Moral issues: some examples
As well as environmental concerns and human and animal rights, issues important to Pagans include war and peace, gender equality and sexuality. Many Pagans campaign against war and nuclear weapons, and were very involved in protests such as the women’s peace camp at Greenham Common in the 1980s, alongside Quakers, Catholics and other Christians, but others may see circumstances where war might sadly be the best option.
Gender equality and feminist thought is very influential in Paganism, especially Goddess spirituality, and the image of a witch as a powerful woman is very important. However, some forms of Paganism may stress traditional roles. Reconstructionists, for example, might often be aiming for as close a representation of historical traditions as possible. This will often conflict with modern life, leading to a need for a degree of compromise. The notion of the triple Goddess: ‘virgin, mother and crone’, derived from Robert Graves, is very important in Goddess spirituality, but can be criticised for defining women in terms of their fertility if taken too literally.
Respect for all sexual identities, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, intersex, or the rejection of the constructs of sex as well as gender represented by the term ‘queer’, is very much part of contemporary Paganism, and people feel much more welcomed than they do in some other religions. Having said this, some Heathen and reconstructionist groups stress traditional roles and do not approve of homosexuality. Early Gardnerian Wicca had elements of heteronormativity, and Gardner himself has been accused of homophobia – but that was over half a century ago, and attitudes (as well as the law) have changed considerably. Sexual activity is celebrated and may be seen as sacred.
On moral issues such as abortion and euthanasia, Pagans tend to think it is up to the individual to make the right decision in the given circumstances. Pagans can be critical of medical practice where it is over-dependent on mechanical science and pharmaceuticals, preferring a holistic approach that treats mind, body and spirit as inter-related. Thus traditional and complementary medicine such as using herbs and healing rituals are valued in addition to modern medical science.
Social justice is important to Pagans. PaganAid is a registered charity that ‘puts equal value on ending poverty and protecting Mother Earth’, pointing out that poverty in marginalised communities such as tribal peoples can be intrinsically linked to environmental damage and exploitation caused by industrialisation.