Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

In case you need more Morag this week, I’ve also posted at Maenads of the (R)Evolution (MaRE for short), my project with partner-in-crime-and-awesomeness Daniel Grey (aka Sage or Danny).

As well, Veggiewolf also did a post on Obesity for Pagan Blog Project, and it’s pretty damn good. You should read it.

Now. On to the second O. (Sounds like a normal night for me.)

Orthodoxy vs. Orthopraxy

There’s a lot of discussion in pagan circles about pagan religions being orthopraxic as opposed to orthodoxic. This is sometimes accompanied with a bit of a snooty air — orthopraxic is obviously better than orthodoxic, because who wants to believe the same thing as other people? That’s just like Christianity!

Well, not really. A good religion, in my opinion, has a balanced blend of orthodoxy and orthopraxy.

First, let’s define these terms, so we know what I’m talking about (that’s a first). It should be said that the way these words are most often used within pagandom religious discussions isn’t entirely correct. We generally use orthodoxy to refer to right belief and orthopraxy to refer to right action — that is, to belong to an orthodoxic religion, it doesn’t matter what you do so long as you believe. To belong to an orthopraxic one, you must act correctly — but can believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster for all that matters.

Technically the definitions state that orthodoxy is “the condition, quality, or practice of conforming, especially in religious belief” (1) and orthopraxy is “Theol the belief that right action is as important as religious faith” (2). But then again, words change, and if we pagans are using them differently then that’s what I’m going to address.

What does it mean for a religion to be orthodoxic/orthopraxic?

An orthodoxic religion requires adherence to key tenets of the faith from its followers. Stuff like accepting that Jesus Christ is the one and only son of god, and that he died for our sins — those are tenets of the Christian faith, and you can’t really rightly call yourself a Christian if you don’t believe that. (I’m referring to general Christianity here; not all the differing tenets of differing denominations — this is a pagan blog and I don’t have all day.)

An orthopraxic religion requires that its participants participate in the way the religion has specified.  ADF is a good example of this — for a ritual to be an ADF ritual it must follow their Core Order of Ritual, it can’t contain things like calling the four elements, casting a circle, or blood sacrifice, and the gods must be recognized in a Neo-Druidic structure. Most ADF members have widely differing beliefs about the gods, about the nature of the gods, the nature of the cosmos, and so much more. Many members have more than one religion — ADF and a personal one. (I, personally, am studying ADF because I want a public religion where I can commune with other pagans.)

There’s nothing inherently wrong with either type of religion; it’s just that alone, it can be unbalanced.  (It’s also important to note here that an orthodoxic religion like Christianity may also have some form of right action, or othropraxy, with it. That doesn’t mean this part is emphasized or even acknowledged; a lot of times right belief is seen to be the most important thing.)

Why should these two things balance?

Orthodoxy is all well and good if you truly do believe in the teachings of Christ. But when your actions don’t match? When you pay lip-service to being a good Christian to get your soul into heaven, but refuse to give charity to the poor, judge first, and are generally the very opposite of Christ-like…in my mind, you’re not a good Christian at all. In fact, you’re not a Christian — because you’re not committing to the right action your faith has set out for you. Christ was a cool dude; he was nice to prostitutes, lepers, and the “dregs” of humanity. I see so few Christians following in his footsteps, and yet that’s what their faith is supposed to be about.

As well, what is action without belief? From time to time we all must fake it till we make it, but when all you’re doing is faking it?

I don’t have huge investment in ADF structure, but I do have investment in the Hellenic gods and what They want from me. Whether I stay in ADF or not remains to be seen, but so long as I’m in it all my right actions will still carry faith behind them, or they’re empty gestures, nothing more than waving at the darkness, trying in vain to keep it at bay.

An example: The Sacred Triad

As you know, I often call my own personal religion The Sacred Triad, or Triadism. I’m working on a better name, trust me. It’s my hope that in several years I’ll be able to share this religion with other pagans who are interested in an already-built genderqueer faith.

In the meantime, I know a few things. I know I don’t want my religion to be dogmatic; I know I want it to be a non-initiatory Mystery tradition; and I know that it’s going to be orthodoxic and orthopraxic.

Some things you have to accept to be part of this religion: Brighid, Morrigan, and Manannan are facets, or “children”, of three greater beings who are seen as the creators of the universe (whether you literally believe in creation or not doesn’t matter; it’s the symbolism). These beings are called by many names, but mostly The Lady of the Stars/the Smith, The Lady-Lord/Sovereign of Blood/the Phantom, and The Lord of the Frozen Depths/the Deep One. They form a sacred triad of life/sex/death, female/genderqueer/male, sky/land/sea, fire/blood/water, healing/war/peace.

This religion is very connected with our bodies and the land we live on; there is not much concern with afterlife. In general followers can believe whatever they want about the afterlife; the only sameness is that they must accept that it is Manannan who embraces them at the end of their life and takes them to wherever they’re going. So if you believe that death is the end, that’s it, then you would know that Manannan will greet you before taking you to oblivion.

Some practices that are required: shifts every 20 days for Them. Brighid is flamekeeping, so you can find a Cill and build your other shifts around Hers. Landbinding happens six days after Flamekeeping; Seaseeking seven days after Landbinding; Flamekeeping seven days after Seaseeking. What you do on these shifts is up to you, but it must be Work for the particular deity.

Celebrations of the holidays in honor of Them: Imbolc is Brighid’s time; Beltane is Morrigan’s; Samhain is Manannan’s. I’m working on creating a fourth festival for August that celebrates all three of Them. Even if you can’t get it together to do anything major for these days, the days must be marked and remembered.

Obviously the religion isn’t finished yet, and please don’t consider this official publication. Everything I say here is subject to change. I just wanted to give you an example of a religion that blends orthodoxy and orthopraxy without becoming too dogmatic (hopefully), and this one is the one I know the best.

That’s all I’ve got. I’ll see you after the weekend, probably, with more Pagan Blog Project catch-up.

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