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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: 28,392,700  

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Question of the Week: 49 - 7/9/2001

Ending Religious Discrimination-What's It Gonna Take?

After reading the Tempest Smith story, we have to wonder just what it is gonna take to prevent this sort of thing from happening to any other child-or to any adult. No other school district ever received as much information about Pagan beliefs as the Lincoln Park School District did -and it even had to pay big bucks to settle a lawsuit over the wearing of a pentacle in one of that district's the high schools- yet what happened to Tempest occurred in that very same district. What more can the Pagan communities do to help end religious discrimination? What other groups can we get to align with us? Why does this continue to happen not only in the schools, but also in the workplace and in divorce/child custody proceedings? What are the causes of religious discrimination or intolerance for others? How are Pagans doing in this area" Are we part of the problem (Do we discriminate, too?) or part of the solution?

 Reponses:   There are 41 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

The Crazy Man Says... I Think One Thing We Can Do To... Jul 12th. at 1:41:10 am EDT

Chris (Kansas City, Missouri US) Age: 20

The crazy man says...

I think one thing we can do to deal more effectively with those of other faiths, is to expand our view a bit. Religion is something that has been common practice for the last 40, 000 years(give or take a 30, 000 years). Religion and spirituality have been present in human society in a limmitless number of forms, practices, faiths, and denominations.

Spirituality and religion have been approached with an eye to contemplation, self improvement, achieving understanding, achieving harmony and balance, attuning oneself to higher or lower plane, creating and sustaining connection among people of a simmilar faith, providing a cultural identity, and generating a wellspring of strength for the trials we face in our lives...This is in addition of course to what the less than spiritual people do with religion, which often leads to such annoying pursuits as ensuring loyalty of subjects, achieving poltical power, controlling the hearts and minds of others, gaining material wealth, and a number of other graspingcontrollingself servingicky spirit shrivelling acts.

I have a love of history that marks much of my reading, and much of what I enjoy when it comes to leisure activity. I think it is very important to look at the past with an eye to the future, and the present. Times may change, societies may change, technology may change, values may change, but one thing has not changed to any great or noticable extent in the span of recorded history...human nature. So look back on the old tales, and see how many facets of human nature you can see turned to the light.
We can learn alot by looking at the highs and lows that the people before us achieved. We can also learn alot about the nature of ourselves, and the people around us.

One person's religion may be different from my own, their views may be different from mine, but they are still human. As such, they have very human motivations, concerns, and perspectives. I try to keep this foremost in mind during my dealings with people of other religions. I think the first step to ending religious intolerance is to end it in yourself.

That is a constant struggle, it is difficult to communicate to and try to understand another person, without drawing on your previous experiences and generalizations. It is part of human nature to generalize and discriminate, it is an evolutionary survival trick.
Someone may not know every single species of insect or snake, nor be able to differentiate between them, yet they know that some are deadly. So they approach any serpent or insect with an expectation to be bitten. Just a little something that kept a few of our distant ancestors alive.

As a result, we tend to take a bit of a subconscious shortcut when it comes to dealing with and identifying the nature of our interaction with other people. So if you've had to deal with something like a few millitant baptists in your family telling you you were going to hell because you did not go to their specific church when you were about 8 years old, then you have a few prejudices and generalizations based on previous experience rather than an understanding of the human motivations to work past in your future dealings.

I try to understand myself, I try to understand the people I speak with. When I make narrow minded and short sighted comments, or fall short of achieving a connection and understanding of someone I am speaking with, I hope that they will forgive me for being human;} I will atttempt in earnest to return the favour.

I do screw up more often than I would like, when I feel like I am being singled out for my religious preference or practices, when I feel hurt because a christian thinks that because I am not a christian I am going to hell, or when I find I am facing ignorance and another peasant like attitude that basically amounts to "You either follow the one true god, or burn" then I stop thinking of the other side as feeling and caring human beings. I just find it hard to relate to someone who chooses to believe that you can do and feel and think anything, anything whatsoever, but as long as you belive in the one true dogma then you are saved and redeemed.
I tend to get into the "Get out of here before I vomit" or the "Get out of here before I have to worry about disposing of your corpse" type of mindest.

The first step to gaining respect is to respect others.
The first step to being treated with tolerance, is to make tolerance a part of your life.
The first step to being treated with equality, is to treat others equaly.
The first step to understanding, is attempting to understand.

We can and should try to relate to those around us, we can and should try to gain an understanding of those people we deal with, but there are going to be some people who are just so alien to our way of thinking and feeling that we find it a struggle not to wring their necks. Choose your battles, keep your dignity, keep your business to yourself, and hold your (insert religious preference) back straight. Because some times you will find that your human side takes over, and you will find you really feel the need to string someone up like a pinnata and whack at their tender spots with an aluminum bat.

Beware of wearing your pentacle as a badge though. It is a sign of your spirit, a sign of your connection to the god and goddess, but it is not a badge. I have no desire to see pagans or wiccans or heathens running around acting like some of the other people who wear their religion as a badge. You are not a jehovah's witness, please don't act like one.

Watch out for your fellow pagans. We are all in the same boat, if you see a few people being tossed overboard...well you might just be next.

In closing..
People can often recognize someone with a solid grasp of the reality of a situation. People can often recognize a flaming biggoted idiot. Always attempt to display a greater understanding, a better grasp of reality, and a more enlightened view than anyone attempting to spread disrespect for your religion.
There are enough people in the world spouting rhetoric about their one true way, it is a great contrast to find someone who understands that there is no one true way, merely the way we choose for ourselves.

And on that note.
I thank you for your time, and I hope that sharing a bit of my narrow little human perspective added a little bit to the discussion.

Blessed be, and bright blessings.

Religious Discrimination Is Something On A Much Grander, If Subtler Scale As... Jul 12th. at 2:36:52 am EDT

9;2;2 (Derby, Kansas US) Age: 16 - Email

Religious discrimination is something on a much grander, if subtler scale as of late. In the older days, it was all the rage - you get chopped up for being this, thrown to the lions for being that. It still is today but it's less bloody. At least, we'll wait and see.

Want a stop to religious discrimination? There's several unpleasant ways that can be done:

1) Do away with all religion, which I doubt any of us would do.
2) A major destruction of sorts takes place, and we all band together and fight through hell and high water - Wiccan aside Christian, etc. and we gradually come to realize that no matter what we are, we all suffer, we all eat, breathe, and die. We all suffer, we make each other suffer.

Curious. Humanity can be a sadistic disease. We will be petty, stupid people. We have never really evolved... only technologically. Other than that, we're still cave dwellers in suits and ties or whatever. We will assault and consume each other, until another drastic thing happens:

3) Humanity destroys itself.

I doubt this would happen. Then again, with the way we function collectively, you never know.

In My Experience Throughout High School, The Teachers Did Nothing To Hinder... Jul 12th. at 5:32:38 am EDT

Night Raven (St. Louis, Missouri US) Age: 25 - Email

In my experience throughout high school, the teachers did nothing to hinder the abuse verbal and physical that I went through for not being Xtian. No I didn't flash it, I just didn't partcipate in religious things. I feel the only way to rid discrimination is to either brain wash everyone so that everyone believes thesame way *note sarcasm*, or to give America *and the World* a huge wake up call that we are not evil, not satanic and not just rebelious teenagers. We have to step up and come out of the proverbial "broom closet". Its not easy I know I have lost alot of friends and family closeness due to my coming out this year but it is essentcial for our cause. Just my opinion.
Peace Be With You

Religious Discrimination (i Feel Is Unavoidable). The Pagan Community Is Doing All... Jul 12th. at 12:25:14 pm EDT

PanRaven (Detroit, Michigan US) Age: 14 - Email

Religious discrimination (I feel is unavoidable). The Pagan community is doing all they can to end it, te rest is up to those who practice discrimination. Not many "groups" will join us due to the negative stereotype produced by the media, authority, and the 'wish i was' Pagans. So far. I have tried and succeeded in opening the eyes of those who perscute me because of my religion (in an environmental academy I attend, teachers help me in standing up for the Pagan path as well as myself). People (in general) have become very closedminded about things alternative to their religions. Pagans do the same, but more likely under different cicumstances (former religious path "disowned" them). We already know that there is an abundance of ignorance about Paganism, so we help to educate people, but they think wer'e trying to convert them (often times). I find that one of the best methods of solving the problem is SHOWING them the exact opposite of the negative stereotypes they have about Pagans.

I Think That The Pagan Community Is Being A Big Help To... Jul 12th. at 2:52:30 pm EDT

Scathach (Houston, Texas US) Age: 14 - Email

I think that the pagan community is being a big help to stop discrimination, except for the fact that we are also part of the problem. We go around trying to get attention, saying that Christians are 'bad' becuase they forced everyone to follow their religion and tortured anyone who didn't. Well that WAS in the past, and they thought they were doing the right thing. I think that we mainly do this becuase of hatred, or ignorance toward others. We need to start thinking through other people's point of veiw, not just our own.

Greetings All! As Much As I Hate To Admit It, We Pagans... Jul 12th. at 5:09:29 pm EDT

Asherfox (Teslin) Age: 26

Greetings all!

As much as I hate to admit it, we Pagans are our own worst enemies when it comes to prejudice and religious discrimination. So many of us come from other religious backgrounds and left them due to largely negative experiences that have left us scarred and bitter. We find healing and peace within Paganism to a degree but due to human nature, we drag all our old hurts and angers with us.

I was blessed to spend manyu years deep within the Christian faith in a "lay-Protestant, non-denominational church". I taught Sunday School in the mornings and was a part of Music Ministry in the evenings, attended Bible Studies on Mondays, and Youth Group on Wednesdays, as well as being an active member in the Inter-School Christian Fellowship club in my high school. After high school, I spent two and a half years as a missionary travelling throughout North America, working with all denominations, from Roman Catholic to Seventh Day Adventist, Methodist to Southern Baptist and anyone else who would let us in the door.

And yes, at the age of 21, I left the Christian Church and fully embraced the Pagan side of myself that had lain dormant since early childhood (as well as my own bisexuality). At first, I was very angry and bitter at the Christian Church as I had been rejected by those I had called friend every time I tried to express who I was inside and stopped trying to be who I was told to be. But with time, I moved past all that and have learned to look at my time within the church and the mission field as a very important time in my life.

It was there that I was repeatedly exposed to other ways of embracing faith, the mecahnics of religion and the different faces of the Divine. I came to see that although a member of the Salvation Army church has a specific set of rules that is embraced in the search for the Divine and is completely different from that of a Nazarene or a Four-Square Pentecostal, they still seek to find God.

So where am I going with all this? Well, I feel that until we start looking within our own Pagan ranks that same way, embracing each other irregardless of our differences in approach to the Divine, we will not find acceptance from those who seek God outside of Paganism. When we stop infighting and burning each other in flame wars and begin the long process of healing and growth, then those outside will see us in a different light. The instances where we are seen as jokes, or dangerous individuals, or whatever, will begin to decrease. The tragic occurances of violence in the schools or blatant prejudice in the courts and the media, etc, will decrease. And those we once assumed and treated as enemies will reveal themselves to be our staunchest allies.

In short, if we wish to be treated a specific way by those outside of Paganism, we had best start treating others that way, both inside and outside of the family. Changes begin at home.

What's It Going To Take? Honest Cold Fact: A Lot More Than... Jul 12th. at 5:39:39 pm EDT

MrLeprechaun (Pietermaritzburg) Age: 27 - Email

What's it going to take? Honest cold fact: A Lot More Than We Are Doing Now.
Tempest was something that was just waiting to happen and do you know what, she
won't be the last. Unless the Pagan, Wiccan and Witchcraft communities don't
wake up to their treatment of others with different viewpoints to themselves (within Paganism as well as without) and to the treatment of the youth, there
are going to be a lot more Tempests.

Most Pagans, Wiccans and Witches will not hesitate to stand up for and adult pagan but just let the same thing happen to a teen pagan and boy does the list
of helpers suddenly shrivel. Try to start up a conversation within Pagan forums and chatrooms about things which a certain group which now dominates the discussion of pagan issues and you will get a whole bambardment of accusations (and very often threats). The truth is that Neo-Paganism and Wicca has become mired in A Dogma that fears Any discussion that might come up with a reasonable alternative path instead of seeing that alternative as an advantage to debate
important issues and grow spiritually. What right do we have to point fingers and give lectureson Tolerance when we battle to cope with Tolerance
of "dissidents" within our Communities? If we want to be given more
Tolerance (lets be honest here and admit that some people will never
give us that because of their personal belief systems contradicting with ours) then we will have to begin to act the way we want to be treated and be prepared to stand up for our own no matter what the age or position of that person is.

Gods know i am one of those who have learnt some hard lessions on Intolerance , not only of others towards me but also of me towards others. One of the hardest things is having to put your pride on one side and to admit your faults but it is about time that all of us did that if we don't want more youngsters feeling the way Tempest did.


I'm Doing My Best To Keep From Making Jokes Referring To "crazy... Jul 12th. at 8:20:44 pm EDT

Lynne-Renee (rural, StL, Missouri US) Age: 29 - Email

I'm doing my best to keep from making jokes referring to "Crazy Christians." Just because I've been physically and of course, verbally attacked one-on-one and from a union of congregations (high school was a bitch), doesn't give me the right to make myself feel better by putting someone else down. Cripes! I'm going to be 30 soon and this dawned on me within the last 12 months.

If anyone out there can relate to the attacks, please relate to the intent to STOP the cycle. This would be some kind of Passive-Aggressive behaviour isn't it?

Otherwise, let me say, in my area Catholics, Jehovah's Witnesses, Mormons and Jews (not that any live here) are looked at with disdain or worse. I might have felt the same, at least about J. W.'s, if I hadn't been embraced by the local community. Odd, while I don't know all the inner workings, I've been to Kingdom Hall and spent *years* in friends' houses. They're not weird. They're a strict group of people, yes. But on the most part, so gentle.

My Point: I love and accept them because I was accepted by their community and
any questions were answered. It's all about dispelling the fears of those who just don't know the truth. If they know anything, it's from a movie (at best 2% correct) or from a propagandist who was *against* other's beliefs. For those who can, be out. When confronted, face people with lovingkindness and truth...I'm still working on it.

Enlightenment. You Would Think In This Post Millennium Era, With Trillions Upon... Jul 13th. at 9:24:15 am EDT

Kimberly S Beaupre, aka Mockingbear Wolf (Milton, New Hampshire US) Age: 31 - Email

Enlightenment. You would think in this post millennium era, with trillions upon trillions of gigabytes of information available about Pagan religions, people would no longer think we are evil. There are thousands of books, hundreds of magazines, newsletters and pamphlets. But still people are not enlightened. There are very public Pagans who live exemplary lives and are well loved by a diverse cross section of our society. But so many people still believe we are evil because of the propaganda of a few mainstream, public, extreme religious conservatives. Christians see other Christians declaring us evil and believe it must be so because Christians donŐt lie.
Some Pagans are a part of the problem because they have become too oversensitive to even the slightest, mistaken slur against Pagan religions. Knee jerk reactions do no good and do not teach the unenlightened anything except that they were right about us.
My belief is that no matter how many good deeds we do, how loving and peaceful our ways and how gracious our responses to the venomous lies against us- we will be discriminated against until those who preach the hate have become enlightened. The big question here is how to enlighten them? That is an answer I just do not have.

Going To A Catholic School, I Knew That The Torment Would Come... Jul 13th. at 11:34:22 am EDT

Shannon (Doylestown, Pennsylvania US) Age: 15 - Email

Going to a catholic school, I knew that the torment would come. But I had hoped that those christian morals supposedly instilled in my classmates would have taught them acceptance. I was never so wrong in my life. I was tortured and ridiculed every day for being "different" I knew what was going to happen before it did, I could tell what people were thinking. I was a frightening freak to narrowminded 5th and 6th graders. When I read about Tempest Smith, all those memories came flooding back to me. I also got to the point of suicide, and I tried many times, but I never took my life. What many administrators think of as kids being kids is hateful and cruel to the tormented students. I always hoped that there would be an end to it, but I see that that's a foolish thing to think. As long as there is indifference and hatred, fear and ignorance, there will always be the child in the corner, crying alone. Blessed Be.

If I May Be "radical" Here For A Second. Perhaps The Answer... Jul 13th. at 6:00:19 pm EDT

Sofia (Dull-luth, Minnesota US) Age: 30

If I may be "radical" here for a second. Perhaps the answer is not tolerance or acceptance, stricly speaking. Perhaps the quickest way is for everyone to just leave everyone else alone. When people ask me what I do to educate, I say "Nothing, " because frankly I have been completely out for several months now, and I must say that I have never been persecuted. Most of my Christian friends have asked me questions, but they've never put me on the spot. Those who didn't approve bolted the other direction and I never heard from them again. The ones that I would have to explain endlessly to without really hearing me (including people in my own family) don't know. Not because I am afraid or ashamed but because we weren't close anyway, and, so, frankly, I don't think that it's any of their damned business.
I agree with what some have said about knee-jerk reactions. I think *all* of us have been guilty in the past of that to some degree or another. To be quite honest, the only group of people I don't like are the Fundamentalist Christians, because they have had the nerve to come onto *every* message board that I am on with their "drive by proselytizing." Can I say that I hate them? No. But I don't like them. They're rude, vain, greedy, and a poor example of what Christianity is supposed to be. So what do I do? I leave them alone. What they do is their business as long as they don't threaten me or mine.
As for tools to use: I just simply talk about my religion as anyone else would. I talk about the Pagan festivals I attend the same way a Christian would talk about going to church or a Jewish person would about going to temple. I don't flaunt it, but I don't hide it. True, there are behaviors that go on at festivals that you wouldn't see at an average church or temple or mosque, etc., but I also treat these as matter of fact because they're no big deal to me. It may be shocking to others if they ask, but I find using humor usually solves a lot of that.
Anyway, that's my rambling for this week. Hope I wasn't too off the topic.

I Believe That The Problem With Intolerace Still Lies In The Age... Jul 14th. at 9:15:41 am EDT

Cloud_Dreamer (KansasCity, Missouri US) Age: 17 - Email

I believe that the problem with intolerace still lies in the age old problem of ignorance. It's not to say that more people now know and respect pegan religions, however it has been my experiance that the average person knows so little about us that there views are easily influenced by television and the movies. Ironically I believe that this media institution is one of the few insturments we could have of reversing age-old predjudices. For if it has been disney's portrail of the "wicked witch" in the wizard of oz, and a dozen other movies, that has been the mortar holding the bricks of hate in place, then whom else better to open the eyes of the average John and Jane Doe than these institutions. It is true that to anyone that wants it, there is much information to be had on the truth of wicca, so to speak, we must realize that it is only those who have no prejudice who are open enough to do the research. My answer is that we, the pegans of the world should, in a peaceful manor write to companies such as disney and sony and nameless others asking simply for a clerification of errors which they, frankly may not have been aware of.

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