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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: 25,105,777  

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Question of the Week: 77 - 9/15/2002

Pot-Kettle: Do We Have Our Own Fundamentalists?

Does religious fundamentalism exist in some Pagan and/or Heathen communities? Can a closed group or tradition be considered as fundamentalist? Are there some Pagans and/or Heathens who 'preach' one true Pagan or Heathen way? Is resistance to the 'mainstreaming' of Paganism/Heathenism a form of fundamentalism? How can we approach the preservation of Pagan and/or Heathen spiritual and/or cultural integrity and identity without falling into fundamentalism? Is fundamentalism even necessarily a 'bad' thing? You can also check out Isaac Bonewitt's essay on fundamentalism at: A Call to Arms for definitions and other background material.

 Reponses:   There are 91 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Yes, We Too Have "them." Sep 17th. at 5:18:54 am EDT

tree whisper (Texas) Age: 41 - Email

Yes, it is true that we have fundies among us. Some people have that as part of their personalities. With others it is just baggage from their "christian" upbringing. That is why some of us prefer to be solitaires.

Sad But True Sep 17th. at 5:24:19 am EDT

Lord Grey Wolf (England (Luton)) Age: 45 - Email - Web

It is sad to say but the answer to the question is a big yes, some is within the pagan world, the ones that say "This path is the best one and the only one that really works" (I have heard this so many times), and to the outside world I have heard it said that the only true religion is paganism, this is usually said to people that say christianity is the only way and that any that follow other religions are doomed to burn in hell (one actually told me he would laugh as he watched me burn, very christian indeed).

But by far the most often I have heard anything like the question is from young people who have just started to find out what paganism is all about and got stuck with the idea that they are witches and as such can do and say anything to anyone, this is not a problem with wicca or paganism in general but just the enthusiasm and loyalty of the young.

Well this is what I have seen over the past 15 years, I hope you dont mind me spouting but all Fundamentalists are a danger to the world no matter what religion they come from, lets all stand up and let the world see who and what we are just by the way we live our lives and not try to preach to the world.

Love and Light,

Grey Wolf

Unfortunately....... Sep 17th. at 9:30:56 am EDT

web jones (Jackson, Mississippi) Age: 47 - Email

So sad but fundementalism seems to strike everywhere. Like an ex-hooker in church, some are just TOO proud of a ONE true way.

Yes Sep 17th. at 10:01:23 am EDT

Ken (Minneapolis) Age: 49 - Email

As Isaac uses the word a fundamentalist has an inherent HATE for someone that is based irrationally. It is rational to hate the person who abuses you . It is not rational to hate the class that they come from. Fear and caution directed at the class is an understandable reaction to being repeatedly abused. Does the craft has Fundamentalists ? Yes. I have seen groups of the craft with a hate for Men. Other groups with a Hate for heterosexuals. And many new craft with a hate for Traditional Witches / Wiccans.

Mainstream culture is divided into Abuser and victim or Master and slave. Much of the craft reflects this binary thinking. It is my belief that the world?s future is to be found in going beyond this. To a place where we are too strong to let ourselves be victimized and so secure in ourselves that we do not need to dominate others. Neither master nor slave but free.

YES Sep 17th. at 11:25:05 am EDT

Jenevik Prince (Lonoke, Arkansas) Age: 17 - Email

As with any form of religion,including atheists who argue about the Theory of Evolution-originally proposed by Darwin-that is made up of different denominations, viewpoints, similar structure, yet the rules can be bent in different ways according to different denominations all the way down to the solitary practitioner. Usually it starts out with doing whats comfortable for the Pagan/Witch/Wiccan. Then they mold their practice of the Craft and formal rituals to their own comfort level, experience, knowlege of tradition and ritual, they then tend to develop a slope into closemindedness. This is my opinion on how Pagan Fundamentalists have come to be, as in all religions. Christianity for example, Protestants separated from the Catholic Church long ago. Still those protestants then broke down into denominations who all argue about their own interpretations of the text contained within the "Bible." Forgive me for babbling, I just felt that this could have been broken down and elaborated in this manner. If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, feel free to contact me.

Jenevik Prince

Of Course Sep 17th. at 11:34:22 am EDT

Becka Barnard (Here) Age: 21 - Email

Of course there are fundies in Paganism/Heathenism. There are always going to be people who think that their way is the only true way and all others are wrong.
Pagans are not immune to it. We are humans just like everyone else.
Fundamentalism in and of itself is not necessarily a bad thing. It shows that a person has rock solid faith in their deity. It becomes a bad thing when that person tries to force others to believe the same as them.

Yes, Sadly Sep 17th. at 11:53:20 am EDT

waterfae (Boyertown, PA) Age: 31 - Email

I haven't had the misfortune, yet, of running into any Pagan "fundies" but they are out there. I recently read a book by a well published Druid(I will not mention who or the book because I do not want to influence the thoughts of others) that basically gives the views of several diffent Pagans from several different paths. One of the interviews was a husband & wife that have a Wiccan church. When I read what their view of how Wiccans and Pagans should be& what thier opinion of the general Pagan community, I thought I was reading an interview with Southern Baptists. They basically said that to be a true Pagan you must live off of the Earth & the kindness of others, not own anything, & forget about modern technology. I was a little offended by what they have to say.

Another type of Pagan Fundamentalist that really irks me are the ones that say to be a true Witch you must belong to a coven and be initiated by a High Priestess. If you are a solitary and have self-initiated, then you are not a Witch. I've even heard some that say you aren't even Wiccan if you are self-initiated & have no right to call yourself Wiccan or a Witch. These are also usually the ones that will not allow gays or lesbians into their circle, which is another rant & I won't go there today.

Technicolor Dreams Sep 17th. at 2:48:00 pm EDT

Sabrina (FT POlk, LA) Age: 29 - Email

It would appear that my perception of what a "fundamentalist" is, appears to differ with the majority here. I think, as Socrates all begins with the defintion. What I have seen described in these posts is zealotry not fundamentalism. Fundamentalism, to my understanding, is broken down as the strict belief in fundamental "truths" biblically or otherwise, regardless of their historical or any other factual accuracy. For example. Fundamentalist christians actually beleive men lived to be 360 years old at the time of Noah and that Jonah was indeed swallowed by a whale. They miss the beauty of the bible in its full technicolor metaphor by instead reading black and white. Shakespeare wrote "a rose is a rose". And if you read it literally you say, yeah so what. The beauty of the quote is in the metaphor. I think Fundamentalism refers to the black and white interpretation of any faith. Too often, by which, walkers miss the mark.
Using this defintion I have also seen many "fundamentalist" pagans. Those who even when shown sound concise anthropological and historical context refuse to beleive that what they are "following" is a bunch of made up babble. I have great respect for the man who comes to me and says there is nothing written, no anthropolical context for Dryadry...but it speaks to me. It awakens me, it comforts I call myself druid. On the contrary I have little respect for anyone who comes to me and cites some new Llewelyn book as an anthropological text and profounds to be a hereditary druid.
Truth is a gift you give yourself. Dream in color, that is the key to ending fundie propoganda in any faith. Nothing is black and white....that is where fundamentalism misses the mark.
As for the comments on hereditary or traditionalist beleifs....Tevya sings it best..without "TRADITION!!!!" we have is the the tie that binds across the seas of the ages, it is the cradle that rocks us to sleep as a babe, and the winds that scatter our ashes back to earth.


Sovereignty Vs. Bigotry Sep 17th. at 3:54:00 pm EDT

Two Crows (Ohio) Age: 37 - Email

As Isaac Bonewits describes the Religious Reich in his Call to Arms I am immediately awash with a tide of emotions, memories, and trepidations as to a number of disturbingly similar qualities to be found in the Pagan Community at large, in fact in all communities containing religious or systematized thought. Though I know of no movement within Paganism/Wicca/Heathenry to formulate, or establish, a Pagan Theocracy, or to bring physical violence to bear on all other beliefs, the tendency of SOME in the Pagan Community to thwart, minimize, and demonize the life choices of SOME other Pagans/Witches/Wiccans is glaringly evident in almost every community I have ever encountered. At the very least some form of self-interested snobbery is to be encountered in almost any Pagan Community. Does this constitute Pagan Fundamentalism? No, not exactly, but it certainly smacks of the presence of the very same substrate of attitudes from which the Religious Reich has taken its form: Elitism; Literalism; Dualism; Exclusionism; Zealotry; Authoritarianism; Rigidity of thought.

That there are groups within the Pagan Community at large that regulate their memberships based on competence, skill, and dedication to a tradition, time served in set initiations, or various other rigidly strict tenets are not at issue. That SOME of those very same people are also the ones tossing around demeaning terms like “Fluffy Bunny,” “IRaB,” and the ever-ambiguous “Real Witch,” is. Traditionalism, though arguably without much valid basis in the realm of Reconstructionist Neo-Religions, IS NOT Fundamentalism as Mr. Bonewits describes it. That SOME Pagans calling themselves “Traditionalists” make it a point to look down their noses at everyone else in the Community, though, is dangerously close to the founding attitudes of Fundamentalism.

Being at variance with the situations, issues, and behaviors surrounding a given belief system is NOT Fundamentalism. Its having a brain, and making those concerns vocal is NOT an issue. Painting all members of a given belief system in broad strokes that prevent the possibility of individual variances IS a problem, even if the speaker’s experiences have lead them to those conclusions. Mr. Bonewits’ characterization of ALL Satanists and Setians (he calls them Setanists) as racist, white supremacist, and anti-pagan, is dangerously close to the attitudes that his Fundamentalists hold of all Pagans, and all other non-Christians. His characterization of Mr. LeVay, and Mr. Acquino, as racists and con artists is not at issue, at least not with me. That the issues surrounding the relationship between Paganism and Satanism are heated, and deserve our attention IS NOT in dispute. A concerted response on the basis of our desire for social and political acceptance of the dominant society alone constitutes, at least to me, a sad betrayal of the ideas we generally profess to hold dear.


Fundamentalism, Fear, And Loathing Sep 17th. at 4:03:11 pm EDT

lilith (los angeles) Age: 33 - Email

as i understand it, having been raised in a fundamentalist christian home, all fundamentalism needs a fundament, as in a book or tradition or set of rules, in order to be fundamentalist. a fundamentalist christian will take literally every word in the bible [or so many claim]. an orthodox jew is essentially a fundamentalist, as is a radical muslim, not because judiaism is inherently big on the literal WORDS of holy text [thats why there is a talmud/mishnah/etc. to argue with literal words and with each other], or because islam is always taught from a written text [definitely not true] but because fundamentalists need rules. when anyone is in desperate need of structure and rules you will usually find some form of fundamentalism.

witchcraft and paganism does have its form of fundamentalist. for example people who tell you there MUST be a lord and lady to create some kind of natural balance, or that there are two or three degrees of initiation that must be completed in order to be a "real" witch, or that the law of three is a must-believe-in RULE even though there is nothing in the natural world, psychic world, or mental world to back up such a punitive idea-- this is fundamentalism.

and that okay, because there are people who for whatever reason cannot be as free as others, or who find their freedom in rules, and for them thats their path, but i would appreciate it if they wouldnt put their trip off on me, since i am not similarly inclined.

A Vicious Circle, A Question With No Answer Sep 17th. at 5:18:41 pm EDT

Paul (California, USA) Age: 29 - Email

I do believe there are pagan groups that can be considered "fundamentalists" unfortunately. I was quite dismayed to find that several skinhead neo-Nazi groups have co-opted several classically pagan symbols from Celtic origins and used them as marks of racial hatred. And of course it's all too easy to place one's beliefs above anothers, particularly in the face of events like 9/11.

This has existed for centuries, in all faiths, and unfortunately little has changed, only the legal ramifications of the arguments.

You read Wren's Nest News and find articles about how a Catholic church is being set up in a community that doesn't want it, and you can smell the tension. You just know it's a matter of time before you read a follow-up article about how that church will be vandalized, or how there will be complaints from the neighborhood of their proselytizing. It's too easy to retreat into a corner where you find yourself with a feeling that Catholicism is simply completely wrong, and it's a short hop to the point where you believe the whole religion is wrong.

In general, though, I do feel that the pagan world is much better about this than anyone else. We don't have a strict and formal doctrine, and we encourage people to find their own particular flavor of religion. Because we have no central authority figure, no common holy script to defend, we admit there may be multiple truths in things religious. This makes our group unique in the world, and so unlike the "big three" religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. We are open to accepting that people have different theories, different ideas, different beliefs. But for much of it, the "big three" do not. The Bible is rife with passages that promote violence, conversion, or at the very least, mistrust of anyone who doesn't conform.

Sociologically, religions offer power to their members through a sense of community and identity. However, identity can only exist in a comparative capacity; I can only be me if no one else is. When there is no enemy, a society will create one. Hitler rallied a country decimated by World War I around the idea that the Jews were the enemy. He used the hatred as a battle flag for the Germans to follow. During the Crusades, the Muslims became the chosen enemy of the Catholic church, a vehicle to promote its faith, to give its miserable peasant population a focus away from the empire's woes. War has often popped up just in time to bolster a leader's approval rating.

Most pagans have broken this mold. We rejoice in our differences, we embrace our idiosyncracies, and even if we don't understand a faith, we accept it. Possibly to our detriment, we expect the same kind of "live and let live" policy from those around us, and when that kind of acceptance is not returned in kind, it's often easier to dig a moat to protect us from the other side than it is to build the bridge to connect us.


Yes, DEFINITELY! Sep 17th. at 6:18:03 pm EDT

(Rev) Norm Vogel (New Jersey) Age: 50 - Email - Web

I've found that "fundamentalism" exists much more often in various Pagan "Trads", rather than Eclectic groups. In a "Trad", certain rituals are done for the Sabbats, Handfasting, etc, and
(unfortunately) some NEVER VARY.

The problem with this is that, after awhile, this One Constant Way becomes the "Only Way", and
then the "Only RIGHT Way", implying that all other ways are "wrong". I've seen various groups
who do this, and the sad part is that they're not even AWARE that they're doing it! THAT is the real danger: they begin to label other ways as being "wrong" and only their way is correct.

Religion -- ANY religion -- must continue to change and evolve with the Times, and if it doesn't, the Faith (be it Pagan or Christian) begins to "fossilise" -- witness the RC church, which is hopelessly out of step with the 21st Century. (And, witness the many problems it's having). The motto of any faith should be "keep up/change or DIE".

This is the reason that I MUCH perfer Electric groups; for example, our Coven has different people Cating the Circle, etc, and we are exposed to many different ways of doing things. (And, I've adopted many of these ideas for my own use).

I welcome people to check out my website at

Happy Mabon!

Norm Link to More info related to this post -- HERE

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