HuffPost Tackles Religion and other Pagan News of Note

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 25, 2010 — 15 Comments

Top Story: While traditional media outlets continue to cut back on their coverage of religion, there’s been a slow expansion on the Internet. Beliefnet, one of the first Internet religion-news hubs, continues to reign supreme in terms of size and traffic, but it’s starting to see some competition from sites like Patheos and the Newsweek/Washington Post-supported On Faith. Now, another new-media contender is entering the God(s)-beat, as the left-leaning Huffington Post launches a religion section.

Site founder Arianna Huffington explains:

“Like all our sections, HuffPost Religion will bring you the latest news — in this case about all things religion-related — served up in the HuffPost style. It will also be home to an open and fearless dialogue about all the ways religion affects both our personal and our public lives. And it will do so in a way that moves beyond the pigeonhole depictions of both the faithful and the agnostic we see so frequently — and also beyond the tired assumption that God is a card-carrying member of one political party or another.

HuffPost Religion is being edited by Paul Raushenbush, an Associate Dean of Religious Life at Princeton University and an ordained Baptist minister. As a passionate and brilliant religious thinker, pastor, writer and college dean, Paul is ideally suited to the challenge of presenting multiple viewpoints and insights, as well as the real-world implications of religion for American life.”

Some of the big-name contributors include Jim Wallis, Deepak Chopra, Sister Joan Chittister, and Eboo Patel. But will HuffPost Religion cover modern Paganism? I’ve received some initial signs from folks working there that they are looking to add Pagan voices to the section, so we’ll see how things play out in the weeks ahead. Patheos, Beliefnet, and On Faith all now include a Pagan perspective (to varying degrees), so I can’t imagine HuffPost Religion will be far behind (especially since they have Pagans writing for them in other sections). I’ll keep you posted on developments.

In Other News:

An Earth-Based Discussion: Thorn Coyle has posted the audio from a panel discussion she led at this year’s Pantheacon on the question: “Earth-Based: Are We Really?”

“Organized by T. Thorn Coyle, this panel features Weiser authors T. Thorn Coyle, Diana Paxson, Zee Budapest, Orion Foxwood, and Lon Milo DuQuette. Discussion spans our definitions of ourselves as Earth- based, Nature-Based, Cosmos-based, etc. and addresses some of the problems of our times as well as positive media influences such as the movie Avatar.”

I briefly covered (and live-tweeted) this panel in my Pantheacon coverage, so I’m glad to see the audio for it released. While the panel didn’t really dig too deep into the question of how “earth-based” modern Pagan traditions really are, there were some fascinating and insightful things said and discussed, and I highly recommend checking it out.

The Fake Child Sacrifices: Earlier this year I noted the story of Ugandan anti-human-sacrifice campaigner Polino Angela, who claimed to have personally killed several children, including his own son. At the time I was deeply skeptical of his claims, seeing them as a strong echo of similar stories peddled by various ex-Satanists and Witches in America. Nor was I the only one to wonder if Angela was fabricating the story, and if he wasn’t, why he wasn’t in custody for his crimes. Now the house of cards has come tumbling down, as he’s been arrested for lying to a public officer.

“He allegedly repeated his claims to a Ugandan police officer and has been charged with “giving false information to a public officer”. He denied the charges and was remanded in custody in Lira Central Prison. Police officer Godwin Tumugumye, an officer at Lira Police Station, said BBC correspondent Tim Whewell is also wanted by the police over the case, reports Uganda’s New Vision newspaper.”

In another report, it’s come out that Angela was paid 200,000 Uganda shillings to play up child sacrifice, and has now confessed to lying.  If only we could do the same to some of the professional “ex”-workers in America. As I said in my initial post on this story, it isn’t that I don’t believe children aren’t being abducted, abused, and killed in several African nations. There’s of plenty of evidence for that. I also acknowledge that some witch-doctors are indeed killing and mutilating certain children for various reasons. But the lurid portrait painted by the BBC, with help from Mr. Angela, raised many of my old “Satanic Panic” red flags (most notably the idea of a centralized sacrifice industry/conspiracy). I’m glad that the truth has come to light in this story.

Max Beauvoir Declares War: After Tuesday’s incident in Haiti, where a mob of Christians drove off a small group of Vodouisants performing a ceremony for the dead, Vodou leader Max Beauvoir says it’s war.

“It will be war, open war,” Max Beauvoir, supreme head of Haitian voodoo, said at his home and temple outside the capital. “It’s unfortunate that at this moment where everybody’s suffering that they have to go to war. But if that is what they need, I think that is what they’ll get.”

You can see a photo essay of the inciting incident, here (thanks to Jennifer for the link). Since the clash of religions, Haitian officials have ensured that Vodou practitioners will be able to perform ceremonies at Cité Soleil in the future, but that seems cold comfort to those who were driven away with stones. However, not everyone in Haiti is seeing a religious war in the future, Mambos Elsie Théanou Joseph and Silviana Désir are busy working to feed and shelter the homeless, while Catholic priest Rev. Frantz-Michel Grandoit sees a new unity developing between Christians and Vodouisants.

“Humanity doesn’t want us to be separated,” said the Rev. Frantz-Michel Grandoit, a Catholic priest. Grandoit has planned several interfaith prayer vigils with Voodoo priests, including a three-day national prayer for rebuilding, held earlier this month and sponsored by the Global Network of Religions for Children, an international nongovernmental organization. In a ceremony at the Croix-des-Bouquets temple earlier this month, priestesses and parishioners knelt at the base of a tree trunk, lighted candles and solemnly chanted prayers for the earthquake’s victims and for the future of their country. “Hold Haiti’s sweet hand!” they sang as they threw water on the tree trunk and conjured up what is known as the Veve, a mystical symbol embodying the Voodoo deities. “Save us! Give us grace and deliverance!”

So while Max Beauvoir is an important voice right now in post-earthquake Haiti, we must remember, despite his claims, that Vodou has no “supreme chief” that all Vodouisants, Mambos, and Houngans bow before. Beauvoir leads a faction, a group of practitioners who have acknowledged him as their leader, and is not a Vodou “pope”. Reporters must move beyond Beauvoir, and talk to many practitioners from different areas to get a fuller picture of religious interactions in Haiti. To be sure there are those how want a religious war, but I would say there are also many who want a sense of national unity to trump theological differences at this critical stage.

The UK Reburial Issue: The BBC tackles the issue of reburying “pagan” remains, and interviews Druid priestess Emma Restall Orr, and representatives from Honouring the Ancient Dead, about the connection some modern Pagans feel to their pre-Christian ancestors.

“Pagan groups are increasingly asking for human remains and grave goods from pre-Christian burials to be returned to the ground, and their voices are being taken increasingly seriously in the museum world.”

As I’ve said before on this site, there is no consensus among British Pagans on this issue, with many, most notably Pagans for Archeology, opposed to the reburial of ancient human remains. It would have been nice for the BBC to get more perspectives on this, rather than simply portraying HAD and Orr as representative of Pagan stances on this issue.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Crystal7431 Crystal7431

    Wow, the scenes from Cite Soleil make me feel so angry and disgusted and yet helpless. How do you get through to such violent minded people?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Erynn Erynn

    Oh, sweet! I hope we'll see your contributions soon.

  • Rombald

    Oops. I meant "apply".

  • Jag

    They have been doing it from the beginning, all thru history.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Crystal7431 Crystal7431

    "and neither are Wiccans, Reclaming, etc." Glad you made that decision for them. I'm sure they would appreciate it too.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Apuleius Apuleius

    MWAhaHahaHahaHahahahaha………

    • http://intensedebate.com/people/Pax Pax

      Ok folks,

      What organization of law and justice would you appeal to on behalf of the Vodouisants?

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/KhalilaRedBird KhalilaRedBird

    Rightly so. I would have the same unease.RedBirdThe truth of an opinion does not dependon the number of people who hold it.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Teaa Tea

    Sounds rather sensationalized.

  • Ananta Androscoggin

    There are thousands of mummies that will never be re-buried, as they were burned to keep the steam trains in Britain running during a fuel shortage in the 19th century.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt Jason Pitzl-Waters

    Thank you for your comments Minerva, I appreciate you adding your voice to this discussion.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Apuleius Apuleius

    Oops. I just get nervous when I see my name and the word "expert" in close proximity!