What My Pentagram Means To Me

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When I first started wearing a pentagram I was brand new to Paganism. I was trained by someone who had a plethora of medallions, goddesses, and pentagrams hanging around his neck at any given moment. I had never worn anything to represent my faith. Not even a cross. My branch of Christianity didn’t believe in the cross. So the idea of wearing something ornamental that would identify me with my faith was foreign and a little exciting. I’m not very ornamental myself. I don’t like to give a lot of thought to jewelry and accessories. I don’t wear rings, my earrings are permanent, and if I put a necklace around my neck it will be there until it falls off.

So I bought my first pentagram and wore it constantly. In fact, I was wearing it when the elders from my former faith paid a visit and decided to disfellowship me for apostasy. That particular pentagram went missing soon after that. I had worn it over a year, yet soon after the visit from the elders it disappeared like it had absorbed all the negative energy it could and needed to take it away.

I bought my second pentagram at a Celtic festival in Philadelphia. I spent a bit more on this one. It is sterling silver and cost me $60 for the medallion alone. It is beautiful and I take very good care of it.

I don’t identify myself as Wiccan and don’t practice as a Pagan. I still hold to many of the beliefs, like reincarnation and the personal empowerment that comes with controlling one’s own destiny through ritual. I still value the connection I have gained to the natural world and try to make choices that are sustainable and environmentally aware. I love the moon in all its phases and still find my greatest spirituality under its silvery beams.

Yet none of that represents what my pentagram means to me. I still wear it prominently. I never take it off and never tuck it under my shirt. I had an employer tuck it under the collar of my uniform once so I wouldn’t offend her clientele. She only did that once.

My pentagram doesn’t consciously represent my connection to the 5 elements (earth, air, fire, water, spirit). It doesn’t represent my association with a particular deity or doctrine. What it does do is act as my shield. I can’t tell you how many people have started out treating me with kindness and consideration until their gaze falls upon my chest and they visibly draw away from me. I haven’t changed. I’m the same polite woman they were animatedly conversing with just moments before. The only thing that has changed is their fear and ignorance has now taken over. Rather than investigating for themselves what the pentagram means, they choose to believe I am fornicating with the devil. My pentagram protects me from such people.

I spent my life under the tyranny of such fear mongering. I forced myself to engage with and form relationships with people who were so ignorant and filled with fear that they couldn’t think for themselves. I don’t want those people around me any more.

Occasionally, when asked why I wear a pentagram I tell people it is to piss of the Christians. That is only partially true. It keeps ignorance away from me. It prevents all Christian faiths from trying to indoctrinate me. Most people don’t mess with me when I am wearing it. It represents my hard-won freedom and its appearance keeps me free. It shields me from judgment since those who spew judgment usually won’t come within a country mile of me.

Before anyone points out that it sounds like a lonely life let me just say that a surprising number of people are not repelled by the pentagram. The vast majority of people won’t treat me any different because they realize it is not the necklace but me that truly matters. They either ignore it or openly ask me what it means. Those who are open and receptive get the “5 Elements” answer. Those who I want to antagonize get the “It’s meant to piss of the Christians” answer.

Tonight I was lying in bed contemplating whether to turn off the light or read. I reached toward my neck, as I habitually do, and noticed the chain wasn’t there. I had taken it off earlier in the day while doing yoga. I recently put the pentagram on a longer chain and it gets in my way during some of the yoga poses. As I lay there, I asked myself how I would respond if someone, a friend, sincerely asked me to remove it to avoid offending someone. When my initial response was anger, I had to ask myself why it meant so much to me. I realized it had come to stand for everything I had lost and gained and the need to maintain the barrier between the two. It is my shield against ignorance and judgment and I believe it protects me in more ways than I am consciously aware of. It also helps identify me as a member of an exclusive group who search for better things through personal growth and empowerment. I have had the privilege of meeting some very kind people who recognize my pentagram and approach me. The simple observation, “I like your necklace,” is usually enough to recognize a kindred spirit.

I am a middle-aged woman with no tattoos or facial piercings. I wear normal clothes and drink too much beer and coffee. There is little to identify me as the member of a fringe group but my pentagram. I wasn’t allowed a Goth stage when I was a kid and the only thing that keeps me from exploring it now is the knowledge that I would look completely ridiculous shopping at Hot Topic. So I wear my pentagram and I have become rather attached to it as the symbol of my freedom from the narrow road. Don’t ever ask me to take it off. Don’t ask me to hide it beneath my clothing. Such a request will be viewed as an assault against my freedom and all I have had to sacrifice in gaining said freedom.

“Agora” vs. Christianity

A friend recently recommended to me the film Agora (2009). I had a hard time getting into it at first, but I am glad I persevered to the end. Set in Alexandria, Egypt in the fourth century, it tells the true story of female philosopher and mathematician Hypatia (played by Rachel Weisz). Hypatia had the misfortune to live in a world in which Christianity was quickly becoming the dominant religion due to Emperor Constantine’s conversion. Egypt was a Roman province at the time and Alexandria was a gem in Rome’s crown. Philosophy, schools of thought, astronomy, polytheism, and paganism were widespread in the important maritime port of Alexandria until Constantine issued some edicts that quickly brought about some changes.

I had never heard of Hypatia, which is not surprising considering much of my education was based upon first century Christianity and important men of the past. I was surprised to learn this woman actually lived, but it only reaffirms what I have been learning about the surprisingly equal treatment women received within pagan many communities.

The first thing I noticed in the film was that many of the early converts to Christianity were slaves and peasants. They despised higher learning and had no problem condemning all who thought differently from them. It reminded me of the modern tendency for conversion among the lower socio-economic classes. I noticed it as one of Jehovah’s Witnesses. Many of the people who would study and convert were typically people whose lifestyle wasn’t ideal. In fact the JW’s would call the preaching work a search for those “who are sighing and groaning over all the detestable things” (Ezekial 9:4). Who but the uneducated and impoverished would look for answers outside themselves and cheerfully anticipate the demise of everyone “better-off”?

Finally we get to the root of the reason women have endured two thousand years of suppression. One particularly murderous, Christian fanatic gets up and reads from Paul’s letter to Timothy:

Let women learn in silence with full submissiveness. I do not permit a woman to teach, or to exercise authority over a man, but to be in silence.”  (1 Timothy 2:11, 12)

Hypatia, an independent, learned woman, has earned the hatred of the misogynistic faith. As friends try to encourage her to convert she accuses them of “peddling faith,” forcing public baptism in exchange for permitting such ones to keep living. Then she tells a former student:

“Synesius, you don’t question what you believe. You cannot. I must.”

I was floored. I felt like the movie was written for Jehovah’s Witnesses, but I realize that all Christianity at the time believed counter-points a sin. That’s why Galileo was forced to recant his findings that the earth revolved around the sun and people were burned at the stake for even reading the Bible.

When I was a JW, I developed a healthy hatred of Christianity—or I should say ‘Christendom’ because that is how JW’s differentiate themselves from the rest of the rabble. I hated the arrogance and the narrow-mindedness, the judgment and the willingness to kill, or rejoice in misfortune; all in the name of god (I do not capitalize that word intentionally). It sickens me to realize that I was a part of a faith that still practiced the kind of religion that brought about the Dark Ages.

After Hyspatia utters the words above, her Christian friend continues to plead with her to convert and save herself:

“If you don’t agree, I won’t be able to protect you any longer. I won’t be able to have dealings with you or even greet you.”

Wow! That sounds familiar. So, in the early days of Christianity when they were killing and torturing all dissenters, they practiced shunning—just like Jehovah’s Witnesses do today—robbing people of their freedom to live their life as they choose just as Hyspatia simply wanted to be left  to her philosophy and astronomy.

Where would our world be if Christianity had never been allowed to take power?  Carl Sagan once wrote that, if not for the descent of the religious dark ages that crushed rational inquiry and stifled human progress, we might have reached the stars hundreds of years ago. We have lost so much thanks to religion in general, and women are still fighting for equal rights thousands of years later. This Christian nation still feels it is their right to govern a woman’s choices regarding her own body. I firmly believe our race and culture will not evolve to the next stage until it realizes the stupidity inherent in religion. Until we rid ourselves of the thinking that still resides in the dark ages. As individuals, we should long for the peace and prosperity of the human race and withdraw from systems of beliefs that only anticipate mass destruction!

Enlightenment

In my western literature class we are discussing the Age of Enlightenment. This took place roughly between 1650 and 1850, though it was chiefly focused during the 18th century. For those of us who have never been clear what this Age of Enlightenment entailed, Immanuel Kant offers a good description:

Enlightenment is the human being’s emergence from his self-incurred minority [i.e. “The legal status of not being able to speak for oneself” n.1].  Minority is inability to make use of one’s own understanding without direction from another.  This minority is self-incurred when its cause lies not in lack of understanding but in lack of resolution and courage to use it without direction from another.  Sapere aude! [Latin for “Dare to know,” from Horace, Epistles 1.2.40; n. 2]  “Have courage to make use of your own understanding!” is thus the motto of enlightenment.

I don’t know about you but I never realized how much freedom was tied up with enlightenment (which may explain why the French and American revolutions both happened during this time). I can also understand why this Age occurred. Europe was just coming out of the Dark Ages in which “the church” reigned supreme–and a terrible reign it was! It would have been an evolutionary necessity for mankind to have banded together and broken the tie of religious fanaticism.

One of our required reads was by Denis Diderot (French, 1713-1784). He was most widely known for a series of encyclopedia’s he and a colleague attempted to write enumerating all new knowledge produced since the Renaissance [i.e. since the 15th century]. He tells a tale of a man from a Christian nation who visits a Tahitian village. This man gets offered the sexual favors of the chiefs wife and daughters as a form of hospitality. The Christian refuses. The Chief tries to convince him that he would be doing his family a favor as his youngest daughter has not yet bore a child and is disrespected within her community. This young girl kneels before the Christian and begs him to save her from her humiliation. He relents.

The next day he talks with her father, the chief, and explains the morality of the Christian faith. The chief, Orou, gives his opinion:

I find these singular precepts opposed to nature and contrary to reason, made to multiply crimes and to plague at every moment this old maker, who has made everything, without help of hands, or head, or tools, who is everywhere and is not seen anywhere, who exists today and tomorrow and yet is not a day older, who commands and is not obeyed, who can prevent and yet does not do so. Contrary to nature because these precepts suppose that a free, thinking, and sentient being can be the property of a being like himself. On what is this law founded? Don’t you see that in your country they have confused the thing which has neither consciousness nor thought, nor desire, nor will; which one picks up, puts down, keeps or exchanges, without injury to it, or without its complaining, have confused this with the thing which cannot be exchanged or acquired, which has liberty, will, desire, which can give or refuse itself for a moment or for ever, which laments and suffers, and which cannot become an article of commerce, without its character being forgotten and violence done to its nature; contrary to the general law of existence? In fact, nothing could appear to you more senseless than precept which refuses to admit that change which is a part of us, which commands a constancy which cannot be found there and which violates the liberty of the male and female by chaining them for ever to each other; more senseless than a fidelity which limits the most capricious of enjoyments to one individual; than an oath of the immutability of two beings made of flesh; and all that in the face of a sky which never for a moment remains the same, in caverns which threaten destruction, below a rock which falls to powder, at the foot of a tree which cracks, on a stone which rocks? Believe me, you have made the condition of man worse than that of animals. I do not know what your great maker may be; but I rejoice that he has never spoken to our forefather, and I wish that he may never speak to our children; for he might tell them the same foolishness, and they commit the folly of believing it. Yesterday, at supper, you mentioned “magistrates” and “priests”, whose authority regulates your conduct; but, tell me, are they the masters of good and evil? Can they make what is just to be unjust, and unjust, just? Does it rest with them to attribute good to harmful actions, and evil to innocent or useful actions? You could not think it, for, at that rate, there would be neither true nor false, good nor bad, beautiful nor ugly; or at any rate only what pleased your great maker, your magistrates and your priests to pronounce so. And from one moment to another you would be obliged to change your ideas and your conduct. One day someone would tell you, on behalf of one of your three masters, to kill, and you would be obliged by your conscience to kill; another day, “steal,” and you would have to steal; or “do not eat this fruit” and you would not dare to eat it; “I forbid you this vegetable or animal” and you would take care not to touch them. There is no good thing that could not be forbidden you, and no wickedness that you could not be ordered to do. And what would you be reduced to, if your three masters, disagreeing among themselves, should at once permit, enjoin, and forbid you the same thing, as I believe must often happen. Then, to please the priest you must become embroiled with the magistrate; to satisfy the magistrate you must displease the great maker; and to make yourself agreeable to the great maker you must renounce nature. And do you know what will happen then? You will neglect all of them, and you will be neither man, nor citizen, nor pious; you will be nothing; you will be out of favour with all kinds of authorities, at odds even with yourself, tormented by your heart, persecuted by your enraged masters; and wretched as a I saw you yesterday evening when I offered my wife and daughters to you, and you cried out, “But my religion, my office!”

Do you want to know what is good and what is bad in all times and in all places? Hold fast to the nature of things and of actions; to your relations with your fellows; to the influence of your conduct on your individual usefulness and the general good. You are mad if you believe that there is anything, high or low in the universe, which can add to or subtract  from the laws of nature. Her eternal will is that good should be preferred to evil, and the general good to the individual good. You may ordain the opposite but you will not be obeyed. You will multiply the number of malefactors and the wretched by fear, punishment, and remorse. You will deprave consciences; you will corrupt minds. They will not know what to do or what to avoid. Disturbed in their state of innocence, at ease with crime, they will have lost their guiding star...(Supplement to the Voyage of Bougainville)

I found this short story interesting for it broke down religion, and especially Christianity, into its basic tenets of strict and unquestionable obedience. There is no reason and very little accountability with some of the “moral” requirements among Christians. Diderot says such “laws” make the condition of man worse than that of animals–simply following commands with little to no reasoning or questions. This “pagan chieftain” breaks down the whole obligation of man into basic tenets such as being good to ones fellow-man and following the natural laws within and without. The heavy burdens religion binds upon our shoulders does not make us better people, only creatures awaiting the first sign of freedom. We are not intelligent and conscientious but controlled and manipulated by guilt. The first time that control is lifted can be seen in the riots and looting this Christian country succumbs to whenever things go wrong. Yes, laws are good, but micro-managing is not. Mankind would be a better place without the burden of religion.

Questionable Wager

On the last day of winter term I recollect the last few months and what I have learned. It was a busy term (19 credits) and I admit to a feeling of relief that it is over. I have one more final this afternoon–Philosophy. I have averaged A’s and B’s on the other ones so I am hoping for the same with philosophy.

I was really looking forward to philosophy as the final nail in the coffin of my Christian beliefs. But it didn’t do that really. I found the philosophers (Hume, Kant, Russell, Locke, etc.) rather hard to follow. Their ideas were so convoluted it really didn’t affect me very much, except to maybe annoy me as to why it matters whether we are all existing in a matrix of somebody else’s invention. If this is all a dream, how is that going to affect my day to day living? Can I change anything based upon that premise? No, so why does it matter? I think my one-on-one discussions with the professor were more fruitful than the actual class. We discussed faith, truth and God. He is an avowed atheist who thinks the people in my religion are “scary”. He told me the next time they came to his door he is going to answer it nude and see if that scares them off. I told him it has been done already, and no, it doesn’t scare them off.

The most interesting thing I take away from philosophy is Pascal’s Wager. Blaise Pascal believed it was better to wager for the existence of God than not because if God exists and we choose to ignore him it means everlasting damnation. But if we wager to believe in him it means everlasting life. If God doesn’t exist? Nothing changes but at least we will have prepared for the worst. Belief in God requires more than just words, of course, there must be an outward manifestation–prayer, services, etc. This did not help me bury my beliefs, it made me worry I was making the wrong wager. But then, so is my philosophy professor. I am still having a hard time deciding if I will choose to believe in God or not. I am so fed up with religion in general I can’t quite separate God from Christianity. I am more inclined to believe in a God as an ancient deity that has been worshiped since time immemorial than a Christian Christ. I actually find myself tired of the name Jesus and rarely use it. So will I take Pascal’s wager? No, not yet. I still need to detect something concrete that I can believe in. I never felt anything with my old religion and I still don’t. I had a friend once tell me that he tried everything he could to summon the spirit realm (Ouija board, The Exorcist, seance, etc.)and never got anything, so he doesn’t believe anything is out there. He’s a total atheist although he was raised in the same faith as I. I am still reserving judgment, and still on the search.

My other classes were Sociology, Psychology, Math, and Writing composition. I think I enjoyed Psychology the most. I have always wanted to learn more about Freud and got a small dose in this class. I like what I learned. His definition of ID and superego were fascinating. ID being that part of our sub-conscious that is self-serving, irrational, and impulsive. Superego is the judge, the conscience. The ego is the practical conscious part of our minds that make the executive decisions and prevents our ID from taking over. I feel like my ID has actually killed my superego and is struggling for dominance with my ego. Up until now, my superego has ruled my life. I don’t want it around anymore. Jiminy Cricket is dead!

Freud also showed me that I have an oral fixation. Which means at some point in my first year of life I was overfed or frustrated. Adult oral expressions can include gum chewing, nail biting, smoking, kissing, overeating/overdrinking, gullibility, biting, and sarcasm. It was Freud’s response to the question of whether he was orally fixated–hence the always present cigar–that led him to say, “Sometimes a cigar, is just a cigar.” He smoked up to twenty of them a day and died of throat cancer.

So the term ends and I await another. I have discovered an interesting new therapy I am trying out. More on that later…

Armageddon Postponed

“End-Times”, “Last Days”, “Armageddon”, “Rapture” are various beliefs that fall under the study of Eschatology. Eschatology is derived from the Greek terms eschatos meaning last or final and logos meaning word or study. It is therefore the study or word of last things (Bell 1). The term was coined in 1844 and its year of birth is significant. The year 1844 was when William Miller predicted the end of the world. He was not the first nor is he the last to make such predictions, but his assertions impacted tens of thousands of lives and we still feel its effects today. Eschatological, or Apocalyptic, belief is harmful and disrupts people’s lives resulting in resentment, disappointment, and life altering choices that would not have been made without the conviction that the “end” was imminent.

The years (A.D.) 666, 1033, 1260, 1284, 1492, 1496, 1524, 1588, 1656, 1666, 1700, 1789, 1800, 1844, 1914, 1925, 1975, 2000, and 2012 all have something in common. They were and are years proclaimed to be the time when Christ would cleanse the earth of sinners and his thousand year reign would begin. (Belief in the Millennial Reign is called Millennialism and those who believe in it are knows as Millenarians.) Mark Kingwell in his book Dreams of Millennium noted that while “not all the militant prophets have been Christian…millennialism has proved more popular with Christians than with people of other religious persuasions” (Kingwell 47); for this reason I will primarily focus on Christianity in this paper.

Reasons for Faith

There have been many reasons why people have declared a certain time “The Last Days”. The years 666 and 1666 A.D. are self explanatory as having the Mark of the Beast of Revelation (Revelation 13:18). Other years were preceded by famine, plague, fire, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions, political coups, or simply the harbinger of another century. The reason such events inspire millenarian zeal is because the Gospels of Matthew, Mark, and Luke relate signs Jesus gave which we could recognize on earth as the sign of his arrival. These were: “nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom, there will be food shortages and earthquakes in one place after another” (New World Translation Matthew 24:7; Mark 13:8; Luke 21:10, 11). Ever since those words were uttered, Christians have imagined themselves living in the “Last Days”, believing their specific lifetime particularly unique. Such ones find comfort in the belief that they and their time will see “the end”. To believe in rapture or some other form of deliverance enables Christians to imagine they can cheat death. They never have to watch loved ones die, or worry about their own mortality–hence, the reason every generation wants to be the one to witness Armageddon. On careful examination such reasoning appears rather self-serving. However, when faith and religious affiliation are based entirely on future rewards, worship tends to focus almost exclusively upon such things rather than the love and devotion we are told to feel. Such a single minded focus only creates disillusionment when predictions fail.

There are also other aspects of an apocalyptic fervor which will always provide plenty of adherents. According to the aforementioned author “the Jews and Christians predict the end of this benighted world, and the beginning of the next one, as a way of coping with their very real slavery. In these tales there is always, then, a chosen people who are beset by some complex of misfortunes, usually combining the political and the natural” (Kingwell 30). Judaism and Christianity have certainly had their share of persecution which makes the appeal for deliverance all the more appealing. Yet, one could wonder how much of their slavery and persecution is a direct result of their apocalyptic approach to life.

Millerites

The 1800’s seemed to have the lion’s share of failed predictions so let’s start then with William Miller. Mr. Miller was not a preacher but a military man. Yet, he did extensive research and thought he found the day when Armageddon would occur. He traveled widely and spoke extensively. His prediction, October 22, 1844, was anticipated by tens of thousands. How did they display their faith in Miller’s date? They “forsook family, friends, and beliefs to await this glorious arrival. Many gave away or sold land and possessions which they were quite convinced they wouldn’t be needing any longer” (Wimer 3). As dawn ascended on October 23rd, Miller lost his credibility and his followers. This time came to be known as The Great Disappointment:

Humiliations and hardships befell those who bought into the teachings of William Miller. In addition to shattered lives, lost homes and possessions, they were frequently scorned and ridiculed by others and in some cases even beset with violence. A Millerite church was burned in Ithaca and two vandalized in Dansville and Scottsville. In Loraine, a mob attacked the Millerite congregation with clubs and knives, while a group in Toronto was tarred and feathered. (Wimer 4)

These Millenarians not only received a great deal of persecution from their confounded neighbors but also brought a lot on themselves by cutting off all ties from a world they believed was passing away. Their faith was so complete they burned all bridges and lived to regret it. Creating such exclusivity offends those on the outside. To cut oneself off from society in general, in preparation for an apocalypse, indicates the rest of humanity isn’t going to make it. Only those exclusive adherents to the dictates of the current prophet can hope for deliverance. This creates anger and resentment among those on the outside, bringing persecution upon the ones arrogant enough to believe they are in sole command of the truth.

Millerites faded into obscurity, but William Miller’s conviction could not disappear. His teachings significantly influenced the foundation of the Advent Christian Church, which later splintered into such sub-groups as the Seventh-Day Adventists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and even the Branch Davidians. These groups have continued to set dates for doom and millions of their followers have been impacted—sometimes to the cost of their lives (Kingwell 49).

Costly Faith

Imagine from birth, being told we will never die. We will never grow old. Disease or unhealthy decisions need not be a primary concern, for this life is passing away. Don’t get married or have children, they will only distract from total devotion to God. Millions on earth today have heard these exact words and still believe them. Such a life-altering set of beliefs oftentimes results in wasted lives. Children are pulled out of school so they can serve God before Armageddon resulting in a lifetime of struggle and low socio-economic status when Armageddon delays. People, like the Millerites, who sell all they have to serve more fully only to reach retirement age and have nothing to live on. Young adults encouraged to avoid higher-education for the spiritual damage it may cause. Now imagine approaching death. Sickness and disease push us toward our mortal end. But we were told we would never see death! How frightening! How disheartening! How disillusioning:

This belief, called the ‘Ur Delusions’ (Masserman, 324-333) is, in essence, the denial of the eventual reality that one will, someday, die. Observers who work with a large number of chronically ill and terminally ill cases find that patients with a belief in an afterlife tend to fare much better. Conditions which reduce the Ur Delusion tend to be associated with rising suicide rate (thus suicide is quite high among the retired, those over 65, and the widowed, and those who have recently experienced the death of a loved one, shocking their sensibilities to this reality). (Montaue 137)

This leads us to the next bi-product of apocalyptic delusion: psychological damage. Millenarian groups are typically isolationists. Their beliefs have a tendency to compartmentalize them and even teach exclusive association. This creates a “high level of fear anxiety, severe neuroticism, introversion and/or social isolation tendencies” (Bergman 4).With the viewpoint that this life is only temporary, higher education is not only not encouraged it is highly discouraged. There are few university professors among millennial adherents. In fact, there are few high school graduates. This contributes to a naiveté amongst the followers that guarantee total reliance and acceptance without question (Montaue 141). However, as time goes by, these faithful adherents lose satisfaction in their menial, blue-collar jobs. With years of service behind them and a fading faith in a future deliverance, they begin to question. Worries over retirement or social security never touched them in the past—but suddenly they do. These ones, who were told they would never graduate from High School, are facing middle-age, their children are graduating from High School, and the parents they thought would never die are doing just that. Time-tables are shifting, interpretations are being reinterpreted. Faith begins to falter as explanations for the delay fall short.

But it is not as easy as that. As doubt sets in and faith falters, panic rears its ugly head. Imagine having a future that has always been a part of life being snatched away. It’s like being set adrift without a life preserver. To realize everything in life has been misdirected is not only terrifying but traumatic. Add to the internal trauma, the possibility of losing all friends and family who still adhere to the old system of beliefs and it is easy to understand why “many suppress their doubts and continue in the same routine, true feelings hidden deep” (Bergman 10).

Certain ones of these apocalyptic groups have a strong evangelizing belief and send out all or some of their adherents to preach and warn their neighbors about the coming end. These laymen, although existing in an isolationist religion, are required to take the message to frequently hostile neighbors. Psychiatrists have found widespread incidence of “paranoid schizophrenia” among such ones due to the frontal attacks they are daily required to subject themselves to (Bergman 12).

Conclusion

Eschatology was coined in 1844, immediately after the Great Disappointment when William Miller predicted the end of times. The word comes from the Greek term eschatos which literally means farthest or last. It is used to identify all forms of theology that look to the second coming, Armageddon, the last judgment, resurrection of the dead, and the end of the world as we know it. My assertion is that it is unhealthy physically and mentally for people to live for a future event that keeps fading into the distance. It is tantamount to standing on a precipice, always afraid to move for fear of slipping off and losing the only chance at happiness. People postpone life always presuming if they make certain sacrifices now they will be paid abundantly in the “near” future. When death or sickness comes into such a life; questions, doubts, and resentment arise for a life half-lived. The very worst emotion one feels, however, is fear. Fear of the prospect that a lifelong goal may not exist. A life of self-sacrifice may have been for nothing. If one is unfortunate enough to realize this fallacy, the feeling of a life squandered is the result.

End of the world predictions create a mindset that is destructive. People, whose every decision is based on how it will affect their survival at Armageddon, live their life in fear, occupied by thoughts such as:

If we would like to take up a new hobby, better not. It will take away from the time that should be spent in the ministry or reading the Bible.

If we have a hungry mind; don’t read anything unless it is printed by the church for anything else could corrupt your mind and lend place for the Devil.

Everything in the world is there to tempt us away from God.

Be on guard at all times!

As soon as doubts start to occur, Satan has found place in the heart.

Everyone who follows their heart and neglects the specific tenets of the faith will die at Armageddon—forever.
Dying is not all we must fear, though. A change in ideation could result in the total alienation of family and friends. The loss of everything we have ever known and valued.

Don’t doubt! Don’t question! Accept as the only path to the real God.

Such viewpoints insure a regular following—until the emotional damage caused by the religion encompasses the fear of eternal death. Humankind cannot sacrifice everything—forever. There must be some rewards along the way, some freedoms to contribute to a happy, contented life. Living as alien residents is exhausting and emotionally taxing. Let the end come when it will—if it will. Only let us live our lives without fear. (Complete bibliography can be supplied upon request)

Imbolc

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I had my first pagan ceremony today! It was very interesting. A neighbor had lent me a book on Wicca, and while reading it I realized a very important day of the year was coming–Imbolc. Irish imbolc derives from the Old Irish i mbolg “in the belly”. This refers to the pregnancy of ewes. A medieval glossary etymologizes the term as oimelc “ewe’s milk”.  It marks the halfway point between the winter and spring equinoxes. Catholics call it Candelmas; North Americans call it Groundhog Day. Celts call it the Festival of St. Brigid (Brid). I decided to recognize the day in the traditional Celtic fashion–being Scotch-Irish and a redhead. Water and fire seemed to be the primary focus of the festival, so I collected 50 candles of various shades of red, white and green. Red being the color of the god, green the color of the goddess, and white the color of the ewes milk–which Brigid was bathed in upon her birth. I built an altar with candles of red and white, calla lilies (white), fragrant evergreens, chalices, a wand (borrowed from my neighbor), sea salt, a corn-husk doll representing Brigid, and melting ice within a womb-shaped trifle dish to signify winter melting into spring. It looked quite beautiful!

Five participated in the ceremony: my husband and I, my nephew, and our neighbor and her daughter. We read the mythologies surrounding the day and the significance of everything. Then said various blessings as we lit the last seven candles of red and white. Then we partook in Sabbat cakes (simple little cookies with a refreshing lemony taste), beer/mineral water, cheese, and fresh fruits and vegetables. Celtic music played in the background and everyone seemed to find the whole affair very soothing.

Afterward, as my neighbor and I sat outside on the chill evening by the bonfire we had built in honor of the occasion, I asked her what she thought of the ceremony. She said she thought it was beautiful and thanked me for including her. She went on to tell me how important God was to her. I asked her, “What do you mean God?” The foregoing ceremony would be labeled positively demonic by the adherents of my childhood religion. Did she mean a Christian God? Her answer? “God is…” That was it. God is not small enough to be sheltered within the tight confines of Christianity. “There is a reason for everything,” she said. “I cannot accept that life has no reason.” So, God is above and all spiritual pursuits  honor  him. A very comforting belief. But is it true? It would be nice if it was. I, however, was raised to believe in a God that had such exacting requirements that few, if any, could fulfill them. So, if her beliefs are true, tonights ceremony was genuinely spiritual and acceptable to God. If my beliefs were true, we are all  pretty much damned–in a strictly non-hellfire sort of way. How do I feel? When I erected the altar last night, I was alone as my husband was in a welding class. I remember thinking that my old beliefs would find such an altar an open invitation to demons. I didn’t feel anything. My house felt normal. The altar felt right. So, either my previous system of beliefs is wrong, or I am so far gone my conscience  has been “marked as with a branding iron” (1 Timothy 4:2).  What do you think? Is God in all systems of beliefs or just one?

Blog Objective

Hello all! This is my personal perspective on all things faith-related. I have read the Bible numerous times and studied theology my whole life. I have recently decided to embark on my own journey for faith–apart from the faith I was raised with. I was raised in a conservative, non-fundamental, Christian faith. I want to answer such questions as: Does God exist? What kind of god is God–vengeful and judgmental or loving and approachable? What is Truth? Is there Truth? Is faith dead or dying? etc. I welcome and encourage input from others. Welcome to my blog, I hope you find it comfortable.

Published in: on February 3, 2011 at 10:11 p02  Leave a Comment  
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