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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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.
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| 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 said..it 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 me...so 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 nothing...it 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 http://www.nvogel.com/fact.html
Link to More info related to this post -- HERE
| Pot-Kettle ||Sep 17th. at 6:59:36 pm EDT|
|ladyblckraven (burlington Wisconsin) ||Age: 31 - Email - Web|
One thing i have learned about all "relgions", faiths, ect ect...is
The moment you stop to direct someone on the "right" path...
you've stopped walking yours.
I don't know where I heard that quote, but since I have, 7 years ago, I have never questioned another's path since.
We would all like to be right, to have all the answers, but we should try to remember
that the right answers are the ones that we didnt even know we knew.
Peace and blessings
| Religious Fundamentalism In The Wiccan Community ||Sep 17th. at 9:23:58 pm EDT|
|Cerridwen Johnson (Tucson, AZ (attend school in Nevada, MO)) ||Age: 19 - Email |
Ask any Gardinarian Wiccan who does not follow the "Hard-Gard" line. We will all tell you, from those in America, to one in Canada and Europe, yes, there are Wiccan fundies. These "Hard-Gards" are American Gardinarians who teach their initiates that thiers is the one true Gardinarian path, and that all those, even Doreen Valiente, are not true Gardinarians. These people have added, and deleted, things from their BoS and claimed that theirs is the only authentic one, that theirs is the only one that can make you a legitimate Gardinarian. And further, from what I have been told by a few of their initiates, they do not TEACH. These people seem to crave followers, and refuse to include these same followers in their rituals, keeping secret even the most basic arts of drawing a circle. I ask, what is the difference between the Pagans who bash others of a different path and the christians who persecute us? Have they not become the evil that we once as a community rallied against? And Wiccan fundamentalism is just as damaging, just as dangerous, and just as moraly decrepid, as any religious fundamentalism, from Islamis jihad to theose Southern Baptists who try and get us kicked out of school. THey are still hurting people, they are still destroying, and they are not serving, as the priesthood should.
| Fanatics Of Any Kind Scare Me. ||Sep 17th. at 10:31:45 pm EDT|
|Wog (East lansing, MI) ||Age: 46 - Email |
I have enjoyed the answers I have been reading. I found Sabrina's to be particularly helpful for me. Fanatics, fundamentalists, whatever name you choose always scare me. To be so certain of any truth binds it into such a narrow path that it can not grow and evolve much less share the path with another truth along the way. Every group of people will have its "fundies" it is a function of being human not of being pagan or christian or jewish or republican or what have you. The Human world only changes one person at a time, starting with ourselves. You can not attack or fight a zealot or fanatic, only alter your own space in the world to leave no room for them to take hold in it.
I found one particular response that spoke to me I am certain that others felt a truth in some one elses response. It is the willingness to accept so many differnt ways to spirtuality tha gives the Pagan community its vibrancy and strength. Even when it is a community of one.
| Yes. They Are Out There. ||Sep 18th. at 12:18:39 am EDT|
|Onyx (North Central Wisconsin) ||Age: 20 - Email |
I don't have much to say here, except that yes, I believe there are Fundamentalists in Wicca, as there are in all religions. Every religion has their "hard-core" believers, just as every religion has a few "dabblers."
To tell the truth, part of the reason I left Wicca was because of "fundie Wiccans" always telling me how I should believe. In a way, it did help, I realized that I had issues with the religion of Wicca, and moved on to a different path. I am still a practicing Witch, but my religious beliefs are not Wiccan. To some, there isn't a difference, and to others (like me), there is.
I wouldn't call fundamentalism a bad thing. It's not for me, but there are those who truly believe that they must act a certain way within their religion. That's their belief. Who I am to say it's a bad belief? That would make me someone who says this way to believe is OK, and this way is not....and I just don't believe in that. Every person has the right to their own religion, even the terrorists that have attacked us. I don't believe what they did is right, as I don't believe murder of any kind is right, but they have the right to believe what they want to believe...isn't that what the US calls an inalienable right? What I am most afraid of in the war on terrorism is mass conversion, but that's another topic really and I don't have much time to go into now.
Yes, there are fundies, everywhere, not just in Christianity, not just in Paganism, or Islam, or just in any one religion. I think it's part of religion in a way. It's not right for me, but that doesn't mean it's not right for someone else, so I can't say that it's wrong or a bad way of doing things. As for the other questions, I don't really have any thoughts on them at the moment, but maybe I'll update this later.
| We Most Assuredly Do ..... ||Sep 18th. at 1:18:40 am EDT|
|Swan (Maryland) ||Age: 40 - Email |
I dont understand why, when someone finds AN answer, .. they think it is THE answer ....
for everyone...... or anyone beyond themselves ....actualy I have an idea that the type of thinking that is what we are calling fundamentalist is actully a developmental milestone in the process of eventually achieving abstract thinking .....
It seems to me that fundamentalist thinking hasnt quite yet made the paradigm shift that usually accompanies what I would call pagan thinking ..... in that knowing what is right for oneself might be very different for someone else ..... and respecting and appreciating and even celebrating differences ... rather than inisisting some standard applies to all ....
Love and Light
| Can't Live With Them, Can't Live Without... ||Sep 18th. at 4:29:17 am EDT|
|Drifter (Netherlands) ||Age: 28 - Email |
All religions have fundies ! In every way of thinking/believing, there's people hanging on for dear life to the basics and some people more free of thought and open minded. It takes all kinds...
Both are needed: The fundies are needed to keep the basics known and clear and preserved. Traditions are beautiful in their own right. The more open people are needed to go along with the changeing times. Who knows they may find improvements...
Both have their dangers: Fundies may get stuck in times and attitudes that at one time can no longer be realisticly held on to - you can't stop the world turning. With the more open people you get the danger of taking a thought were it was never meant to go. The best examples of fundie-dangers are seen in actions like 9/11 or in the more aggressive Xtians, JW's etc. The best examples of too openminded thinking unfortunately are found among Pagan and New Age religions, where some insist that sex or drugs or animal-sacrifice are quite acceptable or needed, even though that might not be literally in the texts/rules. (please don't immediately shoot me now - I might not mean your religion)
I think however that neither is necessarily bad (or good). It does take all kinds. What most people think about at hearing the word 'fundamentalist', is the exclusivist thinker: the kind of person who thinks that his way is the only right way. This is easily done by fundies, because after all: they base themselves on the raw fundamentals. But this writer happens to know fundies, who don't pose any threat to others or force their ideas on others. Granted: you're a lost cause to them, because you think differently, but that just means that they'll avoid you ! nothing wrong with that.
The biggest danger, according to this poster, is not the fundie, but the exclusivist thinking. It is in the human, not in the God(dess), the word, the scripture or the religion. Some people just find it difficult to remain sure of their own 'rightness' in light of others being right. After all most of us are thinking along logic lines like 1+1=2, and there can only be one right answer to 1+1=?.
| Unfortunatly They Are There But In More Ways Than One. ||Sep 18th. at 7:44:40 am EDT|
|Roy Adams (Maine, USA) ||Age: 25 - Email - Web|
Yes, It takes only a little bit of consideration towards the question to know they are out there. I have been witness to a few in my time. The "witch-wars" are very much a part of this. I admit I find my self at times being a fundy and on one occasion even said "I know for a fact there is the Goddess and God" but that was only after I had been drilled by a baptist co-worker for a week about how I was going to hell along with everyone else that wasn't baptist. I even ended the statement to him with "I know I'm right and you're wrong so stop trying to convert me, it wont work." Needless to say he did leave me alone after that.
but anyways on the other side of the spectrum, I've met many pagans who spend all their efforts avoiding fundies and anything that promotes fundlementism. Being in their own rite, fundies themselves. For example:
I follow the writtings of Conway, I find his book, "Wicca, the complete guide to the craft", the most informative yet so I use it pretty much as my "Bible". Now I've been scalded by a couple individuals for this. Without typing the whole conversation it basically was "real witches do not go by books". That's fundyism where I come from.
Basically I follow the book because I agree with it, The rituals make sense and the how's and why's are all there. It even gives studywork. I don't go around telling people they have to follow this book, I do advise people to at least check it out.
Another example: I've been implied that if I am a wiccan that I MUST be a universalist all because the charges say "by these names and many more, known and unknown". Sorry, I don't except jesus and mary as the God and Goddess. Doesn't mean your wrong, only I don't follow that idea.
well, that's my rant. We welcome yours.
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