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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: 19,641,014  

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Reponses: 91

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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 

Fundies, Fundies Everywhere And A One To Stop............... Sep 20th. at 1:19:30 pm EDT

JDA (L.A., CA.) Age: 27 - Email

It is true that once you have two or more people on the planet there is going to be a difference of opinion. And as surely as a difference exists there is always those people who are willing to do just about anything to enforce theirs over all others. Now I am, personally, fond of different thoughts and opinions because that is how you grow and learn. However, it gets to a point where it becomes unhealthy. In religious belief I have been on the recieving end from both pagan and non-pagan alike. As I had served in the US military for around 8 years one has only to imagine the trials there one the one side misinformation and fear of the unknown had stifled my belief and practice thereof, on the other I would get things like how can you call yourself pagan/wiccan and still serve in the military. This later comment was often accompanied with the term 'baby-killer' and someones saliva gracing my face.
All this aside the one thing I have ever taken as comfort to my decisions is "An it Harm none, do what ye will." The only core rule for us as followers of the Goddess traditions. I think that fundamentalism should not be a part of our belief system but there is nothing that can be done about it. I believe that we should organize for the common cause of our right to religion and peace from those who find us unacceptable. However, I do not think that we should forget that it is for each of us to decide where we take our belief and our responsibility for the actions we take and the consequences of them.
When I my family and I chose to align ourselves with the Goddess Traditions, we did so for many reasons but the chief among them was the desire to break from those faiths that force the belief of the few onto the hearts and minds of the many. We do socialize with other pagans and entertain their thoughts and beliefs but we are a solitary family with one thought. "We believe as our hearts believe, by the dictates of our own conscience. Let others believe what they will." In the military I found my chance to repay those that went before me and defended my freedom to choose as I saw fit. I, in turn, defended the right of my children and those who will come after me to choose the paths that they will travel. I concider it an honor.


"If we do not change our direction, we are likely to end up where we are going" -S. Jackson

Fundamentalism = Hatred Sep 20th. at 2:23:32 pm EDT

Erin (Maryland) Age: 26 - Email

I think fundamentalism does exist in paganism just as much as in any other religion or belief system. The problem I see with fundamentalism is the tendancy to look down on others that don't share the same beliefs, as if they're not worth as much as human beings. In my viewpoint, the idea that there is only one true path is ludicrous. Even the most bizarre belief systems have the same ideas at heart and have a similar purpose, whether they choose to see it or not. I don't see fundamentalism as being acceptable because the strong feelings that your way is the only way almost always lead to violence. I think everyone should be able to choose their own path for their own purpose. Violence, anger and hatred only take us backwards. Open mindedness and acceptance (not tolerance, which means putting up with something you can't stand, to me) will give everyone the freedom to reach their full spiritual potential. Having pride in your belief system doesn't have to lead to the belittling of other's belief systems.

NO To Fundamentalism But YES To Balance Sep 20th. at 3:19:03 pm EDT

Telbane (Winchester, England) Age: 51 - Email

Having practised as a Wytch for more than 30 years I have learned to be patient. There are many who believe their path is better than the next person's. Some become quite arrogant and insulting. Personally I could not derive half the peace and satisfaction from my path that I do if I adopted such an intolerant and authoritarian approach. This is one extreme that I find regrettable and although we will never (and should never!) achieve total agreement and harmony as a species I do believe a much higher degree of tolerance could be achieved. It's all about balance. ALL things in nature are a balance of one form or another. We Pagans profess to be close to Mother Nature however you perceive "Her" so it should come easy to those who want to embrace it. At the other extreme there are many who call themselves Pagan and wear it like some fashion item. 2000 years of religious intolerance has left a trail of death, persecution and destruction behind it. It continues today and also amongst Pagans. This is not acceptable but yetwe will not survive as a species, and we will not protect our planet adequately unless we have a minimum set of standards. It's all a question of balance.

Yes Sep 21st. at 1:54:40 am EDT

Stella (Pasadena, CA) Age: 24 - Email

I think there are a lot of intollerant people involved in the Pagan community. There are those that are intollerant of christianity, those who are intollerant of solitaries, eclectics, newbies, traditionalists, etc. It doesn't personally bother me what anyone else believes, and I don't understand why anyone gives a care what I believe. I think that respectful dialog on religious issues (or political issues, or any other kind of issues) is healthy, but too often we forget to be respectful. Absolutely nothing is acomplished with name calling, derisive comments and bitterness. Religion and spirituality are extremely personal issues. I think, especially on the web, that it can be too easy to forget that your words have a great capacity to hurt other people. It is my understanding that almost all aspects and traditions of paganism believe in some sort of responsibility to avoid being harmful to others. It can sometimes be all to easy to lash out in anger and frustration when you disagree with someone else's opinion, or they have hurt your feelings. It happens. We are only human. I personally believe that most of the people who engage in this sort of activity are really good hearted people acting in frustration. That said, as "civilized" adults I think are responsible for tempering our words with thought and understanding whenever possible.

We Are ALWAYS On Display As REPRESNTATIVES Of Pagan Ways. Sep 21st. at 11:08:33 am EDT

Leslie M. McQuade (Carter Lake, IA) Age: 33 - Email

Everytime we display our beliefs through our clothing, jewelery, words and other types of communications, someone sees us and makes a judgement as to their like or dislike of us. It is worng, but studies of the brain suggest that this is hard-wired, and nearly impossible to stop because it is not part of the neo-cortex. Knowing this, we have a chance to do something REALLY powerful. First, we must always remember we represent every one in our group. When you and I wear a pentacle in some way, we in fact represent Starhawk, and Bonewits, and Buckland and ... You get the point. Then second, if we agree to support each other unconditionally, whether we are Druids or Wicca or Shamans, there will be too many of us to deny. Then science and industry must begin to study magic and altered states of reality much more seriously. THAT will be the way to change our world. Fundamintilists, no. Consciousness, Compassion and Honesty -- YES!

Fundamentalism Is A Bad Thing Sep 21st. at 3:34:21 pm EDT

Peter Hamel (South Florida) Age: 39 - Email

Look at the Middle East and you will see what fundamentalism has done there. The holy land for three major religions has become a battleground because of the miopic attitudes of the fundamentalists who refuse to see anything from the other side. I find it amazing how one group can call a murder of one of their own barbaric and then go on and call their retaliation justifiable. Then the same thing happens all over again from the other side. That's what fundamentalism does. I grew up Jewish before taking my current path, and even though I don't consider myself Jewish anymore, it still pains me to see what is going on in Israel and Palestine.

Fundamentalism makes it impossible to see anything outside of one's own "box", and that in turn creates fear and hate for anyone else. This community has been battling fundamentalism for a long time and now that we are gaining ground and feeling more powerful, I am afraid that some groups might become corrupted by the false sense of power that fundamentalism creates. One of the reasons I feel that we have grown so much in the last few decades is because we have worked together and have accepted eachother's right to practice as we feel. What will fundamentalism do other than fragment us? Nothing. And if we are fragmented, our real power will disappear. I believe that it is this power, which comes from our unity and our ability and interest to respect eachother's diversity in our beliefs that has kept us strong, and it is what we will need in the future if we are to survive as a faith, or as a group of faiths.


Fundies Are Everywhere Sep 21st. at 4:06:27 pm EDT

Ross Mullins (St Petersburg FL) Age: 28 - Email

Fundamentalists exist in every culture, creed, religion, code, you name it. There are those who think their way is THE way and your way is evil, Period!! In a discussion with another online group it was said...

(I saw an interview with Patrick Swayze, recently. They were discussing
religion...and he said something that really "hit home" for me...
"When they organize it, the purity of the philosophy goes out the window, and
it becomes about the survival of the organization.")

Somewhere along the line I think people loose sight of the real reason for a certain philosiphy and the focus becomes the survival of the organization that supports it. So we quickly move from Philisophical mode to Defensive mode and forget that it is all about love or living in harmony and just focus on mine is better than yours. The true inner child in us all.

My dad can beat up your dad with just a finger, oh yea well my dad doesn't even have to touch your dad and so on and so forth and we forget we came out to play and have fun.

My thoughts anyway :)



Fundamentalists Are Found In Every Type Of Group Sep 21st. at 7:58:36 pm EDT

Treasa (PA) Age: 24 - Email

I have to say, we sure do. There are Pagans out there who are intolerant of those of similar Paths. For example, calling certain Pagan groups and individuals "fluffy bunnies" and making comments about them thinking life is nothing but love and light. They obviously don't know too much about those particular groups and individuals. It's just a way of making people feel their Path is better by bashing another. Same way in Christianity and Islam. Most people walk their Path and keep their beliefs in an unimposing manner. But others feel that theirs is the only way and feel they need to push it on others. Truly though, these types of individuals are insecure in their beliefs and think that if there's more people in their particular religion, it must be the only "true and right way." I think fundementalist are in every group and I believe, in my opinion, that insecurity is the root of the problem.

Fundie Pagans? Oh Yeah! Sep 21st. at 10:58:44 pm EDT

MorgainthePagan (Jacksonville, FL) Age: 26 - Email

If you have ever seen a flame war in a pagan message board you can see that fundies aren't limited to other religions. We have our share of them. It's sad but true. I think there will always be some no matter what we do. Some people have a need to always be right.

Fundie Pagan ---- Oh, MOST DEFINITELY!!! Sep 22nd. at 10:32:19 am EDT

magdalena (USA) Age: 35 - Email

Anyone who thinks there aren't fundie pagans is living in a dreamworld. Oh, yes, they exist...and, oh, yes, they are just as annoying as Fundies of any sect. I find Beginning Wiccans to be the worst offenders -- at least in my area.

The Fundamentals Are Good, Fundamentalism Isn't Sep 22nd. at 11:38:37 am EDT

Laura (Rhode Island) Age: 22 - Email

I have been surprised and disappointed in the past year to encounter a number of people who hold what can only be described as fundamentalist views on Wicca. Many of these people belong to one of the paths that fall under the heading of British Traditional Wicca (BTW). Not all BTWs are like this, of course, by any stretch of the imagination, but this attitude does seem to be most prevalent among them.
This "fundamentalism" stems from a valid and praiseworthy desire to keep Wicca a definable and recognizable religion. Many practitioners of BTW are dismayed to see the large numbers of people who call themselves "Wiccans" without making a thorough study of the religion, or who practice in ways that are so different from the traditional ways as to be unrecognizable as practices of the same religion. Traditional Wiccans do not wish to be associated with these radically different practitioners, because they do not see these altered practices as being truly Wiccan.
I will agree with them as far as to say that a line should be drawn. "Wicca" cannot mean "whatever I say it means". BUT, I will also say that some practitioners of BTW draw this line a little too close to them.
Solitary Wiccans are sneered at by many members of the traditional community, who say that "only a witch can make a witch" and that self-initiation is not valid. Some go farther, and say that many established covens and traditions are invalid, as they do not trace their lineage back to Gerald Gardner.
This is, in my opinion, preposterous. I agree with these people that everyone who wants to call him/herself a Wiccan should learn the history of the religion, and learn the fundamentals of it. They should know where the practices originated, and how they developed. There are certain things that should always be included in Wiccan practice: the celebration of the Sabbats, worship of the God and Goddess, the ritual tools, the Rede, etc. Also, I believe that most Wiccans would do well to study at least for awhile with a coven. But, there is much room for flexibility within these parameters. Flexibility prevents the religion from stagnating. When balanced with a respect for tradition, it can make the religion more lively and fulfilling for more people.

You Betcha! Sep 22nd. at 1:18:27 pm EDT

Stephen Coslett (Portales) Age: 48 - Email - Web

There are fundamentalists everywhere and no group is immune to this. It's not necessarily a bad thing, nor is it a disease, but part of the human condition. What we all seem to forget is that, for the most part, people desire to be a part of something. Sometimes that desire manifests itself in a very strong way and can even lead to alienation instead of togetherness.

I know quite a few folks who meet the criteria of "Fundie Pagan." Soem of these are seekers and some have been on the path for a long time. I have heard many of the arguements; "only a witch can make a witch" ... "it should be hereditary" ... "self initiation is invalid" ... blah-blah-blah ... so forth and so on ...

We should be careful not to confuse fundamentalism with fanaticism; our country and the world has a very harsh reminder of religious fanaticism. Let's try and keep out of that lane, folks ... it's just a dead end and it can do a great deal of harm. Too many folks cry, "Fundie," when some of them should be looking in the mirror.

I one of the folks who think that you are what you truly believe in and that the best test of your beliefs are time, commitment, and conflict.

Bless You and All That You Are.


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