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Author Topic: A Matter of Fact or Faith  (Read 1570 times)

dionysiandame

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A Matter of Fact or Faith
« on: January 02, 2012, 10:50:52 pm »
My fiancee (a progressive Jew) sat me down and explained to me why I easily offend people in some pagan circles.

"You present facts when they are speaking about faith."

In fact one of the last examples of this occuring was during a discussion where a gentleman was talking about a practice that originated in a culture that had a very different cultural outlook than the modern, Western, all present in the room had been indoctrinated into.

I was attempting to ask him how he was able to bring that cultural relevancy into his life. While a practice is one thing, as has been expressed to me on this site by others, the ins and outs- the whys are just as important. Instantly offended, a defensive posture was taken and the word "resonance" was used to describe why the history and culture of the tradition didn't need to be known to use the practice.

"So if it resonates with me I can't bring it into the circle?"

I know I have many faults and one of them is a dogged need to know "why" when it comes to a lot of things and I do believe that facts can fly in the face of belief and that belief should be changed accordingly.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm asking too much from "faith" and am not allowing true spirituality to blossom. I know people will find spirituality in different ways, but I always think having that connection,knowing the history of where you are coming from, the stories and motivations of the people,is not only fascinating but lends the aid of your spiritual ancestors to you.

Especially for previously "dead" or underrepresented religious/spiritual practices.

So what do you think? Am I too dogmatic? Am I blinding myself to feeling thereby alienating myself from others?

How do you reconcile fact and faith or can they coexist in a perfect balance of some sort?
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Etheric1

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Re: A Matter of Fact or Faith
« Reply #1 on: January 02, 2012, 11:15:49 pm »
Quote from: dionysiandame;37307
My fiancee (a progressive Jew) sat me down and explained to me why I easily offend people in some pagan circles.

"You present facts when they are speaking about faith."

In fact one of the last examples of this occuring was during a discussion where a gentleman was talking about a practice that originated in a culture that had a very different cultural outlook than the modern, Western, all present in the room had been indoctrinated into.

I was attempting to ask him how he was able to bring that cultural relevancy into his life. While a practice is one thing, as has been expressed to me on this site by others, the ins and outs- the whys are just as important. Instantly offended, a defensive posture was taken and the word "resonance" was used to describe why the history and culture of the tradition didn't need to be known to use the practice.

"So if it resonates with me I can't bring it into the circle?"

I know I have many faults and one of them is a dogged need to know "why" when it comes to a lot of things and I do believe that facts can fly in the face of belief and that belief should be changed accordingly.

But maybe I'm wrong. Maybe I'm asking too much from "faith" and am not allowing true spirituality to blossom. I know people will find spirituality in different ways, but I always think having that connection,knowing the history of where you are coming from, the stories and motivations of the people,is not only fascinating but lends the aid of your spiritual ancestors to you.

Especially for previously "dead" or underrepresented religious/spiritual practices.

So what do you think? Am I too dogmatic? Am I blinding myself to feeling thereby alienating myself from others?

How do you reconcile fact and faith or can they coexist in a perfect balance of some sort?

 
Personally, I think when it comes to offending people on these things it's more of a matter of how the question is delivered.  In my experience, most people do not appreciate something they hold as sacred being challenged, or being told "you're doing it wrong." I like to welcome the historical aspects of a faith system and use those to help shape my views.  Some people have attested to having very personal and very powerful moments that don't always conform to what history might say with regard to their faith-system.  I do try to keep facts in perspective, but sometimes those same pesky "facts" aren't always accurate - we see this a lot with many books in new age bookstores for example.  History is also written by the victors all too often as well.  

For me, it comes down to balancing things, and I doubt a perfect balance can be found because that will be different for everyone, and also possibly vary day to day.  As for giving offense, that can be tricky online since we don't have tone of voice to go along with our text.  I will say, I get annoyed when someone is proclaiming something as true when there is ZERO factual support, but then I have to decide if it's worth the energy to question that and if the person is interested in listening and having an honest discussion.  The thing to remember is: just asking questions can mean a lot of things if there is an implied agenda on the part of the asker.
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dionysiandame

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Re: A Matter of Fact or Faith
« Reply #2 on: January 03, 2012, 12:27:31 am »
Quote from: Etheric1;37309
Personally, I think when it comes to offending people on these things it's more of a matter of how the question is delivered.  In my experience, most people do not appreciate something they hold as sacred being challenged, or being told "you're doing it wrong."


I can definitely understand that.I would be miffed if someone came to my house and said "Well historically,an altar is supposed to have a freshly slaughtered lamb on it. You're doing it wrong." But I wouldn't be miffed if someone said "That's an interesting altar set up you have there. Why do you do it that way? How did you come to that setup for household worship?"

Fortunately, we were face to face and I'm doubly conscious of the stereotype surrounding black women in America, so I try to be self-effacing and non-confrontational because even showing a hint of annoyance in my voice can be construed as being confrontational. Not saying I'm never purposefully rude, because I can be.Oh believe you me and I'll be the first to admit when I'm being nitpicky or obnoxious.

I was certainly not trying to say the gentleman was "wrong" in his practices, I was asking "why" he was committed to a particular practice and what he knew about its origins.


Quote
I like to welcome the historical aspects of a faith system and use those to help shape my views.  Some people have attested to having very personal and very powerful moments that don't always conform to what history might say with regard to their faith-system.  


I agree with you on all of this and it seems like we share very similar views. However, I was asking the gentleman about his practices from a historical perspective, not a faith based one. You can believe unicorns fart rainbows and make magic skittle rain for all I care, but if I ask you "Well that sounds interesting, how did you come to that?" It's genuine curiosity.


Quote
I do try to keep facts in perspective, but sometimes those same pesky "facts" aren't always accurate - we see this a lot with many books in new age bookstores for example.  History is also written by the victors all too often as well.  


Very true. But there's a difference between providing theories of history and providing no history at all and then becoming upset when asked about the history of a particular practice and how the cultural significance may have been incorporated into one's life.

I'm a curious person.It got me in trouble a lot as a child. LOL! My parents rued the day.

Quote
For me, it comes down to balancing things, and I doubt a perfect balance can be found because that will be different for everyone, and also possibly vary day to day.  As for giving offense, that can be tricky online since we don't have tone of voice to go along with our text.  I will say, I get annoyed when someone is proclaiming something as true when there is ZERO factual support, but then I have to decide if it's worth the energy to question that and if the person is interested in listening and having an honest discussion.  The thing to remember is: just asking questions can mean a lot of things if there is an implied agenda on the part of the asker.

 
As I said, fortunately we were face to face and I totally understand where you are coming from. However, there really is no agenda. I've slurped the brain juices of just about every 'devout'  person I've met from my Rabbi father in law, to my Catholic coworker who meets with me for lunch specifically so we can talk old Vatican gossip.

I get it though, but as someone who comes from a culture that is heavily borrowed from with little thought to the people behind it, I guess it irks me a little bit to see this kind of attitude. To see a worship and acknowledgment of all things Celtic or Germanic while practices of indigenous, or formerly oppressed people, are seen as accessories to be snatched up at will with no care for the history or culture behind it.

Maybe some of that translated in my tone and ultimately this is my problem to work through.

I can accept that.
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Juniperberry

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Re: A Matter of Fact or Faith
« Reply #3 on: January 03, 2012, 02:26:16 pm »
Quote from: dionysiandame;37313


 

Very true. But there's a difference between providing theories of history and providing no history at all and then becoming upset when asked about the history of a particular practice and how the cultural significance may have been incorporated into one's life.

I'm a curious person.It got me in trouble a lot as a child. LOL! My parents rued the day.

.


*Laughs* You can come sit in time-out with me.
 
I don't understand how people don't want to discuss the history behind their worship. Its beyond interesting to me to see how concepts feed into each other to create a complex web of religion and faith.
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Re: A Matter of Fact or Faith
« Reply #4 on: January 04, 2012, 08:57:01 am »
Quote from: dionysiandame;37307

So what do you think? Am I too dogmatic? Am I blinding myself to feeling thereby alienating myself from others?

How do you reconcile fact and faith or can they coexist in a perfect balance of some sort?


There's two pieces here: the personal and the communal.

For myself: my practice is modern-influenced-by-history. I care that the history I pass on is accurate. But despite being heavily influenced by (and trained in) both classical and medieval history, those things are not a big part of what shapes the tradition I'm responsible to and for.

I'm also well aware that I can be a whole lot more rigid about some areas of study than most people out there - and honestly, it's been really good for me to get out of "this is what history says" and into "this is what actually works for us right now, and what builds a community of thoughtful, educated, witches and priest/esses." (Plus, of course, all the issues with history: we have some facts, but a whole lot of it is supposition at various levels.)

But tied in with this is the question of talking about it. I *love* a good academic wrangling discussion, and I don't take offense at it. But I also know that I'm definitely in the minority there: some people want to drive their religious and spiritual life on faith or emotion, far more than fact, and other people want to talk about facts but don't always have a lot of skill or background in doing so (so they get defensive when things are challenged or questioned).

And then there are people who *do* like those conversations - but maybe not in a particular time or place, for any one of a variety of (quite good) reasons.

What I usually do is this:
- Pick my conversations carefully. I don't drop it into a random conversation, especially with people I don't know well. At general Pagan social gatherings, open rituals, etc. I keep to lighter topics unless and until general conversation goes that direction.

- While I have strong feelings about things like co-opting other people's religious or cultural practices, I do my best to be very calm about the conversations - putting someone on the defensive is very unlikely to change their mind, after all. I do a certain amount of asking questions ("That's interesting: how does that work out for you?" or "Can I ask how that fits with this other thing you mentioned?"), ideally with examples that they're clearly comfortable talking about.

But I save the "Hey, don't know if you're aware, but" or heavily factual based things for when I know someone better (or at least have clearer sense of our interaction: I'll be much more direct with a student or potential student than someone random at a public Pagan event, for example.)

- I do take setting into account. People who have self-selected into a space like here (debate and discussion board) or the equivalent face to face setting (a discussion group with a strong interest in history/factual accuracy/whatever) are different than people who happen to turn up at a public Pagan event, or a loose group of friends with Pagan sorta-vaguely-in-common.

- Which means, RL, I've got out of the dozens of Pagans I know in person, a handful with whom I do the really meaty debate and discussion conversations (and every single one of us has people we've put off and annoyed, and we know it.)

And I know a few other people who like similar topics, but where we're just not a great fit for each other's discussion styles for whatever reason, and have enough going on in our lives and heads that fixing that is just not a priority.

And y'know, that's okay. I've got plenty to talk about with the other people, too, much of the time.
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SkylarB

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Re: A Matter of Fact or Faith
« Reply #5 on: January 04, 2012, 11:17:33 am »
Quote from: dionysiandame;37307
"You present facts when they are speaking about faith."

How do you reconcile fact and faith or can they coexist in a perfect balance of some sort?


I think this is a good question and a rather hard one to answer without seeing the situation unfold in real life.  There are different kinds of people, and not everyone thinks the same way as everyone else, and sometimes you have to be mindful of how to speak to others, and your town of voice, and even your choice of wording. Some people don't get offended by more blunt questions or facts, others feel threatened.

Perhaps this man is just learning about this new religious path, has found a few "things" that he likes, and has brought them into his own practice, but doesn't really know why those things were done... He simply hasn't gotten that far in his studies. He just likes how those things have affected his personal spiritual life and purpose. Isn't that how a lot of people start out doing something new. It looks and sounds interesting. I feels good or right. You may not know why it was done that way, but at first, you just know that you like to do it that way. You then later learn the history of why something was done that.. or because it feels right, some people simply don't care about the history of why something was done.. as Jenet pointed out, sometimes the history isn't clear or is unknown.

I also think that spirituality isn't all about facts. It's more about feelings and beliefs. But there are some things that you can't prove. There are some things that people may claim as fact, but how do you really know it's true fact? While you may be really interested in the facts and the why's there are many who aren't.  So you may want to save those fact discussions for people that are more fact based.. and speak of feelings to those that are not as fact based.

Finally, one of the greatest things I love about Paganism is that it is a very individual and eclectic religion. I love that I can take a piece of this and a piece of that and mix it together to create something that makes me feel great, improves my life, helps me to be a better person. Does it really matter why something was done a certain way, by this one group of people? If it works and feels right to you, then it's okay to do it. Sometimes I do things just because it resonates with me.... and I have no idea why!

And I don't think there is some type of perfect balance between fact and feeling, it's different for everyone, and every personality type. It's like a giant scale, with fact-based personality on one side and feeling-based on the other, and people can fall anywhere on this spectrum...and many people will not have the same combination of fact and feeling in their personality, but it doesn't mean they are right or wrong or should or should not do something. Just think about what first brought you to your religious path. Was it because it felt right, or was it because you thought everything was 100% true and factual?

I think the only way is to be more mindful of the person you are speaking with and know their "language" and if they are more fact orientated like yourself, go ahead and ask more about facts and why's and histories.. but if they are more feeling based, skip those fact comments and talk more about what they feel when they do something.
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