Updates: James Arthur Ray, Nones, Egyptian Tourism, and E.W. Jackson

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  July 6, 2013 — 10 Comments

Here are some updates on previously reported stories here at The Wild Hunt.

James Arthur Ray

James Arthur Ray

“Secret”-peddler and New Age guru James Arthur Ray, currently in prison after being convicted of negligent homicide in three 2009 sweat-lodge ceremony deaths, won’t be in jail for much longer. While he could conceivably stay in prison until October, an email to supporters from Ray’s brother reveals that he’ll be released on parole on July 12th. Claiming destitution, Ray is seeking a home in Arizona to avoid living in a halfway house, as he cannot leave the state until his parole ends. Suffice to say, Ray’s critics are not happy about his early release. As Gaelic Polytheist Kathryn Price NicDhàna puts it: “He wants your money; he’ll take your life. Don’t let him ever again have a career at this stuff. Don’t let him sell his deadly fake rituals. Don’t let him lead any kind of ceremony, ever. Don’t buy it, don’t excuse it, don’t look the other way.” It should be noted that despite Ray’s claims of destitution, he’s still somehow paying his lawyers, who are still fighting to overturn his convictions.

PF_13.07.02_ViewsofNones_275x200The Pew Forum on Religious and Public Life has released data from a new survey analyzing how people feel about the growing of people claiming “no religion” (aka “nones”) in the United States. Perhaps unsurprisingly, we collectively seem to be evenly split on whether these ramifications are good or bad (or indifferent). Quote: “The new, nationwide survey by the Pew Research Center’s Forum on Religion & Public Life asked Americans whether having ‘more people who are not religious’ is a good thing, a bad thing, or doesn’t matter for American society. Many more say it is bad than good (48% versus 11%). But about four-in-ten (39%) say it does not make much difference. Even among adults who do not identify with any religion, only about a quarter (24%) say the trend is good, while nearly as many say it is bad (19%); a majority (55%) of the unaffiliated say it does not make much difference for society.” I’ve written quite a bit about the “nones” and what the ramifications of their growth are for religious minorities. I think it’s important to reiterate that “no religion” doesn’t mean “not religious,” many nones have spiritual beliefs and practices, they just don’t label themselves. I think that religious surveys need to start thinking about what kind of questions they ask, because the way we talk about and experience religion is changing. We should certainly escape the “good/bad” dualism about a classification of people that is endlessly diverse.

Egyptian protests.

Egyptian protests.

The world has been rightly focused on the incredible events unfolding in Egypt, with the military removing President Morsi from power after massive protests involving tens of millions of demonstrators. In the wake of those actions, whether Egypt will remain largely stable as these shifts take place remains to be seen. One aspect of the Egyptian economy that is being impacted by this upheaval is Egypt’s multi-billion dollar tourism industry, some elements of which have been eager to see Morsi go“We need somebody to do something for the people, but now the poor are very poor, and the rich are very rich, there is no middle class. And business is horrible.” Back in 2011 I wrote about reports of growing religiously-motivated hostility towards Egypt’s tourism industry, though the Muslim Brotherhood seemed eager to not disturb a significant part of the country’s GDP (mostly). Tourism had recovered somewhat during Morsi’s tenure, but has taken a “body blow” as Western countries advise against any non-essential travel to Egypt.  There currently isn’t a tourism minister, as he has stepped down, and it remains to be seen how events will unfold. The Wild Hunt is currently exploring several Egypt stories, including this one, and we’ll keep you posted as things develop.

E.W. Jackson

E.W. Jackson

Virginia Lt. Governor candidate E.W. Jackson, who I profiled recently here at The Wild Hunt, continues to clarify himself after coming under fire for saying and writing a number of stock conservative Christian positions on various social and religious issues. He recently walked back past statements he made that implied yoga can lead to Satanism, and now he wants you to know that he doesn’t hate gay people, well, most gay people. Quote: “I don’t treat anybody any differently because of their sexual orientation, but I do think that the rabid radical homosexual activist movement is really trying to fundamentally change our culture and redefine marriage and do a number of things that I just think are not good at all.” So there you go! He just doesn’t like gay activists, or anyone who wants to redefine marriage to include same-sex couples. Jackson claims his critics are applying a “religious test” on him for his views, but I think it’s important for Pagans living in Virginia to know he feels Witchcraft is “wrong and dangerous.” Any candidate, no matter what their party, or their personal faith, has to be able to serve all of their constituents. That includes the Pagans. Can you (would you want to) really serve the interests of someone you think is dangerous?

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

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Ursyl

    Seems to me that it’s not a “religious test” when you yourself, the elected/prospective office holder, are making speeches and statements announcing your religion-based views on issues and your views on others’ religions.

    Don’t want it out there? State your positions on issues and leave religion out of it.

  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Jackson isn’t “clarifying” anything. He’s trying to fuzz up what he’s said just enough to squeak past moderate voters who make up an increasing percentage of Virginia’s population. Like “the Cooch” who’s still trying to get oral sex outlawed in VA, but has removed a lot of his more objectionable positions from his website. Jackson’s figuring the fundie base knows how he really feels and maybe other voters won’t figure it out in time.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I feel about the likes of brother Jackson as I do about resistance to gay equality: After winning the low-hanging fruit we’re going to have to re-fight the Civil War again, something we had to do in the Sixties for comparable reasons.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Maybe my idea of politics is flawed, but I always thought an elected politician’s job was to serve the interests of those who elected him. (Or, at the very least, pretend to.)

    • Franklin Evans

      The flaw is in the political system we have here in the US, and it’s not in the design but in how it’s used. Without getting into the details — there are several critical ones worthy of dicsussion — our representative democracy (i.e. republic) is based on the premise that elected officals serve their designated districts/regions/states (etc.). This premise has long since become lost to the desire to profit from power. In whatever fashion it manifests, serving (only) the interests of those who elected the official is a violation of oath. We (collectively) seem to think this is applicable only when that violation is accompained by a crime.
      The implication is that serving special interests in otherwise legal ways should be made explicitly illegal per se. That, of course, will never happen. :(

      • Deborah Bender

        Unfortunately, the more wealth that government has the power to dispose of, via contracts, grants, favorable regulation and favorable tax treatment, the more it attracts politicians and lobbyists motivated by a desire for wealth and power over the common good. This is a built in problem that can be controlled but never permanently fixed.

        As a person who tends to favor government regulation, income redistribution, and other liberal favorites, it pains me to write this, but one must face facts. The anti-corruption argument for small government is in my mind a stronger argument than the libertarian argument.

        Traditional conservative political theory prefers a small government, but most American politicians today who call themselves conservatives aren’t really for small government. They just differ with liberals over which interests should receive tax money and whose behavior should be regulated. Federal spending grows as much or more under Republican administrations as under Democratic ones.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Democracy is a terrible way to run a country. As Winston Churchill once said: “It has been said that democracy is the worst form of government except all the others that have been tried.”

  • AnantaAndroscoggin

    Come now, John Bolton, Bush/Cheney’s ambassador to the UN himself stated on a late-night talk show (Leno, I think?) that president Bush was indeed the President of those who voted for him.

    That combined with how stringently their administration blocked non-Republican supporters from every Bush or Cheney “public” appearance, gives great credence to the belief that Bolton’s statement really described that administration’s viewpoint.

    • Charles Cosimano

      That is the viewpoint of every politician. Their first loyalty is to the voters who voted for them. That is how they keep their jobs.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        It is also how the system preserves integrity, isn’t it?

        What is the point of voting for an individual who is making a load of promises, only for them to fulfil the promises of the opposition?