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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: 20,886,580  

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Reponses: 29

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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 

Nope Mar 12th. at 3:44:47 pm EST

Sloopz (Scotland) Age: 17 - Email - Web

I feel that they dont work. I am faced with many challenges in my college course but the main challenge is the christian faith, the are dedicated to "put down" other faiths except there own. I have been many a debate wich has turned out to be an argument over the topic of faith. All faiths belive different things yet most faiths are to blind to see that not everyone will and want to follow there belief.

The Path To Understanding Mar 12th. at 4:02:19 pm EST

Stormwind (Canada) Age: 25 - Email

Christian bashing really bothers me. I attend Pagan events with my partner who considers himself Catholic, and hearing a group of people ragging on all Christians as intolerant and narrow minded makes him feel very unwelcome. Although there are Christians who are convinced that it is their mission in life to tell anyone who's not Christian that they are wrong and bound for hell, most Christians that I find are very tolerant people. Even a few of those who think I may be on the wrong path, aren't hateful about it....they keep their opinions mostly to themselves and recognize I have a right to practice what I believe in.

Only through learning about one another, recognizing and accepting differences and discovering similarities, only through having an understanding of one another's beliefs will we learn tolerance and acceptance.

I never mind taking the time to answer emails or questions about what my pentacle is or why I celebrate different holidays from the mainstream. Most people are nervous/frightened at first, then curious, and finally somewhat surprised that "that's all there is to it". Most people who find the idea bizarre at first accept it as logical by the end, and have learned something.

Now, if someone's simply ranting at me about being bound for hell, I don't stand for their abuse. I exit the situation as quickly and civilly as possible.

But for the most part, educating people clearly, simply and factually if they ask doesn't take a lot of time and makes life a little bit easier on all the Pagans out there.

My Thoughts... Mar 12th. at 8:22:18 pm EST

Amber Heathen (Cornelius Oregon) Age: 22 - Email

Interfaith discussions/conferences can work if the people involved are willing to talk, and even debate, without mudslinging. I host in a interfaith chat room, and sure it has its rough moments, but for the most part it's peaceful.

What do I do when someone accuses me of being evil for being Pagan? Depends on the situation. If it's in a work environment (which has happened only once) , I spoke with my supervisor, explained the situation, and things worked out just fine. People rarely approach me on the street or on the bus about it because I don't draw attention to myself. But on the rare chance they do, either from seeing my pentagram necklace, or take a peek at a book I'm reading on the bus I usually just laugh it off, turn up my Walkman and ignore them. If I'm in a particularly pissy mood (I'm not a morning person) a few snippy words may be exchanged, but nothing more. Friends will sometimes jokingly ask "So are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" and I'll smile and say "Depends on what mood I'm in."

I don't really seek acceptance from others about what I personally believe. They can either choose to accept it, or choose not to. I don't care either way.

Christian bashing IS a problem, and quite frankly, it pisses me off. My parents (whom I love very much) , and many of my relatives and friends are Christians. All the losers out there whining about Christians and saying hateful things about them, are saying hateful things about people *I* care about. I doubt they'd like it very much if I called someone they care about a "hate mongering a-hole." If I caught anyone in "real life" (ie not online) bashing Christians, they'd probably have to pick themself off the ground. If there are certain people they don't like who happen to be Christian, fine. But don't pin it on all Christians. The same people who whine about "bigoted Christians", are in fact, "bigoted Pagans". I don't care if their parents "forced" them to go to church every Sunday and they rebelled at age 15. So friggin' what. My parents forced me to go to church every Sunday till I was 16 and I don't hold it against them, and I'm not warped or traumatized from the experience. And I don't hold it against Christianity as a whole, although I went to a really *lousy* church full of snobby arrogant morons (not to mention the pastor who preached every Sunday about the importance of family values had an affair and crushed his own family) . I know that not all Christians are like that, and I would be the biggest idiot on earth if I held the entire religion accountable for the actions of a few.

Preaching To The Choir Mar 13th. at 2:26:11 pm EST

The Sweeper (OK) Age: 49 - Email

“…meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith …” is a wonderful abstract conception, however in reality they are generally the equivalent of preaching to the choir.
Sadly, the folks attending these shindigs are ether generally tolerant of people who are different or they are there to point fingers and condemn.
The simple fact is “…dialogue with mainstream religions…” for the most part solves nothing; individual interaction with real people every day as we live our live will create change.
Everything resists change; rarely does a cultural epiphany result in a dramatic revolutionary alteration of ingrained social belief.
I am amazed at the size of the Pagan/Heathen community today; twenty years ago I knew of or had know less then fifty Witches my entire life.
Today because of the internet, I know more Witches then I could possibly count.
I believe in patience, I believe that acceptance will come, in my time perhaps not, but surely in my children’s.
However, popular acceptance is not necessary for validation of my beliefs.
I would prefer not to be condemned, but I could care less if my beliefs are acceptable to others.

Christian bashing is absurd and counter-productive.
Do I feel like bashing a Christian occasionally, oh dear yes?
However, bashing all Christians because some Christians hate me is ridicules.
Is it a wide spread problem?
You’re kidding Right?
Good grief, I think our entire live are run by squeaky wheels.

The Sweeper

They Sort Of Work Mar 13th. at 5:00:27 pm EST

jason mankey (Lansing Michigan) Age: 30 - Email

This is an interesting topic, and one I have a little personal experience with. I was an active part of a college Pagan group for several years. During that time I became friendly with a Christian missionary on campus who ran one of the dozens (and dozens) of Christian groups based at the university. On three seperate ocassions we set up some "Pagan/Christian Discussion Nights." I was also privledged enough to be at another "Religious Roundtable" which featured some Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students (with myself included) . What was most amusing about that one was that I was probably better prepared to anwser the questions about Christianity than the Christian panelists were. (A great deal of faith doesn't mean you can actually anwser a question.)

Of course the big question is "does any of this have a positive effect." Well I think it does, but to a very small degree. It can help both sides. There are as many intolerant Pagans as there are intolerant Christians. In a lot of Pagan circles there can be a deep dislike of Christian ideas and the people who practice them (especially among younger folks who are usually recovering from Christianity) . Any Christian who at least bothers to listen to what you have to say gets a few extra points to begin, and it puts Christians in a more positive light, anyone who takes the time to try and figure you can't be all bad.

My good friend the Christian missionary probably still thinks I'm going to hell after listening to me explain my faith dozens of times. However, he is respectful of it and doesn't try to convert me to his way of thinking. After doing three of those roundtables nearly everyone from his Christian group remembers me, and they are all extremely polite and never hesitate to come up and say hi. What I think they got most out of the discussion was that "we are not scary." I don't think we changed their opinion about the validity of our faith, but at least we didn't scare them anymore, and they didn't have the silly misconceptions which accompany the words "witch" or "Pagan."

After the roundtable discussions many of the folks on both sides of the religious divide would head out for a group dinner. This is where things got interesting, and you could really see the battle lines heating up. Many of the Pagan types seemed obsessed with pointing out the flaws in Christian theology and showing off the swiss cheese factor of the Bible (it has lots of holes, contradictions, and other problems) . The Christians on the other hand suddenly became obsessed with getting all the Pagans to head to a church service. My offer was then (and it still is now) if you'd like me to come to church with you I'll be happy to do so, however I'd like you to stop by for a ritual sometime. I've been to church, I'm still waiting for someone to attend a ritual.

What were the other specific questions? Let me play cut and paste.

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

I don't think we change their opinion about the validity of our faith very often, but I think the whole process serves to make people less scared (or worried) of us.

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

I ask them why they think that way and then sit down with them and explain my faith. If it gets really ugly I have two options: Whip out the Bible and begin tearing their religion to shreads, or get up and walk away and agree to disagree. The second course is probably the best one.

>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 the freedom to be left alone is all that most of us really want. I don't care if the Pope validates Paganism, if he just chose to be respectful of it that would be amazing enough.

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?

As many of us have had bad experiences with Christianity, it makes Christian bashing easy to do. However, most Christians are nice, tolerant people. The media in this country always picks the extreme part of something to share with the general public. Unfortunately that means we generally see only the far right conservative intolerant side of a usually positive religion. We should have more important things to do than just gripe about a different religion, besides all that bitching is going to come back to you, why not channel your energy in a more positive direction?

Personally I get along really well with folks from other faiths. I try hard to see my Goddess and God in their holy books and activities. I honestly believe that all positive paths lead towards the same center and don't see the need to be negative to someone whose core beliefs are probably pretty parallel to my own.

bright blessings,

Peace, Cousins. Mar 13th. at 6:48:00 pm EST

Storm's Feather (Russellville, Ar) Age: 16 - 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 love having peaceful, argumentive discussions on religion, as long as the people i'm discussing with understand that i might be offended, and, when i'm offended, i might tell the truth about their religion. Most of the time, however, i'm discussing with either fledgling Christian boys, or my still underdeveloped Heathen friends. They understand that i think differently from them, that i'm not a "Heathen" or "Pagan", but a Reconstructionalist with knowledge on a bunch of different religions. And, as it might suprise some, i trust the Christians more than i do Pagans, as long as they're not holding a gun, or have their fingers over a nuclear missle launcher button (*coughs* BUSH!) If you know enough about Bible readers, you can hold their faith over their head. It's easy to see why great religious leaders of the past changed the bible to suit their purposes.
If someone sincerly wants to know the truth about a belief, they'll learn. Otherwise, if we engage people in conversation, telling them of your beliefs, when they don't want to know, we're just as bad as Christians.. and Jehova Witnesses, and other belief systems.

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

*goes and gets her Eternal Children-friends, and fellow Pagans... and sit down and have a nice little chat about wrong and right*
Actually, no one accuses me of anything (save one friend who's trying to be a Pagan without leaving church. Stupid propeganda.. my friend calls me the "Anti-Christ", which i have a nice little comeback: Christ was a good person, but only human. why not support Buddha? Praise Buddha! *this works during forensic tournaments when Greenwood is present.. the chant of Praise Buddha starts up, and it usually scares "normal" people away) and when they do, i point out that being a Reconstructionalist is just like being a Christian because All Gods are One God.. and if God wanted to make everyone Christian, we'd be able to see God face to face, and he'd tell us he's real.. I've stopped saying "I'll believe in God when he comes down and thumps me on the head." Too many Christians too smart for their own britches thinkin' they're God.

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 that acceptance is great, but leave me alone.. I love hearing so many pagens being open about their religion, and i wish Christians were about as open as they were: "Yeah, i'm Wiccan.. what was our homework in English?" vs. "I'm Christian, proud of it, wanna come to our FCA meeting at 6 before our Meet me at the flag pole meeting at 7, when we go into school, we'll have a group prayer, and carry out bibles with us everywhere we go, because we're confusing ourself about what it means to have faith!"

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 admit it, i'm a Christian-Basher.. but i'm polite about it. I walked into a christian store "Living Word" because i thought it was a pet store "Living World...". Instead of wheeling around and leaving in shock and disgust, i meandered around the store for 15 minutes, looking at the books, movies, tapes, Christian-y stuff.. i liked the nail files, and the keychains. So, i turned my hatred into an early birthday shopping for Christian friends. It amused me to no end how much junk there is to support one's faith.

Interfaith Conferences Mar 13th. at 11:13:28 pm EST

Saradia (Campbellsport, WI) Age: 18 - 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?

Whenever I've been in a discussion or conference designed to promote "tolerance" between religions, they don't talk about any religions except Judaism, Christianity, and Islam unless I actually bring it up (which is met with a "0_o?" face most of the time) I'm almost certain that others are different from this, in which case it definately will help.

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

I generally go along with the conversation as calmly as I can, answer their questions, etc. If it doesn't change their view, I leave them alone. They have every right to believe that I'm wrong/evil, I'm fine with it as long as they at least get their basic facts straight (in regard to things like sacrifice and stuff)

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?

We should seek it, but not force it. And we should educate instead of whining that "wah wah wah, they think I'm evil because I'm a Pagan!"

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 consider myself tolerant, at least I try to be. I used to be a -really- intolerant person, I would spend my days nit-picking through the Bible so that I could "get people to understand why Christianity is wrong." Then I realized how utterly stupid I looked, reconciled with my Christian friends, and feel much happier. Now I go on a case-by-case basis. I'm a loud and arrogant person, I'll admit, so I get into fights. But I'm proud to say that I do so without regard to the person's religion, but to their personality. I think Christian-bashing is hypocritical and childish, you cannot expect to be accepted yourself if you don't accept other people.

Do Interfaith Confrences/Descussions Work? Mar 14th. at 3:47:06 pm EST

Rising Phoenix (Earth) Age: 19 - Email

Q. Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work?
A. I belive that they work on a limited basis. Limited, because someone that has their mind closed is not going to learn or gain any knowledge; however for someone willing to sit down and listen they will benift from the experence. When I was attending a weekly pagan disscusion group we had people attending from all faiths, some to stir up troble, and some to sit down and have an intellegent discusion. In most case everyone that came went away knowing alittle more about the world.

Q. Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?
A. It all depends on how we go about doing it, if we act pressering I doubt anything will be changed for the positive. However, if we go about it more in a way of presenting the facts it might gain us some more tolorance from others.

Q. What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?
A. In most cases nothing, and mostly because if someone comes up to me to confront me with a given mindset there is very little I can do to change that mindset. However, if someone comes up to me to ask questions or to start and intelegent conversation I am more than willing to sit down and talk.

Q. 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?
A. It depends on what you mean by acceptance, if we expect them to accept us as a equaly valid and fullfilling belife system I think we might be asking abit much right now. But, if we are merly asking for acceptance and peace that it could be very acciveable.

Q. 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?
A. I have always belived that the universe is too complex for *anyone* to realy know everything that is going on, so I consider all other belife systems as being equaly valid; and I enjoy learning about other peoples belifes as well. I think that 'Christian-bashing' is a problem, and I am sure all of us are guilty of doing it at least once; but, it is also somewhat understandable that there will be some hard feeling from someone forced to go to church for 18 years for example. However, I belive that this is a problem that will cure itself with the more people learn about others.

Well that's all I realy have to say, blessings.

What A Question... Mar 15th. at 3:17:13 am EST

Erin (Huntington Beach, CA) Age: 19 - Email

I don't know who is more uncomfortable when in an interfaith converstion with or the poor sap who happens to call me an evil person. When I was a little younger, I wasn't tolerent of other's opinions. I defended my faith and called them all wrong, ignorant people. I had a hard time, wearing a symbol in public meant eggings for me, being spat on, and called evil. A woman once scolded her child for waving at me...a neighbor told all my other nieghbors that I sacrifice dogs and sell drugs because I am a "medicine woman." I have always had a nasty way of thinking about those of other religions. I never thought they had a right to tell me to worship their god, or talk to me if they had no respect for my faith, or to judge me on it. What do I say when confronted? (at least now, anyways) I smile, when the Johavah's Whittnesses come to my door, I bow, and I tell them "I hope you aren't offended, but I am sternly rooted in my faith as a Pagan. But if you want to discuss anything, share beliefs, and such, come in and have tea!" (I REALLY Do say this, folks!) It took alot of pain to muster it, but I stopped slamming the door and telling them they will suffer (because I don't know that, and shouldn't wish it on anyone.) And if they start telling me I am evil and a sinner heading for Hell, I smile and tell them they are wasting their breathe on someone who has been convinced otherwise. If it is at my door, I close the door. If it is on the street, I walk away. If they fallow me, I look for the nearest officer, because at that point, I know my rights.

Looking for acceptance from other religious groups? That is hard...I prefer to not need it, but I also will, if pressed, state my piece and hope it will be heard and understood. If not for full conversion, just so that they respect me more then to try to convert me. Any pagan/christian or other interfaiths would want to try to work past that to be friends, if a friendship is indeed there. My little sister is pagan, the rest of my family is mono-theistic. Last yule, I got her a pentagram, my grandpa got her a cross! Silly to fight, she wears both. :)

A Question Of People & Understanding Mar 15th. at 7:47:40 pm EST

Amethyst (TX) Age: 26 - Email

The willingness to open one's mind to honest dialogue is perhaps the key to having an interfaith discussion. Many of the problems stem from people's unwillingness to open their mind because by doing so, it may demonstrate a lack of faith in their own belief system. The key to any discussion regarding people's beliefs is the ability to see all sides, not just one's own perspective. People are socialized from birth to take on beliefs and perspectives; as we grow older, we are enabled to make the decision to reshape these beliefs and perspectives to our own personal path. When we grow too comfortable in our socialized niches, we may find ourselves unwilling to see from the shoes of another person...and therefore gravitate toward those whose beliefs and value systems mirror our own. If engagement in discussion to better explain ourselves to mainstream religion took place more often, no doubt some people out there would be willing to open their minds a bit more, at the very least give pause for thought. However, the many at the very least would not be swayed, and at worst would most likely launch a tirade against the evils of Paganism, Wicca, and other forms of open-minded spirituality.

I do not often engage in discussion with people in regards to my personal beliefs. In my experience of opening up to some people, I often found myself afterwards, wishing I had not. Again, this leads to my earlier point on that which is ingrained in people is often hard for them to open up to any kind of discussion without some sort of tirade about hell, God, etc. etc. I also feel it is pointless for Pagans and Wiccans to garner some sort of acceptance from the mainstream, and honestly, no one should care about this acceptance. It is not important whereas your personal spiritual path is definitely important. There are many paths to spiritual enlightenment and synchronicity with all that is this world and beyond...and everyone should be privledged and honoured to travel that path...whether other people know about it or not...accept it or not! It is all that is within your soul. I think it would be wonderful if the entire world could be open-minded to the beauty of the universe...but if this were the case, there would be no need for this discussion. I accept people as being who they are as individuals. While I may not gain this acceptance from them, I feel no need to "bash" a person for their beliefs, religious and otherwise. It serves no purpose for me to berate another for their position. Again, this is why I choose not to discuss my beliefs with everyone...instead, I follow my intuition and this saves me from engaging in such a negative circle of arguing that may only end with one feeling bad while the other feels triumphant in what they believe to be a victory.

I thank you for reading and bid all of you many blessings and continued enlightenment in your respective paths.

Sometimes Mar 16th. at 12:06:40 am EST

Jo (CO) Age: 23 - Email

I know that there are situations where discussing religion works because I have been part of it. However, I think that htese discussions work on a case by case basis. There are people of all faiths who are more tolerant than others. There are people of all faiths who are willing to listen before they judge. There are even people out there who don't care one way or another what faith you are in any way, shape, or form. I don't think this situation is as rare as it may seem. I just think that it is much easier to get swallowed by the negative, hurtful people because they are more likely to be in your face.

When some one calls me evil, I just ignore them as best I can. It is not my job to argue with everyone who wants to pick a fight with me. This situation doesn't happen to me very often, however, because I don't go looking for it, (I'm not saying that others do, by the way.)

As for my tolerance of others, I think that all faiths have their points of beauty and their points of ugly. I try my best not to bash people who are different from myself, but I'm only human and falter at times, especially when I'm hurt or angry. I don't think that we all need to be 100% accepted by other faiths because NO FAITH is 100% accepted by other faiths. That is kind of what religion does to people. However, i think it would be nice to not have to hide, (or be ready to fight, ) just because of what I believe in all the time. That would be nice.

Faiths Are Different, Yet One Mar 16th. at 2:24:54 am EST

Dreamless (California) Age: 13 - Email

Nobody will ever know what's really out there, what's waiting for us, untell they die, but nobody has ever come back from the dead to tell us what's out there, but than, if somebody actually did ever talked to a dead person, than nobody would ever believe them. Because of this, people just have to go with theories and ideas that they might have, and believe in what they want to beleieve in, it is difficult, and almost impossible to convert somebody to a different religion, because nobody can actually proove a faith to be real, it's just another opinion.
If I am ever confronted with a person who thinks I am evil for being a Heaten, than I try and explain. I explain who I am, and why I don't believe in God, and what I do believe in. I try and make the person see that I am not a bad person, and that there is nothing wrong with being a Heathen. Sometimes I do take part in the bashing of Christians, we all do from time to time. I like to point out the things that are so hypocritical, and laugh at things that sound so redicoulous and say "and they think we're the ones that are crazy?". I think that peeople only bash on them because they've said that we're evil for so long. Sometimes I think we all take each religion for grantid. I read this essay the other day, starting with how some people think that Satanism should be a Pagan religion, but than it goes into that if people thought like that, than practically everything in Paganism would be gone, because each religion bases ideas off of eachother. Without Christianity, Paganism would be no more. Without Paganism, Christianity would be no more. It would be nice if everbody would stop picking on eachother, and stop making accusations, so that people can freely worship, or not worship if they don't believe in any God, but also remember that their faith wouldn't be their faith, if it wern't for somebody elses fath.

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