So, this is something we go round and round with in paganism in general, and I recently saw something going around about keeping politics out of religion. There were some very thoughtful comments about why some people like to mix the two, and I thought that explaining why I like to keep them separate might make for a good blog post.
I’d like to start with the disclaimer that this is not intended as a persuasive post; we all have our own practices, and if yours work for you, by all means continue doing what you’re doing. This is merely a peek into my noggin, and perhaps a chance for those who feel similarly to see things put into words.
First off,I think one of the biggest things we forget on the internet is that not everyone is American. Politics are very different in the US from other countries, and what applies here does not necessarily apply everywhere else. We have different cultures and different problems, and if nothing else, I think this is a good enough reason to keep things relatively separate online, at least. Many of our communities are small and international, and you can’t reasonably expect folks from other parts of the world to care about American politics. Keeping the politics out of religion helps us all to better focus on and share our experiences with the gods. It keeps discussion relevant to all.
That said, I think for most of us, our religion does inform our politics. Most religions have moral codes practitioners are expected to adhere to. This plays out in culture in a wide variety of ways, and rarely good ones. While in antiquity, my own religion was inseparable from the state, in modern times, the merging of religion and state invariably leads to rather a lot of oppression for anyone who doesn’t practice the state religion. This was a major factor in the formation of the US (where I live), and is part of the reason why our country was set up to have a strict separation between church and state. It’s to ensure everyone has the freedom to practice their religion in any way they choose. Growing up with this has had a strong effect on me, and it’s only gotten more important to me as I’ve left Christianity. We can see in various Middle Eastern countries the effect that Sharia law has had on the population–we’ve all seen the pictures of Iran in the seventies, where the women dressed like westerners. Now, in many places, they must be fully covered and cannot leave their homes alone–they have much less freedom in that respect. We can see the disastrous effects in our own country of merging religion and politics. My home state has multiple examples of this, such as Kim Davis, the county clerk who refused to sign marriage certificates for gay couples, Matt Bevin, the governor who had the policy for how certificates are issued altered to accommodate her (we taxpayers are now paying her legal fees), and the debacle with the Ark Park. We see this with the way Planned Parenthood and any clinic that offers abortion amongst their services comes under attack. We see this in how in Texas, you must have a certain number of children or your husband’s permission to get your tubes tied (a friend of mine had to deal with that).
Arguably, this is all mixing religion with politics, which, frankly, is just a semantic difference. And many who argue for including politics in their religious practices would say they’re fighting against things like what I’ve listed, which is quite valid. That said, and perhaps this is extremely naive of me, I think things like fighting for gay rights, fighting unfair racial profiling, and protecting reproductive rights–these are things that to me, that’s just doing the right thing. There shouldn’t be anything political about it, and the only reason there is is because a bunch of asshats can’t keep their religion out of politics. Are these hot button political issues? Yes. Should they be? No. People are people, and deserve to be treated equally. Black men are unfairly profiled by police–we should be looking at why and how we can stop it because a healthy society protects everyone and treats them equally. There is literally no reason why gay people should not be allowed to marry in the eyes of the state that is not a religious one. While I can understand some of the concerns regarding abortion and it’s not a path I would choose for myself, there are cases where it’s medically necessary. Not every pregnancy can safely be carried to term, nor should it be. Should a child be brought into a world where its mother doesn’t want them? How cruel. Equally cruel is forcing a woman to risk her body and her life to carry a child they don’t want, especially in cases of rape. If people didn’t mix their religion and their politics, issues like these (mostly the gay and reproductive rights stuff, I don’t think anyone hates black people on account of their religion anymore) would not be issues. It would be a simple case of doing what’s best for society and the individuals involved.
And while doing the right and just thing is a part of my religion, as a polytheist, my religion is first and foremost about the gods. By keeping my political views separate from my religion, it is easier to focus on those gods. I am just one person, and a rather tired working person at that. I can spend my energies promoting political agendas, or I can spend them communing with the gods and trying to become a better person myself. I know which of those is healthier for me, and it doesn’t involve political agendas. When I worship my gods, I want to focus on them, so I can get to know them better. When I do ritual, I want to focus on my spiritual health and well being. I’m not saying there’s no place for political views and whatnot in my life in general, but that place is not at my shrine or altar.