A question for the Pagan community

What is your view on moral absolutes? 

I ask this because I have heard different things from different quarters. For example, former Pagan Carl McColeman has said, “while some Pagans might choose to believe in the existence of metaphysical principles like good and evil, others argue that such principles are useless or could even be harmful, for example if used to attack or malign others unfairly.” In a similar vein, Pagan blogger Gus diZerega wrote recently of “the Christian dichotomization of reality into good and evil” in a way which more or less implies that such dichotomies don’t sit easily with Pagan traditions.

I ask this because I have a more personal question:

In your view, were the burning times absolutely evil or just relatively evil?

I ask this because without hesitation I would say “Yes, the burning times were absolutely evil!” Don’t ever hear me saying otherwise. Yet if I take statements like those above at face value, I can’t see how you could agree with me without falling into logical and moral inconsistency. Yet, this doesn’t seem right either, as I know how strongly many of you feel about this issue, how many of you feel persecuted even today and earnestly wish for Christians to (dare I say it) repent from it. Hence my confusion.

So I ernestly wish to know, for those that this applies to: how do you reconcile your intellectual aversion to moral absolutes with your emotional response to religious persecution?

3 thoughts on “A question for the Pagan community

  1. Hi Matt,
    Thanks for the blog and the question. I am not sure if I still have the Pagan imprimatur or not; some folk reckon I am too Christian to be pagan, while others are sure I am too Pagan to be Christian. 🙂
    But in any case: as I am sure you are aware, most Pagans are orthopraxic and really care little if their theology, such as it is, and their emotional reactions, do not gel. I have known a number of Pagans exorcise and combat “evil spirits” without any serious questions arising as to the ontology and origin of these spirits, or what makes them “evil”.
    For this reason, you are likely to get a wide variety of responses.
    You may also like to define your terms, as the philosophical concepts of relativism and absolutism are not generally part of Coven training 101.
    Personally, I agree with you re the Witch burnings… like child rape etc. I can see no relativism. However, we may disagree on the source and possibility of knowing anything ultimate about this evil. That is, while I do believe in revelation, I do not believe we humans can ever fully know or plumb its depths; we cannot know fully what any scriptural passage means. Therefore any revelation on the nature or source of evil can only be interpreted relatively. Some Christians would heartily disagree.
    Thanks, again 🙂


  2. I would like to add from a not particularly anything perspective that this discussion should be careful not to put “absolute” on one side with “the real” and “relative” on the other side with the “mere opinion”.
    I find it hard to believe that anything is “absolute” in the sense that it exists in some sort of complete isolation from the rest of reality. I question whether anyone else does too.
    Good and evil make sense for example in Christian theism not for absolute reasons but because of our worth to God – a relative or extrinsic value system rather than one of isolated absolutes and intrinsic value. Perhaps the only absolute value in Christianity is the value of God – the rest being contingent on Gods bestowing of value (or not in the case of witches).
    I don’t know if my comments do anything but muddy the waters. Still I often think words like relativism and absolutes are muddier than people tend to use them.


  3. Tony,
    I think I get where you are coming from, nevertheless I think it does muddy the waters. I myself would say that everything is relative to Christ. However, this carries the implication that Christ is a fixed reference point, much as the speed of light has an absolute value in Einstein's theory of relativity. This is different to a system with no fixed reference points. I suppose this is what I am querying here. How genuinely relative is the ethical relativism?


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