Beliefnet
After the terrorist bombings in London that ripped apart a bus and several tube stations and killed more than 50 people, British Prime Minister Tony Blair declared the need to wipe out the "ideology of evil" that the bombs represented.

Evil is a construct Pagans try to avoid. Our theology, or rather, thealogy, (Goddess-knowing) teaches us that dark and light, life and death, creation and destruction exist in balance, and to cut off or condemn one aspect opens us to the imbalance that leads to cruelty and horror. We might say that the simplistic formulation, "They are evil; we are good" leads to its corollary, "We are justified in destroying them by any means whatsoever." And that is the very ideology that motivates the bombers, as well, and which throughout human history has led to the worst atrocities.

But if we reject the concept of evil, how do we respond to horrific acts? Is there a specifically Pagan response to such violence? There is no central Pagan authority, no Pagan Pope to issue bulls, no Pagan rabbinical authority to say who does or does not have the right to interpret for us. We have no sacred scriptures to interpret, anyway. As Pagans, we are each our own spiritual authority, each with our own connection to the Goddess.

From that authority, I offer one Pagan's response to the bombings. While we have no Bible, no set of commandments, we do have nature as our teacher, and a set of rough ethics that value life, balance, and interconnection. We feel an immediate, intuitive horror at the taking of life, and at the randomness of this death. To die because I chose to fight in the military, or to take a particular risk, or even because I incurred a particular enemy, at least has some sense of cause and meaning.

To die because I happened to stop for a newspaper or to get on the wrong train seems utterly unfair and senseless.

Yet terror attacks are not senseless, not "mindless violence." They are part of a thought-out strategy, one often pursued by those who do not have the numbers or weaponry to mount a direct military assault. They are not unique to Arabs or Muslims, regardless of what anti-Arab racism would say. In fact similar tactics have been used by the Irish in their struggle for independence, the Basques, and the Stern Gang of the Israeli independence movement who blew up the King David Hotel in Jerusalem back in the 1940s, and by many other groups throughout history.

If a fighting force cannot outgun the British army or the U.S. military, they can always strike at the civilian population, and hurt the enemy in that way.

We rightfully reject and condemn those tactics. Death may be a part of life, but inflicting it on others breaks the fabric of interconnectedness and assaults the sacred embodied in each one of us.

A pagan response to violence
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  • But when we condemn the willingness to kill others in order to pursue one's own ends, we also need to acknowledge that willingness is widespread. What "ideology of evil" motivated Tony Blair to join the United States in pursuing a war in Iraq that has killed tens and perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilians, guilty only of being born in the wrong country at the wrong time? Could he please explain to me why, if it is evil to kill civilians on a bus or in the London tubes, it is okay to kill civilians in bombing raids on major cities? Why acts that are "evil" when done by small groups of extremists are moral and good when pursued by governments and armies? The willingness to sacrifice others for one's own good is not limited to war. It is also part of the context of endemic violence woven into our current political and economic system. The UN Commission on Children tells us that six million children a year die from the policies the International Monetary Fund imposes on third world countries, that result in lack of access to health care and clean water.
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