Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Ethics, science, and the Goddess

I've tried a few times to write a post about this story, broadcast on the CBS news segment "freeSpeech" the evening of the Amish school shootings a couple of weeks ago. Brian Rohrbough is the father of a boy killed at Columbine; he offers his opinion that school shootings are a result of teaching evolution.

I've tried the snark angle ("science teachers everywhere rub their hands with evil glee"), but it was too easy and unsatisfying. I've tried rebuttal ("evolution doesn't entail that the strong kill the weak; that's a gross oversimplification of the principle of survival of the fittest; fitness is measured by a species's ability to adapt to a changing environment..."). I'm sick of being angry, sick of my own zeal in trying to change the world through force of reason.

Christianity doesn't entail dogmatism, biblical literalism, or other forms of irrationality. But the public face of Christianity in this country too often looks like illogical extremism. Sometime I feel like returning to the mainstream Protestantism of my upbringing just to fight the public face of Christianity in this country. But that's not where my spiritual home is.

Instead of any more snark, anger, or derision - all of which I enjoy perhaps more than I should - let me offer a Pagan counterpoint to Mr. Rohrbough's free speech.

There is no simple answer to the question, why did the Amish school shootings happen? Part of the answer is sexism and misogyny, since the victims were all girls. Part of the answer is the legal and easy availability of guns in the U.S. There are many other reasons, to be sure, some cultural, some more specific to the perpetrator.

How can anyone study evolution and not wonder at the marvels of the universe? Of course, belief in a creator God isn't incompatible with belief in evolution. Indeed, to strip the creator God of the intricacy and wonder of evolution and hand him a magic wand and a seven-day deadline seems to me to insult and diminish that God. Pagans don't believe in a creator God, however. We see the Goddess, dual deity, or multiple deities in nature itself. Science is one way to know the Goddess. The miracle needn't be conjured from some transcendent realm. It's right in front of your eyes.

The "inherent value of life" can be found in nature and in ourselves. There is an emergent morality here. It's not the morality of a stern paternalistic God, the God who says it is right and just for Abraham to kill his son if that is what God demands. (Mr. Rohrbough says that the murder of innocent children is always wrong, but his own religion offers a caveat; when God tells you to murder an innocent child, it's morally advisable to do so!) Pagan morality is grounded in respect, love, and passion for the earth and her creatures. Pagan morality is grounded in reverence for all bodies, including the human body. Responsibility for our actions, for their effects on others and the environment, is central to a Pagan ethics. Acting responsibly can in some cases include aborting pregnancies. We might think that the value of children is increased, not decreased, when they are chosen and wanted, when their mothers actively take responsibility for bringing them into this world. Indeed, around the world there is an inverse relationship between the amount of social support given to children and the restrictiveness of abortion laws. In other words, those countries with the most liberal reproductive freedoms provide the greatest social safety net for their children. Doesn't that say something about the value a society places on children?

The absence of God the patriarch doesn't preclude morality, althought it does preclude morality of a certain kind. And good riddance, say I!


Aquila ka Hecate said...

"The absence of God the patriarch doesn't preclude morality, althought it does preclude morality of a certain kind. And good riddance, say I!"

Yes-it precludes fear-based morality, spot on!

As for knowing the Goddess through science, yes again.There are many of us-not just women!-to whom She has shown Her face in the equations inherent in Her nature.


Terri in Joburg

Anonymous said...

In fact all the way back to the greeks, God says so morality was debunked long ago, for the Abraham reason. Moral law is completely whimsical if it is based on his commands, anything goes.

Now you may say God is rational, but then God makes laws based on reason. Then reason is the basis of ethics, not God.

God based ethics is simply the projection of our parents onto the universe. Yet we are not meant to stay children forever.