Morality and Will

Many years past I had a conversation with a Lutheran minister on the subject of morality, the Christian 10 Commandments, and the Wiccan Rede. His argument being that if one did not have an objective list detailing what one could and could not do in life, that one could not be a moral person. He also argued that telling people to just do as they willed instead of what God willed, even with the harm none caveat, was just encouraging people to be selfish and not have any consideration for anyone but themselves.

I disagree.

Of course, in any group you are going to get some small groups of people who think that a lack of specific rules for behaviour is a license to do anything they want, regardless of who it may harm. There is a  word for these people, they are called assholes. Assholes aren’t just found in the Pagan communities though, you can find them lurking around any group, regardless of the religion they may or may not follow.

My argument to the above mentioned minister was that the phrase “Do as you will, but harm none” put a greater onus for personal responsibility onto a person than a specific list of behaviours and actions not allowed. I also argued that when questioned, Jesus had said that there was only One Commandment: Love your neighbour as you love yourself.

In my way of thinking, there is small difference between “Do as you will but harm none”

dancing fairies

Fairies dancing on flower Image created by NanLT using silk weave and photoscape

and “Love your neighbour as you love yourself.”

Both place it upon the person to have the maturation and wherewithal to determine whether their actions will be harmful to their neighbour, and whom exactly their neighbour is.

Yes, personal will says that I could walk into the local PC store and buy the latest gadget. I want it, I can have it. Personal responsibility and knowing that I need to be aware of whether or not my actions will harm me (loving myself) or harming another (loving my neighbour) says, if you do that your children will have nothing to eat next week and no way of getting to school when the car runs out of petrol.

Following a moral code that says you can do as you will is not in itself an indication that one is self-indulgent, or living with a sense of selfish entitlement. Far from it.

Those who follow a Pagan Path who aren’t assholes know that they need to consider every decision, every choice, every action. Will this cause harm to myself or to those around me?

It’s not easy, and where I draw the line about what is and is not permitted will be different from the decisions of the next person. Because I have free will and the person standing next to me has free will, I cannot say to them, “Do as I would do for I know the only true way.”

Sometimes, the idea behind “Harm none” gets murky. Regardless of the decision made, harm will be done. They wouldn’t be called ethical dilemmas otherwise now would they? In those situations, the individual has to make a decision on which will be a better, morally correct choice for them out of the options seen.

I know Pagans who are pro-choice when it comes to abortion, and Pagans who are anti-choice. Pagans who are strict vegan and those who enjoy a rare beef steak. I know Pagans who are against gays being legally married, and Pagans who fully support it. Think of any ethical dilemma facing a group of people today and I will most likely know Pagans who sit on both sides of the fence, and more than a few who straddle the middle.

While I have my own views on each of these subjects, I can also see the validity of points made by those who hold opposing views. Neither of us is wrong.

What the majority of Pagans have in common is very simple. They don’t try to force others to come to the same conclusions and interpretations of what it means when we say Harm  None. They understand that where one is exercising Free Will, there will occasionally be disagreements and that’s okay.

You can read more about my views on Will in a post I wrote a last year, Where There’s a Will.



10 thoughts on “Morality and Will

  1. I agree with you when you say that “Harm None” puts upon us a greater responsibility by expecting us to consider all who may be involved in our choices. What drew me to your blog, however, is a spiritual dilemma regarding how much of our will can influence a person or outcome to a situation when a prayer is made with good intention. As always, there is a long story lurking. The question in my journal that had me seeking out guidance that directed me to you is “Even when made with good intention and always remembering to harm none, do I have the right (cannot think of a better word) to push my will into a situation or can this be deemed as being selfish?”

    • Indeed, that is a very good question, and one worth considering in depth. Just because you have the will, and the ability to do magic whether it be through spell casting or prayer, does it automatically follow that you have the right to do it?

      My own answer would be “No.”

      Even when everything is fallen into place, when the person has consented, the spell caster could be at heart acting in a selfish manner.

      This is something I believe I will expand upon in a full blog post.

      I hope you will come back and share your own thoughts on the subject.

  2. Pingback: You Can – But Should you? | Writings of a Pagan Witch

  3. I like your post but I have to ask have you never been put in a situation where justice/ vengeance is perhaps a necessary evil? When you just can’t walk away, and the human law is not going to help you. This is the problem I have with most pagans the “harm none”. You are always hurting someone. Whether you are working magic for that great job and there are hundreds of other applicants who are just as qualified and need it just as badly, or you are eating a really great steak with your family or maybe an old fashioned vegan Sunday meal with all the trimmings; all life has awareness, even plants and bugs so you are always hurting someone no matter what you do. So when is it appropriate, shall we say, to take the next step and teach an asshole a lesson for screwing you (or someone you love) over in a bad way. Do you really do nothing and expect the Gods to care enough to do something (karma) when you don’t care enough yourself to take action? When do you say enough is enough and take action? Our ancestors had no issues with vengeful magic what is our P.C. hangup?

    • I want to give this a proper, well thought out response, but also didn’t want you to have to wait. I’ve been considering how and what I want to say and will try to put it in writing sometime today.

    • I think that there is a place for this type magic. I don’t think it should ever be a first resort, or even a second. But sometimes, it is ultimately the best response.

      I do some more thinking and put together a better and longer response for you in a future blog post because I do think this is a subject that needs to be better addressed.

  4. “Of course, in any group you are going to get some small groups of people who think that a lack of specific rules for behaviour is a license to do anything they want, regardless of who it may harm. There is a word for these people, they are called assholes.”

    And on the flip side, you’ll have that small group of people who will look at all the rules of their religion and engage in a bit of “rules lawyering” to explain why what they’re doing isn’t REALLY agains the rules or is somehow an exception to the rules and doesn’t count as breaking them. These people are also called assholes. As you said, there are assholes in every group, and they will find a way to be assholes no matter what a religion does to try and stop them.

    • Ah yes, I’ve touched on that briefly in the follow up blog post to this one. “You Can – But Should You?”

      And yes, these people are also assholes, and they can be found in any religion.

  5. Pingback: When Harm None Doesn’t Work | Writings of a Pagan Witch

I enjoy reading your responses, so please let me know what you think.

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