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Question of the Week: 113

Pagan Problem Children: What Can We Do About Them?

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 Author:    Posted: Nov. 17, 2002   This Page Viewed: 12,355,626  

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Question of the Week: 105 - 4/5/2003

Are Pagans TOO Individualistic?

We hear it said all of the time: Pagans are individualistic. We hold our own personal freedoms and acts of self-determination (and perhaps, our own self-worth and esteem) to be of the utmost importance and often view events, ethical and moral issues and Pagan-related teachings through this lens.

Does the good of the one always outweigh the good of the many? Should it? Are there times and/or circumstances in which such an individualistic mindset is detrimental to a bigger picture?

Have there been times when you have put aside your personal feelings in order to support a group or project even if you were somewhat ambivalent about ‘going along’? Or have you left a group or situation because you would not -- or could not –- go along with the crowd or leadership position?

How do you reconcile your individuality with the goals or teachings or codes of your group? With other Pagans? How do you decide?

 Reponses:   There are 56 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

SO WHAT?! Apr 10th. at 2:41:30 pm EDT

Bisa (Chicago) Age: 13 - Email

SO WHAT IF WE ARE Individualistic? Some one has to be.

The Beauty Of Diversity Apr 10th. at 10:59:41 am EDT

Billy (Florida) Age: 29 - Email

Individual thought is what seperates humans from the rest of the globe. Paganism, or at least Wicca (of which I have studied) embraces a person's ability to make their own decision, even sometimes against their own instincts. When we start to subjugate our own beliefs for that of the group as a rule the individual is lost. To say someone is not pagan because they have a different opinion than you do, in my eyes, is as bad as fundamentalists calling pagans satanic because we do not believe in their opinion. Maybe I don't care about oil, maybe I don't care about the UN and maybe I could care less that Bush is the 'wrong' religion. Maybe, just maybe, I think the people of Iraq should not live in fear, be terrorized by their government, tortured by goon squads and killed by Sadam and his sons. Maybe I believe that evil men should be brought to justice, made to pay for their crimes against humans, my fellow humans. Maybe I take pride in legends, when evil attacks, the Celts of old will defend the weak, protect their children, and abolish the evil. Does this make me a bad person or a bad Wiccan that I feel compassion for those who live under such tyranny? I do not feel that 'anti-war' pagans are wrong, they only have a different view from me. I feel, I FEEL, that it is just to liberate the oppressed and bring justice to their oppressers. I do not scorn, and do not condone the scorn of, those who have their own individual thought that may differ from mine. We can all follow the same path, while stepping on different stones along the way. If we are to make a statement to the world it is that we CAN get along without being followers, we CAN praise the individual and glorify the group. We need our individuality to show our acceptance of opposing views to those who do not accept us because they believe we will always oppose their views. If you truly believe that the extremists who condemn us are wrong, how can you condemn some of your own and think you are any better? We must be the 'bigger person' to show the individual CAN be accepted within the group even if the group does not agree with the individual.

A Second Opinion Apr 10th. at 10:54:08 am EDT

Drewsilla (Woodstock) Age: 14 - Email

After much thought i have decided that i am individualistic

by choice, not because of what people think of me. I love

the solitary life and am sometimes forced by my parents to

go places and talk to people. If i had a choice i would

live by my self, but right now being the tender age of 14

that is sadly not possible.

So until the day im allowed to lead my solitary life books

are my escape. All my money goes into books, and sadly my

obsession has gone so far that i have been banned from

buying books at one point or another.

I do not hide because of what you will say to or the way

you will look at me. I hide because I like this way of

life, it is how i choose to live.

Im going back to my corner now

: (Drewsilla

Individual Yet Communal Apr 10th. at 6:02:34 am EDT

Shadowseeker (KC, MO) Age: 28 - Email

When I began my path, I was taught that No path was wrong you have to find whats right in your own heart. as I have grown and learned, i have found that that is absolutely true. We are individuals. Yet while we are all individuals we are all together. Every pagan today is really looking to do the same thing. We all search for our own spiritual growth and I have never met someone that was not willing to teach, learn, or share. So yes alone we are individuals, but together we are a communal whole.

Nope Apr 10th. at 1:12:38 am EDT

Angela (Indiana) Age: 30 - Email

No. I certainly do not feel that we are. In fact, I don't really believe there is any such thing. But I am tremendously disappointed in our community. We seem to be "going the way of the Christian." There is so much hatred, bigotry, intolerance, infighting, and hypocrisy in the Pagan community anymore. Especially for a group of people who claim to do none of these things. So many are so militant anymore it is actually frightening. I am certainly not saying we should all agree, but for Goddess sake! Shouldn't we at least try to be a little kinder and gentler with others in our own community -- if not the rest of the world????

Building A Commuinty Apr 9th. at 11:03:41 pm EDT

Josh Yazell (Orlando, Floriduhhh) Age: 24 - Email - Web

Let me start by remarking on an earlier comment that "Pagans have no core values". This could not be farther from the truth. What better core value is there than 'harm none'? Don’t confuse the simplicity for lack of depth. A person who makes this commitment is a good person, and I think most Pagans are good people.

The larger part of the pro-war people you speak are fakes. There are christians out there with nothing better to do than stir the sh*t … so to speak. After all they are well versed in taking things apart from the inside. (I.e. the stifling and destruction of the peace and other movements in the 60s 70s)

Preserving the 'individualistic' 'free spirit' 'harm none' mindset, and expanding on that concept, is a common bond among Pagans. Building a community that effects the biosphere on this level … in my opinion is a good thing. That said I don’t believe Pagans are individualistic to a fault. We have no choice but to gather in some style as our numbers grow in the coming years, and most of us enjoy it!

The true test will be keeping our individuality as traditions develop and people declare their ways. Its hard to escape the hive mindset, and for some its hard to resist … maybe impossible. Still I cant help but be drawn to likeminded people "on a broader scale" who still value the individual and their freedom to express.

In this atmosphere we can share and learn from each other instead of a book or dictator herding us along. This sets us apart from all other major religions, this is who we are. That’s why the christians have always hated us, because they can not control us, they can only kill us off.

Its no coincidence that America is in its current state, the christians are gathering their forces and funding their ideals and goals with government (our) money, while at the same time bringing to ruin rational secular establishments. Here inlays the purpose of our gathering. If we are a strong force they cannot snuff us again. And trust me they want too. Passionately they hem hawk and pontificate on ways to destroy us.

So you see any little difference of opinion and ways don’t ruin us … they strengthen us and inform us of our diversity. Its wonderful! Its our destiny and the worlds. Don’t be bogged down in tradition or dogma, we are here to free the human sprit, not haggle over an individuals choices. Cleanse your mind from the dogmatic imprint christianity has made. Cleanse your spirit.

If you are in a group and you don’t agree with them … leave the group if a democratic approach fails … it’s a no-brainer! After all if things never split in the universe nothing would exist. Find like-minded people, there out there, and they want to meet you too.

Brightest Blessings to all!

A Bit Torn Apr 9th. at 9:33:00 pm EDT

Mike (MA) Age: 19 - Email

I am a bit torn with this qustion. I think that We have a hard time agreeing on different aspects of our Religion. Of course this is good because it gives us all a chane to decide what is most comfortable and undersandable to us. However I think that communty is important to Pagans because we live in a world that tends to single each other out and make one feel isolated. Talking from expriance I don't like to feel alone. Just the simple sight of someone else with a pentical around their neck makes me happy because i think "ahh good at least im not the only one. What I have found is good is if you find a place which holds Eclectic ceremonies. That way you can meet other pagans but the differences arn't so apparent because they talk in comminalities that generally run through all Pagan traditions.

Being Your Own Apr 9th. at 6:42:54 pm EDT

Ronnie (Fort Irwin) Age: 26 - Email

To answer the question are pagans too idividualistic, I don't think that a person can be completly unique. All of us are different in one way or another, but to say otherwise is just ego talking. At times I have gone along with things I haven't fully agreed with, and to justify the action to myself I have to ask, will it hurt someone, and if it will is it for the good of the whole. Sometimes a little pain is needed. Take a garden for example if you pull the weeds you are killing them, but to leave the garden unattended will kill all the other plants. The next thing I ask is, Can I live with my choice, and is this something I will be shamed by. Nothing in life is easy so why would our choices be any different?
Brightest Blessings to All

Not So Much Too Individualistic, As...... Apr 9th. at 6:38:04 pm EDT

Night Wind (USA) Age: 2500 - Email

that Paganism is so far unable to give rise to an ideology strong enough to channel Pagans' personal energies and agendas. This is a problem for anyone who hopes that Paganism might help to make a better world because, so far, Pagan ideas are proving much weaker, as influences on the behavior of Pagans, than are things like region, nationality, and social class.

To me, the debate on the War has shown this especially clearly. For the most part, the people who expressed pro-War views were the same general classes of people who did so in the general population: mostly Americans, of rural, lower-middle or working class, and southern or midwestern origin. Likewise, most, though not all of the anti-War people were the same groups who tended to be anti-War in the general population: large numbers of Europeans and Canadians, mostly urban, middle class or underclass, and, when American, of northeastern or Pacific Coast origins.

More telling, the opinions expressed were expressed in ways absolutely identical to the general run of people. Once in a great while someone would talk about harming none, but about 90% of all posts were merely reiterating either pro-War or anti-War ideas drawn directly from the media, with very little real attempt to see how such ideas could fit into a coherant philosophy of life. There was no real attempt ANYWHERE in the debate to determine, "what do Pagan values and teachings have to say about this, or about wars in general?"

The sheer bitterness of the War-Debate was also fascinating. It would appear that pro-War Pagans have far more in common with conservative Republican Christians than with their fellow Pagans, and the level of name-calling in the debate showed that. Likewise, anti-War Pagans are so much more like liberal atheists than like pro-War Pagans that I don't think we can say that pro-War and anti-War, or, more generally, Liberal and Conservative Pagans, belong to the same communities. Perhaps more accurately, we can say that the label "Pagan" says so much less than the labels "Liberal" and "Conservative" that it no longer can be said to have any real meaning.

In part, this is due to Pagan individualism. But, Pagan individualism goes along with something that is now strikingly obvious, at least to me: Pagan "teachings" are so simple, vague, and open to individual interpretation that there ARE NO Pagan values. There is no real core, no center to which Pagans as a whole can say, "yes, this is who we are". I have seen this over and over, now that I reflect on it: pro-War conservative Pagans, and anti-War liberal Pagans, but also things that seem (to me) like contradictions in terms, such as bitterly anti-feminist Pagan divorced guys, or Pagan Republicans who support the Religious Right, and boast of having brutalized prisoners during earlier American wars.

This is, of course, part of Paganism's appeal. It is a religion that doesn't tell us what to believe. But, it also doesn't apparently have any core values at all. This becomes a problem, because then, _how can we say what Paganism is_, except maybe a social club for misfits, or a brand-name that people attach to themselves? In short, those who say that Paganism may not be a religion may well be right, just not in the way they expect. They are (partially) right, not because Paganism is a "cult", or "Satanic", or any such thing, but because it is really just another postmodern subculture, rather like Goths, Ravers, Fans, Geeks, or what have you.

If that is true, then Paganism is at bottom not really about Gods, or myths, or magick, or values, or transforming our lives. It is really about posturing, posting, dressing in freaky fashions, and finding new ways to rationalize what we were going to do all along. If that is true, Paganism is less about religion than it is about recreation.

Individuality Is Suppressed In Many Pagan Groups... Apr 9th. at 4:08:40 pm EDT

Gawain (Plattsburgh, NY) Age: 24 - Email

I've experienced this firsthand. When my friends and I questioned some of the ways things were done in our local group, we were expelled from the group. Some pagans, unfortunately, treat open circles like congregations from the mainstream faiths. While these faiths are geared toward the individual, egos unfortunately often get in the way of individual expression in group activities. This is why I have yet to join a coven, as well.

Individual Agendas Vs. The Greater Good Apr 9th. at 3:35:28 pm EDT

FullMoon (Central Mass) Age: 50 - Email

I work within a Pagan organization that welcomes anyone with an open mind and heart, although our direction is primarily Wiccan. Lately, we've been trying to get some events off the ground, but the individual agendas of the members throw unnecessary roadblocks in our path.

While we all agree, in theory, that we believe in environmentalism, healthy living, cultural diversity, biodiversity and respect for all natural things, in practice some of us are more 'rabid' than others in each of these areas. Somehow, in the din of arguing every tiny point, the larger purpose, that of planning and promoting a sacred event, is drowned out.

Those who are most attuned with the spirit of Mother Earth are concerned that our dance might trample an endangered plant in the park (that may or may not exist) . And Goddess forbid that we cut down a dead/dying tree for our Maypole.

Those who worry about cultural diversity think our flyers are "too Celtic" and should depict many Gods and Goddesses, no matter how cluttered and unreadable that becomes.

The organic/vegan folks are upset because there are carnivores bringing dishes to the potluck. And the majority aren't even organic! (gasp!)

Then there's the faction that thinks we shouldn't provide parking as it encourages distruction of the environment.

To all of these people, I want to say: TIME OUT!

Life is compromise. If you aren't ready to accept sacred community and to see the other person's viewpoint, then perhaps you need to return to the solitary life.

Our individual beliefs make us who we are. Our inability to bend in the least makes the open expression of our beliefs impossible. If we can't hold a single event, how will we ever build a true community? How will we spread our message within the community and out to the public? Will we forever be a group of individuals unable to achieve group consciousness?

It's important to step back and look at the larger picture, the greater good. Would the Goddess prefer that we never celebrate Her in ritual rather than leave a single footprint on the ground? Will it harm the vegans if non-vegans eat meat? And if we outlaw parking, how will anyone attend the event?

I came to this path later in life than most, with a lot of life experience in the mundane world. I understand that to be successful, you have to be able to make decisions and carry them out. You have to have action items at the end of each meeting, and individuals who are willing to take them on. And you have to be able to stop, look at what we're trying to accomplish, and look inside yourself to see what you can and can't tolerate.

In short, our individualism is giving me a migraine. I respect everyone's right to do what best expresses their beliefs in their own spirituality. But I also see where a little flexibility in the group setting could bring huge rewards to the spirits of all concerned.

Yes, We Are. Apr 9th. at 2:29:22 pm EDT

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

Are Pagans TOO Individualistic?

*sighs* As much as I regret to say it, we are for the most part. While this is in most cases our strength, it tends to cause conflicts within the pagan community. *chuckles* Pagan community, what a joke. I'm sorry, but most of the pagans in my community are still too afraid to come out of the broom closet due not only to Christian persecution, but the fact that other PAGANS tend to ridicule their beliefs!

As I've become more aquainted with other pagans, I've tried my utmost to learn from their differences. Even when those differences seem laughable to me, who am I to judge? How do I know they don't really see fairies in candle flames, just because I can't?

The only way to be truly pagan in this day and age, and I mean in the community sense of the word, is to accept all belief systems as proper and correct. You can't draw a line between traditional and ecclectic. Are we practicing paganism if we read a horoscope? How about if we set aside a special day to celebrate spring by coloring eggs?

We are all pagan. We can at least agree on that, right? So what do the minor details matter? Oh right, we need something to complain about when we aren't being harrassed by society at large.

*shakes his head* I'm sorry, that was uncalled for. I've just grown exceedingly tired of the conflicts brought about by intolerence in the pagan community and society at large. There doesn't really seem to be anywhere to go anymore to be an individual, without someone telling you that it's wrong.

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