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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: 17,147,237  

Vox Q Stats

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Reponses: 108

Lurker/Post Ratio: 303 to 1

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 

I Personally Find It Frightening, Not That I Am Ever Asked The... Mar 25th. at 10:21:45 pm EST

Helen Schenning (Westmoreland, Tennessee US) Age: 47 - Email

I personally find it frightening, not that I am ever asked the question, as the Bible Belt does not recognize the actual existence of any none-fundamentalists in their domain [never mind that the Catholics are alive and well, as well as the Jehovah's Witnesses and Moslems] But there is a hue and cry against all who "stray from the path of righteousness." I keep thinking about the Viet Nam war, when a village was destroyed to save it. We all know one sentence in the bible reads, "thou shalt not suffer a witch to live." never mind that no one knows exactly how the original Greek read. I worry for the day the religious right rises up and segregates all those who "believe wrong" for "retraining." it's accepted practice if one's child falls in with a cult. why not pagans? after all, Pagans, Wiccans, Witches, etc, are in the minority. and no one will miss a few thousand people, will they. notice any similarities between the current governmental policies and those of Nazi Germany? it could be coming, and sooner than we think.

Having Mainly Been A Solitary Practitioner Who Picked Up Wicca While Living... Mar 25th. at 7:32:27 pm EST

Karen E. (Billings) Age: 30

Having mainly been a solitary practitioner who picked up Wicca while living in the Bible Belt, when I moved back home I have kept quiet about my personal views. There are many esoteric traditions which teach silence in regard to giving out information, and many of these same traditions also teach initiation, though the 2 ideas are not necessarily mutually inclusive. Silence can be many things: it can be a tacit agreement; it can also be a holder of one's better wisdom!

I find that most of the inflammatory stuff (in the various media) are presented in extremely illogical fashions, and are greatly propagandistic in nature, with almost no bother at quoting any real references for their "information." As soon as one tries to respond to illogically-emotional blahblah, one gets pulled DOWN to the level of the person spurting the "crap." It wastes our energy. It muddies our karma. It becomes difficult to speak and act without getting caught up in the emotional mud of the situation. One of the psychiatric criteria for determining madness is when one attempts precisely the same act over and over again with the expectation of eventually accomplishing a different outcome. Again, this wastes energy and time better spent on positive thinking! This 'madness criteria' could describe not only the puritanical types who continue the bashing, but also those of us who continuously try to combat it. After thousands of years of disputes, I don't expect the politically-charged behavior (especially that of a particular side of the issue) to ever reconcile to a peace.

But, I CAN CHOOSE either a path of peace, or a path of combat... especially keeping the 'threefold rule' in mind. There is a time to defend, and a time when fighting only begets more fighting. There is a time to stand up for the rights of one and all, including under the laws of this land, and a time when turning away with a Mona Lisa smile can do more than a sword can to disengage a rabblerouser. For no man/woman/child will escape their karma...and one can choose whether a defense will save one's energy, or whether to fight will give our energy away to someone who clearly doesn't deserve our time. Even the Bible says that one who builds his house upon a rock has nothing to fear of a storm. Let the irrationally-charged puritanical types rage on! Indeed, the Rede itself helps us determine the right action for a situation. At the end of the day it is only important that you can live with yourself, not whether others agree or disagree with you. As the Sufis say, there are as many roads to the Divine as there are humans. So Mote It Be!

P.S. - I found it interesting that one of witchvox's hate links - the web author of "Balaam's Ass Speaks" - cautions at the bottom of his page that he does not want any of his "own brotherhood" to read any of the site links he lists as "un-Godly" unless they absolutely must access the links for research only - further cautioning that his page is not intended for amusement or casual reading! I thought his list of "un-Godly" sites was EXTREMELY AMUSING!!!--and he doesn't want anyone to look at the original references for the information! His own shame speaks more clearly than anything we can say to him!!! To try to further respond to "Balaam's Ass" would only serve to feed him (read: waste) more of our energy, when he has so clearly shot his own negative efforts in the foot.

Blessed Be: Spirit moves in mysterious ways! :-)

I, Too, Believe That Christians Who Pursecute Other People Aren't Particularly Good... Mar 25th. at 6:33:12 pm EST

Lucinda-June (Elmira, New York US) Age: 48 - Email

I, too, believe that Christians who pursecute other people aren't particularly good Christians. And I say so, "As it says in the Bible, those who do evil in God's name are serving other Gods. And do you know which other God? As the Church Lady says on Saturday night live, 'Can you say Satan?'"

Though I'll never forget when my neighbor confronted me in my front yard, "You're that evil Satanist that casts evil killing spells on people." Astonished, I replied, "If you believe that, why are you bothering me?" That shut him up, and he went away. I just couldn't believe what he was saying to me.

Mostly when someone tells me that I am a Satanist and cast evil spells I tell them that they watch too many bad horror movies.

Well, I'm Probably The Youngest Person To Reply Here, But I Still... Mar 25th. at 5:40:39 pm EST

Sardonicus Tuljo Daka Kirkus de Fuere (Birth name: Jesse) (Philadelphia, Pennsylvania US) Age: 14 - Email

Well, I'm probably the youngest person to reply here, but I still have faced discrimination. Especially from Christians though. I have had them say that I'm going to hell because I serve Satan and his evil cause and whatnot. Now I know they think they are helping and all, but THEY ARE NOT. I could be really ignorant and say something rude right back, but I just listen to them and their opinion, because to them, they are right, and to us, we are right. Now, I will not lie, I have tried to be Christian, but something they don't like is automatically a work of Satan, and they treat you like a moron. The most I will do is show them that Pagans are not stupid, and that we do respect others, but I will outwit them, I will not lie. BUt i think we Pagans should not get violent with others for their foolishness. They really only act as they do from ignorance or lack of education, that is all... Well, as for other things, I could curse them or something, but like I said, I leave EVERY form of discrimination at a verbal correspondence, that is all. So, best wishes to all, Pagan and non-Pagan!

Honestly, The First Time I Was Discriminated Against Because Of My Religion... Mar 25th. at 4:13:09 pm EST

Michelle Lawrence (Kennesaw, Georgia US) Age: 15 - Email

Honestly, the first time I was discriminated against because of my religion, I was really too hurt and shocked to do much of anything. It was at my first job at Brusters, and ice cream store across the street. One of my co-workers had been a witch, and another co-worker eavesdropped on us while we were talking in the back. She then proceeded to tell all the other co-workers that we were practicing satanic worship and that we would put a curse on them if we didn't like them. Some responded with fear, and basically shook or walked away whenever one of us came near them. Others gave cruel looks or whispered behind our backs. She ended up being fired, but was never told the reason. I was being payed less than all the other employees there, including another 15-year-old. So one day I just quit, enough was enough. I guess you never really think about facing discrimination until it happens, and then when it hits, its so sudden that you really aren't sure what to do. Thats how it was with me, but not anymore. I recently told my great aunt I was a witch, and she almost chewed me out, because shes one of those old-fashoined people who believe witches as the stereotypical devil-worshipping, animal sacrificing people they were (and sometimes still are) portrayed as. I simply told her she was ranting about something she has no knowledge of, and that if she didn't want to hear about my religion, that was alright, but that I didn't want to be preached at either. I simply explained it was a nature-based religion, that we are very spiritual, and do not even believe in the existance of a hell or satan (i'm still not sure if she believed me). Now whenever someone finds out (either by eavesdropping in conversations or by direct questioning), and begin to preach at me, I simply say that they are speaking out of ignorance and that they should really do a bit of research before blowing up at someone. The main point I try to make is "don't believe everything you hear and see", because sometimes its totally fake. I tell them they don't even have to believe me, just go your way and i'll go mine if u'd like, but don't preach to me about something you don't know. I have had one particular person that began to responded violently (a teenage boy I used to go to school with), and I simply told him that if he put his hands on me he would be arrested for assualt, and that was that. I've managed to avoid physical contact, and have actually educated a couple people, but the majority have just walked away with a few choice words. In my experiences so far I have found it is best to be as polite and civil as possible, while stressing that what they are assuming is wrong. If I were ever faced with a conflict where I believed phsyical contact would be involved, id probably run away as fast as I could, and yell out, lol. I do my best to educate where I can, but be absolutely certain to secure my own safety. Thats the best way for me to handle discrimination when it comes up.

I Have Not Had The Time Yet To Read The Previous Postings... Mar 25th. at 4:06:39 pm EST

Elizabeth (Springfield, Missouri US) Age: 36

I have not had the time yet to read the previous postings. I hope this is not repeating a previous response. Here, I am dealing only with the most frequent threats in my life and the lives of those I know, 1 or 2 pseudo-Christians in a face-to-face confrontation. I am very aware that pseudo-Christains are hardly the sole threat out there, but time and space will not allow me a thorough treatment. For more insidious, long-term harrassment, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT, DOCUMENT! Such efforts often grow into more direct, physical threats.

Scenario - personal safety not at risk

depending on the specifics

Response #1
"I am so glad I have known REAL christians before this so I won't be thinking that YOU are representative of the faith you profess." Walk Away

Response #2
"I am so sorry you are having such a hard time in your life right now. Is there anything I can do to help?" Use your judgement and stay or Walk Away.

Response #3
"Why do you have so much anger towards me? Do I remind you of someone else you had a problem with once?" Use your judgement and stay or Walk Away.

Response #4
"Are you aware of the Constitution that allows YOU to practice YOUR faith?" Walk Away

Response #5
JUST Walk Away

Response #6
Endless variations thereof. You can choose to be compassionate or sarcastic depending on how you feel at that moment but try NOT to attack back. Do not become what you hate/fear.

Scenario - personal safety IS at risk

depending on the specifics

WAlk/Run away - get to a place of safety - if you cannot, then..

Response #1
TALK - engage them intellectually - try to turn the situation into one where they are teaching you, the misguided innocent, the errors of your thinking. Do NOT feed the emotional response in ANY way. Ask them to show you the Bible, to introduce you to their pastor, to let you come to their bible study. If they are REALLY trying to save/help you this will usually do the trick.
ex. - "I don't understand. What do you mean? Could you show me where it says that? Wow, I didn't know it meant that!" Once the twisted, inner fury has been defused THEN Walk/Run away! SAY ANYTHING TO STAY SAFE!

Response #2
TALK - If it is obvious that their profession of faith is just a smokescreen and they really just want to hurt someone then treat it exactly as you would an assault/rape scenario. Defend yourself aggressively, use your body and GET AWAY. Scream. Get attention from passers by. If you cannot then curl up and try to protect yourself as much as possible.

Regardless - DO NOT - EVER! - let them take you somewhere else "to talk about it." Even if you do not feel threatened at the time, stay in a public place. The promise of PRIVACY can push someone, who is already passionate enough about the subject to accost you, over into violence. Think about it - they came up to you, a total stranger, and trashed your most personal, intimate and private belief systems and threatened you with endless torture and despair. They are on the edge already. Let's get them away from the precipice as quickly and safely as possible.

And lastly - REPORT IT!!! There are laws and they apply to ALL of us. Report the assault and FOLLOW THRU with it all the way to trial if necessary. Send a message to that fringe element of the Christain community that attacking us is not a freebie. The minorities of this country have ALL gone through this and had to screw up their courage to stand up for their rights. There is a LOT we can learn from studying what they went through. The nonviolent confrontation training is a BIG case in point.

Know this. In most such situations these are ordinary people who have been pushed by something else in their lives you know nothing about. Once they calm down and start to honestly interact with you as a human being and not as an "enemy of the faith" you'll discover that a lot of them are really nice people. People you would like to have in your lives. If your safety is not at risk, then this can be an opportunity. Use your judgement. Also be aware of YOURSELF and the load of stress that YOU are carrying at that instant. It does NOT take two to have a fight, but two makes it worse.

Sometimes You Have To Take It...sometimes There Is Nothing That Can... Mar 24th. at 10:59:10 pm EST

Jen (Beverly Hills, Florida US) Age: 19 - Email

Sometimes you have to take it...sometimes there is nothing that can be done. I really don't understand why anyone has to be "anti" any religion. I mean Peace is the objective people! Peace and understanding.
And for those who are "anti" - that's you're opinion. All I ask for is respect. Try to understand instead of persecute. Use kindness and compassion. Harsh words help no one. No matter what religion you have love for your fellow human have kindness. It is in a sensitive time like this that we all need this loving unity. Hate seems to have sprung up everywhere...these school shootings, and with Tempest's passing. Everything aside, no matter what religion, race, sex, or sexual preference. There is no time for hate. It is time for Love. I send out a bit of love to everyone, we certainly need it. :)

I Must Admit That I Am Quite Opinionated When It Comes To... Mar 24th. at 3:51:31 pm EST

Vivhianna (Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario CA) Age: 18 - Email

I must admit that I am quite opinionated when it comes to religious bigotry and hatred--in fact, recently I devoted an entire semester to studying religious intolerance for one of my classes. (My research alone ended up filling two thirds of a two-inch-thick binder.) I apologize in advance if ultimately I end up sounding like I'm trying to be impressive. I'm not; it's just that I spent a significant amount of my time on this and much of my writing was very formalized. And if I'm completely wrong, well, that just calls for more study time, doesn't it? =)
First of all, I have never been personally under attack for being Pagan. (Witchcraft rumours that were spread around about me don't count; I was being accused of things that have nothing to do with being Pagan and everything to do with superstition. Anyway, I did't become Pagan until long after the rumours ceased to be.) However, I have heard disparaging remarks about Pagans, particularly from people who really should know better. Case in point: in grade 11, I took a mandatory course in world religions. The teacher, who was for the most part quite open-minded, one day said that a certain group of people were Pagans and therefore didn't think that killing people was wrong. Did this colour my perception of all Christians? Not a bit. My teacher was being unfair, certainly, but painting all Christians with the same brush would have been equally unfair. As my independent study project--and life in general--have shown me, a single religion is as diverse as the people who practise it.
As for forgiving and forgetting, it depends on what one means by that particular phrase. The "forgiving" part is straightforward, sure, but what about the "forgetting"? It depends on what we're supposed to forget, and how we're supposed to forget it. Is it the insult itself, or any anger resulting from that insult? Are we supposed to completely ignore it, leave it be? It's hard to forget something that hurts as much as bigotry and hatred of any kind and even inadvisable to ignore it in some cases. Who was it that said that hatred left to its own would only worsen and eventually have disasterous results?
My apologies again if I sound as if I'm trying to be wise when I'm nowhere near it. I'm not trying; it's simply my opinion.
Concerning religions which actively campaign against Pagans, and whether we should embrace them in the name of "interfaith relations"--well, it goes both ways, in my opinion. For there to be positive "interfaith relations", there has to be an acceptance on both sides, not just one. I'm not saying that I think that we should hate those who hate us; that's just stooping to the level of bigotry and it defeats the purpose of trying to relate to others in the first place. I have no idea how this should be handled; I've never really experienced this firsthand either. However, accepting the abuse of anti-Pagan crusaders doesn't seem to be a very good idea to me. Accepting the people themselves, and perhaps trying to teach them differently--if it's at all possible, that sounds like it might help at least some of the time. Hopefully, at least.
Perhaps when deciding when to say "That's gone too far!" and when to let it pass, perhaps we should consider the situation itself. Who is it that's talking? Do they appear to actually hate, or are they simply repeating things that they've been told to believe? And though it may seem silly and even a bit naive to ask this, are they joking or are they serious? Sometimes things are said in jest that are taken the wrong way. (I quite frequently stick my foot firmly in my mouth in this exact same way.) Finally, is it absolutely necessary at this point in time to raise a big stink about a single comment? Sometimes it isn't. Sometimes it could possibly just not matter.
Just my two cents; hope I made some sense, and that I didn't sound like I'm trying to be wiser than I am.

I'm Lucky In That I Have Not Met Alot Of People Who... Mar 24th. at 3:46:36 pm EST

Dragon Eyes (Cambridge, Ohio US) Age: 25 - Email

I'm lucky in that I have not met alot of people who hated me because of my religion...For those who don't agree with me I simply explain that I believe in an earth based religion and in a God and Goddess...I have had a few people tell me that I would burn in hell for not being a christian to which I replied I didn't believe in hell and I guess I would just take my chances when I die...I do know there are people who tear down other's beliefs but I try and live my life with respect towards everyone and I hope that others will always continue to treat me the same way...I looked at some of the hate sites and I find it sad that people can be so blind to the truth...I simply work at letting others know the truth about pagan beliefs...And I try to be a good person...which to me says more than any words can say...I try not to assume that an individual is representative of their religion... but it is sometimes hard and tries my patience...It's hard not to say "I hate Christians"...because a few rude people choose to tear down and write things about my religious beliefs...but I try to remember that not all people are like that...I wonder sometimes what those people whould do if we wrote such horrible slanderous things about them without regard to the truth...
there will always be people who choose to walk a path of hatred and anger and sometimes those people pretend they are the only right path and all others are wrong...Hopefully someday they will learn the truth...the only right path is one of light and love...No matter what religion it calls itself...

Sometimes I Get Upset -- If You Catch Me On A Bad Day... Mar 24th. at 1:51:20 pm EST

Aine (Wellington, Florida US) Age: 17 - Email

Sometimes I get upset -- if you catch me on a bad day -- and I go home and growl about it.

Most days I just shake it off, because I realize that if they anger me then they did what they ultimately set out to do. It's up to Karma to handle them, not I. I do enjoy watching them get their threefold for being ignorant jerks, though!

Blessings, I Myself Being A Pagan For Over 12 Years Now Have... Mar 24th. at 3:13:03 am EST

Riki Crosado (Christchurch, New Zealand) Age: 34 - Email

Blessings, I myself being a pagan for over 12 years now have faced hate! I do not like it and it still makes me very sad and unhappy, Not in myself but for the hater. Most hate comes from a group that I have given the name of 'Shadow freakers' These are people that see evil every were but their own little world. This is a very sad affair. I know and I am good friends with a lot of people from different faiths. I feel my life is more full and lively for it. The people that hate do not have this. So I only feel pity for them.

Living In The Bible Belt And Still Being In High School Is... Mar 24th. at 12:08:06 am EST

Anna Lea (Ardmore, Oklahoma US) Age: 17 - Email

Living in the Bible Belt and still being in high school is sort of like a double whammy for me. I do get some hateful remarks, and fearful stares, but for the most part people are just curious. I used to get letters in my locker telling me about how "Jesus loves me, and wants me to return to Him" but I take it all in stride. I realize that they believe they're trying to "help" me, and I am relieved I have been fortunate enough not to recieve any sort of death threats. I know that I am the only Pagan in my school...well, the only one out of the "broom closet" anyway. Like I said, I live in the BB and down here, anything that isn't xtian just isn't right.

And so I get singled out a lot, and I get made fun of, but it's usually in a joking manner, and I serve it right back to them. But when it's serious, it's hard not to be angry. That's when those breathing excercises come in handy. Especially when there are those who just refuse to drop the subject of religion (and in the BB, religion always seems to be the topic). There is one boy in my class who just cannot understand my existance. He knows that I'm Pagan and yet, I have never done anything harmful to him, or anybody else for that matter. I've told him that I think Jesus was a wonderful man with a great message, and he just stared back blankly . He can't understand how I could praise any religion that is not my own. Nor can he understand how I cannot condemn anyone for their beliefs, even if they happen to be the exact opposite of mine. I repeatedly confuse him. And I love it. I am living proof that contradicts everything he has been told about Pagans. ^_^

Like I said, I do get some ridicule, but I took that risk when I decided to where my pentacle to school after my mom gave it to me. (I love you, mommy!) I choose to wear, it and with it I wear the weight of ridicule and praise proudly. I take the good with the bad, and so everything is balanced.

My advice to those who don't know what to do would be: If they are willing to listen, talk to them. Explain things simply, and with allusions they can relate to. You can't expect a child to read before they know alphabet.

However, if they are not willing to listen, but would rather keep talking to you about your "faults, " walk away. They do not deserve your time. And you probably don't need the stress.

Whatever you do, please don't lose your temper! If you start sreaming at them, it will only confirm what they probably already think you are: possessed. Sometimes fighting fire with fire is just not sensible.

Peace and blessings to all,
Anna Lea

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