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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: 26,790,318  

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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 

Pot-Kettle Sep 17th. at 6:59:36 pm UTC

ladyblckraven (burlington Wisconsin) Age: 31 - Email - Web

One thing i have learned about all "relgions", faiths, ect
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 UTC

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 UTC

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.

Thank you.

Yes. They Are Out There. Sep 18th. at 12:18:39 am UTC

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 UTC

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 UTC

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 UTC

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.

-Blessed Be

Fundys, Oh Yes... Sep 18th. at 8:37:54 am UTC

Kym (Altamonte Springs, Florida) Age: 25 - Email

A large part of me wishes that it wasn't true, that the craft which is supposed to be so open and understanding would have its own fundys, but it is true. A good friend of mine, was speaking to a woman and she told her that she was an eclectic witch, the other woman replied well that's all good and fine until you find a path to settle on. A eclectics and solitary pagans often catch a good deal of criticism for their choices by fundys. And it is sad and unfair. I have witnessed it and been criticized myself for being too young and not knowing everything I should know after ten years of study or not being witchy enough.

If only those you critize others for not being witchy enough, could realize that they are breaking the one law, most pagan, witches and others agree on, "Do what you will, Do no harm.", then maybe they would be less critical of others.

I will not say that I am perfect and that I have never critixed another in the craft, but knowing what it feels like to be looked down upon by others, I am more aware of how it feels and more conscious of my actions when interacting with others.

There is nothing wrong with being a "book witch" or a "newbie", these are just labels. We can all learn from one another. Recently, I have learned a great deal about myself by talking with a friend, just entering the path. Our conversations have helped me to verbalize things which I hadn't thought about a great deal, but are important and relevant to my life and my path.

Love and Light,


Yes,so I Am Solitary Sep 18th. at 11:34:34 am UTC

Dancewitch (Nova Scotia, Canada) Age: 56 - Email

I am a new and solitary Wiccan. One of the best pieces of advice I have read is that you must let yourself feel what is right for you. If you are comfortable with a god and goddess or with just a sexless supreme being, that is alright. And... that is why I am solitary. I have read about pagan gatherings and feel that if I go to one, someone will be trying to tell me what I should believe. having been brought up as a Christian, in a very strict religious family, I am so very familiar with this. The other tenet with which I was brought up was that only the church to which I belonged was correct and, all others would be going very quickly to their version of hell. Believe it or not, it was not the Roman Catholic church. I never want to encounter this type of hype or force or preaching again. There would have to be fundamentalist pagans. There are fundamentalists in every religion, so why should paganism be different. I just want to experience for myself the natural feelings of earth based religion.

Overzealous Everywhere Sep 18th. at 11:39:27 am UTC

Jezebel (Texas) Age: 27 - Email

I think it is silly to believe you won't find zealots in any philosophy or religion. Heck, there are people who preach that one brand of tennis shoe or breakfast cereal is the one true way - how is it difficult to believe that Pagans would do it too? The important thing is for the rest of us to show tolerance. I have always adopted an openess policy: I never hide my beliefs, but I choose careful when I volunteer them. But above all else, it is foremost in my mind that I am always speaking of my path, and it may or may not be the same as yours.

From A *fundie*... Sep 18th. at 11:42:44 am UTC

Haniel (Central California) Age: 36 - Email

The problem with the label "fundamentalist" is it covers a wide group of people, even within the Communities of the big three. Most fundamentalists of the Christian persuasion are harmless, the believe their bible is the word of God and if you disagree, you are going to hell. But they will not attack, hate or try to convert you beyond what they see as their duty to their God. It is the small section of militiant Fundamentalists that cause the problems.

As a Gardnerian (an earlier poster should note the spelling - the extra "i" made me cringe), and a 'HardGard', I do have some fundamentalist traits. But first I will cover what I do not believe: -

I do not believe that there is only *one true way* within Paganism. *ALL* paths are valid for those that walk them. There is *one true way* for *me*, at this time and this place in my life. If I argue with a person about a point of theology or philosophy, then I am arguing that what they are arguing is not right for *me*. The one exception to this is labels, which I will cover later.

I do not believe that my Path is right for all people. The Gods called me to this adventure, and I love it. Simply because it is rigth for me does not make it right for another, and to let another walk a Path which is not right for them is a disservice, both to myself, my gods and the other person.

I do not believe that the materials of my Tradition should be shared outside that Tradition. What we do is personal, family business. How we practice our Craft is a personal to us as what goes on inside any home or any bedroom. More so in some ways. I dislike people who are not *family* commenting on what they thing we do or believe. None of their business.

I do not believe that our particular Path can be learned form a book, a set of courses or a workshop. Our relationship with our Gods is bult up over years of practice. And one can only experience it with others on the same Path. This simply meens that our Path is different to others. Not better, not worse, just different.

Now what I do believe can be summed up much more succintly: -

Labels are for communication. To take a label for one thing and apply it to another makes communication difficult. Calling something Wicca, Particularly Gardnerian Wicca, when it is not an initiatory tradition going back to a particular area of England is is-labelling. It may sell books, but it does not promote understanding.

If you change something, give the Path a new label so that people will not get confused.

Respect those who walk different Paths and celebrate that diversity.

Respect the privacy of those that practice a different path to your own.

Whatever the Path you are on, live life it to the fullness. For me, Wicca is about confronting the challenges of life, not something to hide behind.

I believe in keeping the Tradition alive by only teaching those who are called, not those who think they are called. I know who is my *family* pretty soon after meeting them. I welcome them home. To everyone else, I treat them as friends and guests in my life; according to the way they behave.



In Addition Sep 18th. at 12:03:04 pm UTC

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

Just to expand my thought, now that I have received some email and have chewed on it for awhile...I come to one of my favorite quotes....via Ghandi.."Reliigous Intolerance is the first sign of Spiritual Immaturity."
Again, I think what I hear everyone speaking of is zealotry and supremacy...that idea that truth can be taught, bought, or inherited. That one can be baptized or christened in knowledge and redemption is the very reason Christianity is to my liking a plague on humankind.

Truth is a gift you give yourself. Period. If you need read books to find truth, read away. If you need sit at your granny's feet and listen, listen away. If you need just run naked in the night air, dance on.
If you beleive, as I, that life is about learning...then indeed there by defintion can never be one true all inclusive way. For if there were...then all the people on that path would just cease to exist...having already learned all there is to know. People like htis are by defintion, "a waste of good air" truly if you have already learned all there is to know in this life...then by all means commit hari kari and make room for a new soul in this classroom of life.
Personally, I practice what I like to call spiritual alchemy. The cultivation of the divine within oneself.

I received one email in particular that touched me to expand my thoughts...Fundamentalists..using my defintion...(not zealots or hate mongrels) but fundamentalists..those who live in worlds of absolutes and black and white...should be pitied not feared. Pity those who know not the beauty of the rainbow...theirs is a cold gray world. I think of spiritual awakening as linear..perhaps when you see a fundie, what you are really seeing is just a fellow man, on a ladder rung lower then your own...don't kick him down...give him a hand up.


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