Jesus and Mo move over—you’ve got competition

This is at once ridiculous and hilarious: the Charity Commission of the UK has decided that druids—or rather the Druid Network—is to be granted status as a religion. This status comes of course with tax breaks.

The BBC reports:

BBC religious affairs correspondent Robert Pigott says that with concern for the environment growing and the influence of mainstream faiths waning, druidry is flourishing more now than at any time since the arrival of Christianity.

Druidry’s followers are not restricted to one god or creator, but worship the spirit they believe inhabits the earth and forces of nature such as thunder.

Druids also worship the spirits of places, such as mountains and rivers, with rituals focused particularly on the turning of the seasons.

After a four-year inquiry, the Charity Commission decided that druidry offered coherent practices for the worship of a supreme being, and provided a beneficial moral framework.

Since (according to Wikipedia) the druid religion has a long history, antedating Christianity, and since by its own lights the Druid Network is largely polytheistic, recognized religions clearly have a new and serious competitor.  It will be fun to see Christians like Karl Giberson explain why they’re so sure that there’s only one god—the Christian one—and not a bunch of supernatural spirits.

h/t: Anthony Grayling

37 Comments

  1. Posted October 2, 2010 at 5:39 am | Permalink

    Or natural spirits, for that matter.

  2. Marella
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 5:59 am | Permalink

    So can I be a Druid priestess and not have to pay tax? What training is involved and who says I’ve passed or not? Will I need a planning permit for a standing stone in the back garden?

    • Dominic
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 6:31 am | Permalink

      You would still pay tax on your income, no special status for religious folk fortunately. Planning permission would be required depending on the size of your ‘henge’ monument. Pity, as I want to have a burial mound on a cliff top like Beowulf!

      • Posted October 5, 2010 at 1:51 pm | Permalink

        Are you saying that even (as a religion/charity) if I do not have to pay rates and Council tax on my property, if I let out my property for income producing activities that result in my garnering rent from such premises, that I will have to pay income tax on the income??

        Yes?

  3. Posted October 2, 2010 at 6:07 am | Permalink

    This article also demonstrates why I’m against special benefits for religions above and beyond what other non-profit organizations get. It’s not just that religion gets benefits over non-religion. It requires the government to determine what is and what isn’t a proper religion.

    This should also worry the religious. If you give the government the authority to give religions its status, you have also given it the authority to take it away. This has obvious consequences for the freedom of religion, as well as for the separation of church and state.

  4. Dominic
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 6:27 am | Permalink

    Yes – when ‘seahenge’ was excavated a nutty new age ‘druid’ person sat on it & held up the archaeological rescue/excavation.

    More disturbing, below the abstract to this new article, Deus or Darwin: Randomness and belief in theories about the origin of life, Journal of Experimental Social Psychology
    Volume 46, Issue 6, November 2010, Pages 1078-1080
    http://tiny.cc/5of8i
    Elsevier have sponsored links – including one for Scientology. How can they justify sponsored links, & for religion at that?

    • Kevin
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

      Heh. If there’s a way to charge for it or squeeze one additional kroner out of it, Elsevier will find a way.

  5. Posted October 2, 2010 at 6:55 am | Permalink

    I see no problem with this. One religion is as worthy as another, I say. If the LDS get breaks, then the druids get breaks. Plus the druids are a bit more fun to hang with.

  6. steve oberski
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 7:10 am | Permalink

    Jedi knights next ?

    One way to bring down ridiculous legislation like this is to take it at face value and overload the bureaucratic process.

    There are a lot of gods out there waiting for their tax breaks.

  7. Divalent
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 7:20 am | Permalink

    Anybody have a recommendation on the “very best” treatment from a serious theologist supporting the truth and value of Druidism?

    I think it is very important to hear what those people think about the case for these religions, because they are (as we all acknowledge) the experts on these things. I mean, it’s hard give “respect” to the opinions and yammerings of a bunch of non-theologist non-druids, since what do they know?

    • Badger3k
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:59 am | Permalink

      I’m sure it is in Mr Shooks newest book. Just buy it to be sure!

  8. Posted October 2, 2010 at 7:50 am | Permalink

    This is so Spinal Tap. I, for one, welcome druids and bards with open ovates.

  9. Ken Pidcock
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 7:51 am | Permalink

    I don’t know. I’m kindly disposed toward Druids and Wiccans. Unless I’m naïve, most understand that they’re fabricating the supernatural. They’re believers in belief without the mendacity. We could use some of that. Oh, yeah, and Jedi knights, too. Why not?

    • Tulse
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:09 am | Permalink

      I’m kindly disposed toward Druids and Wiccans […] most understand that they’re fabricating the supernatural

      And that’s exactly why I’m not kindly disposed towards them. If you want to role play, fine — I enjoy D&D as much as the next person. But don’t expect me to treat your roleplaying as if it were a religion, with all the associated privileges and social expectations. It’s bad enough we have people who are actually deluded about gods and the supernatural, we don’t need anyone who is merely pretending to be deluded.

      • Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:37 am | Permalink

        But what about jousting in the park? Don’t they have first amendment rights? It’s time for Tolkien to make a cultural comeback.

    • articulett
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:02 pm | Permalink

      I like offbeat religions, because they remind the main religions why we have a secular society. I encourage theists not to ask for privileges they would not want to have granted to druids or other religions and I encourage the wackier religions to demand everything the Christians demand.

      The government can’t be in the business of deciding what is and isn’t a religion, right?

  10. Urmensch
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 8:03 am | Permalink

    It will be just another group looking for opportunities to whine about disrespect and intolerance any chance they get, as likely as not.
    Like the time the giant Homer Simpson was drawn beside the Cerne Abbas giant.
    Even though it was done in biodegradable paint and wouldn’t harm the giant in any way, pagan groups didn’t hesitate to start whinging about disrespect and talking of performing magic rituals to cause it to rain and wash away the Homer.
    It was particularly annoying in that paganism today is basically an invention and probably has hardly any resemblance to the original.
    But then the same goes for Druidism.

    I did like someones bit of creativity with the Cerne/Homer thing though.
    HomerChalk

    • Stephen P
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:28 am | Permalink

      It was particularly annoying in that paganism today is basically an invention and probably has hardly any resemblance to the original.
      But then the same goes for Druidism.

      Let’s face it: much the same is true for Christianity as well.

  11. Kevin
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 8:06 am | Permalink

    Wait…I thought the Druids practiced human sacrifice…

    I can just see the schism coming.

    The orthodox Druids will demand that they be allowed to carry out executions in death penalty cases. Of course, since Britain abolished the death penalty, that will have to change in order to accommodate the religion.

    The conservative Druids will only demand that they be allowed to perform amputations of gangrenous limbs. An entire new caste of healthcare Druid will crop up.

    The reform Druids will only clip their fingernails in public. Maybe foot-scraping.

    Honestly, I would not care one whit if it weren’t for the tax breaks. The people of Great Britain should be angry as hell.

    NO TAX BREAKS FOR RELIGION.

    Sorry for the shouting.

  12. Posted October 2, 2010 at 8:20 am | Permalink

    Democracy considers all religions as illogical and irrelevent resultantly there are no seriuos attempts to know and understand this most important aspect of human being. If divinity exists there has to be single plateform where logic, science and religion can stand on the same platform in a symbiotic state; unfortunatelythis is the most neglected field of study; though most important.

    • Kevin
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 8:37 am | Permalink

      Suppositional error.

      If divinity exists

      First, prove the existence of such a thing. After you do that, we can talk about the rest.

      You’re putting the metaphysical cart before the epistemological horse.

  13. Utakata
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:06 am | Permalink

    There’s this certain online game I play where Druids can turn into “cat forms” and “bear forms”…

    …and sorry, I can’t get that out of my mind when I read this article. 😦

  14. Jacobus van Beverningk
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:20 am | Permalink

    “After a four-year inquiry, the Charity Commission decided that druidry offered coherent practices”

    *blink*
    If it takes a commission FOUR YEARS to figure out that the offered practices are ‘coherent’, then, maybe, the practices weren’t THAT coherent after all.

    But now that they’re done with it, maybe the committee can tackle the coherency of a Roman Catholic Mass.
    I predict a much longer process.

    • Jacobus van Beverningk
      Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:21 am | Permalink

      .. wouldn’t you LOVE to be on such a committee, though? 😉

  15. mike m
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 9:42 am | Permalink

    I’m more apposed to tax breaks for religious groups that outwardly participate in getting their agenda pushed into our government, especially the judicial branch.

    Their was a Druid festival in Seattle held downtown under the freeway a few years ago. Other than a really cool cello player (Jamie Seibert) it was rather strange and no one at any of the booths seemed to me to have a real grasp at what they were doing.

    • Posted October 2, 2010 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      “…seemed to me to have a real grasp at what they were doing.”

      Hahahaha. Yes, the intellectually oblivious “mystique” of a ren-fest.

      • Posted October 2, 2010 at 2:33 pm | Permalink

        What is a ren-fest? It would have been pleasant to hold it in Fremont, around the Troll.

  16. Posted October 2, 2010 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Don’t forget, these tax breaks come because Druid Network is a registered charity. All Druid organisations are not receiving tax breaks.

    The issue is, should religious organisations be charities? I would say say.

    Should advancing a religion be charitable? I would say no, as to me, there is no public benefit.

    http://www.charity-commission.gov.uk/library/about_us/druiddec.pdf

    • Posted October 2, 2010 at 10:03 am | Permalink

      “The issue is, should religious organisations be charities? I would say say.”

      Vital missing word: “Yes”

  17. Diane G.
    Posted October 2, 2010 at 2:43 pm | Permalink

    Link hopped to this page of the site Jerry linked to:

    http://druidnetwork.org/en/deity

    …and immediately was reminded of an early scene in 2001: A Space Odyssy.

    Ya gotta love that they’re so upfront about basically arising from mythology & folktales…

  18. Tim Harris
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 8:10 am | Permalink

    Faith Skools for Druids!

  19. Posted October 3, 2010 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    Now come on, and what about the Olympians (OK, I’m greek so what?). They have being recognized as a religion in mid-2005 and nobody seems to be excited.
    If Giberson have to start somewhere to justify christianity the Olympians would be a nice (better?) start.

  20. jdhuey
    Posted October 3, 2010 at 3:31 pm | Permalink

    I’m waiting for the talk show round table where they bring in various religious leaders to discuss some topic from a religious perspective and you have a Protestant, a Catholic and a Druid presenting their views of, say, the economic austerity measures in Greece.

  21. Dan L.
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 10:59 am | Permalink

    Anything that breaks into the market share of the book religions is fine with me. The more weird, marginal religions like druidism elbow their ways in demanding equal time, the more ridiculous the whole shebang looks.

    Imagine 20 years from now the UK government holding an inquiry into whether they should be subsidizing religious belief and the advisory council consists of a druid, a witch, a scientologist, a jedi, a pastafarian, and an Anglican priest. Even sitting at the table to make his voice heard is going to make the priest look ridiculous. Isn’t that exactly what we want?

  22. Alesia
    Posted October 4, 2010 at 1:49 pm | Permalink

    There are some militant Druids in the UK. They don’t like archaeologists digging up prehistoric sites and want all prehistoric human remains reburied and never studied. They have no idea about real prehistory and I do wonder if they are afraid that archaeologists will keep on proving their beliefs wrong which is why they want to silence them. This is bad move as it could well lead to the stifling of scientific research.


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