Practice begets belief: An interview with Rev. Michael J Dangler, Druid
- Dr. Glenys Livingstone, author of PaGaian Cosmology – Dec. 21
- Dr. Chet Raymo, author of When God Is Gone, Everything Is Holy – Dec. 25
- Chris Stedman, author of Nonprophet Status – Jan. 8
- Dr. Brendan Myers, author of Loneliness and Revelation – Jan. 15
- Rev. Michael J. Dangler, Druid and Senior Priest of Three Cranes Grove – Jan. 22
- Dr. Ursula Goodenough, author of The Sacred Depths of Nature – Jan. 29
Click above to listen.
Contemporary Paganism is quietly hiding a revolutionary feature: it emphasizes practice over belief. In other words, shared participation in ritual activity is considered more important than shared doctrine. The term for this is orthopraxy, as opposed to orthodoxy, and it’s what allows a polytheist, a pantheist, and an atheist to come together around the same altar without a fistfight.
To learn more about this peculiarity, I interview Reverend Michael J Dangler, ordained priest of the Neopagan Druid organization Ar nDraiocht Fein (ADF).
“What is the relationship between practice and belief?” I ask.
“Practice begets belief,” he answers.
This is a radical statement. Most of us are accustomed to thinking that belief ought to beget practice: Why do ritual if you don’t believe in it?
What this standard view misses is the power of outward human activity to mold and transform the self. Our beliefs are based on our experiences, and only through experience – through doing – do beliefs emerge. Thus, Michael says (to paraphrase):
“It almost always feels like going through the motions at first, but the more you do it, the more the practice comes to reflect the beliefs that emerge.”
What’s key here is that the beliefs that emerge are not predetermined, and are always open to revision. ADF enshrines non-dogma as a core value, and beliefs are entirely up to the individual. How you interpret your experience is your business.
While the majority in ADF are probably polytheists, there is variety. I’ve even heard a former Archdruid joke, “I’m a Monday-Wednesday theist, and a Tuesday-Thursday atheist.”
This is a radically different approach to spirituality than the traditional dogma of Abrahamic religions. It may be more consistent with democracy, insofar as what matters first and foremost is that you vote, not who you vote for. It may also be more consistent with science, insofar as what matters most is that you employ good scientific method, not that you start with a particular theory.
In view of these considerations, I believe orthopraxy may have powerful implications for the Western religious landscape.
Find out what Rev. Michael J Dangler has to say about it in this audio interview.
Here’s what’s in store:
- We introduce our paths.
- We share stories of experiences illustrating the relationship of practice and belief.
- We speculate on what the modern Pagan emphasis on practice over belief may contribute to the religious landscape
Rev. Michael J Dangler has been an Ár nDraíocht Féin: A Druid Fellowship (ADF) member for over 10 years. He is currently an ADF Senior Priest and a Grove Priest of Three Cranes Grove, ADF, in Columbus, OH. He currently serves as the ADF Clergy Council Preceptor, overseeing all formal clergy and initiate study within ADF. His academic background is in history and religious studies, and he has written several books on Druidry for ADF. His personal webpage is at http://www.chronarchy.com/