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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: 19,650,011  

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Question of the Week: 33 - 3/19/2001

What Is The Appropriate Response to Bigotry and Religious Hatred?

What do you do when someone attacks you for simply being a Pagan? Would this color your perception of all practitioners of that religion? Or would you see it as the act of an individual who may or may not reflect the views of the entire religion? Many Pagans are Wiccans. Does that mean that Wiccans must 'forgive and forget' in order to abide by the Rede? Must we embrace in the name of 'interfaith relations' those who follow a religion that directly or actively campaigns against Pagans? Should we all just 'go along to get along'? When it is appropriate to say "Enough!" and when should we just let it go? What about those anti-Pagan religious sites? What do YOU do when someone hates you just because you are Pagan?

 Reponses:   There are 108 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

As A Wiccan Teen In A Highly Christian Community, I've Seen Discrimination... Mar 19th. at 7:05:13 pm EST

Zephyr Nightmoon (n/a, Oregon US) Age: 14 - Email

As a Wiccan teen in a highly Christian community, I've seen discrimination. Most people here who are slightly different are alienated.

I remember one case of an impromptu religious "debate" on the bus where one kid yelled at everyone who wasn't Christian. Except me, that is. He'd heard about Wicca from a friend, so he simply said, "That's cool, " and went on to berate a poor athiest. I think this goes to show how much education can help those who are willing to listen. This should be our first defense against hate.

Sadly, many people aren't willing to listen to it. We then have two choices: to ignore them, or to fight them. Ignoring hate, against any group of people, works sometimes. But when the hate is severe, you have to actively fight it.

Remember to stand up against hate in all its forms, even if it doesn't involve you. If you cry about being persecuted as a Wiccan, then go bash some gays, you're sending a mixed message. You're saying, "Don't hate me, but I can hate you." Don't be a hypocrite. Fight for everyone, and perhaps they'll fight for you.

Almost everyone on the bus, even Christians, ended up silencing this kid. Almost everyone was willing to stand up for others. If we band together like this, we can stop hate forever.

Merry Meet All, Some Time Ago I Was Alerted By Some Pagan... Mar 19th. at 7:25:34 pm EST

Heathwitch RunningWolf (Manchester, England UK) Age: 21 - Email

Merry Meet All,

Some time ago I was alerted by some Pagan friends to an online club on Yahoo! called "Wicca Is Fake". For some reason someone hated Wiccans - anyone who was Pagan, really - enough to damn us all online. Unfortunately this is not unusual in this prejudiced world. There were emails and posts a-plenty from the online Pagan community, and I was astonished at the hatred our 'side' was showing to the creator of this club. Being Founder of one of the UK's Pagan-friendly organisations, I decided to add a post myself. I'd like to re-publish it here for you to read, so you can see how I handled this religious intolerance:

"Merry Meet -

Firstly let me say that I am a Witch, something I am damn proud of. I am also Founder of an organisation dedicated to promoting religious tolerance for Pagans. So, I have something to say about this 'club' - but please understand that this is not based in anger, or fear.

If this club's Founder felt the need to create this club, then that's fine and up to them. They have their own reasons for doing so. But it is interesting, isn't it, that they create the club and then once Witches start to join the club and post their messages, how the Founder disappears off and doesn't come back? They haven't posted any more messages, haven't risen to the occasions we have presented to them, those occasions for them to speak their mind. Interesting that.

I, for one, would like to know why this club has been started. Not because I am angry, more like I am intrigued. You, the Founder, must hate us very much. Or misunderstand us (which often leads to fear, and hate, anyway). Why? Have you ever met a Witch? Known any? Has one done you wrong in the past, for there are so-called "Witches" out there who do not adhere to our Rede ("An it harm none, do as you will"). Have you simply been raised in another religion, and have been taught Witches are evil, arrogant, stupid or whatever? Or have you taken too much notice of the Hollywood stereotype?

Your mind must be very closed to ideas to feel so strongly about Witches and our religion - for that *is* what it is. A religion. My father, for instance, is a Christian and he doesn't like Witches - yet when he found out I was a Witch, he took the time to learn more about our religion and what we do. Although he didn't like to do so, his mind and his *heart* were open enough to do this. Perhaps you attack our religion because of some need to connect with your own. Can your not find peace? Are you adrift, insecure with your pathway? Don't get me wrong, I am not trying to convert you - far from it! - I am just trying to understand you a little better, to understand the reasons why you hate us, misunderstand us, maybe even fear us, so much.

Perhaps you are jealous of us, of the love in our hearts for ourselves and what we stand for, and for others - even though they may walk a path different to our own. Perhaps you need someone to understand you, to work with to acheive a better understanding of your inner self and those around you. Or perhaps you really have no reason to hate us, and just do so freely without fear of recourse.

Whatever your reasons I do not hate you for them. I do not hate you for setting up this club. I do not hate you for speaking your feelings openly, for sharing them, for it is only what I am doing here. I am not angry with you, or upset. Yes, I am concerned why you set this club up, why you react so against us, but I do not want to rise up and throw emotion after emotion at you, to fuel your ego and your hatred. I do not ask that you hate us any more or any less - only begin to open your heart and mind to if not accept then at least understand the ways of others.

And so I send you Blessings. Love. Compassion. Peace. All for you, and only you, in the hope that you will connect with yourself and your pathway and become calm and secure in your ways."

Soon after this post, the club's Founder fell silent. There were no more angry posts, no more hateful or hurting comments. Nothing. A month later and Yahoo! deleted the club for religious intolerance.

I hope this gives someone out there some hope - for we can win; not all the time, but each battle makes us stronger. I myself deal with religious hatred daily, mainly from lecturers at the University I attend. However I am always willing to discuss with them, in adult fashion, why they feel so negative towards us. I find that taking the time to be open to their needs and feelings enables them to open up to our own.


Heathwitch RunningWolf

It Was A Horrifying Moment For Me: The Moment When A Colleague... Mar 19th. at 8:46:24 pm EST

Sunfell (Little Rock, Arkansas US) Age: 40

It was a horrifying moment for me: the moment when a colleague- who had acted like a perfectly normal and sane adult human being- suddenly showed his true face, flaring black and red in his aura, and told me point blank that he hated every particle of my being, and would pray daily for my downfall, pain, hurt, and humiliation. “This will turn you to Christ, ” he smugly assured me. “You will crawl to the feet of Jesus, and beg for forgiveness, and He will kick you into the lake of fire. And I will be there to watch…”

Ah, such a sweet, positive, loving example of Christian brotherly love at work. I could imagine Christ cringing at this usually gentlemanly fellow’s words, but the sheer hate and loathing I saw in his face made me want to wash my eyes. The hate was palpable- I genuinely thought he was going to harm me.

And what, pray tell, was the offense I’d committed to incite such nastiness and condemnation? I’d simply wished him Happy Summer Solstice. The nights at my base in Europe didn’t darken until well after 9:30, and the sun was up at 0430. We were discussing that, and I had wished him Happy Solstice, and just like that- he turned on me. My Paganism was an open secret, but in my shop were a quartet of Evangelicals, who- I was soon going to find out- were actively engineering my demotion and exit from the US Air Force. This man’s vitriol was the first hint that all was not right with things, and other things began to happen: misaligned systems after I’d aligned them, mysteriously broken mirrors on vehicles I’d inspected and driven, and reported as “overlooked”, high-cost replacement parts I’d ordered going missing, missing log pages, mis-tuned test equipment…

Since I was the NCO in charge on the shift, I was responsible, and these reports built up, to the point that I was brought up and demoted. Only later, too late to save my career, did these four “Loving Christians” come clean. They’d sabotaged my shift, and the missing gear had turned up in an obscure storage closet, along with missing tech manual pages, and the original log pages. In the meantime, I thought I was going insane, suffered devastating panic attacks, and nearly committed suicide.

Fellow Pagans, I tell you this story to warn you that there are certain sorts of “Christians” who think that it is OK to ruin your career, your reputation, even your life, if they think it’ll get you to sell your soul to their god. I agree with an earlier poster that these sorts do not serve the Creator at all, but an evil shadow of the Creator, a wretched demigod of craven greed, lust, and hate. These sorts care nothing for the welfare of the planet or its people, because they believe that they will be snatched away to some far paradise by this god, and this precious jewel of a world will be turned into a cinder.

Turning the other cheek isn’t the answer, nor is matching their ugliness with ugliness of our own. We must be as Warriors, ever vigilant and watchful of the creeping darkness. We must be counter-active. We must counter that darkness with Light and Love, and the respect for the Life on this planet. Even theirs. If they bulldoze, we must plant. If they are intolerant, we must be accepting. If they hate, we should use our own capabilities to bottle their hate and let them enjoy the ‘fruits’ of its action on their own souls- not ours. If their symbol is a “road narrows” sign, let ours read “two lane highway ahead”. The darker they get, the brighter we must become. We must- or we will suffocate on a dying world right alongside them.

We are a growing demographic on the landscape. We are much more vocal and powerful than we were even 5 years ago. We are literate, intelligent, and very capable of making our voices heard. If we can put a monkey wrench in cockeyed ideas like “Faith-based” initiative, just think of the other great good we can do. And the Internet is our tool, and we must use it well.

Hate, when it is personal, like it was for me, can be horrifying to deal with. But hate can also be a great motivator. It can light a fire under our collective bottoms and make us stronger than we ever believed. But don’t get caught in its tentacles: It isn’t “Us vs. Them”- it’s simply “Us”. If we have to thwack them on the head with Christ’s own command to “love one another”, then let's get thwacking. I think that Christ would be right there with us, flailing away.

My First Instinct, Having Been Raised In A Rationalistic Militaristic Western Society... Mar 19th. at 9:39:57 pm EST

Gnothi Seauton (Largo, Florida US) Age: 39

My first instinct, having been raised in a rationalistic militaristic western society, is to respond to attack with equal vigor. My impulse is to enter into debate, or to consider my attackers enemies, or otherwise take on an "us against them" mentality.

When I stop and think, however, I know better. I've lived this life long enough to know the principles of "like attracts like" and "what you feed will grow". I won't use the same methods as my attackers. I want an objective outside observer to be able to tell the difference. After a few volleys no one can tell who's attacking and who's defending anyway.

I choose to feed the part in all of us that knows humanity is one big family.
I'll lead by example and show tolerance for people who believe differently than I on topics of religion, politics, nutrition, whatever.

I'm into what works. If someone wants to exercise their free speech to put down what I believe that's OK with me. An' it harm none, let them do as they will. If they start to violate my rights, there's legal recourse. In this day and age I don't have great confidence in that recourse so I choose to avoid trouble rather than try to remedy it. As I've said, I don't think contention is the best way to connect with others anyway.

I'll carefully choose opportunities to discuss my beliefs. I'll do it where I see an open mind, or where I think I may plant a seed that's heard later.
I certainly won't do it where it will add friction to peoples' relations or where it will only further alienate someone who already hates me. I won't do it where it might damage my professional reputation and I won't put a friend in the uncomfortable position of choosing between my friendship and his dogma.

I'm not evangelical in my beliefs. I don't necessarily think my beliefs are better than yours such that I want to go change you. I think that's how intolerance starts. If wiccan beliefs become more widespread on their own merits, and I think they will, that's fine with me. If they don't, that's fine with me too. Either way the only people I'm responsible for are my children and myself.

I've Been Studing Witchcraft And Basic Pagan Beliefs For Awhile Now. I... Mar 19th. at 10:36:55 pm EST

Jessica (Kansas City, Kansas US) Age: 23 - Email

I've been studing Witchcraft and basic Pagan beliefs for awhile now. I started because I was looking for a spiritual path that not only made me feel happier but also made sense. Yet in every book I read they all contain a chapter or section that deals with "coming out". And every one says not to say anything till we feel we are ready to take the onslaught of comments and questions...and that makes sense, but it also makes me feel that there seems to be this need to hide. I can totally understand the viewpoint of not wanting to cause an uproar, it is the human way to try to avoid conflict, but the less we stand up for the right to believe how we choose and to stand against hatred the harder it is for us to openly have our beliefs and the stronger the bigotry becomes. Even if I felt Christianity or any other main stream religion for that matter, was what I needed to be complete I would still understand others needs even if they weren't the same as mine. When I was younger I had gay friends who needed me and I was there for them and I stood up with them even though I was straight. I listened to them and the reasons they thought they felt the way they did. I didn't condemn them for not being like me. I was an ally. And I feel with this issue the same...if we don't stand up and fight the injustice we'll never feel safe.
The person who sent the email in response to the story about Tempest sarcastically suggesting we outlaw the 'offending hymn' missed the point. The point was that these children were harassing a girl who held different beliefs than them and the only place they could have learned it was from their parents and adults in their lives. It wasn't the methods or 'weapons' used. You don't blame the gun when someone is shot, you blame the shooter. What needs to be taught to these youngsters is that people are different in beliefs and thought, just as they are in skin, eye and hair color. You don't mock the only kid in class with blonde hair.
THIS is the time when we say ENOUGH! When a bright young girl is submitted to the persecution of her peers based upon her beliefs, and it's not as if her beliefs were that of a killer or someone methodically hurting others, then THAT is the time to put our collective foot down. I'm young yet, so maybe I'm a bit idealistic in thinking that things can change, but I'm sure our numbers our enough that if we come together we can bring about the change that is so desperately needed in our communities.

My Mother, And Open Minded Christian, Asked Me The Other Day, "does... Mar 20th. at 1:39:01 am EST

Deni (Danville, Kentucky US) Age: 27

My mother, and open minded Christian, asked me the other day, "Does it ever bother you when people see your pentagram necklace or you happen to mention that you are Wiccan and they decide they dont want to talk to you?" My first reaction was "No, why should it?" For me if people are going to be that closed minded, judgmental, and prejudges then those are people I would rather not talk to anyway.

There is a man who comes to my school every semester and screams words of hate out on the quad. He carries a sign that suggest pagans and Wiccans are evil and that they are going to hell. Even when other Christians confront him about it he staunchly defends his beliefs. The school has tried for years to force him off the property, but because it is a public university and he has filed permits to speak there seems to be noting they can do about it. He always gathers quite a crowd. Im proud to say that the overwhelming majority of people are heckling him, and trying to preach love. Yet he persists. I just find that this is his ignorance. I dont even bother. I avoid him. I dont listen to him.

I have been very fortunate. I havent had to deal with hatred of this sort on any kind of personal level. Most people just avoid me if they know about my path and they dont approve. I leave those people alone too. It amazes me how many people offer genuine curiosity. I get asked lots of questions. I like answering question... dispelling myths, and the like.

I think if I was ever faced with dealing with this kind of hatred on a personal level I would just walk away muttering..."love not hate". I would fight for the rights of people, and I would fight if I thought my civil liberties where in anyway violated.

I think that the best thing that we can do as pagans is ban together, let our voices be heard, educate as many as will listen, and love each other. We can not be silent and expect things to change. I am involved politically, and with movements to further the cause of tolerance. Because I honestly believe the best way to fight hate is with love.

Peace and Love

As Confusious Said, Repay Kindness With Kindness, But Repay Evil With Justice... Mar 20th. at 1:53:39 am EST

Asta (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii US) Age: 15

As Confusious said, repay kindness with kindness, but repay evil with justice. If I experience prejudice, I tell that person the hard facts. They may not believe me, but I haven't heard any backlash from those people yet. Most are just acting out of misinformation, and I have found that even my hard-core Jesus-freak friends are interested to know how that public hype is wrong. As for mass campaigns and anit-pagan sites, I ignore the latter and haven't ever experienced the former. Say enough is enough whenever something gets abusive for uncomfortable. Since I live in Hawaii, most of the people are very tolerant towards anything different. I get more trouble when I say I think gay people should be allowed to marry than when I tell people I'm pagan. Still, stand up to the hate! Don't let people demean you because of your religion. When to say enough is enough. Now. Enough IS enough and its been that way for a long time.

I've Recently Begun Openly Wearing My Pentacle As Well As Other Pagan... Mar 20th. at 5:52:35 am EST

Jason Jacobs (Gadsden, Alabama US) Age: 23 - Email

I've recently begun openly wearing my Pentacle as well as other pagan type jewelry ('Blessed Be' buttons, etc) and I've gotten a mixed reaction from most folks. I've been pleasantly surprised that even living in the heart of the Bible Belt, most people simply give a stare and maybe avoid me. The few people wwho have been bold enough to give me grief about my beliefs, I've been more than happy to sit down and try to calmly explain to them what I believe and why. I think one of the most important things that we as wiccans can do is represent our faith. Not proselytizing, but being an example that the old stereotypes /aren't/ true. We need to stand up for our rights, but we need to do so without resorting to hate ourselves, instead being 'above' that sort of bigotry. We need to try to live lives that show that wiccans and pagans have just as many moral standards as do any other religion out there, and that we are just as deserving of tolerance and respect as them as well. So, to sum up, I think that we /must/ defend ourselves against attacks, but at the same time, we cannot lower ourselves to the level of our attackers.

As Usual, So Many Good Responses. And Some Particularly Sad Stories About... Mar 20th. at 7:34:49 am EST

Skye Cat (Edinburgh, Scotland UK) Age: 27 - Email

As usual, so many good responses. And some particularly sad stories about religious hatred. I feel lucky to live in a big city in the UK. Scotland isn't that ethnically diverse, but there does seem to be more everyday exposure to other belief systems in my day to day life than for some of those who have contributed here. That makes things a lot easier, I think.

There are a number of things I either do or am planning to do to work towards eliminating this:

1. I'm open about my beliefs, but I don't shove them in people's faces.

2. I try to understand the beliefs of others.

3. I support organisations such as the Pagan Federation, who help to promote interfaith dialogue and support the rights of pagans. I'm planning to join the volunteer scheme for interfaith work too, when I get the time to do it.

But most of all, I feel that unity within our ranks will be extremely helpful when it comes to promoting religious tolerance. There's a whole different slew of belief sets represented in the answers to this question, be it Asatru, Celtic Reconstructionist, Wiccan, or whatever (I'm a whatever, by the way!). Pagan fundamentalists are as unpleasant as fundies of other religious persuasion. And the media loves to capitalise on division within the ranks.

It's by accepting the differences between our own belief systems that we will be able to stand as an united force and push for our religious freedoms.

A Mailing List I Am On Has Been Having A Very Similar... Mar 20th. at 8:46:26 am EST

Amanda (Dallas, Texas US) Age: 27 - Email

A mailing list I am on has been having a very similar debate, and recently the issue os "hate sites" has come up. An angry response only brings you down to the level of the immature, insecure beings who would build hate sites. Not good company to be in. There are claims to refute, so go out, do your homework, and refute them. Don't let their Big Lies stand without an answer, but make your answer a calm, rational, well-researched one. If a hater uses some half-quote against us, quote the whole thing and explain the quote. If they cite the words of some "ex-witch", cite the research by *Christian* journalists that has proven what frauds many of them are. If they say Joe Blow said something in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, see if you can obtain a copy of the whole interview from the source. A handy quote to start off with would be one involving the "blood libel" the Pagan Romans used against the Christians, or the Christian Europeans used against the Jews----things we all know not to be true, but a fearful few *wanted* to believe to justify their hatred. This is a great opportunity to educate people, and assuage their fears. Yoda is right, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. You want to kill hatred, attack the fear.

Bigotry And Religious Hatred Will Always Be Around. It's A Hard Fact... Mar 20th. at 9:00:25 am EST

Rob (Commerce, Michigan US) Age: 20 - Email

Bigotry and Religious hatred will always be around. It's a hard fact to face, but we must face it and move on. There is nothing, really, that Pagans AND Chrisitians can do about that fact. I address Christianity and Paganism as a whole, since current events resolve around these religions. And anyways, do you hear about or see Buddhists running around with hatred or views against other religions?

There are some Pagans who despise Christianity and close their mind when the subject is brought up or preach out loud how 'bad' it is. And also, there are those close-minded Christians who preach what they know and don't listen to what they don't know. Everyone, Christian and Pagan alike, should only teach the ones who will listen and do not waste time on the ones who will not listen. I myself, sometimes, get in a mood where I just HATE Christianity because of the hateful ones that preach in a hateful way. But do I really hate it? Do I go around making fun of them and pushing them to the limit? No, of course not. I have morals and thoughts just the same as everyone else. My whole family is Christian, I grew up Christian, and I know that 'real' Christianity is taught in a way of light and love, not hatred and darkness. Christians just need to read their Bible more often and more closely, as well as not just saving thier religious practice for Sunday or Christmas, but to live it everyday. I feel Pagans must also read the Bible to leanrn what Christianity is all about. Yes, I know there are passages against witches, but those were the times back then that we all must forget and we must read and learn to fully understand each other.

When the black shroud of hatred does come around, one must simply walk away. And if matters get worse, one must find the necessary help, help that will be of use, to dampen the situation. Or simply someone to talk to about the problems so you can get it off your chest. Don't keep it in, I have learned my lesson of that. I myself am an introvert, but find solitude in talking to the ones I love and alos through writing and drawing. Keeping problems inside only leads to strong depression and contemplation of suicide. Trust me, I lived through it in high school before I even learned of Paganism. If you beleive you can talk to God and/or Goddess, fine. But I beleive one must talk to one of this plane. One who can listen and give a direct response, and also hug. God and/or Goddess WILL be there listening, through the person you are talking to and through yourself.

I, myself, have difficulty in my own home with a very Christian father. He is very open minded, but when it comes to differences of religion, he tries to convert me. We both, of course, defend our views and I try to show my father that all religions, in a sense, are the same. Hes stubborn, he doesn't listen. So what do we do? We laugh it off and go at that.

The recent killings at schools and recent suicides of our nation's children MUST stop. Parents, you MUST talk with your children on the virtues of life. Not just in a Pagan or Christian way, but in a way of the whole. They can't just learn it all on their own. They need guidance and support from YOU. They WILL open up to you, it only takes a matter of time. My parents got through to me (in a time of rebellion and pain), You can get through to your children. The hate and bigotry will always be and to teach our children that it is out there and that the world isn't all fluff and sugar, they can see and learn how to handle this crazy place we live in. You must also teach of other religions of the world, not just your own. Please people, we need to start NOW to help. There are many books, websites, and even counseling that will help you make it through.

Another bit of advice, forget the past. Only use it in certain situations. Just remember it so that certain things may not happen again, but do not use it in a religious battle. We all must look to the future and move on. We have new times ahead and new generations to teach.

Oh and, never use Bible passages against a Christian, they'll always find a better one. And Christians, look past what you 'know' and learn that Pagan people are wonderful and that they do not kill small woodland creatures or make newborn sacrafices to the God and Goddess. Peoples may have done it way back in the past when they were just learning, but so did Christians. Our religions have evolved and so we must move on to the next level.

It Seems That The Only Things We Can Possibly Do To Respond... Mar 20th. at 9:27:15 am EST

Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 19

It seems that the only things we can possibly do to respond to religious bigotry and hatred is to spread education and love, and to campaign against such injustices when necessary. We can not force tolerance on others, any attempt to do so will probably only make things worse. Also, we can not think of ourselves as alone in this regard, things could be far worse for the pagan community, they could treat us the way Jews or black people are treated, and at least they're not trying to blow up our holy sites like the Taliban with the Buddha statues. That doesn't excuse it, but let's do remember that discrimination extends to all corners of humanity, even from within the pagan community. I've found the best way to spread the truth about neo-paganism is to talk to people calmly and rationally, and when they start laying their doctrines of hatred on you you shrug them off and say, "You can not hurt me, you can not scare me, and you can not make me resent you." Believe me, it makes a difference in most people's minds when they tell you you're a horrible damned sinner, and you respond with a gentle answer, which as the Bible itself says "turneth away wrath". I've talked to people who thought pagans were Satan-worshipping baby murderers, and by the time I'm done talking to them they finally start to get it, that spirituality is the same by whatever label you give it. Give that a try, just talk to people, let them know what it's really all about, and remember that some people don't know that they're bigotous, even one of my close personal friends who is very religiously tolerant had a negative attitude towards paganism before I took him to a ritual and he saw what it was all about. Society tells most people nothing good about us, so it's up to us.

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