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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: 28,344,547  

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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 

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.


Yes, We Do! Sep 18th. at 12:47:23 pm UTC

Belle (MI) Age: 28 - Email

Yes, religious fundamentalism does exist in the Pagan community, just as in every religious community. The belief that your way is the only/right way is not limited only to those people who practice the big three. It is not as prevalent in Paganism, in my opinion, because most people who practice paganism already have the open mind and insight necessary to understand that the only person who knows if your religion is the right one is *you*. We also see that foisting our beliefs off on other people does not do anything except cause strife and discord.

However, I do not believe that fundamentalism is intergral to the preservation of a Pagan/Heathen way. Tolerance and education lead the march to introduce Paganism into mainstream society. People (as a group and not individuals) have always and will always fear what they do not know or understand. Education is the only way that Paganism will be accepted as not only a vaild religion, but a *good* one as well; a religion that parents would be happy to see their children following.

Circle of Brigid Coven

In Some Cases, There Seem To Be Fundamentalists. Sep 18th. at 1:40:30 pm UTC

Willow Rowan Cathowl (Wisconsin) Age: 16 - Email - Web

I have noticed that some of the people who claim to be "traditional Witches" put down others that are "eclectic" or "new age". Some "traditionals", as I've heard them called, claim that anyone who is "New Age" or "Eclectic" are phony and fake. (look at the link-, and you'll see what I mean...) I have been Pagan for nearly eight years so far, and I consider myself neither "traditional" nor "new age". I am just Pagan. I have been curiously concearned, as to whether or not the entire Pagan community will be split two (or even more...) ways. (Look at Christianity...) I just want to say that I wish that everyone could just accept each other, because that is what true Pagans do... Link to More info related to this post -- HERE

Fanatics Sep 18th. at 2:16:05 pm UTC

Mothrae (Pennsy USA) Age: 37 - Email

There are Fundies and Fanatics everywhere. How could Paganism possibly be excluded from this? My Path is of course right for me, and I will cheerfully explain it to anyone interested. If I seem happy and talkative about it, I'm sure some would see me as a fanatic. At the other end of the spectrum are those who see fit to beat you with a stick, or worse, to make their point about what they believe.

We are all guilty of this to some degree in everyday life. My Dad is a Chevy man and would die before he ever owned a Ford or Chrysler. My cousin is a fanatic football fan, his team is Holy and all others stink. I can't stand Kraft Miracle Whip and will only use Hellman's. If my niece can't have those new Reeboks she just might jump off a bridge.

As long as we remain human we will have likes and dislikes. We can pray for tolerance. If you don't believe what I believe, great. That's your choice. Just don't tell me I'm wrong. Harm None works both ways, y'know.

Brightest Blessings


Call Me Whatever You Like Sep 18th. at 2:19:31 pm UTC

Phoenix, 3* (Long Island, NY) Age: 69 - Email

A Wiccan initiatory Tradition has the right to define how its teachings and rites are maintained. It has the right to decline to share its teachings with those who have not taken the same initiation and oath, and to decry modifications of its teachings and rites.

As a Gardnerian initiate, I choose to work with those who share my beliefs and practices. I do not seek converts nor do I demand that others follow my ways. I do not seek nor require validation based upon the approval of those with different beliefs. Yes,I'm a "Hard Gard." Does this make me a "fundamentalist"? If so, I suppose I can live with the label. I've been called worse.

Yes Sep 18th. at 3:19:33 pm UTC

Ciarrai (Piscataway, NJ) Age: 35 - Email

I figured that out right away when I first began the "study phase" of Paganism and Witchcraft. Luckily for me, I had enough Christian Fundamentalist experience, in the negative way to know better -- not necessary for them to get to me (hence my "conversion" to my own strange Christo Pagan faith that I a solitary in most instances).

The beauty of Paganism is that you can make it your own just as long as you "Remember the Rede!"

Peace. Ciarrai

Traditionalism Vs. Fundamentalism Sep 18th. at 4:08:13 pm UTC

Two Crows (Ohio) Age: 37 - Email

I like to think of Paganism as the thinking person’s religion, one in which its adherents not only seek the truth wherever it may be found, but who also entertain the fundamental question of what truth really is. In this pursuit it is often necessary to delve into the origins of various beliefs, accrue a collection of viewpoints on a given subject, and endlessly compare notes with others, both living and otherwise. Inevitably anyone who is seeking the truth will form opinions, and it is only human to have preferences, passions, and trepidations about certain beliefs, particularly after long exposure to the record of history, which illustrates the actions of true believers throughout the ages.

In my experience Pagan seekers are also doers, and not just thinkers. Paganism tends to be an experiential path, or collection of paths, that doesn’t simply take another person’s word on the efficacy, or quality, of various practices, particularly in the case of magick. This leads everyone to different experiences of a subject that is deceptively simple in its little label, “magick.” Sometimes these experiences are sought after as proof, a sort of final analysis in the determination of what truth is. Is experience truth? Is it the whole, ultimate, and inalterable truth? Does it prove anything at all?

All too often experiences lead us, yes even typically open-minded Pagans, to conclusions that seal the question of truth prematurely, and prevent us from further experiences, further investigation, and further enlightenment. It is as if the seeker has found what they were after, and no further investigation is necessary. In many instances this is exactly the case, and a resounding “I’ve come home” declaration is made. Unfortunately one of the goads of Mystery is ever-present, that being the Paradox of the Other, and we are left defending our comfortable “truth” from the reality of others who have found different truths that leave us unsettled, and at the crossroads of deciding to seek again, sometimes simply to regain that place of comfort and safety where “truth” was no longer a mystery to us. What is a tradition, a path, or a belief system, if not a place to find comfort, the company of others of like mind, and a sense of belonging? Does this comfort ever really constitute the truth? What is a tradition anyway? Do we need one at all?

One definition of tradition is: A mode of thought or behavior followed by a people continuously from generation to generation. This definition would make things like the celebration of Christmas, and the institution of slavery, both traditions. It would also make “Traditionalists” anyone who advocates, adheres to, or practices a generational thought or behavior.

Perhaps the lesson Mystery is presenting us with is that reality that transcends thoughts and behaviors, that in the final conclusion we are simply a people…


Fundamentalism By Itself Is Ok. Sep 18th. at 4:12:31 pm UTC

Tamo (CA) Age: 33 - Email

Any subculture, any "scene", and any social context can foster the development of fundamentalism. Fundamentalism is a natural part of human creativity.

I've seen it happen in music when folks argue over how much artistic license is too much in the playing of a piece. Some people insist upon playing exactly as written, especially in classical music. Some people allow more interpretation. Some allow lots of it.

I've seen it happen in karate class when folks differ over how rigorously to adhere to historical techniques. Some respect the founder. Some worship the founder. Councils of high-ranking black belts play the same politics seen anywhere else. What to teach? What to improve? What to reject?

I've seen it happen in fashion when folks debate over who's "keeping it real" and who's a wanna-be/poser/dork. I've heard a non-racist skinhead from the 60's bemoan the modern racist hijacking of his subculture. He's a fundamentalist in that regard. I've heard a Goth list her "friends" in 2 columns: one for "true" Goths, the other for "fakes".

I've seen it happen in driver's education. My own mother is a fundamentalist on the freeway. Nobody should pass on the right; passing is done on the left. The little newsprint booklet from the DMV is the equivalent of her bible.

I've seen it happen in cuisine. Traditional foods must be prepared the traditional way. Or do they? Some sushi purists insist that a Califoria roll (with avocado as an ingredient) isn't "real" sushi. What's the line between being innovative and horsing around?

Religion can be no different.

Of course Paganism will have its share of fundamentalists. It already does. Our numbers are still too small to show great schisms (or even great unity for that matter). But as a segment of humanity, we will inevitably have disagreements over the right level of rigor and tradition.

Now, to have such disagreements is not bad in and of itself. It is natural and healthy to display a spectrum of conservative to liberal attitudes in anything. If the debate is good-natured and good-humored, all can benefit from a productive and enlighting discourse. The insertion of negativity comes only when resentment enters the conflict.

Whenever stakes are raised, and power or influence become important, then we need to watch out. Then the desire to gain something (or at least avoid losing something) threatens to overshadow the common bonds between us. That's when differing camps begin to actively work against each other. That's when energy is directed towards harm.

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