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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: 20,042,354  

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Question of the Week: 102 - 3/11/2003

Do Interfaith Conferences/ Discussions Work?

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work? Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion? What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

 Reponses:   There are 29 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

Hmmm, This Is A Good Question... Mar 12th. at 8:57:15 am EST

Silver Raven (Jo Marriott) (Nottingham, England) Age: 20 - Email - Web

I think such discussions have failed previously because many people feel threatened by the traditional image of a witch and all the lies that go with it e.g. being in league with the devil etc. People who want to listen will listen, but only as long as they do not feel that the Pagan is trying to convert them. Funny really, because a lot of mainstream religions don't seem to respect that.

I've told Jehovah Witnesses before that I'm a witch and they were actually quite tolerant. I was expecting them to run off or look at me like I was a mad woman, but instead they asked me questions about my beliefs which I happily answered for them. They didn't feel threatened by me, and we found that we actually shared similar views about world issues e.g the Iraq crisis.

I think Pagan/Nature religions should seek government recognition as a "proper" religion. Firstly, so many people these days are turning to alternative therapies that there is a need to be recognised legally. Secondly, because there are so many of us around these days, many of us have to have 2 ceremonies for weddings, funerals etc, because anyone who wants a Pagan service also has to have a mainstream religious/commonlaw service so that it is recognised by the law. I was married before I found the Old Religion, but I would have been greatly offended if I had had to have an Anglican ceremony just for the sake of being recognised as legally married!

I have no problem with people of other beliefs, as long as they are not trying to force their beliefs on me. Live and let live, I say!

A Good Idea Mar 12th. at 9:04:17 am EST

amy (southampton, england) Age: 22 - Email

Interfaith discussions are a wonderful thing and desperately necessary in these times. I love talking about religion with open-minded people, because it’s really interesting to hear their ideas. You learn far more listening to religious practitioners than you do listening to your religious studies teacher. :-) I think people’s views would change a lot if they entered into religious dialogues with Pagans, because by and large people still don’t know much about Paganism or Witchcraft.

If someone confronts me over my faith, it depends how they do it. My Christian best friend has a very open mind, so we discuss our differences calmly. If people were more hostile I’d just laugh at them and walk off. I wouldn’t spare the time of day.

I'm not sure about the question of acceptance. As I understand, most of us are living a relatively normal life. I'd certainly like persecution to end, but certainly being left alone is all I ask at present.

I hope I am as tolerant as anyone should be toward other religions. I enjoy the diversity of beliefs that exists in the world. Bottom line, I am happy to live and let live as long as others do the same. With regard to ‘Christian-bashing’, I think most of us have felt some anger toward Christians at some point, but it's probably more to do with the Church's role as persecutor and oppressor than anything else.

Bright Blessings,

Open Minds Mar 12th. at 1:29:26 pm EST

Anjie (North Dakota) Age: 20 - Email

I think that interfaith conferences can work. I don't think they always do though. I think that some times, some people (I'm talkin christians, pagans, jews, muslims, everytype) simply don't want to accept that other people can believe something different and have it be a legitimate belief. There are people out there who simply don't know any better. Up untill about 2 years ago, I myself would have laughed in your face if you'd told me you were a witch. But now I know better. I think that we can change the minds of those open minded people to at least leave pagans in peace, if not accept us.

If someone tells me I'm evil because I'm a witch, I ask they why that makes me evil? Generally they say something about "Cause you worship Satan!". Then I gently point out that I can't very well worship someone/thing I don't believe in in the first place. If they say something about human or blood sacrifices, I point out that I would never do any such thing and that the only sacrifices I would ever dream of making would be of incense or food or something like that. Many say "Because God says in the Bible (sometimes they quote a verse here to try to impress me) that Witches are evil and should be gotten rid of" or something to that effect. I simply say, yes, but didn't Jesus say, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone"? It's helpful to know some of the bible when dealing with these kind of people. There are a few who, uppon finding out I'm a witch, get an "i pitty you" look and say "I'll pray for you". To this I say, "Great. You pray that I find God, and I'll pray that you find the Goddess." Generally they're very supprised by this and it either leads to them backing away and looking at me like i'm insane, or it leads to a very interesting discussion.

I'm not so sure if Pagans should seek acceptance with other relgions. I don't think that "acceptance" is exactly the right word for it. I think we should try to achieve a kind of balance, or harmony with them. I don't think that most religions will accept us. More likely they may "tolerate" us.

Generally, I tolerate other religions prety well, in my estimation. It's ignorance that I simply won't tolerate. I do get into "Christian Bashing" to a small extent when I hear stories of some of the more extreamist christians trying to force their beliefs on others in one way or another. But there are faults with all religions I think. After all, religions are organized by humans, and, therefore, can't be perfect. Besides, it's kind of relaxing some times to sit with my pagan friends and generally complain about Christians in general. It's like complaining about work or school. You generally don't realy mind it, but complaining about it keeps too much steam from building up.

0.02 Mar 12th. at 1:50:44 pm EST

kesair (Syracuse NY) Age: 41 - Email

I think dialogue is the only way to dispel myths and false teachings. I also realize that some participants enter dialogues with the intention of "dialoguing" only, and not of listening, so these one-way discussions inevitably fail to promote mutual acceptance. That doesn't mean dialogues are useless; I believe there will always be people who want to learn.
I'd like to see my Christian family members and friends accept my path change without fear or worry over where I will be in the next estate because of it. I understand and respect the beliefs, and I know it's very difficult for many Christians to recognize the validity of non Christian paths because of the doctrine that teaches the "one true way" perspective.
I recently chose a Wiccan path, coming from a Christian one, but I did not have the negative experiences within the church I went to that so many other Pagans apparently have had. I can't identify with much of the hostility I read from some Pagan writers against Christians in general. I think it's unfortunate, but I try to remember that many people have had to deal with "Christians" very unlike most of those I've associated with.
I am not "out", except to a few friends, but my Christian sister knows I follow a Pagan path. It frightens her, because of the teachings that seemingly innocent Pagan religions are just tools Satan uses to distract people from the "one true way". I don't criticize her for her beliefs, because they were once my beliefs, and they are her heartfelt beliefs. We try not to let this change strain our relationship, although it's hard. She cannot yet listen to me tell her what my path is about because of the fear, for which she apologizes, but it's still genuine. Yet this past Christmas, she gave me a brooch/pendant of a beautiful crescent moon surrounded by silver rays. She nodded when I asked whether she knew this was a Goddess symbol, and I am deeply touched by her gesture: this was her way of telling me she is trying to accept, despite her own beliefs.
I am always interested to know what other people believe, and I hope to have many discussions with a variety of people. I'm not threatened by religions that are different from mine; indeed, I see commonalities among the ones I've been able to learn a little (or a lot) about. Hopefully, dialogue can help people of various faiths to let go of the fear that makes acceptance so difficult.
Fatuous and idealistic, I know, but I still support it.

What Else Should We Do? Have A Crusade? Mar 12th. at 3:05:28 pm EST

Zenith (Linden, Michigan) Age: 21 - Email - Web

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work?

Yes and no. Yes, if the participants are actually trying to explain their views and engage in dialog that promotes understanding between the differing views. No, if they are simply trying to prove that their way is morally or spiritually correct. All paths are correct, it is simply how one travels that denotes their morality. Futhermore, one cannot judge the actions or beliefs of another individual as morally right or wrong unless they have an extensive background in said beliefs or actions. As some would say it is always wrong to steal, others would state that feeding themselves upon these goods is the only way to survive. If I were in a life or death situation and I would need to commit an act that would violate anothers beliefs, would I not deem my life more valuable than their comfort? Comfort can be reattained, and relationships can be patched.

Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

Honestly I do, and I would enjoy seeing more such meetings televised. Could you imagine the good that could be accomplished if all religions could do more than tolerate each other? Quite simply, religion, and money, is the main factor in most wars nowadays. I believe we could reach a point where people respect the ideals of other cultures and religions, learning from each other to the benefit of all. Or at least I hope we could. The human race as a whole is rather arrogant.

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

*shrugs* They have no knowledge with which to make such an accusation stick, so why should I care what they say? I have no need to heed the opinions made by ignorant people. Whenever such occurs, I smile and ask them if they would like to understand my beliefs. Usually, they say no and continue to curse me. I have found some who have settled themselves down long enough to listen, and they never insult another religious system to my knowledge again. I've seen a few of them question their current belief system after I've had a little chat with them.

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

I do not believe we should outwardly show that we are looking for acceptance, because most of us are not. We should speak out more often, though, and educate the general public of who and what we are. We need to dispell fears and hatred or continue to be persecuted and risk the possibilty of violence. The last thing Paganism needs is a riot to form under a banner of hatred direct at us, or for a few "bad apples" to attack other religions.

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion?

Ecstatic, as long as they are willing to explain their beliefs to me without trying to convert me. I love theology. It is probally the most fasinating subject on this planet. I've had many Christians and Jehovahs Witnesses come to my home and speak with me. They usually start by trying to convert me, but they leave with a smile on their face and more wisdom in their hearts. *chuckles* That's the benefit of having an extensive library of theological information!

What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

*Sighs* Yes, unfortunately it is. I have to catch myself at times from being discriminatory, and that bothers me. I have no right to feel anger towards anther belief system unless I understand everything there is to know about that system. This is an impossible task, so I will never be able to judge a religion with the absolute convictions of what is morally right or wrong. I try to keep it at a minimum when I have a room full of Pagans, but the jokes and hostilities always seem to leak out. I've never had such occur when I actually have Christians in my presence, it just doesn't happen. I will not allow it. *sighs* I am ashamed to say, though as much as I try to convince myself of how wrong "Christian bashing" is, I still enjoy it.

Nope Mar 12th. at 3:44:47 pm EST

Sloopz (Scotland) Age: 17 - Email - Web

I feel that they dont work. I am faced with many challenges in my college course but the main challenge is the christian faith, the are dedicated to "put down" other faiths except there own. I have been many a debate wich has turned out to be an argument over the topic of faith. All faiths belive different things yet most faiths are to blind to see that not everyone will and want to follow there belief.

The Path To Understanding Mar 12th. at 4:02:19 pm EST

Stormwind (Canada) Age: 25 - Email

Christian bashing really bothers me. I attend Pagan events with my partner who considers himself Catholic, and hearing a group of people ragging on all Christians as intolerant and narrow minded makes him feel very unwelcome. Although there are Christians who are convinced that it is their mission in life to tell anyone who's not Christian that they are wrong and bound for hell, most Christians that I find are very tolerant people. Even a few of those who think I may be on the wrong path, aren't hateful about it....they keep their opinions mostly to themselves and recognize I have a right to practice what I believe in.

Only through learning about one another, recognizing and accepting differences and discovering similarities, only through having an understanding of one another's beliefs will we learn tolerance and acceptance.

I never mind taking the time to answer emails or questions about what my pentacle is or why I celebrate different holidays from the mainstream. Most people are nervous/frightened at first, then curious, and finally somewhat surprised that "that's all there is to it". Most people who find the idea bizarre at first accept it as logical by the end, and have learned something.

Now, if someone's simply ranting at me about being bound for hell, I don't stand for their abuse. I exit the situation as quickly and civilly as possible.

But for the most part, educating people clearly, simply and factually if they ask doesn't take a lot of time and makes life a little bit easier on all the Pagans out there.

My Thoughts... Mar 12th. at 8:22:18 pm EST

Amber Heathen (Cornelius Oregon) Age: 22 - Email

Interfaith discussions/conferences can work if the people involved are willing to talk, and even debate, without mudslinging. I host in a interfaith chat room, and sure it has its rough moments, but for the most part it's peaceful.

What do I do when someone accuses me of being evil for being Pagan? Depends on the situation. If it's in a work environment (which has happened only once) , I spoke with my supervisor, explained the situation, and things worked out just fine. People rarely approach me on the street or on the bus about it because I don't draw attention to myself. But on the rare chance they do, either from seeing my pentagram necklace, or take a peek at a book I'm reading on the bus I usually just laugh it off, turn up my Walkman and ignore them. If I'm in a particularly pissy mood (I'm not a morning person) a few snippy words may be exchanged, but nothing more. Friends will sometimes jokingly ask "So are you a good witch, or a bad witch?" and I'll smile and say "Depends on what mood I'm in."

I don't really seek acceptance from others about what I personally believe. They can either choose to accept it, or choose not to. I don't care either way.

Christian bashing IS a problem, and quite frankly, it pisses me off. My parents (whom I love very much) , and many of my relatives and friends are Christians. All the losers out there whining about Christians and saying hateful things about them, are saying hateful things about people *I* care about. I doubt they'd like it very much if I called someone they care about a "hate mongering a-hole." If I caught anyone in "real life" (ie not online) bashing Christians, they'd probably have to pick themself off the ground. If there are certain people they don't like who happen to be Christian, fine. But don't pin it on all Christians. The same people who whine about "bigoted Christians", are in fact, "bigoted Pagans". I don't care if their parents "forced" them to go to church every Sunday and they rebelled at age 15. So friggin' what. My parents forced me to go to church every Sunday till I was 16 and I don't hold it against them, and I'm not warped or traumatized from the experience. And I don't hold it against Christianity as a whole, although I went to a really *lousy* church full of snobby arrogant morons (not to mention the pastor who preached every Sunday about the importance of family values had an affair and crushed his own family) . I know that not all Christians are like that, and I would be the biggest idiot on earth if I held the entire religion accountable for the actions of a few.

Preaching To The Choir Mar 13th. at 2:26:11 pm EST

The Sweeper (OK) Age: 49 - Email

“…meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith …” is a wonderful abstract conception, however in reality they are generally the equivalent of preaching to the choir.
Sadly, the folks attending these shindigs are ether generally tolerant of people who are different or they are there to point fingers and condemn.
The simple fact is “…dialogue with mainstream religions…” for the most part solves nothing; individual interaction with real people every day as we live our live will create change.
Everything resists change; rarely does a cultural epiphany result in a dramatic revolutionary alteration of ingrained social belief.
I am amazed at the size of the Pagan/Heathen community today; twenty years ago I knew of or had know less then fifty Witches my entire life.
Today because of the internet, I know more Witches then I could possibly count.
I believe in patience, I believe that acceptance will come, in my time perhaps not, but surely in my children’s.
However, popular acceptance is not necessary for validation of my beliefs.
I would prefer not to be condemned, but I could care less if my beliefs are acceptable to others.

Christian bashing is absurd and counter-productive.
Do I feel like bashing a Christian occasionally, oh dear yes?
However, bashing all Christians because some Christians hate me is ridicules.
Is it a wide spread problem?
You’re kidding Right?
Good grief, I think our entire live are run by squeaky wheels.

The Sweeper

They Sort Of Work Mar 13th. at 5:00:27 pm EST

jason mankey (Lansing Michigan) Age: 30 - Email

This is an interesting topic, and one I have a little personal experience with. I was an active part of a college Pagan group for several years. During that time I became friendly with a Christian missionary on campus who ran one of the dozens (and dozens) of Christian groups based at the university. On three seperate ocassions we set up some "Pagan/Christian Discussion Nights." I was also privledged enough to be at another "Religious Roundtable" which featured some Jewish, Christian, and Muslim students (with myself included) . What was most amusing about that one was that I was probably better prepared to anwser the questions about Christianity than the Christian panelists were. (A great deal of faith doesn't mean you can actually anwser a question.)

Of course the big question is "does any of this have a positive effect." Well I think it does, but to a very small degree. It can help both sides. There are as many intolerant Pagans as there are intolerant Christians. In a lot of Pagan circles there can be a deep dislike of Christian ideas and the people who practice them (especially among younger folks who are usually recovering from Christianity) . Any Christian who at least bothers to listen to what you have to say gets a few extra points to begin, and it puts Christians in a more positive light, anyone who takes the time to try and figure you can't be all bad.

My good friend the Christian missionary probably still thinks I'm going to hell after listening to me explain my faith dozens of times. However, he is respectful of it and doesn't try to convert me to his way of thinking. After doing three of those roundtables nearly everyone from his Christian group remembers me, and they are all extremely polite and never hesitate to come up and say hi. What I think they got most out of the discussion was that "we are not scary." I don't think we changed their opinion about the validity of our faith, but at least we didn't scare them anymore, and they didn't have the silly misconceptions which accompany the words "witch" or "Pagan."

After the roundtable discussions many of the folks on both sides of the religious divide would head out for a group dinner. This is where things got interesting, and you could really see the battle lines heating up. Many of the Pagan types seemed obsessed with pointing out the flaws in Christian theology and showing off the swiss cheese factor of the Bible (it has lots of holes, contradictions, and other problems) . The Christians on the other hand suddenly became obsessed with getting all the Pagans to head to a church service. My offer was then (and it still is now) if you'd like me to come to church with you I'll be happy to do so, however I'd like you to stop by for a ritual sometime. I've been to church, I'm still waiting for someone to attend a ritual.

What were the other specific questions? Let me play cut and paste.

>Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

I don't think we change their opinion about the validity of our faith very often, but I think the whole process serves to make people less scared (or worried) of us.

>What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

I ask them why they think that way and then sit down with them and explain my faith. If it gets really ugly I have two options: Whip out the Bible and begin tearing their religion to shreads, or get up and walk away and agree to disagree. The second course is probably the best one.

>Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

I think the freedom to be left alone is all that most of us really want. I don't care if the Pope validates Paganism, if he just chose to be respectful of it that would be amazing enough.

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion? What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

As many of us have had bad experiences with Christianity, it makes Christian bashing easy to do. However, most Christians are nice, tolerant people. The media in this country always picks the extreme part of something to share with the general public. Unfortunately that means we generally see only the far right conservative intolerant side of a usually positive religion. We should have more important things to do than just gripe about a different religion, besides all that bitching is going to come back to you, why not channel your energy in a more positive direction?

Personally I get along really well with folks from other faiths. I try hard to see my Goddess and God in their holy books and activities. I honestly believe that all positive paths lead towards the same center and don't see the need to be negative to someone whose core beliefs are probably pretty parallel to my own.

bright blessings,

Peace, Cousins. Mar 13th. at 6:48:00 pm EST

Storm's Feather (Russellville, Ar) Age: 16 - Email

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work? Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

I love having peaceful, argumentive discussions on religion, as long as the people i'm discussing with understand that i might be offended, and, when i'm offended, i might tell the truth about their religion. Most of the time, however, i'm discussing with either fledgling Christian boys, or my still underdeveloped Heathen friends. They understand that i think differently from them, that i'm not a "Heathen" or "Pagan", but a Reconstructionalist with knowledge on a bunch of different religions. And, as it might suprise some, i trust the Christians more than i do Pagans, as long as they're not holding a gun, or have their fingers over a nuclear missle launcher button (*coughs* BUSH!) If you know enough about Bible readers, you can hold their faith over their head. It's easy to see why great religious leaders of the past changed the bible to suit their purposes.
If someone sincerly wants to know the truth about a belief, they'll learn. Otherwise, if we engage people in conversation, telling them of your beliefs, when they don't want to know, we're just as bad as Christians.. and Jehova Witnesses, and other belief systems.

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

*goes and gets her Eternal Children-friends, and fellow Pagans... and sit down and have a nice little chat about wrong and right*
Actually, no one accuses me of anything (save one friend who's trying to be a Pagan without leaving church. Stupid propeganda.. my friend calls me the "Anti-Christ", which i have a nice little comeback: Christ was a good person, but only human. why not support Buddha? Praise Buddha! *this works during forensic tournaments when Greenwood is present.. the chant of Praise Buddha starts up, and it usually scares "normal" people away) and when they do, i point out that being a Reconstructionalist is just like being a Christian because All Gods are One God.. and if God wanted to make everyone Christian, we'd be able to see God face to face, and he'd tell us he's real.. I've stopped saying "I'll believe in God when he comes down and thumps me on the head." Too many Christians too smart for their own britches thinkin' they're God.

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

I think that acceptance is great, but leave me alone.. I love hearing so many pagens being open about their religion, and i wish Christians were about as open as they were: "Yeah, i'm Wiccan.. what was our homework in English?" vs. "I'm Christian, proud of it, wanna come to our FCA meeting at 6 before our Meet me at the flag pole meeting at 7, when we go into school, we'll have a group prayer, and carry out bibles with us everywhere we go, because we're confusing ourself about what it means to have faith!"

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion? What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

I admit it, i'm a Christian-Basher.. but i'm polite about it. I walked into a christian store "Living Word" because i thought it was a pet store "Living World...". Instead of wheeling around and leaving in shock and disgust, i meandered around the store for 15 minutes, looking at the books, movies, tapes, Christian-y stuff.. i liked the nail files, and the keychains. So, i turned my hatred into an early birthday shopping for Christian friends. It amused me to no end how much junk there is to support one's faith.

Interfaith Conferences Mar 13th. at 11:13:28 pm EST

Saradia (Campbellsport, WI) Age: 18 - Email

Do meetings, discussions or conferences designed to promote understanding and/or tolerance between the myriad religions and faith really work? Do you think anyone’s view on Pagan/Heathen religions are changed if we engage in dialogue with mainstream religions?

Whenever I've been in a discussion or conference designed to promote "tolerance" between religions, they don't talk about any religions except Judaism, Christianity, and Islam unless I actually bring it up (which is met with a "0_o?" face most of the time) I'm almost certain that others are different from this, in which case it definately will help.

What do you do/say when confronted by someone who thinks you are wrong/evil because you are a Pagan or Heathen?

I generally go along with the conversation as calmly as I can, answer their questions, etc. If it doesn't change their view, I leave them alone. They have every right to believe that I'm wrong/evil, I'm fine with it as long as they at least get their basic facts straight (in regard to things like sacrifice and stuff)

Do you think that Pagans/Heathens should seek acceptance from other religions? Or is just being left alone to worship as you please enough for you?

We should seek it, but not force it. And we should educate instead of whining that "wah wah wah, they think I'm evil because I'm a Pagan!"

How tolerant are YOU of people who believe in another religion? What do you think of the ‘Christian-bashing’ accusation? Is it a widespread problem?

I consider myself tolerant, at least I try to be. I used to be a -really- intolerant person, I would spend my days nit-picking through the Bible so that I could "get people to understand why Christianity is wrong." Then I realized how utterly stupid I looked, reconciled with my Christian friends, and feel much happier. Now I go on a case-by-case basis. I'm a loud and arrogant person, I'll admit, so I get into fights. But I'm proud to say that I do so without regard to the person's religion, but to their personality. I think Christian-bashing is hypocritical and childish, you cannot expect to be accepted yourself if you don't accept other people.

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