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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: 17,147,046  

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Question of the Week: 33 - 3/19/2001

What Is The Appropriate Response to Bigotry and Religious Hatred?

What do you do when someone attacks you for simply being a Pagan? Would this color your perception of all practitioners of that religion? Or would you see it as the act of an individual who may or may not reflect the views of the entire religion? Many Pagans are Wiccans. Does that mean that Wiccans must 'forgive and forget' in order to abide by the Rede? Must we embrace in the name of 'interfaith relations' those who follow a religion that directly or actively campaigns against Pagans? Should we all just 'go along to get along'? When it is appropriate to say "Enough!" and when should we just let it go? What about those anti-Pagan religious sites? What do YOU do when someone hates you just because you are Pagan?

 Reponses:   There are 108 responses posted to this question. Reverse Sort 

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

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

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

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

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

Merry Meet,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Fates will take care of the rest;}

I Am Fortunate Enough That I Have Not Encountered Anyone (at Least... Mar 20th. at 11:14:37 pm EST

Raven (Halifax, Nova Scotia CA) Age: 22 - Email

I am fortunate enough that I have not encountered anyone (at least not yet) who dislikes me for my Wiccan beliefs (or if they have, they've been smart enough not to say anything to me about their prejudices.) I don't hide the fact that I am Wiccan. My schoolbag (which I take everywhere) has several pins on it with phrases such as "The Goddess is alive and Magic is afoot." My favourite piece of jewellery is a pentacle necklace. I quite welcome it when people respectfully ask me questions about Wicca or paganism (this happens frequently, at least once a week) because I believe that any opportunity to spread a positive message about what witches really do is good.

While I haven't had experience in being discriminated against because I'm Wiccan, I do have experience being teased in junior high, because I was different from the other kids (I was smart and liked to learn in a school where neither of those things were seen as positive by my peers). I have learned much about how to deal with such bullies since those days. And one thing I have learned is to not give such hate-filled people any satisfaction; people who love to hate get so much joy when the victims of their hatred show they are bothered by the hate-filled messages. The trick with most of these hate-filled people is not to pay them any attention. Ignore them whenever you can. Don't visit their websites. Don't get into arguments with them if you can avoid it; such arguing will have karmic reprocussions for you if you allow yourself to get angry at such people. If less and less people respond to someone's hate-filled message, it will burn itself out.

Now all that said, sometimes you can't avoid a confrontation with people, because they refuse to leave you alone. If someone starts saying bad things to you because you are pagan (or for any other reason, for that matter) say to them: "I will not talk to you because you are being irrational and disrespectful." In bullying situations I have faced, I put up aura shields so that the hate the other person is giving out bounces off me and goes back to them. Then I walk away. I have done things like this before when I have been picked on, and most hate-filled people are stunned because I didn't respond to them with anger.

If someone bothers you repeatedly about your pagan beliefs, this constitutes harrassment. This is illegal. First, give a warning that you will take legal action against them if they continue to bother you. If they still persist, then take legal action.

As for the issue of forgiveness, I'm not really sure. I just don't think that I should harbour anger for someone else's perpetual stupidity and ignorance for the reason that I do not want bad karma from resentment to come back to me. I think that all of us in the pagan community should do whatever we can to make sure that positive messages are put forth into society about pagan beliefs and practices. The more we do this, the more people will be educated enough to see through anti-pagan messages for what they really are: hate-filled crap being spewed by ignorant people.

What A Broad Question For Something That You Feel Inside.. Im Pagan... Mar 20th. at 9:36:14 pm EST

nadine (rockport, Texas US) Age: 25 - Email

what a broad question for something that you feel inside.. im pagan and very srtong in my beliefs.. i do not judge others that judge me or anyone for that matter. that is what seperates me from christians.. never once did i meet a christian that wasnt money hungry and judgemental.. they have the nerve to judge me for my beliefs and my right as an american do choose what i want to be.. i dont preach my beliefs towards others, i try to educate them on what i know for me to be true in my soul.. it is sad the things that some of these christian people were writing about that young girl who hung herself.. they would be so quick to open their ignorant closed minded mouths if they just understood a little of what paganism means. in conclusion all i have to say is it is a sad sad world we live in.. those who "preach" peace and love, , certainly dont practice it. maybe they could learn a thing or two from a pagan.

Appropriate Response? I Think There Are Many. I Admit, I'm A Rather... Mar 20th. at 8:57:13 pm EST

Amanda (Anoka, Minnesota US) Age: 16 - Email

Appropriate response? I think there are many. I admit, I'm a rather agressive girl. I've never been one for dresses or makeup, and I have a love for action movies and researching the horrors of war. I, personally, don't like to put up with a lot of crap about being Pagan. I can put up with it if it's just whispering in the back of the room. Or even when a young child tells me "you don't think that stuff is real, do you?". What I can't put up with is someone telling me, to my face, that Paganism is wrong. Luckily, there aren't many people in my area who do that. A person has to respond how they wish. Even if the Wiccan Rede tells you to be kind and whatnot, if you feel you (or your religion) are/is being threatened, it's a natural response to snap at someone, or defend yourself. This can be handled calmly, or agressively. But it is natural, and I think the Goddess can forgive us for wanting to defend ourselves.

I Know This Sounds Like I Am Wimping Out, But Ghandi And... Mar 20th. at 7:42:23 pm EST

Ellen Parker-Williams (East Hartford, Connecticut US) Age: 36

I know this sounds like I am wimping out, but Ghandi and Martin Luther King were right. The only way to fight hate is with love, intolerance with tolerance, that which brings the other back into harmony. Hate only promotes more hate, violence brings more violence. We can only show that we are a peaceful loving group. No religion in their essence really wants to hurt other people, it is the followers who try to interpret and get fanatical. The way I deal with the hate is to turn away with pride and love and keep my head up, and not to act as if I was beaten or wrong. As for interfaith ministries, yes we should participate whereever possible. If anyone is to take us seriously as a religion then we need to take ourselves seriously and take our rightful place in these counsils.

I Have Dealt A Lot With Being An Outsider. I Know What... Mar 20th. at 6:42:59 pm EST

Wiccaton (Kansas City, Missouri US) Age: 17 - Email

I have dealt a lot with being an outsider. I know what it is like to be on the recieving end of hatred. I know what it is like to be so consumed by it that you die inside. I also know what it is like to make a choice to not spend the rest of your life filled by hatred. All of this I learned before ever deciding to become a Wiccan.

I try my best to teach people. You find people who are interested in it, but not for their religion. You find people who disagree with it, but respect you enough to not speak out against it. Then you find the ones that only know the propaganda they've been taught throughout their life. I do not say forgive. I do not say forget. I do say to know enough to not let the past bother you.

I do not say that we should embrace those that hate us, but I also don't say that we should actively discriminate against them. Deal with them when you must and don't bother with them when you get the choice. I have found that some people won't change and must simply be dodged. It is appropriate to stand up when they are actively trying to scare you and bully you into falling into place. Then you have no choice, since they won't stop unless you make a stand.

As for the sites: I respond calmly, coolly, and show intelligence without insulting. They might not respond, but I have not given them any ammo to use against me.

Okay. I've Typed About Four Essays In This Little Space Here And... Mar 20th. at 3:12:15 pm EST

magically mundane (Brunswick, Maine US) Age: 15

Okay. I've typed about four essays in this little space here and this is my last try.

When someone attacks you simply for being Pagan, one needs to assume that this person either had a very bad experience with a Pagan or that they are simply uneducated. In either case, it's not easy to deal with, but I've found that in Maine (and around here and Bath) people usually at least hear what you have to say. If your attacker won't listen, the people around you usually will, at least one person. As far as I know, there aren't any directly violent and anti-Pagan gangs or groups around here, so I have no idea what it's like being physically attacked or surrounded.

If that person was a Catholic, that just means that they're a bad apple. Being Catholic or Christian or any religion has nothing to do with it, really. It's just in how you were raised and how easily you cave into peer pressure, and how and what you perceive as being right.

I don't think you need to necessarily "forgive and forget" to abide by the Rede. You only need to be careful around that person and not give them anything to hold against you. Just be a good person, help others, do the right thing, and people will see that. To the basic human soul, religion has nothing to do with it. It's in how strong you are, and whether you stand up for your beliefs and rights.

To all those anti-Pagan sites, well, they obviously are either severely disillusioned or they just don't know what they're talking about. I've only seen a few and unfortunately those particular ones believe that we're Satan-worshippers and such. *sighs* I say poor them, mostly.

I've Found That The Christian Axiom Of "turn The Other Cheek" Isn't... Mar 20th. at 2:44:45 pm EST

Lysander True (Oceanside, California US) Age: 27 - Email

I've found that the Christian axiom of "turn the other cheek" isn't a bad idea, I don't fight the tide, but I don't give in either. We need to be especially careful of the words we use when we speak out against hatred as well, while we are angry we need not show it. Too many times, I have seen Pagans fighting hatred and intolerance, with hatred and intolerance.

Education is the key to fighting bigotry, use fire to fight fire, scriptures are always good since many of the scriptures have multiple meanings and are contradicted in other texts. Stand tall and proud, deliver truth without bias and you will win out, you may not win the battle, but you have honorably won the war.

Finally, remember you won't change the mind of the prejudiced masses, but those few that are open minded will take it upon themselves to learn more. So, don't let it get you down if you can't seem to win, it's better to have failed trying then to have never tried and fail.

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