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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Sep. 8, 2002   This Page Viewed: 28,390,076  

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Question of the Week: 102 - 3/11/2003

Do Interfaith Conferences/ Discussions Work?

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work? Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion? What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

 Reponses:   There are 29 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Understanding Mar 11th. at 8:16:34 pm EST

N. K. (Victoria) Age: 28 - Email

I would like to start off by stating that I believe that no person of any religon should force that belief on anyone else. I do however feel that a sharing of ones beliefs can only help to bridge our understanding of one another. Many misconceptions as well as outright falsehoods could be dispelled. I also believe that the fear of not knowing and understanding our fellow human beings breeds aggression. There is much of that to be seen in the world around us today. They say ignorance is bliss, but thats untrue. By coming together in respect and a willingness to be open, many fears would be laid to rest. I also do not believe in the concern of absorbtion. Each person is given the opportunities in life to choose the path that is meant for them. In their hearts and spirits that guide them. Those that turn away from it do so at their own folly. To thine own self be true. I am a witch and have known that since I was a small child, I myself have been misdirected in life more than once, but I hold true to myself that it was always my choice, my path. The lessons that are taught to us are harder to learn for some. By sharing our stories, experiences and beliefs we can only hope to make the realization of those lessons easier for others and gain understanding for ourselves.

Interfaith Conferences And Alliance Make A Difference Mar 11th. at 9:57:15 pm EST

Steph (Midwest City OK) Age: 31 - Email

There will always be individuals who are willfully ignorant of other cultures, faiths and political parties, etc., However, most people I have interacted with are curious enough about other people, and other ways of living, points of view, and this curiosity will usually overcome their fear of others if they are approached in a manner that is conducive to reciprocal communication.

The goal of interfaith conferences is to establish meaningful, positive relationships between representative of different faiths. This is important.

In the case of the NeoPagan community, we are still having to undue the damage of the Satanic Panic in the 1970's, 80's and 90's. This was the big stink started by certain conservative secatarian Christian groups who insisted on spreading rumors and misinformation that portrayed America as a Hotbed of evil, Satanic, immoral infiltration that was responsible for things like missing children, mutilated cattle, crime, political or economic instability, and the great exodus from traditional Church attendence. It was a convenient way for some people to identify who to blame for the world's troubles or "the" source of evil. Much of this material was drawn from pop culture, religious and political propaganda such as the writings of Montague Summers, the Malleus Maleficarum, the Protocol of the Elder's of Zion, you name it.

What interfaith conferences and alliances have done is to dispell these rumors and misinformation about the NeoPagan community as well as other religious communities such as Judaism, Islam, Mormons, any religious group that has ever had to deal with stereotypes and persecution can and probably has benefited from Interfaith relations.

It is more difficult to demonize another cultural group, if one can readily identify with them as human beings.

I have dealt with individuals who think NeoPaganism is evil, or that it is misguided. If the person is very hostile, then unless they are treading on my civil rights or the rights of others, generally its best not the force the issue. Speaking slower and louder will only piss them off and indicate that you (the defender of your faith) think that they are retarded. On the other hand I always do my best to respond to honest questions and concerns. And If I do not have an answer I let them know and attempt to direct that person to someone who does have the answer they are seeking.

I believe that NeoPagans should seek to ensure their position in this country as members of mainstream society. While I do not think that NeoPagans should proslytize, I do believe that they should have access to equal rights and protections, just as any other citizen under the constitution. As a person who works as an advocate for civil rights and religious freedoms, I can say that while things are better now, due to the very hard work of many Pagans and advocates before us, our work is not done. As long as politicians, pundits, and religious leaders can refer to our religious community, to our traditions as substandard with impunity, then we have not reached that acceptable, equal level of acceptance in this country.

Keeping everything secret, looks suspicious. While we do not have to try and explain every tradition's take on the secret of the multiverse, certainly acting in a manner that looks suspicious, that makes us appear as if we have something to hide that is bad, will only hurt us and make this community vulnerable to charlatans, and cons who will prey on the gullible at our expense. If we want to be accepted, we at least have to be good neighbors, and participate in our local communities in a way that helps our communities and country prosper.

I do not generally have a problem with other religions. I do occasionally have problems with adherents of other religions. Theology whatever I think of it, is at best academic. However if there are people out there who interpret theology in a manner that causes them to act in a way that suggests they have supremacy over me or others, I have no problem bring that person down a notch or two.

Attacking someone simply for their membership in a religious community is not a good way to establish a good relationship or make a good impression on that faith. However that does not mean that anyone should have to put up with rude behavior in the name of Jesus, or Thor, or Buddha.

And specifically if a Christian wants to argue history with me personally, and should they make the fatal mistake of assuming a holier than thou attitude, I have news for them. I won't bash Christianity, but I will use their own documents to show the contradictory message that has been sent to adherents of that faith in the last 2000 years concerning things like treatment of women, slavery, war, and the treatment of other religions. No one faith is perfect. Every faith has played the "heavy" at some point in history. I don't have to toe anyone's party line. Good debate skills should not be considered bashing, and attempting to convert the "poor heathen" should not be considered good debate skills.

The main conflict between Christianity and NeoPaganism is how each community interprets the act of prosletyzing, and how each community idealizes authority.

Christianity uses the Bible and other documents to establish its doctrinal authority. Paganism recognizes no doctrinal authority.

Christianity has an edict from their own holy book which is considered to be the Word of their God, that tells them to convert others.

NeoPagans see prosletzing an act of spiritual arrogance.

These issues are the primary sparks that light the truly explosive arguments between Christians and NeoPagans.

It is hard to have a civilized debate or discussion until those items are removed from the table. Bashing is widespread, I don't believe that Christians are victimized any more than anyone else.

Yes, Working With Other Faiths Is A Great Idea. Mar 12th. at 12:37:24 am EST

Holly Feray (Houston, Texas) Age: 31 - Email - Web

"Do meetings...really work?" Yes, so many pastors of other faiths know nothing of our beleifs or only have misinformation, so talking with objectivity, clear information, and in a professional demeanor is important!

"Do you think ...mainstream religions?" Yes, they will think we are everyday people with everyday lives not the spooky and weird people that they might have been taught to fear.

What do you do/say when confronted ... Pagan or Heathen?I explain simply. I make positive comparisions of morals and beleifs. I engage them in polite discussion. I dispell myths. I act repectably and treat them with respect.

"Do you ...acceptance from other religions?" Yes, absolutely.
"Or is...enough for you?" No. My faith is everything to me. To have it defamed, dishonored, and belittled is a social injustice that must be rectified.

"How tolerant are YOU ...religion?" I am completely tolerant of other religions as long as long as they are life affirming.

"What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation?" It is a sad truth among the pagan community.

"Is it a widespread problem?" Absolutely. So many pagans are not willing to let go of their past paths and the negative things from those religions. As people of faith we must set both feet upon our new path and look forward when walking that new choosen path or we will trip and cause ourselves or others grievious injury.

Brightest Blessings,
Holly Feray

Interfaith Disscusions Mar 12th. at 2:46:02 am EST

Avian (BC, Canada) Age: 23 - Email

I really think that for the most part, it remains to be seen if interfaith conferences and discussions work. People have been trying to tell the world what Paganism is all about, and still people like that "Witch King" in Britian are making the news. I know that there is a lot more tolerance for Pagans than there used to be, but I have to say from my own experience that the VAST majority of people still think that we sacrifice cats.

I have no delusions of my spirituality being embraced by my neighbors, but I would like to see some measure of acceptance. Mostly I would just like Paganism to be recognized as a valid religous choice, and then be left to worship in peace. No more attempted convertings would definately be nice.

I, myself, am not entirely out of the broom closet yet, so I don't run into very many people thinking that I am personally evil or misguided. I try to avoid the subject of religion because those types of discussions often end up in shouting matches, and as a result most people think I am an atheist and leave me alone.

I, like every other Pagan that converted from a Christian upbringing, went through my phase of "I hate all that is Christ and the big, bad Xtians are responsible for all of history's ills", but I got over it, as I am sure that every other Pagan does. I subscribe to a purely "Live and Let Live" philosophy now, I try to see people as they are instead of as the cross or the fish they wear. I think it comes from the fact that I want people to see me as a person and not as a pentacle or devil worshiper.

Mostly, I think that Christian-bashing is a phase that most people have to go through on their path. When you study the history of your ancestors, or the culture of your dieties, and see what kind of damage they have done all over the world, how can you not be outraged? Eventually, you grow out of it, and you realize that everyone has to do what is right for THEM. And that those who have done all the damage and hurt all the innocent people were not true representatives of the Christian faith, just as that kooky Witch King is not a true representative of the Craft.

While I think that the dream will always be to be recognized as a major religion, and have a say in decisions and always be invited to telivised panels, etc - I would settle for just being allowed to do my own thing, and not have anyone judge me for it.

Response From A Young One.. Mar 12th. at 6:20:57 am EST

SilverShadow (Perth, Australia) Age: 14 - Email

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work? Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

I think it's worthwhile giving it a try even if it won't work.Alot of people just don't want to accept us regardless of their knowledge or tolerance.People like that are ignorant and it really bugs me.But those who do attend these meetings and discussions must have an interest or open mind.

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

I definately think that when your my age people have alot more decency than to bombard you devil worshipping accusations.That doesn't mean I never get confronted or insulted by people.I try to ignore these people especially if they are Christians or people who obviously have no idea what Pagans and Heathens are all about.

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

I think it would help a great deal if other religions accepted us because that would eliminate all these evil myths and lies.But there will still be people who don't agree.There will still be people calling us Satanists and devil worshippers.I'm quite happy the way things are now but ask me that question in another ten years time.

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion? What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

I'm a pretty accepting person and I'm quite tolerant of Christians, Buddhists, Atheists etc because it's their life and they choose to live like that.So long as they don't call their religion 'the right way' or similar.. 'the only way' ...
The whole Christian bashing thing is pathetic.I don't really have much more to add to it.

Yes... Mar 12th. at 7:16:10 am EST

Wolf's Voice (Singapore) Age: 28 - Email

... Interfaith dialogue will only work if all the parties are willing to listen to one another without assumptions and stereotypes. And willing to learn from one another in the spirit of tolerance and acceptance.

I personally feel that the reason why interfaith conferences/discussions fail, because people are unwilling to change. Resistant to the point of being reactionary. But I also feel that they would work if everyone makes a point to work from their differences and find common ground.

I find the 'Christian bashing' rather old and stale. And so is bashing of any other kind. Oddly enough, the Christian bashing I have seen seems to have come from people who have never encountered or befriended people of other religions and faiths. Then again, the ones who elicit the bashing are also the ones who make moderate Christians feel embarrassed. I think the same goes for other faiths too.

Wolf's Voice

Yes, But No. Mar 12th. at 8:47:34 am EST

jade (canada) Age: 16 - Email

People are stubborn. They always have been and they always will be, they are also unwilling to accept diversity. But, I believe that wicca/witchcraft/paganism are shunned down on because people don't understand what they stand for. By communicating with other religions or religious groups we would be able to create a tolerance between religions. It's a good idea, but who would be willing to do it?

Hmmm, This Is A Good Question... Mar 12th. at 8:57:15 am EST

Silver Raven (Jo Marriott) (Nottingham, England) Age: 20 - Email - Web

I think such discussions have failed previously because many people feel threatened by the traditional image of a witch and all the lies that go with it e.g. being in league with the devil etc. People who want to listen will listen, but only as long as they do not feel that the Pagan is trying to convert them. Funny really, because a lot of mainstream religions don't seem to respect that.

I've told Jehovah Witnesses before that I'm a witch and they were actually quite tolerant. I was expecting them to run off or look at me like I was a mad woman, but instead they asked me questions about my beliefs which I happily answered for them. They didn't feel threatened by me, and we found that we actually shared similar views about world issues e.g the Iraq crisis.

I think Pagan/Nature religions should seek government recognition as a "proper" religion. Firstly, so many people these days are turning to alternative therapies that there is a need to be recognised legally. Secondly, because there are so many of us around these days, many of us have to have 2 ceremonies for weddings, funerals etc, because anyone who wants a Pagan service also has to have a mainstream religious/commonlaw service so that it is recognised by the law. I was married before I found the Old Religion, but I would have been greatly offended if I had had to have an Anglican ceremony just for the sake of being recognised as legally married!

I have no problem with people of other beliefs, as long as they are not trying to force their beliefs on me. Live and let live, I say!

A Good Idea Mar 12th. at 9:04:17 am EST

amy (southampton, england) Age: 22 - Email

Interfaith discussions are a wonderful thing and desperately necessary in these times. I love talking about religion with open-minded people, because it’s really interesting to hear their ideas. You learn far more listening to religious practitioners than you do listening to your religious studies teacher. :-) I think people’s views would change a lot if they entered into religious dialogues with Pagans, because by and large people still don’t know much about Paganism or Witchcraft.

If someone confronts me over my faith, it depends how they do it. My Christian best friend has a very open mind, so we discuss our differences calmly. If people were more hostile I’d just laugh at them and walk off. I wouldn’t spare the time of day.

I'm not sure about the question of acceptance. As I understand, most of us are living a relatively normal life. I'd certainly like persecution to end, but certainly being left alone is all I ask at present.

I hope I am as tolerant as anyone should be toward other religions. I enjoy the diversity of beliefs that exists in the world. Bottom line, I am happy to live and let live as long as others do the same. With regard to ‘Christian-bashing’, I think most of us have felt some anger toward Christians at some point, but it's probably more to do with the Church's role as persecutor and oppressor than anything else.

Bright Blessings,

Open Minds Mar 12th. at 1:29:26 pm EST

Anjie (North Dakota) Age: 20 - Email

I think that interfaith conferences can work. I don't think they always do though. I think that some times, some people (I'm talkin christians, pagans, jews, muslims, everytype) simply don't want to accept that other people can believe something different and have it be a legitimate belief. There are people out there who simply don't know any better. Up untill about 2 years ago, I myself would have laughed in your face if you'd told me you were a witch. But now I know better. I think that we can change the minds of those open minded people to at least leave pagans in peace, if not accept us.

If someone tells me I'm evil because I'm a witch, I ask they why that makes me evil? Generally they say something about "Cause you worship Satan!". Then I gently point out that I can't very well worship someone/thing I don't believe in in the first place. If they say something about human or blood sacrifices, I point out that I would never do any such thing and that the only sacrifices I would ever dream of making would be of incense or food or something like that. Many say "Because God says in the Bible (sometimes they quote a verse here to try to impress me) that Witches are evil and should be gotten rid of" or something to that effect. I simply say, yes, but didn't Jesus say, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"? It's helpful to know some of the bible when dealing with these kind of people. There are a few who, uppon finding out I'm a witch, get an "i pitty you" look and say "I'll pray for you". To this I say, "Great. You pray that I find God, and I'll pray that you find the Goddess." Generally they're very supprised by this and it either leads to them backing away and looking at me like i'm insane, or it leads to a very interesting discussion.

I'm not so sure if Pagans should seek acceptance with other relgions. I don't think that "acceptance" is exactly the right word for it. I think we should try to achieve a kind of balance, or harmony with them. I don't think that most religions will accept us. More likely they may "tolerate" us.

Generally, I tolerate other religions prety well, in my estimation. It's ignorance that I simply won't tolerate. I do get into "Christian Bashing" to a small extent when I hear stories of some of the more extreamist christians trying to force their beliefs on others in one way or another. But there are faults with all religions I think. After all, religions are organized by humans, and, therefore, can't be perfect. Besides, it's kind of relaxing some times to sit with my pagan friends and generally complain about Christians in general. It's like complaining about work or school. You generally don't realy mind it, but complaining about it keeps too much steam from building up.

0.02 Mar 12th. at 1:50:44 pm EST

kesair (Syracuse NY) Age: 41 - Email

I think dialogue is the only way to dispel myths and false teachings. I also realize that some participants enter dialogues with the intention of "dialoguing" only, and not of listening, so these one-way discussions inevitably fail to promote mutual acceptance. That doesn't mean dialogues are useless; I believe there will always be people who want to learn.
I'd like to see my Christian family members and friends accept my path change without fear or worry over where I will be in the next estate because of it. I understand and respect the beliefs, and I know it's very difficult for many Christians to recognize the validity of non Christian paths because of the doctrine that teaches the "one true way" perspective.
I recently chose a Wiccan path, coming from a Christian one, but I did not have the negative experiences within the church I went to that so many other Pagans apparently have had. I can't identify with much of the hostility I read from some Pagan writers against Christians in general. I think it's unfortunate, but I try to remember that many people have had to deal with "Christians" very unlike most of those I've associated with.
I am not "out", except to a few friends, but my Christian sister knows I follow a Pagan path. It frightens her, because of the teachings that seemingly innocent Pagan religions are just tools Satan uses to distract people from the "one true way". I don't criticize her for her beliefs, because they were once my beliefs, and they are her heartfelt beliefs. We try not to let this change strain our relationship, although it's hard. She cannot yet listen to me tell her what my path is about because of the fear, for which she apologizes, but it's still genuine. Yet this past Christmas, she gave me a brooch/pendant of a beautiful crescent moon surrounded by silver rays. She nodded when I asked whether she knew this was a Goddess symbol, and I am deeply touched by her gesture: this was her way of telling me she is trying to accept, despite her own beliefs.
I am always interested to know what other people believe, and I hope to have many discussions with a variety of people. I'm not threatened by religions that are different from mine; indeed, I see commonalities among the ones I've been able to learn a little (or a lot) about. Hopefully, dialogue can help people of various faiths to let go of the fear that makes acceptance so difficult.
Fatuous and idealistic, I know, but I still support it.

What Else Should We Do? Have A Crusade? Mar 12th. at 3:05:28 pm EST

Zenith (Linden, Michigan) Age: 21 - Email - Web

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work?

Yes and no. Yes, if the participants are actually trying to explain their views and engage in dialog that promotes understanding between the differing views. No, if they are simply trying to prove that their way is morally or spiritually correct. All paths are correct, it is simply how one travels that denotes their morality. Futhermore, one cannot judge the actions or beliefs of another individual as morally right or wrong unless they have an extensive background in said beliefs or actions. As some would say it is always wrong to steal, others would state that feeding themselves upon these goods is the only way to survive. If I were in a life or death situation and I would need to commit an act that would violate anothers beliefs, would I not deem my life more valuable than their comfort? Comfort can be reattained, and relationships can be patched.

Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

Honestly I do, and I would enjoy seeing more such meetings televised. Could you imagine the good that could be accomplished if all religions could do more than tolerate each other? Quite simply, religion, and money, is the main factor in most wars nowadays. I believe we could reach a point where people respect the ideals of other cultures and religions, learning from each other to the benefit of all. Or at least I hope we could. The human race as a whole is rather arrogant.

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

*shrugs* They have no knowledge with which to make such an accusation stick, so why should I care what they say? I have no need to heed the opinions made by ignorant people. Whenever such occurs, I smile and ask them if they would like to understand my beliefs. Usually, they say no and continue to curse me. I have found some who have settled themselves down long enough to listen, and they never insult another religious system to my knowledge again. I've seen a few of them question their current belief system after I've had a little chat with them.

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

I do not believe we should outwardly show that we are looking for acceptance, because most of us are not. We should speak out more often, though, and educate the general public of who and what we are. We need to dispell fears and hatred or continue to be persecuted and risk the possibilty of violence. The last thing Paganism needs is a riot to form under a banner of hatred direct at us, or for a few "bad apples" to attack other religions.

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion?

Ecstatic, as long as they are willing to explain their beliefs to me without trying to convert me. I love theology. It is probally the most fasinating subject on this planet. I've had many Christians and Jehovahs Witnesses come to my home and speak with me. They usually start by trying to convert me, but they leave with a smile on their face and more wisdom in their hearts. *chuckles* That's the benefit of having an extensive library of theological information!

What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

*Sighs* Yes, unfortunately it is. I have to catch myself at times from being discriminatory, and that bothers me. I have no right to feel anger towards anther belief system unless I understand everything there is to know about that system. This is an impossible task, so I will never be able to judge a religion with the absolute convictions of what is morally right or wrong. I try to keep it at a minimum when I have a room full of Pagans, but the jokes and hostilities always seem to leak out. I've never had such occur when I actually have Christians in my presence, it just doesn't happen. I will not allow it. *sighs* I am ashamed to say, though as much as I try to convince myself of how wrong "Christian bashing" is, I still enjoy it.

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