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Author Topic: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities  (Read 16489 times)

carillion

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #60 on: December 23, 2014, 02:09:00 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;168057
But such societies do not use terms to describe "animism", they use them to describe their own world views. We may be able to recognize common elements to, for example, a traditional Ojibwa and Japanese worldview, but that does not mean there is an official, correct interpretation of "animism"-there are merely some common elements to the world views of a variety of cultures.

To try and articulate this further, I will look at the term "polytheism". We can describe many cultures as being polytheistic, but that does not mean there is one true worldview associated with the term. Japanese, Hindu, and pre-Christian Greek societies may all be described as being polytheistic with some degree of accuracy, but what exactly a Deity is and the role of such a being in the individual cultures has a great degree of variation. Just as "polytheism" is simply a generalized description of some common features of a wide variety of world views, so to is the term animism.


I agree that variations exist. However, there is a distinct difference between , say, a polytheistic believe system and a monotheistic system although there are many variations within each catagory.

However, I was not detecting where the shared similarities between neo-animism (as defined by the descriptions and links put up) and what is generally understood as animism.

New belief systms spring up all the time - I just question the need to affiliate them to existing systems or to the existing concepts of a belief system with which it appears to share little to nothing.

carillion

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #61 on: December 23, 2014, 02:22:16 am »
Quote from: Megatherium;168059
So your objection is primarily the use of "person" to describe non-human beings, because this denigrates the intrinsic value of non-human beings by requiring they be anthromorphized in order to be recognized as being valuable to humans? Have I understood your point correctly?

As a further question, do,you consider the leaving of offerings to be an unwarranted anthromorphization of non-human beings? In my extremely poor wikipedia-level understanding of First Nation's cultures, the offering of tobacco to various non-human beings was quite common in some cultures. Given that such offerings to bear a striking resemblance to the gift-giving used by various human societies to create lasting social networks, do you see the human use of offerings for non-human beings to be an unwarranted anthromorphization of the objects receiving such offerings?


I think you are dealing with two things here. One does not have to anthropormorphize in order to offer something up. It's a purely human act based on human motivation. The human was not *asked* to do so. Different cultures and sub-cultures have different rituals, some of which may use anthropormorphic type schemas in their ritual. But then rituals often contain transformational elements which introduce the concept of intermediaries. What form they may take will again be determined by the ritual . But that's not what is being discussed here as far as I can tell.

The leaving of gifts or offerings is one sided when dealing with  non-human entities or phenomenon. The is no expectation of  equal reciprocity as there is with human to human gift giving. There is a difference between a presentation and an exchange. Apples and oranges.

Redfaery

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #62 on: December 23, 2014, 09:07:48 am »
Quote from: carillion;168068
The leaving of gifts or offerings is one sided when dealing with  non-human entities or phenomenon. The is no expectation of  equal reciprocity as there is with human to human gift giving. There is a difference between a presentation and an exchange. Apples and oranges.

 
Could you explain this? Are you including offerings to gods in this schema? Because they are "non-human entities" too. Offerings are just part of the system I work in. I give incense, water, and salt to Sarasvati. And yes, I have "relationships" with entities that are probably more along the lines of what you're talking about here. There is a tree in my parents' yard that is a wonderful thing. Sometimes I give it libations. More often, I simply "talk" to it. And yeah, it's not "human" by a long stretch. But it is a "person" - it has a person-ality. :)

I'm also taking issue with your analysis of gift giving as a whole. I didn't spend all that money on Christmas gifts for my 2 year old niece expecting that she'd give me anything back of equal monetary value. My parents sure as hell have never expected me to spend as much on my presents to them as they have on their presents to me. There are such things as unequal relationships among humans. There's nothing wrong with this.
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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #63 on: December 23, 2014, 11:22:19 am »
Quote from: Redfaery;168075
Could you explain this? Are you including offerings to gods in this schema? Because they are "non-human entities" too. Offerings are just part of the system I work in. I give incense, water, and salt to Sarasvati. And yes, I have "relationships" with entities that are probably more along the lines of what you're talking about here. There is a tree in my parents' yard that is a wonderful thing. Sometimes I give it libations. More often, I simply "talk" to it. And yeah, it's not "human" by a long stretch. But it is a "person" - it has a person-ality. :)

I'm also taking issue with your analysis of gift giving as a whole. I didn't spend all that money on Christmas gifts for my 2 year old niece expecting that she'd give me anything back of equal monetary value. My parents sure as hell have never expected me to spend as much on my presents to them as they have on their presents to me. There are such things as unequal relationships among humans. There's nothing wrong with this.

Yeah, I don't buy the idea that gift-giving is not reciprocal when it comes to spirits and deities,  either. That reciprocity is inherent in offerings is a central tenet of ADF, and no doubt many other religions that include offerings to the gods in their ritual systems.
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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #64 on: December 23, 2014, 12:18:03 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168068
I think you are dealing with two things here. One does not have to anthropormorphize in order to offer something up. It's a purely human act based on human motivation. The human was not *asked* to do so. Different cultures and sub-cultures have different rituals, some of which may use anthropormorphic type schemas in their ritual. But then rituals often contain transformational elements which introduce the concept of intermediaries. What form they may take will again be determined by the ritual . But that's not what is being discussed here as far as I can tell.

The leaving of gifts or offerings is one sided when dealing with  non-human entities or phenomenon. The is no expectation of  equal reciprocity as there is with human to human gift giving. There is a difference between a presentation and an exchange. Apples and oranges.


I am unconvinced that we can speak of all First Nation’s cultures as involving themselves only in “one sided” gift giving exchanges. It certainly begs the question as to why one would give a gift without the expectation of any effect resulting from such action.

I’m going to use a quotation from the Niitsitapi author Betty Bastien here to serve as an example of a situation in which human-like exchanges with non-human persons are a feature of a specific First Nations culture. This quote is taken from the book “Blackfoot Ways of Knowing: The Worldview of the Siksikatsitapi” (pg.17)

“according to the stories that were told, horses were gifts from Ksisstsi’ko’m (Thunder), from Sooyiitapiiks (water spirits), or from Ipissowassi (morning star)”.

From a naturalistic or Christian perspective, it is non-sensical to speak about receiving “gifts” from “thunder”, “water spirits”, or “morning star”. To ascribe to “thunder” the ability to give gifts seems to me to be a personalization of this phenomena. Clearly in the specific Niitsitapi culture being described, there does seem to be the attribution of, at minimum, the ability to give gifts to phenomena that are not recognized at being able to do within a Christian or naturalistic perspective.

From reading your responses, I have difficulty differentiating from your  notion of animism (given that it rejects the personalization of non-human beings, something that strikes me, in my limited and quite possibly flawed knowledge, as a common feature of societies we would describe as “animistic”) and naturalistic, atheistic worldviews. Could you describe how your understanding of animism, and of such cultures that can be described as possessing animistic characteristics in their worldviews, differs from naturalistic materialism? Do you view, for example, Japanese culture as being essentially naturalistic/materialistic?
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carillion

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #65 on: December 23, 2014, 03:34:52 pm »
Quote from: Megatherium;168088
I am unconvinced that we can speak of all First Nation’s cultures as involving themselves only in “one sided” gift giving exchanges. It certainly begs the question as to why one would give a gift without the expectation of any effect resulting from such action.

I’m going to use a quotation from the Niitsitapi author Betty Bastien here to serve as an example of a situation in which human-like exchanges with non-human persons are a feature of a specific First Nations culture. This quote is taken from the book “Blackfoot Ways of Knowing: The Worldview of the Siksikatsitapi” (pg.17)

“according to the stories that were told, horses were gifts from Ksisstsi’ko’m (Thunder), from Sooyiitapiiks (water spirits), or from Ipissowassi (morning star)”.

From a naturalistic or Christian perspective, it is non-sensical to speak about receiving “gifts” from “thunder”, “water spirits”, or “morning star”. To ascribe to “thunder” the ability to give gifts seems to me to be a personalization of this phenomena. Clearly in the specific Niitsitapi culture being described, there does seem to be the attribution of, at minimum, the ability to give gifts to phenomena that are not recognized at being able to do within a Christian or naturalistic perspective.

From reading your responses, I have difficulty differentiating from your  notion of animism (given that it rejects the personalization of non-human beings, something that strikes me, in my limited and quite possibly flawed knowledge, as a common feature of societies we would describe as “animistic”) and naturalistic, atheistic worldviews. Could you describe how your understanding of animism, and of such cultures that can be described as possessing animistic characteristics in their worldviews, differs from naturalistic materialism? Do you view, for example, Japanese culture as being essentially naturalistic/materialistic?

 
I can't speak for 'all' First Nations. As you no doubt know,there are hundreds of tribes and many and complex nuanced differences in their beliefs and rituals. Quoting one person telling one story from one tradition in no way covers the whole. It is very frustrating to me to see 'all' First Nations people given a homogeneous identity this way. It's one of the things that perpetuated the ignorance of First Nations people and their customs ( *not* saying you are doing this,just pointing out the problem).

The difference, put simply, is the difference between throwing a coin in a wishing well and exchaning gifts at Christmas.

To posit that 'all' animists ascribed 'personhood' to their surroundings is, to me, verging on the disrepectful. Also,it doesn't make *sense*. One doesn't seek human help or wisdom from non-human sources. Help or guidence *to* humans is different than help or guidence *from* something one chooses to conceptualize as human.  
Thunder can bring rain which can bring bounteous crops, it can also bring terrible destruction. These are not gifts or actions which humans can bestow upon others or engage in. The story you quoted shows that.

An important difference is that between 'personification' and 'personhood'. The former can be used to help visualize and conceptualize an object or phenomenon which is too big, complex or unknown to easily communicate with given the limitations of human comunication and imagination. The latter is an attempt to equalize an exchange/communication by the creation of a reductive form of 'equality' on that which is being addressed/approached. But with the former, there is no doubt that one is creating an intermediate translator or visualization tool which ceases to exist after the communication is complete and that what one is approaching is in no way a 'person'...at all.
In my opinion, ascribing 'personhood' to non-human forms is a bit like the Victorian Engish re-make of the image of fairys and angels.

And no, I cannot write a text on Japanese culture or animism within it :). I think that is way too big a request of anyone.

Darkhawk

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #66 on: December 23, 2014, 03:39:40 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168096
To posit that 'all' animists ascribed 'personhood' to their surroundings is, to me, verging on the disrepectful. Also,it doesn't make *sense*. One doesn't seek human help or wisdom from non-human sources. Help or guidence *to* humans is different than help or guidence *from* something one chooses to conceptualize as human.

 
Did I miss there being an explanation of why you're treating "person" and "human" as if they are the same word, even though they are ... not, given that they're spelled differently and stuff?
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carillion

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #67 on: December 23, 2014, 03:58:46 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;168097
Did I miss there being an explanation of why you're treating "person" and "human" as if they are the same word, even though they are ... not, given that they're spelled differently and stuff?

 
O.K., I'll bite. When is a person not a human and when is a human not a person? ( excluding corporations in the U.S., of course :) )

Aranel

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #68 on: December 23, 2014, 04:14:07 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168099
O.K., I'll bite. When is a person not a human and when is a human not a person? ( excluding corporations in the U.S., of course :) )


I'm not interested in engaging in an animal rights debate here, but I think this is relevant:  http://www.washingtonpost.com/news/speaking-of-science/wp/2014/12/22/orangutan-granted-rights-of-personhood-in-argentina

And this site has a lot more detail about the campaign for non-human people: http://www.nonhumanrightsproject.org/

Darkhawk

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #69 on: December 23, 2014, 04:18:02 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168099
O.K., I'll bite. When is a person not a human and when is a human not a person? ( excluding corporations in the U.S., of course :) )

 
Let me Wikipedia that for you:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person
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Redfaery

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #70 on: December 23, 2014, 04:44:34 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168099
O.K., I'll bite. When is a person not a human and when is a human not a person? ( excluding corporations in the U.S., of course :) )
Gods are people. But they are not human.
KARMA: You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #71 on: December 23, 2014, 04:47:14 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168096
I can't speak for 'all' First Nations. As you no doubt know,there are hundreds of tribes and many and complex nuanced differences in their beliefs and rituals. Quoting one person telling one story from one tradition in no way covers the whole. It is very frustrating to me to see 'all' First Nations people given a homogeneous identity this way. It's one of the things that perpetuated the ignorance of First Nations people and their customs ( *not* saying you are doing this,just pointing out the problem).

The difference, put simply, is the difference between throwing a coin in a wishing well and exchaning gifts at Christmas.

To posit that 'all' animists ascribed 'personhood' to their surroundings is, to me, verging on the disrepectful. Also,it doesn't make *sense*. One doesn't seek human help or wisdom from non-human sources. Help or guidence *to* humans is different than help or guidence *from* something one chooses to conceptualize as human.  
Thunder can bring rain which can bring bounteous crops, it can also bring terrible destruction. These are not gifts or actions which humans can bestow upon others or engage in. The story you quoted shows that.

An important difference is that between 'personification' and 'personhood'. The former can be used to help visualize and conceptualize an object or phenomenon which is too big, complex or unknown to easily communicate with given the limitations of human comunication and imagination. The latter is an attempt to equalize an exchange/communication by the creation of a reductive form of 'equality' on that which is being addressed/approached. But with the former, there is no doubt that one is creating an intermediate translator or visualization tool which ceases to exist after the communication is complete and that what one is approaching is in no way a 'person'...at all.
In my opinion, ascribing 'personhood' to non-human forms is a bit like the Victorian Engish re-make of the image of fairys and angels.

And no, I cannot write a text on Japanese culture or animism within it :). I think that is way too big a request of anyone.

 

Aha! Lovely, the bolded part especially. To be clear, my earlier confusion as regards to your views of animism were based upon a lack of understanding of your differing views of "personification" and "personalization". I perceived your rejection of "personalization" to be synonymous with a rejection of "personification" which left me suspecting that you viewed animistic societies as being essentially naturalistic pantheists.

The bolded paragraph does an excellent job of differentiating between the two phenomena, and I am in agreement with you that non-human beings should be respected as being fundamentally different from us. I just thought that you were also rejecting the use of "personification" as a means of interacting with non-human persons, which seems to be a fairly common strategy humans from a variety of cultural backgrounds use to interact with non-human persons.

With these two phenomena clearly distinguished, I can better appreciate your insistence on not "personalizing" non-human beings, given that this view allows for "personification" in such relationships.
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carillion

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #72 on: December 23, 2014, 04:55:13 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;168101
Let me Wikipedia that for you:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Person

 

And? How is this germane to the present conversation? Are you suggesting that the concept of 'person' is *not* being used to reference 'human' ? In which case, why use the word 'person'?  A tree is a tree. By definition it is 'non-human'. By what definition is it a person?
More importantly, why *should* it be?

I'm not asking you to speak for neo-animists, by the way.

Darkhawk

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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #73 on: December 23, 2014, 05:09:41 pm »
Quote from: carillion;168104
And? How is this germane to the present conversation? Are you suggesting that the concept of 'person' is *not* being used to reference 'human' ?

 
Why yes, I am suggesting that the concept of "person" is not exclusively limited to "human", because that is a fact, and facts are rather useful to have straight in discussions.  The article points out a number of relevant facts, which I will draw out explicitly for you since you chose not to read it.

The article begins with "A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood", which clearly states that a human is an example of a person, and that non-human persons or people exist.

You asked about circumstances in which "human" does not equate to "person".  The article includes the note "Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate, and has been questioned during the abolition of slavery and the fight for women's rights, in debates about abortion, fetal rights, and in animal rights advocacy."

Also, "In most societies today, living adult humans are usually considered persons", but obviously dead humans and juvenile humans may not be.

Further, "the category of "person" may be taken to include such non-human entities as animals, artificial intelligences, or extraterrestrial life, as well as legal entities such as corporations, sovereign states and other polities, or estates in probate." and "The category may exclude some human entities in prenatal development, and those with extreme mental impairment."

Links at the bottom include http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_rights , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ape_personhood , and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_fiction .

Quote
I'm not asking you to speak for neo-animists, by the way.


Given that someone who were to ask me to speak for a category that I am entirely unfamiliar with is supremely misguided, that is rather fortunate.  I'm in this conversation for the English language.
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Re: Being a Pagan without believing in Pagan deities
« Reply #74 on: December 23, 2014, 05:17:39 pm »
Quote from: Darkhawk;168105
Why yes, I am suggesting that the concept of "person" is not exclusively limited to "human", because that is a fact, and facts are rather useful to have straight in discussions.  The article points out a number of relevant facts, which I will draw out explicitly for you since you chose not to read it.

The article begins with "A person is a being, such as a human, that has certain capacities or attributes constituting personhood", which clearly states that a human is an example of a person, and that non-human persons or people exist.

You asked about circumstances in which "human" does not equate to "person".  The article includes the note "Personhood continues to be a topic of international debate, and has been questioned during the abolition of slavery and the fight for women's rights, in debates about abortion, fetal rights, and in animal rights advocacy."

Also, "In most societies today, living adult humans are usually considered persons", but obviously dead humans and juvenile humans may not be.

Further, "the category of "person" may be taken to include such non-human entities as animals, artificial intelligences, or extraterrestrial life, as well as legal entities such as corporations, sovereign states and other polities, or estates in probate." and "The category may exclude some human entities in prenatal development, and those with extreme mental impairment."

Links at the bottom include http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Animal_rights , http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_ape_personhood , and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legal_fiction .


 

Adding to this:  http://www.wired.com/2014/12/orangutan-personhood/
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No doubt the truth can be unpleasant, but I am not sure that unpleasantness is the same as the truth.  — Roger Ebert
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