Jesus and Mo are appalled that witchcraft and Druidry are on the curriculum for Religious Education in Cornwall. They are not proper religions, Jesus stiffly says. He’s reading Cristina Odone’s recent column in the Telegraph.
I’ve already mocked that column briefly, but why not mock it again at a more leisured pace. These things repay doing thoroughly.
Fear of being judgmental is so ingrained today that no one dares distinguish between occult and Christian values, the tarot and the Torah, the animist and the imam.
That’s the line that made me want to revisit. I didn’t do it justice last time. Here’s what I want to know: how does one distinguish? How does Odone distinguish?
What exactly are “occult values” for instance? I have no idea, myself. I wonder if Odone knows.
But if either of us did know, how would we distinguish? I know how I would do it: by evaluating them according to various secular, human criteria. My guess is that Odone would do it exactly the same way, while not admitting that her criteria were entirely secular and human. That’s my guess because that’s what goddy types usually do – they give “god” the credit for what are secular ideas about morality. (They also ignore or conceal or deny all the “Christian values” that are no longer acceptable in polite society.)
How does one distinguish between the tarot and the Torah? Then again why would one bother, since they’re different genres? She must have included it because of the alliteration rather than the relevance. A more cogent example would be distinguishing between the Torah and the Book of Mormon. How does one do that?
It would be quite interesting to know how Odone would answer that question. Does she despise the Book of Mormon as a modern imposter every bit as fake and risible as the latest Wiccan book of recipes? Or does she “respect” it as the holy book of a Major World Religion? I don’t know. I think my guess is that she secretly despises it as a vulgar American unintentional parody but keeps it to herself because it is the holy book of a Major World Religion. I wouldn’t be very surprised though if I learned that she makes no bones about despising it, because after all, it’s not 3000 years old plus it was said by an American. That can’t be right. That can’t be authentic. Obviously they have to be 1) older and 2) more exotic in location to be authentic.
How does one distinguish between the animist and the imam? Well now it gets really tricky, because I’m not sure Odone thinks much of imams herself, so it’s all the more unclear what she has in mind. How does one distinguish between the animist and the imam? Not age, not degree of exoticism, so how? I really don’t know. I don’t know what Odone’s criteria are. She’s on record as taking transubstantiation literally, so I don’t know how she makes distinctions.
Richard Dawkins asked her the same question in that interview.
RD: But how do you decide which bits to doubt and which bits to accept? As scientists, we do it by evidence.
CO: You can’t boil everything down to evidence!
But then how do you decide? She doesn’t say there; she changes the subject.
As she does even when talking without an interlocutor, as in the Druids shock-horror piece.
Speaking of religious values is as dangerous as playing with the pin on a hand-grenade: it could end up with too many Britons blown out of their complacency. No one should dare proclaim that adultery is wrong; greed, bad; or self-sacrifice, good. In doing so, they’d be trampling the rights of those who don’t hold such values.
That’s changing the subject, or combining two subjects as if they were one. The epistemology of paganism is not the same as the ethics of paganism, but she treats them as one subject throughout. She’s not what you’d call a careful thinker even within her own terms.
Having said that, let’s look at her claim. No one should dare say that greed is bad? Is that true? No. Lots of people proclaim that greed is bad. Gordon Gecko is the bad guy. The same goes for self-sacrifice. Adultery is somewhat more contingent, but then what’s wrong with that? Some people have open marriages, in which case “adultery” becomes an empty label. It’s up to the people involved whether it’s wrong or not. If all parties are happy with it, it’s not wrong. Saying “yes it is because God says so” cuts no ice. If that’s what Odone means…she’s the one who’s wrong.