Tags: ethics

Animal use.

I’ve noticed an increase in animal products, for example skulls and skins for the use of ritual, and ritual items.
This is a increase in both online shops, and local esoteric shops.

I wondered if anyone else had noticed this increase.

And what do people think about the ethical and spiritual use of animal parts.

I would be interested to hear all sides.

Thanks in advance.



Injustice is Inevitable.

The world is not a fair place, it gives us no guarantees of fairness, but it is part of our social contract to try to be fair with each other. We say that we want what is fair, but that isn't true.  We want what is best for us, but we will settle for what is fair.  Fairness is a social virtue.

In his book, Moral Politics: How Liberals and Conservatives Think, George Lakoff gives this definition of fairness. "Fairness is about the equitable distribution of objects of value (either positive of negative value) according to some accepted standard."

In short, moral action is fair distribution.

He lists ten models of fairness:

"Equality of distribution (one child one cookie)"

"Equality of opportunity (one person, one raffle ticket)"

"Procedural distribution (playing by the rules determines what you get)"

"Rights based fairness (you get what you have a right to)"

"Need-based fairness (the more you need the more you have a right to)"

"Scalar distribution (the more you work, the more you get)"

"Contractual distribution (you get what you agree to)"

"Equal distribution of responsibility (we share the burden equally)"

"Scalar distribution of responsibility (the greater your abilities, the greater your responsibilities)"

"Equal distribution of power (one person, one vote)"

For the most part I agree with him.  But I would describe the models slightly diferently:

"Equality of distribution" (everyone receives an "object" of equal value)

Equal distribution of opportunity (one person, one chance)

Equal distribution of responsibility (one person, one task)

Equal distribution of resources (one person, one cookie)

"Scalar distribution" (the greater the qualification, the greater the compensation) (you get what you deserve)(distribution as compensation)

Scalar distribution by need (the more you need, the more you get)(those with greater need deserve greater compensation)

Scalar distribution by ability (the more you have, the more you get)(those with more skills deserve more compensation)

Scalar distribution by virtue (the more you give, the more you get back)(the good deserve more compensation than the bad)

"Procedural distribution" (the rules determine what you get)

Procedural distribution by right (you get what the culture has decide you are entitled to)(because of who you are)

Procedural distribution by contract (you get what you have agreed to get)

Procedural distribution by might (you get what others can't stop you from taking) (you get what you can take)

One thing that is obvious from this is that it is possible for something to be fair in one model and unfair in a different model.  While it is possible for different models to produce the same results it is likely that they will produce different results.  When people using different models come to different conclusions as to what is fair it is unlikely that the issue will be resolved to the satisfaction of both.  When we do not feel that we have been treated fairly we call that injustice.

Because conflicting models of fairness exist it is not possible for everyone to feel fairly treated all the time, injustice is unavoidable.  It is inevitable that someone will feel that they were not treated fairly.  As long as there is more than one model of fairness this will never change.

goddess and god

School Board Prayer, Art Opening in Raleigh, Knowing Right from Wrong

Backers of public prayer may regret ruling
The News Journal, Delaware Online.com, ‎Mar 1, 2010‎
"Farnan found that elected school boards are closer to a legislative body than a school, and therefore a prayer is permissible. Both Houses of Congress open sessions with prayers.

"Although reasonable people can differ as to whether the board's policy is wise, could be more inclusive or is actually necessary to solemnize board meetings, too much judicial fine-tuning of legislative prayer policies risks unwarranted interference in [a legislative body]," Farnan wrote.

That was a direct rebuttal to prayer critics' claims of a constitutional bias in favor of separation of church and state.
But in the meantime, local communities can lead the nation's high court on this matter.

Requiring scripted, non-offensive prayers omitting references to deities is disrespectful of any religion.

However, the nation's changing plurality is trending more to subpopulations of minorities, as opposed to monolithic majorities.

Up against the Constitution, only two options seem unlikely to offend -- moments of silence or the solitary bang of the gavel."
Spirituality and kitsch at Lump
"Worms Are the Words" by Joy Feasley and Paul Swenbeck, at the Lump Gallery, Raleigh, NC
Through March 20
by Dave Delcambre, The Independent Weekly, 3 MAR 2010
"The artists call upon Wicca, paganism and other unsanctioned nature-based religions, deeming them all equally fair game for exploration. A solar oven included in the show stands like a survivalist's reliquary: a clamshell pair of dish-shaped mirror-tiled circles fringed with assorted ceramic offering bowls. (One of Swenbeck's fortes is in fact ceramics, and here he bestows George Ohr-like funkiness to his terra cotta and Egyptian paste works at will.) Swenbeck and Feasley have also taken a unifying cue from the restrained design of the Shakers, the Protestant religious sect that dates to the 1700s and is renowned for their design simplicity and spare lifestyle. The Spartan Shaker aesthetic is exemplified in the gallery's wall-mounted wood railing with pegs and brackets supporting the paintings and a few mixed-media works. At the gallery's middle section, a Shaker-inspired wood stove with faceted angular faces has an exhaust pipe that runs up and through a wall. It transforms itself on the other side into a withering deflated balloon shape that winds it way into a freestanding, glowing fiberglass-wrapped form looking like a funky visitor from another planet. Call this the UFO portion of the show. Yet with a little suspended disbelief, it fits within the artists' quirky cosmic mysticism.

Another intriguing painting called "Orion" depicts the famed nighttime constellation. Rendered exquisitely in engraved resin, it expresses a spirit of cosmic ethereality, a certain awe of nature and wonder that has so often captivated the human imagination in art. Looking at this splendid little painting, I glimpsed our own primal spiritual fascinations at work, coaxing out at least a little of the magic on display."
What is interesting about this letter is that I think this is basically a nice person and I agree with him that compromise and getting along with people are good things. I think he doesn't understand the "everyone is right" idea. It's is not that everyone is simultaniously correct. It is that it is ok for different people to have different beliefs about what is right and wrong. Of course this means that people are going to disagree about what is right and what is wrong. In those cases we need to discuss our differences and work out a way to live together. That may involve compromise, or it may be an agreement to disagree.

Trying to lay down "absolute morals" is tricky. That would involve forcing one group's views on another. That is not compromise or even tolerance.

As a Wiccan I believe in allowing people to live the way they want as long as they don't force their beliefs and practices on me.

I believe that same-sex marriage is right. Other people believe it is wrong. I think making it legal is a good compromise because only people who want to get married. Other people feel that allowing same-sex marriages is somehow forcing them to participate in something they think is wrong. I think they are wrong about that, but I understand that they think they are right.

There will always be these problems. There is no way to please everyone all the time. We just have to talk it out.

Tolerance of All Beliefs Blurs Distinction Between Right, Wrong
Charles Anderson, letters, The Ledger, ‎Mar 2, 2010‎
"Wicca teaches that you can do whatever you will as long as it harms none. Christianity teaches to follow the teachings of Jesus. And so on with all religions. My question, though, is how can everything be right?
I would venture to say that if this country and this world would lay down some absolute morals, and they were enforced, this world would get better. We have to understand that not everyone can have one's way, not everyone is right all the time.

It's called compromise. It is something I hear is found when a couple get married. They learn to compromise for the better of the union.

If we learn to compromise more and not insist on having to have it our way all of the time, I'm sure a lot more would get done in this world, and a lot more good too."
goddess and god

Wiccan Ethics

Religion and Ethics
A while back I posted an article by Russell Blackford where he complained that "religious organisations and leaders...seek to control how we plan and run our lives, including choices about how we die". Complaining that religious organizations want to tell us how to live our lives is like complaining that "Cooks Illustrated" wants to tell us how to cook. The function of religion is to tell us how to live our lives. (That is not to say I want a religious organization pushing me around.) Our religion tells us what is worth doing, what actions are right and what actions are wrong. Our religion is our values. Literally, our religion is what we value.

Why Be Good?
In the same post I quoted from an article by Bill Muehlenberg, where he said:
"Instead of a creator God who stands outside of us, and places expectations and demands upon us, in the new Easternised spiritualities of the West, people are free to call the shots and determine what is right and wrong, true and false.

Indeed, they get to be God. That is the real attraction of the New Age worldview. Instead of a transcendent God with whom we must do business, and bow to, we in fact are all a part of the divine already. We just need to realise that we are already God, that we are already divine."

To me, the ethics Muehlenberg describes are the ethics of a child. He is arguing that we only eat our vegetables and go to bed because Daddy says so and if we don't, Daddy will get mad and punish us. When we say "we are god" he thinks that means we eat ice cream for dinner and stay up all night playing video games, because that is what children would do if parents didn't stop them. But adults know that we eat salads with low fat dressing because we are watching our cholesterol and have to get to bed by 10 because we have work in the morning. Even though there is no one to make us do it. Being god means being a responsible adult. It means mowing the lawn, fixing the house, taking out the recycling, walking the dog, and changing the baby's diapers.

The ethics of Wicca are based on personal responsibility not following orders. We have to decide what is right and we have to live with the consequences of our decisions. We can't blame our behavior on our gods.

We can't say "I was just following orders". That is no excuse. No matter what anyone else says, you are responsible for what you choose to do. "Do as you Will is the whole of the law." All actions come from Will. "So long as you harm none" is just advice because the threefold law works.

I choose to be cheerful and pleasant to people around me because I feel good when I'm nice to others, and usually it makes them feel good when people are cheerful and pleasant to them, very few people enjoy being around angry and unpleasant people. When one has been treated well one is more likely to be cheerful and pleasant to others. As that old pagan philosopher, Socrates, said “am I, at my age, in such darkness and ignorance as not to know that if a man with whom I have to live is corrupted by me, I am very likely to be harmed by him” When we are good, just, and kind to others, we benefit by encouraging them to be good, just, and kind to us. It is better for all of us to live in a world where people are good, just, and kind.

Are we all Sinners?
Knowing that we do not always live up to our own standards of good behavior is my interpretation of the Christian idea that "we are all sinners". None of us is perfect. We all have bad days and weak moments when are not as good as we know we could be. We need to forgive ourselves for that and try to do better in the future, knowing that we will never be perfect. But as Voltaire said "The perfect is the enemy of the good".

What is Good?
It is not always so easy to decide what is the right thing to do. Sometimes, like choosing between paper and plastic bags at the grocery store, none of the options seem good. (People in my area have started using reusable plastic bags.) Generally we know that "harm" is bad. But it is very hard to live without doing any harm to anyone. Life is full of compromises. Being god means living with compromises.

To be good we must "first do no harm" or at least try to minimize the harm we do. But sometime it is hard to tell what is harm.

When it comes to dealing with other people I like to use the standard of "consent". Generally speaking, don't do things to other people without their consent. They are likely to take it as harm.

This can also get complicated. The right to swing my fist ends where the other man's nose begins, but what about the right to smoke a cigarette, or the right to play the drums at 2am, or the right to get medical care even though you can't pay for it. Sometimes it is hard to know where one person's rights end and another person's begin.

Ethics is not easy. Sometimes I feel that the only truly moral position is one of doubt.

To read more about Wiccan Ethics try:
When, Why ... If by Robin Wood
An' Ye Harm None: Magical Morality And Modern Ethics by Shelley TSivia Rabinovitch
Moral Politics : How Liberals and Conservatives Think by George Lakoff (This is not particularly Wiccan, but I found it very informative.)
goddess and god

More on Why I'm Not a Christian: “Sacred Circles” and Wiccan Values

A Weekend of the “Feminine Divine” at National Cathedral
Rebekah M. Sharpe, The Institute on Religion and Democracy, February 20, 2009
"New Age themes of self-deification animated the biennial “Sacred Circles” conference on women’s spirituality at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C. on February 13-14.  Rather than the masculine “Father, Son, and Holy Spirit” of Christian creeds women sought out the “the Feminine Divine” within themselves.

But this time, ecclesiastical support was not limited to Protestant denominations. The Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, offered continuing education credits through its Center for Spirituality and Social Work to intrepid women journeying towards the Feminine Divine.

In contrast to its supporters, the event never purported to be Christian. Instead, the conference was possibly “the largest interfaith women’s spirituality gathering in the world.”  Church sponsors included the Episcopal –run National Cathedral, which devoted a paid staffer as the “Sacred Circles” convener, the Episcopal Church Office of Women’s Ministries, which offered scholarships, and Catholic University’s Center for Spirituality and Social Work, which offered academic credit for attendance.  A partnership between the Lilly Endowment and Millsaps College’s Center for Ministry also provided conference scholarships, despite Lily’s supposed mission to “deepen and enrich the religious lives of American Christians.”

While well-known sponsors supported the event, representatives of the Institute on Religion and Democracy were banned from covering the “Sacred Circles” workshops, most of which concerned various types of meditation, yoga, learning to “ignite” one’s inner “Divine Spark,” or “encounter the Feminine Divine,” the inner goddess participants were told they “embod[ied].”"

I kept waiting for some stinging condemnation of the event. But the author, and her readers, seemed to feel that an accurate description was condemnation enough. Which is pretty much why I'm a Wiccan and not a Christian. I just don't share their beliefs about what is right and true.

The article was reposted on "Virtue Online: The Voice for Global Orthodox Anglicanism". Their site allows reader to leave comments, which is how I deduced what readers thought of the article. One commenter brought up an interesting criticism of Wicca.
Sagamore Posted On: 2009/3/7 0:32  Updated: 2009/3/7 0:32
 Re: A Weekend of the "Feminine Divine" at Natio...
RevDarrenS wrote:
"Heck! Why don't they simply subscribe to the Wiccan credo, "Do what thou wilt and to none be the harm..."
I once asked a group of Wiccans it was OK to sleep with your brothers wife if you were sure he would never find out and therefore not be "harmed".
They couldn't form a cogent answer.

Well, it was a trick question. It's interesting that he chose that subject though because the Biblical answer to the question "Is it ever Ok to have sex with your brother's wife?" is not just "Yes" but under some circumstances it is required that you have sex with your brother's wife. I'm thinking of the famous story of Onan. He is usually sited as why you should not masturbate. People forget that he was condemned because he "wasted his seed on the ground" instead of getting his brother's widow pregnant.
New American Standard Bible, Genesis 38:9 Onan knew that the offspring would not be his; so when he went in to his brother's wife, he wasted his seed on the ground in order not to give offspring to his brother.

Then there is the story of Abraham, Sarah, and Hagar. Genesis 16:2-3 Sarah was barren so she told Abraham to have sex with her maid so he could have children, and he did.

Of course Wiccan's don't use the Bible to guide our behavior, but many Wiccan's practice polyamory so it is possible for a woman to be sleeping with two brothers, and there are other situations too. I know a woman who can not bare children herself so she and her husband made an arrangement with a lesbian couple (married legally in Massachusetts) that he should impregnate one of them and he and his wife would adopt the child. I don't see anything immoral about that either.

In places where same sex marriage and adoption are illegal lesbian couples have been known to enlist the aid of a brother to impregnate the woman he was not related to so his sister would still have some legal relationship to the child (aunt).

The trick is when people tell themselves that they are not doing any harm when they are having an affair, but that never really works. Lying is harming the relationship and the liers themselves. "What he doesn't know won't hurt him", really doesn't work. Which is the trick the man who asked the question was trying to pull.