>> Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Alright. Here's irony for you. Real, honest-to-goodness irony, not the kind of ersatz irony you have in that (increasingly ancient) Alanis Morissette song. (You do know, don't you, that as time goes on people like myself will look increasingly dated by referencing "Ironic" as an example of something that, ironically enough, doesn't have a whole lot to do with irony? I have, I kid you not, represented alleged juvenile delinquents who were born the year that album came out--1995, I checked. Kid you not.)

Anyway, the irony:

Picture, for yourself, a Wiccan, an earnest practitioner of that "ancient" (but not really) faith. She's had a run of good luck, so she does what many religious types do when they're feeling blessed--some folks might say a little prayer, make a little offering; our Wiccan attempts to perform a good-luck ritual involving candles, incense, a cemetery, and a set of swords.

You see where this is going?

Yep, stabbed herself in the foot.

No, I'm not making this up. (Are you kidding? If I made this up, you'd never believe me. Hell, I'd never believe me. I can picture myself deleting the section from a National Novel Writing Month venture or somesuch: "This scene where she stabs herself in the foot during the good luck blessing is too much, nobody's gonna buy this shit." People get on Charles Dickens for his "contrivances" all the time, but guess what: that's right, crap like this happens all the time.)

Let us close out this scene from tonight's episode of The Irony Zone with this delicious bit of understatement:

"It wasn't the first time I performed the ritual, but it was the first time I put a sword through my foot," she [our hapless Wiccan] said.

Well, see, you can feel lucky you don't do this every time.

I guess.


John the Scientist Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 8:38:00 AM EDT  

OK,I am religious, but I tend to agree with Heinlein's view that the religion of your fathers is a religion, and any new one you join is a cult. In this case, a silly New Age cult.

People who seriously believe that a "religion" that died out nearly two thousand years ago has any relevance to their lives, and who are anti-rational enough to beoieve in magic crystals, etc. are not logical enough to be trusted with a steak knife, let alone swords.

I'm somewhat of a Deist in my outlook, and where science conflicts with religion, science always wins. People who deliberately go backwards to superstition are more than just silly, they are a cancer on civil society by eroding the already too-scarce stocks of rationality that our culture has built up since the Enlightenment.

New Age religion is the adult equivalent of going Goth to annoy your parents.

Thanks, Eric, you just wound me up again. I guess I'll have to work it off by getting Nathan the extra-smelly tofu.


Matt Warnock Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 8:58:00 AM EDT  

She must have rolled a one on her dancing with swords check.

Eric Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 9:18:00 AM EDT  

Yep, or someone was playing with Spell Law and she fumbled the casting check. :-D

Shawn Powers Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 10:12:00 AM EDT  

New Age religion is the adult equivalent of going Goth to annoy your parents.

Best quote I've read today. :)

Jim Wright Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 1:15:00 PM EDT  

What Shawn said.


Thanks, Eric, that made my day

MWT Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 6:12:00 PM EDT  

Heh, my first thought was "she must've botched her dex+religion roll" but it looks like everyone else beat me to it. Guess I definitely know I'm in the right crowd. :)

Incidentally, New Age and Wicca aren't the same thing. Not even remotely. I'm neither, being some sort of undifferentiated pagan, which also tends to get lumped in with those. How about observing that "do unto others" clause that Christianity is so famous for? I don't bash your religion if you don't bash "mine"?

Jeri Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 8:30:00 PM EDT  

You know, I learned something today.

I was going to say, after my lapsed college bible study years, that "Do unto others" isn't in the bible, and that the golden rule is a secular humanist construct.

I was wrong. "In everything, therefore, treat people the same way you want them to treat you, for this is the Law and the Prophets. " (Mat 7:12)

(Sorry, Eric, I realize that an atheist's blog is hardly the place to dredge up long-forgotten bible verses - please delete if you're uncomfortable with it.)

My beliefs are pretty much unstructured, lazy pantheist at this point - but I had enough Christian training as a teen and college kid that I still recall quite a bit of it.

And I do find Ms. Wiccan Priestess's predicament to be hilarious. I respect her right to believe whatever the heck she wants - as long as she doesn't come knock on my door and try to convert me to it, or show up at the emergency room and require treatment on my tax dollar because of it. ;)

Shawn Powers Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 8:49:00 PM EDT  


"Love thy neighbor as thyself" also fits the bill pretty well too. It's all over scripture.

In fact, I think it's called like the Royal Law or some such thing in James. (Not the "Golden Rule" per se, but pretty close)

Eric Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 9:47:00 PM EDT  

What Christians call The Golden Rule is a fairly universal religious doctrine that has counterparts in every major world religion: Wikipedia has a very nice overview right here. Let me add, speaking as an atheist, that the Sermon On The Mount--the section of Matthew you quote, Jeri--is by and large wise and full of useful nuggets for one of any faith (or lack thereof); when some atheists and agnostics say "I think Jesus was a great teacher, but not the son of God" (a statement that led C.S. Lewis to his ludicrous "lunatic, liar or Lord" nonsense), Matthew and the Sermon On The Mount is what they're almost always referring to.

The humor I found in Ms. Gunther's situation is that someone performing a ritual to commemorate luck did something extraordinarily unlucky--she might as well have been a Catholic who set a cathedral on fire with a votary candle and the story would have been as funny and absurd as far as I'm concerned. That she's a Wiccan is less-than-material.

I did somewhat snidely allude to Wicca's relative youth: I've encountered far too many Wiccans who allude to the purported age of their faith as--well, I'm not sure what they try to prove with such claims, but the fact remains that Wicca per se can only be traced back to the 1920s, and the "older" elements there are adopted from early 20th and late 19th century Spiritualist movements like Theosophy.

Even so, if Heinlein said anything like what was paraphrased here, it's just further proof that the man was an ass. Aspects of Wicca may be bemusing, but no more so than Christianity, a belief system that is only 2000 years old regardless of how many generations of fathers may have believed in it. And it's to be assumed that in the first century CE plenty of Jews and pagans said something similar about the spreading cult of Jesus--that the religion of their fathers was a religion and the one these younger types were joining with the fish symbol and living dead man was a silly little cult.

This was back in the day when Christianity was something Goths joined to annoy their parents, you know.

Anyway, all that aside, the story of our hapless Wiccan actually recalls the following profound bit of Jewish wisdom, and that probably should have been the real point of the entry:

"Tragedy is when I cut my finger. Comedy is when you walk into an open sewer and die."


vince Wednesday, July 30, 2008 at 11:37:00 PM EDT  

Comicus: The Christians are so poor...
Swiftus: How poor are they?
Comicus: Thank you. They are so poor... That they only have one God.
[drumbeat, everyone laughs]
Comicus: But we Romans are rich. We've got a lot of gods. We've got a god for everything. The only thing we don't have a god for is premature ejaculation... but I hear that's coming quickly.

John the Scientist Saturday, August 2, 2008 at 10:18:00 PM EDT  

MWT - that's a long journey out of your way to feel offended.

I do not let my own co-religionists off the hook, as in this post.

I believe in some stuff that to a strict rationalist is pretty goofy. Believing that spirits inhabit living things in the Earth, as do the real neo-pagans I've met, is really no goofier from a strictly rationalist point of view than believing that the Son of God came to Earth in human form as a sacrifice for the sins of those yet unborn. A little goofiness on the public stage is no big deal.

Believing in things, claiming things as true, that are demonstrably false, is destructive however. Wiccans claiming that their religion is a continuation of the Old Belief is one such demonstrably false statement, as Eric pointed out.

New Age and Wicca started at roughly the same time - with bored Victorians stifled by the restrictions of their age looking for a new religion now that science seemed to have undermined Christianity. In that respect they are simply different surface manifestations of the same sociological impulse, and many of the the surface manifestations are similarly goofy - especially the Wiccan notion of good luck charms and the New Age belief in crystals (both of which can be demonstrated to be false by controlled experiments). Neither of these beliefs is in any way less corrosive to the body politic and the fruits of the Enlightenment than the fundamentalist Christian insistence that the Earth is only 6000 years old.

I'll post more about this on my own site, and we can argue there.

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