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Posted: Sep. 8, 2002
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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
| Since I Have Just Experienced Religious Intolerance In The Workplace (they Told... ||Mar 20th. at 9:33:03 am EST|
|Kyriea (Brooklyn Park, Minnesota US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
Since I have just experienced religious intolerance in the workplace (they told me I needed to remove all my religious jewelry but didn't want to apply the same rule to all the other people who displayed their religious jewelry) I know what I would do. Exactly what I did do. I made sure I knew my rights and stood up for myself. The HR department at my job at first tried to impress on me that they looked at the situation as a harrassment case (I guess my pentacles were harrassing to some) but I told them that they could not make me remove my jewelry. After letting them know I knew my rights and that I would not tolerate religious discrimination they said they would not force me to remove my jewelry. They said that in the interest of personal choice they felt that it would be inappropriate to request it of me. They were also going to talk to the people who filed the complaint in the first place and discuss religious and personal tolerance. I knew that being out of the closet meant I might have to defend myself, my family, my friends and my community at one time or the other. I had hoped not to have to do so at my job but since I did, I didn't back down.
| I Am Lucky In That My Parents Are Extremely Tolerent. But I... ||Mar 20th. at 9:58:59 am EST|
|Jane Spacebat (Ednburgh, England UK) ||Age: 20 - Email |
I am lucky in that my parents are extremely tolerent. But I have not been so lucky at school etc. I have never believed in a christian God, and the main reasons I became interested in wicca were to help save the environment and stop all the bad things people are doing (I was just a kid!!). Now I'm a biology student. I think that prejudice is a lot more extreme in the US than it is here in the UK, with a lot more fundamentalists. Unfortunately, these people are never going to be reasoned with. Although I'm sure some of the more extreme hateful websites are spoofs (does anyone know if Balaam's Ass Speaks is a spoof?) they are still representative of extreme views, and it's all the more scary if one can't actually tell. Whenever I've been harassed about being interested in wicca or believing in evolution or about anything, I feel angry and hurt inside but I try and ignore it. I could never get in a fight with someone and if I was mean back I'd feel really bad about it for ages... It is very hard and a lot of the time at school I did feel like killing myself. What saved me, oddly enough, was getting into punk, ska and gothic music. I can't imagine what it must be like living in a small town in the US, when I got picked on for being different in Chicago (I'm from UK but lived in Chicago for 11 years).
| I Can't Help But Be Outraged, Sad, And Empowered All At The... ||Mar 20th. at 12:31:05 pm EST|
|Laurie (Peterborough, Ontario CA) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I can't help but be outraged, sad, and empowered all at the same time when reading those critical e-mails that Wren posted. As a Facilitator for a University Pagan Circle, I have many people e-mail me just out of curiosity about what it is that we do and believe in as Pagans. Fortunately my own experiences with anti pagan hoop-la has been limited. Other then a few radical Christians that take it upon themselves to enlighten us Pagans in Pagan Chat rooms, my experience as an "out of the broom closet Witch" has been a positive one. That being said one of our circle members did have a run in with the provincial police awhile back; and at learning that she was involved with the Campus Pagan Circle they questioned her about "Black Magic" and the "Secret Society" that they felt she belonged too... Secret my foot I e-mail everyone about what we're doing...
As a Pagan living in Canada things are slightly different, for the most part Pagans are not politically active but thankfully our Government has not fostered such policies that have forced us to take a stand, but non the less discrimination on the grounds of religious intolerance does exist in our country. (read "If you're White you Can't be Pagan" Branwen Stonecipher and Kate Slater in "Freedom Within the Margin : The Politics of Exclusion" Detselig Enterprises Ltd. Calgary Alberta 1995)
How does one or a group address such hostility and intolerance when faced with it? I believe that education is our most useful tool... true you can only teach those willing to learn but I have faith in the human spirit, and believe that the good guys out number the bad. Our Pagan Group is currently seeking funds to purchace a few books on Wicca and Law Enforcement in Canada to give to our local Police Departments.
Our society is not Utopic, but it is perfect non the less, in its ability to advance and develop, I think that religious tolerance is on the rise, we must except that there our differences, that to be different does not always imply negativity and that each individual has the right to seek out the path that best suits them no matter what that spiritual path may be.
To those who e-mailed Wren with those nasty e-mails everyone has a right to their own opinion, but a informed opinion is always best, I suggest that you do some research and take off your blinders for the sake of all religions not just ours!
| I Thought About This For Several Moments And Realized That I Have... ||Mar 20th. at 1:38:52 pm EST|
|Moondancer a.k.a. Melody Forsythe (Nashville, Tennessee US) ||Age: 32 - Email |
I thought about this for several moments and realized that I have been truly fortuate as to my experiences with Christians and others who disagree with my beliefs. Though I never through myself up in their faces as a witch, it does inevitably come up in conversation. After their initial shock and fear are overcome and I have the chance to answer their questions, I find that people are accepting to a degree. A few have chosen to "keep me at arms length" but the majority "agree to disagree."
As to what the appropriate response would be if I ever experienced the hatred that some have endured? I have to say I would be tempted to throw their hatred back to them, but most likely I would draw courage from Artemis, wisdom and power from Brighid, and the ability to laugh from Pan -- the hatemongers are not going to destroy my spirit!!! Let me close by saying that physical violence should be met with self preservation. You would defend yourself by any means necessary if an intruder broke into your house in the middle of the night -- so if someone attacked me physicially because I am a witch I would feel justified in defending myself and quashing the threat.
Blessed Be )o(
| I Am One Of Those That Have Chosen To Be Open About... ||Mar 20th. at 2:00:43 pm EST|
|Maythen Apple (Redding, California US) ||Age: 23 - Email |
I am one of those that have chosen to be open about my beliefs. I don't hide what I am or what I believe. But I've also chosen not "push" either. It can be diffcult, at times, to just smile and try to look beyond the hate. To educate instead of attack. The most painful attacks are from those that I know and love.
My mates grandfather recently began to make "sneak attack" discussions. He waits untill we have to leave right away, or are almost out the door. Then he tells us how sorry he is that we wont be in heaven with him, proceeds to quote the bible at us, and tells us about how horrible eternity in "the lake of fire" is going to be. He refuses to sit down with us and rationally discuss faith. He asks us to pray to Jesus to give him the strength to show us the True Light Of God.
He looks at his other Grandson, granddaughter-in-law, and their two children. Compares them with us. And doesn't know what to do. My mate and I have shown nothing but patience, kindness, and compassion. While the other grandson has leeched their resources (putting the grandparents into over 55, 000 dollars of debt), treats the badly, ignores them, insults them constantly, and attends church six days a week. It is a terribly frustrating situation. Both for the grandfather and for us.
A few days ago some friends and I were having a quiet conversation over dinner. I noticed a group of people who were gesturing at us and whispering in a huddle. Eventually one of the men came over to our table, interrupted our conversation to inform us that jesus loved us but we were going to hell, then took off before any of us could say a word. It didn't hurt me. But it didn't make me feel too good either.
I wish that I could say that I have the answers. I wish that I could tell you the secret to making people understand that how you live your life is more important than what name you call Divinity. But I don't.
So, instead, I continue to live my life. I educate those I can. I endure those I can't. I live my life in love and peace. Hoping that, by example, I can show others that Pagans aren't some bloodthirsty slavering demons.
| I've Found That The Christian Axiom Of "turn The Other Cheek" Isn't... ||Mar 20th. at 2:44:45 pm EST|
|Lysander True (Oceanside, California US) ||Age: 27 - Email |
I've found that the Christian axiom of "turn the other cheek" isn't a bad idea, I don't fight the tide, but I don't give in either. We need to be especially careful of the words we use when we speak out against hatred as well, while we are angry we need not show it. Too many times, I have seen Pagans fighting hatred and intolerance, with hatred and intolerance.
Education is the key to fighting bigotry, use fire to fight fire, scriptures are always good since many of the scriptures have multiple meanings and are contradicted in other texts. Stand tall and proud, deliver truth without bias and you will win out, you may not win the battle, but you have honorably won the war.
Finally, remember you won't change the mind of the prejudiced masses, but those few that are open minded will take it upon themselves to learn more. So, don't let it get you down if you can't seem to win, it's better to have failed trying then to have never tried and fail.
| Okay. I've Typed About Four Essays In This Little Space Here And... ||Mar 20th. at 3:12:15 pm EST|
|magically mundane (Brunswick, Maine US) ||Age: 15 |
Okay. I've typed about four essays in this little space here and this is my last try.
When someone attacks you simply for being Pagan, one needs to assume that this person either had a very bad experience with a Pagan or that they are simply uneducated. In either case, it's not easy to deal with, but I've found that in Maine (and around here and Bath) people usually at least hear what you have to say. If your attacker won't listen, the people around you usually will, at least one person. As far as I know, there aren't any directly violent and anti-Pagan gangs or groups around here, so I have no idea what it's like being physically attacked or surrounded.
If that person was a Catholic, that just means that they're a bad apple. Being Catholic or Christian or any religion has nothing to do with it, really. It's just in how you were raised and how easily you cave into peer pressure, and how and what you perceive as being right.
I don't think you need to necessarily "forgive and forget" to abide by the Rede. You only need to be careful around that person and not give them anything to hold against you. Just be a good person, help others, do the right thing, and people will see that. To the basic human soul, religion has nothing to do with it. It's in how strong you are, and whether you stand up for your beliefs and rights.
To all those anti-Pagan sites, well, they obviously are either severely disillusioned or they just don't know what they're talking about. I've only seen a few and unfortunately those particular ones believe that we're Satan-worshippers and such. *sighs* I say poor them, mostly.
| I Have Dealt A Lot With Being An Outsider. I Know What... ||Mar 20th. at 6:42:59 pm EST|
|Wiccaton (Kansas City, Missouri US) ||Age: 17 - Email |
I have dealt a lot with being an outsider. I know what it is like to be on the recieving end of hatred. I know what it is like to be so consumed by it that you die inside. I also know what it is like to make a choice to not spend the rest of your life filled by hatred. All of this I learned before ever deciding to become a Wiccan.
I try my best to teach people. You find people who are interested in it, but not for their religion. You find people who disagree with it, but respect you enough to not speak out against it. Then you find the ones that only know the propaganda they've been taught throughout their life. I do not say forgive. I do not say forget. I do say to know enough to not let the past bother you.
I do not say that we should embrace those that hate us, but I also don't say that we should actively discriminate against them. Deal with them when you must and don't bother with them when you get the choice. I have found that some people won't change and must simply be dodged. It is appropriate to stand up when they are actively trying to scare you and bully you into falling into place. Then you have no choice, since they won't stop unless you make a stand.
As for the sites: I respond calmly, coolly, and show intelligence without insulting. They might not respond, but I have not given them any ammo to use against me.
| I Know This Sounds Like I Am Wimping Out, But Ghandi And... ||Mar 20th. at 7:42:23 pm EST|
|Ellen Parker-Williams (East Hartford, Connecticut US) ||Age: 36 |
I know this sounds like I am wimping out, but Ghandi and Martin Luther King were right. The only way to fight hate is with love, intolerance with tolerance, that which brings the other back into harmony. Hate only promotes more hate, violence brings more violence. We can only show that we are a peaceful loving group. No religion in their essence really wants to hurt other people, it is the followers who try to interpret and get fanatical. The way I deal with the hate is to turn away with pride and love and keep my head up, and not to act as if I was beaten or wrong. As for interfaith ministries, yes we should participate whereever possible. If anyone is to take us seriously as a religion then we need to take ourselves seriously and take our rightful place in these counsils.
| Appropriate Response? I Think There Are Many. I Admit, I'm A Rather... ||Mar 20th. at 8:57:13 pm EST|
|Amanda (Anoka, Minnesota US) ||Age: 16 - Email |
Appropriate response? I think there are many. I admit, I'm a rather agressive girl. I've never been one for dresses or makeup, and I have a love for action movies and researching the horrors of war. I, personally, don't like to put up with a lot of crap about being Pagan. I can put up with it if it's just whispering in the back of the room. Or even when a young child tells me "you don't think that stuff is real, do you?". What I can't put up with is someone telling me, to my face, that Paganism is wrong. Luckily, there aren't many people in my area who do that. A person has to respond how they wish. Even if the Wiccan Rede tells you to be kind and whatnot, if you feel you (or your religion) are/is being threatened, it's a natural response to snap at someone, or defend yourself. This can be handled calmly, or agressively. But it is natural, and I think the Goddess can forgive us for wanting to defend ourselves.
| What A Broad Question For Something That You Feel Inside.. Im Pagan... ||Mar 20th. at 9:36:14 pm EST|
|nadine (rockport, Texas US) ||Age: 25 - Email |
what a broad question for something that you feel inside.. im pagan and very srtong in my beliefs.. i do not judge others that judge me or anyone for that matter. that is what seperates me from christians.. never once did i meet a christian that wasnt money hungry and judgemental.. they have the nerve to judge me for my beliefs and my right as an american do choose what i want to be.. i dont preach my beliefs towards others, i try to educate them on what i know for me to be true in my soul.. it is sad the things that some of these christian people were writing about that young girl who hung herself.. they would be so quick to open their ignorant closed minded mouths if they just understood a little of what paganism means. in conclusion all i have to say is it is a sad sad world we live in.. those who "preach" peace and love, , certainly dont practice it. maybe they could learn a thing or two from a pagan.
| I Am Fortunate Enough That I Have Not Encountered Anyone (at Least... ||Mar 20th. at 11:14:37 pm EST|
|Raven (Halifax, Nova Scotia CA) ||Age: 22 - Email |
I am fortunate enough that I have not encountered anyone (at least not yet) who dislikes me for my Wiccan beliefs (or if they have, they've been smart enough not to say anything to me about their prejudices.) I don't hide the fact that I am Wiccan. My schoolbag (which I take everywhere) has several pins on it with phrases such as "The Goddess is alive and Magic is afoot." My favourite piece of jewellery is a pentacle necklace. I quite welcome it when people respectfully ask me questions about Wicca or paganism (this happens frequently, at least once a week) because I believe that any opportunity to spread a positive message about what witches really do is good.
While I haven't had experience in being discriminated against because I'm Wiccan, I do have experience being teased in junior high, because I was different from the other kids (I was smart and liked to learn in a school where neither of those things were seen as positive by my peers). I have learned much about how to deal with such bullies since those days. And one thing I have learned is to not give such hate-filled people any satisfaction; people who love to hate get so much joy when the victims of their hatred show they are bothered by the hate-filled messages. The trick with most of these hate-filled people is not to pay them any attention. Ignore them whenever you can. Don't visit their websites. Don't get into arguments with them if you can avoid it; such arguing will have karmic reprocussions for you if you allow yourself to get angry at such people. If less and less people respond to someone's hate-filled message, it will burn itself out.
Now all that said, sometimes you can't avoid a confrontation with people, because they refuse to leave you alone. If someone starts saying bad things to you because you are pagan (or for any other reason, for that matter) say to them: "I will not talk to you because you are being irrational and disrespectful." In bullying situations I have faced, I put up aura shields so that the hate the other person is giving out bounces off me and goes back to them. Then I walk away. I have done things like this before when I have been picked on, and most hate-filled people are stunned because I didn't respond to them with anger.
If someone bothers you repeatedly about your pagan beliefs, this constitutes harrassment. This is illegal. First, give a warning that you will take legal action against them if they continue to bother you. If they still persist, then take legal action.
As for the issue of forgiveness, I'm not really sure. I just don't think that I should harbour anger for someone else's perpetual stupidity and ignorance for the reason that I do not want bad karma from resentment to come back to me. I think that all of us in the pagan community should do whatever we can to make sure that positive messages are put forth into society about pagan beliefs and practices. The more we do this, the more people will be educated enough to see through anti-pagan messages for what they really are: hate-filled crap being spewed by ignorant people.
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