religions service for me isn’t reason enough to take me pent off because it is a part of who I am. I feel as though it's unfair and disrespectful for someone to even request that you remove it.  No one has the right to decide for you when it is or isn't ok for you to be honest about what your relgion is, or who you are.

It’s not that I’m trying to throw it in anyone’s face that I’m pagan it’s something that I am always wearing.  I don’t have some especially large one to throw on in order to make others uncomfortable, I’m simply not going to allow other people’s ignorance or close-mindedness to change the way Idress on a daily basis.  It’s not my job to hide who I am in order to make you more comfortable.  This mindset doesn’t come without consequences of course.  There are people out there that will care, and will judge you negatively because of it.  That’s why wearing your pent is a very personal choice, some people don’t want to deal with the discrimination.  It bothers me sometimes, but not enough to make me change who I am.  I’ve had people be wonderfully nice to me until the second they see that symbol, and suddenly it’s like I’m a leper.  It sucks and it’s not fair, but I’d rather know that they were that type of person then to be around someone who only likes me because they don’t know who I am yet. 


The Influences of Religion

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on March 27, 2011 at 10:15 PM Comments comments (1)

The influence of religions and belief systems in culture areextremely strong, and sometimes can be taken in a direction by individuals thatare harmful, however belief systems are not always a bad thing.  I recently watched a video clip ofastrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson on the erosion of progress byreligions.  I’m not going to argue thateverything he said was lies, it’s not, he has some very good points to make ona couple of particular situations in which a single religion did in fact createa halting and even a backwards movement of progress in a society, and I canthink of another one on my own, and I’m sure there are others.  Religions, like everything in the world aresubject to the influences of power and corruption, and these can lead tonegative effects on society.  But earlierin the same week I had watched a video in one of my Archaeology classes onprogress and invention, and it went through a broader view of human history tolook at how something as simple as the plow has led to humans being able toaccomplish no much.  Homo sapiens haveexisted on this planet for about 100,000 years, and for as long as we have beenhere, there has been belief systems of one type or another, this is evidencedby the burial of the dead and the placement of death objects in those graveseven as early as Neanderthals.  To arguethat religions and belief systems are nothing but a drain and an erosion toprogress is such a preposterous notion, and such a small minded one atthat.  To ignore 100,000 years of humanevolution, progress, and invention is absurd. From the development of stone tool technologies, to the plow, to stonestructures such as the pyramids and Stonehenge, or mud brick building such asthe oldest human structures in existence in Sumer, there has been religionthere, fuelling the fires of invention and progress.  It was the Egyptians and Greeks desire tounderstand the complexities of the universe to help them understand the worksof the gods that invented the science of astronomy.  The invention of science and philosophy cameabout in a civilization surrounded with religious beliefs and ceremonies.  In the last couple thousand years, yes therehas been a degradation of certain religions attempting to tamper the fires ofscience and progress, but what is 2,000 years compared to 100,000?  To ignore so much of human history and growthin order to push forth your point that some religions are bad is to reject theprogress that led to your having that opinion. 

Religion is an integral aspect of human culture, and whileatheism is a growing belief system, it is still a belief system, your belief inscience is no more worthy than my belief that there is something beyond thescience, all people have equal rights to their own beliefs, and as long as theyaren’t pushing it down your throat, what right is it of yours to try to denysomeone of their beliefs?  I have theutmost respect for anyone to their own beliefs, whether that be Pagan, Christian,or Atheist, all I ask for is a similar respect from you to let me have mybeliefs, if you don’t agree, then that’s fine, but my beliefs are my own, andthey are no business of yours.

“The only part of the conduct of anyone, for which he isamenable to society, is that which concerns others.  In the part which merely concerns himself,his independence is, of right, absolute. Over himself, over his own body and mind, the individual is sovereign.”  John Stuart Mill


The Issue Of High or Ancient Magic

Posted by Olivia Lawrence on March 27, 2011 at 8:55 PM Comments comments (4)

This post comes from Pantheacon, I know finally.  I went to a lot of high magic or ancient magic talks and rituals while I was there, and the thoughts that kept coming to me was that it’s all very impressive, and being my interest in ancient religions from a scholarly perspective I loved all of it, however from a pagan practicing perspective I found myself thinking that there is a lot that is meaningless in our current culture.  One of the responses I got from a Kemetic practicer was that she felt it was merely respectful towards the gods to worship in the way that they are accustomed, and I can understand that, however I personally feel that it would be more meaningful for the practices to all have meaning for the one doing them as well as for the gods on the receiving end.  It comes down to the big liturgical debate, of how much strict scripting does a ritual need? 

But, this is high magic, and ancient religions that we’re talking about here, and how much can you change and still say that you are practicing an ancient religion?  Honestly, there’s not really anyone who can say that they are practicing an entirely ancient religion.  It doesn’t matter how much you recreate the exact wording or situations, etc.  You simply cannot recreate the meaning in its entirety.  So what do you call it?  Well, I personally prefer the way people like Tony Mierzwicki call it Reconstructionist.  Because that’s what you are doing, you are trying to reconstruct something that has been gone for thousands of years.  You simply are not practicing the exact way the ancient Egyptians, Sumerians, or Greeks were, and honestly, from a practicing perspective, you shouldn’t!  Unless you live in Egypt, or Greece, or Iraq, and all of the things that they practiced and why still make sense in your life and your society, you shouldn’t be copying it word for word.  I live in Southern California, hardly the same environment as the ancient Sumerians, but I love the ancient Sumerian deities, and am really interesting in the religion, but respectful or not, doing the same chants exactly the way they did is not giving the same meaning that it did back then.  I’m not living in a desert praying for rains to help my crops grow so my family can survive another year, but that doesn’t mean that I can’t have a meaningful relationship with the Sumerian deities, it’s simply a matter of finding ways to adjust an ancient religion to fit into your life meaningfully.  

Another note about the Kemetic rituals and such, while they are amazing, and while we do have a great deal of archaeological record on how and why they were done, the things that were documented are not the ways that everyday Egyptians were practicing.  Maybe that seems boring to some people, but I’m an everyday normal person, and so if I want to relate to an Egyptian deity, I’m more curious about what the normal folk did to worship.  That is a mystery that will likely never be solved because of lack of preservation, but I think that the point puts things in perspective.  There were thousands upon thousands of Egyptians, all worshipping these incredible deities, and we have these records of elaborate rituals, and so we get this picture in our heads that these are how the religion was practiced, but think about modern day catholics, there’s church for an hour once a week, and that’s it, it’s the same for the ancient Egyptians, sometimes there would be a big public feast or worship time, but what were the people who weren’t priests doing in the other times to relate and connect to their gods?  There’s more than one way to connect to the gods and just because there are records of elaborate rituals doesn’t mean that that is the only way they were worshipped. 

Well, that’s my two cents, I’m not trying to offend anyone who is a practice of ancient religions, they fascinate me, but if I want to connect to the gods, I’m not going to do it by reciting ancient texts that have no context in my life.  If there’s an ancient text that does hit you in a certain way, and it makes sense to you, and it has meaning, then of course it makes sense to use it in practice.  My caution is simply to make sure you know why you are doing what you are, and saying what you are, because without meaning, you’re just reading words off a paper.