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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: 9,841,933  

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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 


Well. I Do Not Have A Reply. I Do Not Have A... Mar 21st. at 2:50:30 am UTC

Chris (Kansas City, Missouri, Missouri US) Age: 20


Well.
I do not have a reply. I do not have a creed. I do not have some catchy phrase. I used to have to match wills with a few christians, I have some devoted fervant christians in my family, I have been told I was going to burn in hell, I have been told from an early age that I was arrogant, misguided, spoiled, and I have seen my own blood relatives look at me with...the only way I can describe it is "a hollow look".

They dont see a family member, they dont see a person, they dont see a human being, they see a shadow, a hollow shell, a puppet being pulled about by darkness, they see someone who is allready burning in hell. That in addition to my everyday experience with living in the bible belt...

As far as my beliefs on what is an acceptable response.
I have had enough hollow looks cast on me, I have had enough pain dealt out, I have been told I am going to hell often enough that I do not want someone else to experience the pain you feel when you cease being a person to some people. I do not want someone else to feel what it is like to be attacked for just being who they are.

I do not want another human being to have to pay for each step they take on their path...with blood, pain, and tears. But I am afraid that is the way things are. My experiences so far may be a pale shadow of what some here have had to face for just following their heart, but we all face hate and persecution for having the gall to follow our own religion. We all have our martyrs, regardless of which religion we follow, we all have our own demons to face as we walk our life's path.

Whether you are nailed to a cross, or burned at the stake, you are still paying price for being who you are. You are still facing hatred in order to follow your heart and soul.

That is my belief that governs my response to persecution, I have no desire to nail someone up, I have no desire to be a thorn on someone's path. I am not going to further anyone's pain and suffering, be it my own or someone else's.

Oh bah. I am rambling here.
Point, there was a point to this, there had to have been.
Ehh, I'll just keep rambling and hope I chance upon it again;}

I feel it would be a great tragedy to let some hateful spiteful little retch of a human being to affect how I respond to other people. I try not to let them color my relations with other christians. But after enough hate, after enough pain, and after a few hollow looks in the past..I find it is very diffficult to keep from expecting a conversion comment, or a love of God conversation...and I find that speaking to a christian, that any talk of religion tends to strike a great deal of fear into my heart.

I am not sure if I am afraid of more pain, or getting another hollow look, or afraid of throwing in some bitterness where it has no right to be, or if I am afraid I will have to either fight or give up. But I do not talk often on the subject of religion, probally because I started my fight back when I was about 8. I have had to give up, and curl myself into a ball in the corner at times. It is hard to learn how to fight when you are a child and the adults are telling you that you're evil.

I have to try to conquer my fear, bitterness, and soothe some tender spots when I talk to christians I care for. There is a very special young lady who holds a place in my heart, that I need to learn how to talk to on the subject of religion. For now I do not want to drudge up too much of my past with her, only enough for her to understand a bit about me, and a bit more about my pagan heart. I know she is a kind and loving person, I know she cares about understanding and compassion. But when it comes to talk of religion, when I think of her reading those millenial christian apocalypse fiction books, when I see her speaking her heart to her fellow christians in the hopes of fellowship comfort and guidance...I once again give into fear. I see the old hollow looks, I hear the words of hate coming from people that claim to follow a loving god, I wonder how many of her friends and family I will have to deal with, I wonder how many glares and venomous comments I am going to get from the people she associates with. And...I wonder how many more people I will meet who feel I am nothing but a hollow shell condemned to damnation, I wonder what all they would be willing to do to someone they felt was no longer human.

I avoid a fight when I can, even if it means slinking off and continuing my day elsewhere. I see no point in getting involved in another
"You are wrong, I am right, I follow the Word of God, you are going to burn in hell"
"Well if you're going to heaven, then thank the God and Goddess I am going someplace else" type of conversation.

When it comes down to hard core hate and violence, I respond with whatever I have at my disposal. I take a bit of liberty with my own life and safety, but when it comes to my home and my loved ones, I will not hesitate to use deadly force if it comes to a serious fight. You would be amazed how polite people can become if they are just introduced to the business end of a 12 guage carried by someone willing and able to use it.

I might be willing to turn the other cheek when my own self is involved, but when someone else, especially someone I care about, is attacked I feel justified in responding with every bit of force I have at my command. My religion does not demand that I give up my survival instinct, my religion does not demand that I stand and resign myself when the witch hunters are chopping wood for their bonfires, my religion does not demand that I turn a blind eye when I see someone stoned in the streets. There would be a lot less tyrany in this world, if there was a little more respect.

Human beings respect understanding, knowledge, and compassion.
Animals respect power and the willingness to use it.
Either fight with your heart, or fight with your teeth and claws. As the situation and the opponet requires. It also helps to have a few loud deadly weapons nearby to frighten off the mobs, and ventillate the witch hunters.

Everything has it's time, everything has it's wisdom, everything has it's use. When it comes to talk of reaction and response, you hear merely what one person believes is best for them, what they believe is best for their world. Each person must choose for themselves how they respond to each situation, and they must weigh for themselves how the consequences effect them, their loved ones, and the world around them. No one solution is useful for all situations, you are going to have to learn and adapt as you go along.

Approach life with an open mind, a loving heart, and a kind hand.

The Fates will take care of the rest;}


I Think That The Threefold Rule Applies Here. Those That Attack Me... Mar 21st. at 4:57:22 am UTC

Dianna Ost (Wasilla, Alaska US) Age: 21 - Email


I think that the threefold rule applies here. Those that attack me will have what they sent out delivered back to them three times. The way I act towards them will also reflect back on me. In the end, it is not for us to judge-they will judge themselves when the time comes for that sort of thing. In the meantime, my reaction would depend on whether their attacks were actually causing me harm. I would never, of course, judge an entire religion because of the actions of one or two ignorant zealots. As for anti-pagan web sites, well, let them rant and rave about how evil i am. I don't care, and it probably makes them feel good. It's been my experience that the sort of people who say things like that have very few other pleasures in life. In short, I just don't think that any of it-short of physical or other real harm-is worth getting all hot and bothered about. I wouldn't stoop to their level because it would only give credence to their views.


Maybe I've Gotten Old, But I No Longer Feel The Need To... Mar 21st. at 9:49:49 am UTC

OnyxFireCrow (San Bernardino, California US) Age: 39 - Email


Maybe I've gotten old, but I no longer feel the need to wear symbolic jewelry or sloganed clothing or otherwise advertise my religious allegiance, except in private or in the company of other like-minded people. I think doing such things is the equivalent of deliberately goading a fight with people who have already made up their small minds anyway. I think we have to face the fact that pentacles are still not an accepted symbol, and will tend to be met with fear. I worked for years among a group of very intolerant Jehovah's Witnesses and Mormons, and never once let them know my religion. If I had, I probably would have become another martyr. And in my opinion, that does NO ONE any good. If I'd rankled the bigots around me into doing something stupid, that would NOT have raised the level of awareness (or sympathy) to our religion, or even changed the bigot's minds. Instead, I garnered their respect by treating them with respect and not goading them, and I kept myself alive and in good spirits by spending my energies practicing my religion in private.

I don't think we should assume that bigots should be more tolerant. They are what they are because they have chosen that Path for themselves, and it's not up to me to force them to evolve past it. Bigotry and hatred have been around as long as humankind, but at least in this country we have laws against assault and property damage to protect us. If someone trespasses against me for ANY reason, I deal with that person directly. I was once carjacked at gunpoint at the grocery store. I went home and called down Maat, and 4 days later, that creep was off the streets and behind bars. (FYI: If you decide to call down Maat, be sure your hands are completely clean of any wrongdoing!)

Another thing we like to assume is that we Pagans are the good guys and everyone else are the bad guys to be feared. And that's not only silly, petty and bigotted also, it's a very dangerous assumption. I've read the articles on witch wars posted here, and I've been victim of it myself, from my very own coven. Pagans are no different from followers of other faiths: we are all here to learn and evolve, and we sometimes act with hatred/fear (same thing) ourselves.

The only way ANY of us will truly grow is to take responsibility for our own hatred/fear, and recognize that tendency in others. The truly religious and tolerant attitude towards others is one of acceptance, understanding, and healing. Hatred is a fact of life. Accept it, understand it for what it is, and don't let it control your attitudes or energies. Be an example of what a beautifully well-rounded, tolerant, healing religion can be. We don't have the copyright on that - ALL true religions have that goal at their core. Be blessed, and walk in light!


Merry Meet, When I Was 17, I Was Accosted In My Favorite... Mar 21st. at 10:49:52 am UTC

Artemis CrystalMoon (Baylis, Illinois US) Age: 21 - Email


Merry Meet,

When I was 17, I was accosted in my favorite bookstore by a fundamentalist Christian. I was reading the cover for one of Silver RavenWolf's books when the lady approached me and asked me "Do you believe in that?" I said "Yes, I do." Then she started telling me that I was going to Hell and that I was selling my soul to Satan. About that time, my older sister came up behind me and asked he lady if she had a problem. The lady told my sister that she was just trying to save my soul. My sister then said that my soul was none of the lady's business and that she had no place harassing me in this manner. The lady then turned away and left. After the incident, I was very defensive towards Christians. Now I am 21 years old. I am more mature in my views toward religion. My mother and aunt are both Mormon and we have very differing views on religion. I am more tolerant of other religions and their followers. Recently, I was confronted by another woman in department store. I was wearing my pentacle and she said that she "would pray for my soul." I just smiled at the woman and said that I needed all the help I could get and walked away. She just stared at me. I think that these two examples are reflections of the individual's perceptions, not the entire religion. I have had very intelligent and enlightening conversations with people of all religions and they did not judge. I think that we, as Pagans and humans, should not directly start fights with other people. However, I do believe that we have the right to defend ourselves on the mundane and spiritual levels. I think that we have the right to say "Enough!", but we, as individuals, have to come to the point when we cannot take anymore. I also think that we, as Pagans, cannot take the abuse that we are handed by others. I am not sure how to fix the problems between the religions. The best thing for me to do is to educate people around me who are questioning what Paganism, Wicca, and Witchcraft are all about.


What Would I Do When Someone Hates Me Because I'm Pagan. Well... Mar 21st. at 11:33:09 am UTC

Lanny Morrison (Durham, Ontario CA) Age: 24 - Email


What would I do when someone hates me because i'm Pagan. Well seeing as i've been hated, teased, beaten up, segragated, having my house egged and treated like i'm worthless all my life, being hated because i'm Pagan is just another excuse. Now that i'm an adult, well i just ignore the stupidity of others. I've been confronted twice about being wiccan, and both times i listened to what they had to say then simply told them that i'm happy being what i am. There was no point fighting with them, and i realized that once they knew that they couldn't get a rise out of me they gave up trying. I don't advertise my beliefs because its no one elses business and thats kept the harrassment down. When i was younger i let what others said and did control me. I got depressed and suicidal but didn't totally give up hope that one day i'd find where i belonged. Being Wiccan is where i am at peace. I finally found a place in myself and within the world that i belong. No one can take what is in my heart away with words. I try to accept all people for what they believe and know that theres good AND bad in all beliefs. Acceptance is hard to come by, but it doesn't mean I should return hatred with hatred. Being hated for one reason or another is not going to change anytime soon.


I Grew Up Feeling Different,i Was Expected To Go To Church... Mar 21st. at 1:13:17 pm UTC

Johna Delano (Springvale, Maine US) Age: 35 - Email


I grew up feeling different, I was expected to go to church and found that I have a knack for memorizing verses to the point that the teacher ignored me when I raised my hand.Then at home my grandparents followed a more Native American tradition and told me I could choose, I chose to stay home and enjoy nature in all seaons, to develope a connection to my world and I was happy ...until my cousins told people that I talked to animals and plants and seemed to be able to know/see things they couldn't(they weren't paying attention).Then I found a book on witchcraft and began reading, this only lit my peers up more and I was a target for every bad thing that happened to my tormentors(I was a witch and ALL witches cast spells to hurt others)was my fault.I ran the full gamut of responses, I beat up people when they insulted me and was beat up by others who didn't even know me, I ran away, I ignored them.I finally started to simply TALK to them, some listened, some threw things but nobody hit anyone any more.

Not eveybody will listen but those who do will know the truth and that will set them and Pagans free.

I was very unimpressed with the negative responses I saw on the main site, most of those folks have terrible spelling : ) if they want to "appear" better/right/more educated than Pagans they need first to learn how to spell or get a computer with spell check.


It's Hard Being Pagan In This Day And Age. Unfortunately, Most Of... Mar 21st. at 1:23:27 pm UTC

Lady Vala (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania US) Age: 18 - Email


It's hard being pagan in this day and age. Unfortunately, most of the population(saddly even pagans included) is so close minded. Right now...as a senior in North Hills High School, me and my fellow pagans are having trouble getting along in school because of our religious choice. The prinicpals explanation is "even if a christian would write a cross on a paper he or she shall be turned in". We did some research...i have christian friends who often write religious phrases and/or pictures on papers and have never gotten turned in. They also say that we're not allowed to wear our pentagrams...they're threating(supposedly). Plus once again said by the principal"No religious symbol is allowed in school" If that is true why are there tons of people wearing crusifixes!!! We as a group have had enough and are taking a stand. Not only for pagans...but if they get away with discriminating against us...who's next? Mormons? Jews? Buddists? It's an issue that needs addressing, wether you're pagan or not. The US was founded on religious freedom...not the religious freedom of everyone except the minorites. I think that either a school should let all religions in or no religions. But of course this is just my oppinion. Love and Light!


Honestly, Just Because A Christian May Verbally Attack Me For Being Wiccan... Mar 21st. at 3:31:23 pm UTC

Sara (Mexico, Maine US) Age: 22 - Email


Honestly, just because a Christian may verbally attack me for being Wiccan, I don't think it means that all Christians think that way. It's unfair to judge an entire religion based on the actions of a few.

I think it's just as wrong to judge all Christians negatively, as it is for them to judge all Pagans negatively. I think that most people are afraid of what they don't understand. Alot of non Pagan individuals don't really know what we do.

It's easy to believe negative sterotypes if you are not aware of the reality behind them. It has been a long standing tradition in some Pagan groups to be secret about their practices. Although this is understandable, for fear or prejudice. I think it has also had a somewhat negative effect on the Pagan community at large. In order to make people aware of the fact that we aren't evil, and we don't sacrifice babies or drink blood, or have anything to do with Satanism, we need to get out there and educate people as to what we really believe. I understand that there is still going to be some people out there who are still going to believe the lies about us, even if we do try to educate them. But you can't force someone to change their beliefs overnight.

I know that it hurts when someone doesn't like you simply for what religion you practice, what color you are, or what sexual orientation you are, but I honestly think we need to get out there and show the world that we stand for good. Even if is it doesn't work, at lease we will have tried.

I especially commend websites like this one, for spreading a positive and educational viewpoint of Pagans. There are many out there that do the same, and I tip my hat to all of you.

I have only been Wiccan for 3 years, but it is something that has changed my life for the better. I feel more at peace with all things natural. Yes, it's hard when people don't understand us, but through positive education and getting out there in the communities, I think that we can definately make things better.

Do I think it violates the Rede to stand up for yourself? No, I don't. Trying to tell someone who believes negatively about us, that we are not evil, is not violating the "An Ye harm None Do as Thou Will". I think that the Goddess would want us to stand up for our beliefs, as long as we don't hurt anyone, physically or emotionally.

In conclusion, if someone is going to mistreat us simply because of differening religious beliefs, and all attempts at educating them to the truth fail, then it's probably just better to leave it alone. Because there are other people out there who will understand you, and won't judge you, but will accept you for who you are and what you believe.


The Only People Who Have "attacked" Me About Being A Pagan Are... Mar 21st. at 5:31:18 pm UTC

Iris (Quito, Ecuador) Age: 18 - Email


The only people who have "attacked" me about being a Pagan are Christians, very fervent Christians at that. People of other religions, such as Judaism, Hinduism and especially Buddism, don't look at me any differently. I have been approached and told to find my way back to Jesus... and my mother, who is in the process of reading Book of Shadows was greeted with the very common deer-in-headlights look. I have recieved that look many times. It doesn't change my opinion about people of that religion because I study religion and know that the core of all religion is the journey to goodness. Note: I am not even going to touch on Satanism. Furthermore, I haven't been confronted with HORRIBLE reactions, except those trying to convert me. It is only the act of one individual and perhaps family that is the case, not the population of that religion.

I do forgive, but I do not forget. I remember when I was in my early teens and got "attacked", it almost turned me off Wicca, but in the end, the memories are what make me stronger and allowed me to greet the next 'anti-Pagan' with a more experienced and ready mind. I know that this world is full of many different kinds of people and I will live with them, and try to dispel any myths that come up. Though I haven't been hurt, I do have friends that have been caught in painful situations because someone out there pulled them out of the broom closet. I believe that when the opposition becomes violent, that is the time to do something other than talk. But when it is only talk (or shouting), just talking back and possibly starting a theological conversation (this happened to me once! Very moving!), it helps.

I have never gone to an anti-Pagan site... though I think I must have a look some day, because I have been on news sites and of course, this site, which present the views of all the people that respond.

I have been taught throughout my life to respect the opinions of others, no matter how much I disagree. When someone hates me because I am Pagan (and a Wiccan), I accept it, even though I really do not like it. If it is how they truely feel, then it is deep within them, and only they, with a little outside help, can change it.


Hatred Breeds More Hate, Intolerance Is Contagious And Fear Feeds On Itself... Mar 21st. at 5:31:43 pm UTC

David Aquarius (Renton, Washington US) Age: 42 - Email


Hatred breeds more hate, intolerance is contagious and fear feeds on itself. This fact is great power to those that use these dark weapons and they are very good at it. When we encounter these folks our first response is to strike out at them, lash out in defense. But in the end, we merely play into their hands. There will always be anti-Pagan groups. It is a fact of life that some folks thrive on conflict and corruption. Their lives are so consumed by fear, hatred and intolerance that they are like nutrition to them. Life wouldn't be worth living if there wasn't a scapegoat for them to despise.
Our best defense is, as the saying goes, a good offense. Speaking out against the hatred isn't enough. We must live by our words, enjoy our faith and let the world know just who we really are. Let the hate groups show themselves for what they are. Their leaders will reveal their true colors eventually, as long as we don't prove them right.


I Have Been Extremely Blessed To Have Grown Up With No Direct... Mar 21st. at 9:42:11 pm UTC

Margaret Quin Lyons (Albquqerque, New Mexico US) Age: 20 - Email


I have been extremely blessed to have grown up with no direct experiences of religious persecution. I hear of it all the time, but I have only experienced anyone who hated me or even disliked me for my beliefs once. Of course I have had encounters with the occasional person who wanted to push their religious beliefs onto me, however all I ever needed to say was "no" and they would back off. Because of this, I cannot really relate to any of the experiences others have had with this kind of thing. One of my close friends used to be a devout Christian, and it was with her that I had my one experience. She attended a very open-minded Church and I sometimes went with her, as I wanted to experience all paths before I chose the "right" one for me. One day at this church there was a guest priest and he took to ripping apart the very person I am- everything he said was almost like he was speaking right to me. This caused me to run out of the church crying (keep in mind I was still pretty young) and not only caused me never to return but also caused my friend to rethink who she was letting to tell her what to think. I dont think, however, that most people are weak-minded enough to let someone else's opinion influence them too much. I think that everyone thinks exactly what they want to, and while outside factors have plenty to do with it, I know many Christians who are as accepting of me as one of their God's creatures that just sees him in another mask, as do many Mormans, Bhuddists, athiests, etc. that I know. When a person makes a choice to be a part of a community that condemns others, that, too is his choice. If we, as pagans are to continually condemn those who condemn us in such the same way, then we are just as bad as those that we are "fighting". Not to say that we should just sit back and take it, we all should make known when we are hurt, but on a personal level rather than a stereotypical level. And as for the anti-pagan sites, I found the ones listed to be rather comedic, we should all rest easy knowing how foolish they sound. Someday, perhaps they will realize it too.


I Haven't Encountered Many Attacks In My Time As A Pagan. Most... Mar 21st. at 11:52:10 pm UTC

Kat (Buffalo, New York US) Age: 21


I haven't encountered many attacks in my time as a pagan. Most of the attacks came from my mother, who still deson't like my religion, but accepts it because it's my choice, not hers. However, as far as being attacked because you are pagan, I believe that we should fight the hatred, but not promote it and not forget. It isn't our responsibility to inform the whole world by ourselves, we can only do so much as people and if people refuse to open their minds, then no good will come from us turning blue in the face explaining. I don't hate all Christians, I have a few friends that are Christian, who know that I'm pagan and are fine with it. With Tempest's story I think 2 lessons are to be learned, both are very old, but still very much involved with everyone. One is the idea of religious freedom and tolerance. You don't have to believe in every system, but understand that what works for you doesn't always works for all. This argument is mostly aimed towards pagans and I think it must be stopped. Another lesson is flat out bigotry, the basic experience of being teased. Putting people down, verbally, physically, whatever the medium, needs to stop. Tempest is the not the first, and unfortunately will not be the last until oppressors can stop opressing and the opressed can take a stand. Until everyone can be equal. It's an issue we all have to get involved in, both with words and actions.


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