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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: 17,015,788  

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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 

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.

I Am One Of Those That Have Chosen To Be Open About... Mar 20th. at 2:00:43 pm EST

Maythen Apple (Redding, California US) Age: 23 - Email

I am one of those that have chosen to be open about my beliefs. I don't hide what I am or what I believe. But I've also chosen not "push" either. It can be diffcult, at times, to just smile and try to look beyond the hate. To educate instead of attack. The most painful attacks are from those that I know and love.
My mates grandfather recently began to make "sneak attack" discussions. He waits untill we have to leave right away, or are almost out the door. Then he tells us how sorry he is that we wont be in heaven with him, proceeds to quote the bible at us, and tells us about how horrible eternity in "the lake of fire" is going to be. He refuses to sit down with us and rationally discuss faith. He asks us to pray to Jesus to give him the strength to show us the True Light Of God.
He looks at his other Grandson, granddaughter-in-law, and their two children. Compares them with us. And doesn't know what to do. My mate and I have shown nothing but patience, kindness, and compassion. While the other grandson has leeched their resources (putting the grandparents into over 55, 000 dollars of debt), treats the badly, ignores them, insults them constantly, and attends church six days a week. It is a terribly frustrating situation. Both for the grandfather and for us.
A few days ago some friends and I were having a quiet conversation over dinner. I noticed a group of people who were gesturing at us and whispering in a huddle. Eventually one of the men came over to our table, interrupted our conversation to inform us that jesus loved us but we were going to hell, then took off before any of us could say a word. It didn't hurt me. But it didn't make me feel too good either.
I wish that I could say that I have the answers. I wish that I could tell you the secret to making people understand that how you live your life is more important than what name you call Divinity. But I don't.
So, instead, I continue to live my life. I educate those I can. I endure those I can't. I live my life in love and peace. Hoping that, by example, I can show others that Pagans aren't some bloodthirsty slavering demons.

I Thought About This For Several Moments And Realized That I Have... Mar 20th. at 1:38:52 pm EST

Moondancer a.k.a. Melody Forsythe (Nashville, Tennessee US) Age: 32 - Email

I thought about this for several moments and realized that I have been truly fortuate as to my experiences with Christians and others who disagree with my beliefs. Though I never through myself up in their faces as a witch, it does inevitably come up in conversation. After their initial shock and fear are overcome and I have the chance to answer their questions, I find that people are accepting to a degree. A few have chosen to "keep me at arms length" but the majority "agree to disagree."

As to what the appropriate response would be if I ever experienced the hatred that some have endured? I have to say I would be tempted to throw their hatred back to them, but most likely I would draw courage from Artemis, wisdom and power from Brighid, and the ability to laugh from Pan -- the hatemongers are not going to destroy my spirit!!! Let me close by saying that physical violence should be met with self preservation. You would defend yourself by any means necessary if an intruder broke into your house in the middle of the night -- so if someone attacked me physicially because I am a witch I would feel justified in defending myself and quashing the threat.

Blessed Be )o(

I Can't Help But Be Outraged, Sad, And Empowered All At The... Mar 20th. at 12:31:05 pm EST

Laurie (Peterborough, Ontario CA) Age: 23 - Email

I can't help but be outraged, sad, and empowered all at the same time when reading those critical e-mails that Wren posted. As a Facilitator for a University Pagan Circle, I have many people e-mail me just out of curiosity about what it is that we do and believe in as Pagans. Fortunately my own experiences with anti pagan hoop-la has been limited. Other then a few radical Christians that take it upon themselves to enlighten us Pagans in Pagan Chat rooms, my experience as an "out of the broom closet Witch" has been a positive one. That being said one of our circle members did have a run in with the provincial police awhile back; and at learning that she was involved with the Campus Pagan Circle they questioned her about "Black Magic" and the "Secret Society" that they felt she belonged too... Secret my foot I e-mail everyone about what we're doing...
As a Pagan living in Canada things are slightly different, for the most part Pagans are not politically active but thankfully our Government has not fostered such policies that have forced us to take a stand, but non the less discrimination on the grounds of religious intolerance does exist in our country. (read "If you're White you Can't be Pagan" Branwen Stonecipher and Kate Slater in "Freedom Within the Margin : The Politics of Exclusion" Detselig Enterprises Ltd. Calgary Alberta 1995)

How does one or a group address such hostility and intolerance when faced with it? I believe that education is our most useful tool... true you can only teach those willing to learn but I have faith in the human spirit, and believe that the good guys out number the bad. Our Pagan Group is currently seeking funds to purchace a few books on Wicca and Law Enforcement in Canada to give to our local Police Departments.

Our society is not Utopic, but it is perfect non the less, in its ability to advance and develop, I think that religious tolerance is on the rise, we must except that there our differences, that to be different does not always imply negativity and that each individual has the right to seek out the path that best suits them no matter what that spiritual path may be.
To those who e-mailed Wren with those nasty e-mails everyone has a right to their own opinion, but a informed opinion is always best, I suggest that you do some research and take off your blinders for the sake of all religions not just ours!

Brightest Blessings

I Am Lucky In That My Parents Are Extremely Tolerent. But I... Mar 20th. at 9:58:59 am EST

Jane Spacebat (Ednburgh, England UK) Age: 20 - Email

I am lucky in that my parents are extremely tolerent. But I have not been so lucky at school etc. I have never believed in a christian God, and the main reasons I became interested in wicca were to help save the environment and stop all the bad things people are doing (I was just a kid!!). Now I'm a biology student. I think that prejudice is a lot more extreme in the US than it is here in the UK, with a lot more fundamentalists. Unfortunately, these people are never going to be reasoned with. Although I'm sure some of the more extreme hateful websites are spoofs (does anyone know if Balaam's Ass Speaks is a spoof?) they are still representative of extreme views, and it's all the more scary if one can't actually tell. Whenever I've been harassed about being interested in wicca or believing in evolution or about anything, I feel angry and hurt inside but I try and ignore it. I could never get in a fight with someone and if I was mean back I'd feel really bad about it for ages... It is very hard and a lot of the time at school I did feel like killing myself. What saved me, oddly enough, was getting into punk, ska and gothic music. I can't imagine what it must be like living in a small town in the US, when I got picked on for being different in Chicago (I'm from UK but lived in Chicago for 11 years).

Since I Have Just Experienced Religious Intolerance In The Workplace (they Told... Mar 20th. at 9:33:03 am EST

Kyriea (Brooklyn Park, Minnesota US) Age: 32 - Email

Since I have just experienced religious intolerance in the workplace (they told me I needed to remove all my religious jewelry but didn't want to apply the same rule to all the other people who displayed their religious jewelry) I know what I would do. Exactly what I did do. I made sure I knew my rights and stood up for myself. The HR department at my job at first tried to impress on me that they looked at the situation as a harrassment case (I guess my pentacles were harrassing to some) but I told them that they could not make me remove my jewelry. After letting them know I knew my rights and that I would not tolerate religious discrimination they said they would not force me to remove my jewelry. They said that in the interest of personal choice they felt that it would be inappropriate to request it of me. They were also going to talk to the people who filed the complaint in the first place and discuss religious and personal tolerance. I knew that being out of the closet meant I might have to defend myself, my family, my friends and my community at one time or the other. I had hoped not to have to do so at my job but since I did, I didn't back down.

It Seems That The Only Things We Can Possibly Do To Respond... Mar 20th. at 9:27:15 am EST

Emerald (Fort Lauderdale, Florida US) Age: 19

It seems that the only things we can possibly do to respond to religious bigotry and hatred is to spread education and love, and to campaign against such injustices when necessary. We can not force tolerance on others, any attempt to do so will probably only make things worse. Also, we can not think of ourselves as alone in this regard, things could be far worse for the pagan community, they could treat us the way Jews or black people are treated, and at least they're not trying to blow up our holy sites like the Taliban with the Buddha statues. That doesn't excuse it, but let's do remember that discrimination extends to all corners of humanity, even from within the pagan community. I've found the best way to spread the truth about neo-paganism is to talk to people calmly and rationally, and when they start laying their doctrines of hatred on you you shrug them off and say, "You can not hurt me, you can not scare me, and you can not make me resent you." Believe me, it makes a difference in most people's minds when they tell you you're a horrible damned sinner, and you respond with a gentle answer, which as the Bible itself says "turneth away wrath". I've talked to people who thought pagans were Satan-worshipping baby murderers, and by the time I'm done talking to them they finally start to get it, that spirituality is the same by whatever label you give it. Give that a try, just talk to people, let them know what it's really all about, and remember that some people don't know that they're bigotous, even one of my close personal friends who is very religiously tolerant had a negative attitude towards paganism before I took him to a ritual and he saw what it was all about. Society tells most people nothing good about us, so it's up to us.

Bigotry And Religious Hatred Will Always Be Around. It's A Hard Fact... Mar 20th. at 9:00:25 am EST

Rob (Commerce, Michigan US) Age: 20 - Email

Bigotry and Religious hatred will always be around. It's a hard fact to face, but we must face it and move on. There is nothing, really, that Pagans AND Chrisitians can do about that fact. I address Christianity and Paganism as a whole, since current events resolve around these religions. And anyways, do you hear about or see Buddhists running around with hatred or views against other religions?

There are some Pagans who despise Christianity and close their mind when the subject is brought up or preach out loud how 'bad' it is. And also, there are those close-minded Christians who preach what they know and don't listen to what they don't know. Everyone, Christian and Pagan alike, should only teach the ones who will listen and do not waste time on the ones who will not listen. I myself, sometimes, get in a mood where I just HATE Christianity because of the hateful ones that preach in a hateful way. But do I really hate it? Do I go around making fun of them and pushing them to the limit? No, of course not. I have morals and thoughts just the same as everyone else. My whole family is Christian, I grew up Christian, and I know that 'real' Christianity is taught in a way of light and love, not hatred and darkness. Christians just need to read their Bible more often and more closely, as well as not just saving thier religious practice for Sunday or Christmas, but to live it everyday. I feel Pagans must also read the Bible to leanrn what Christianity is all about. Yes, I know there are passages against witches, but those were the times back then that we all must forget and we must read and learn to fully understand each other.

When the black shroud of hatred does come around, one must simply walk away. And if matters get worse, one must find the necessary help, help that will be of use, to dampen the situation. Or simply someone to talk to about the problems so you can get it off your chest. Don't keep it in, I have learned my lesson of that. I myself am an introvert, but find solitude in talking to the ones I love and alos through writing and drawing. Keeping problems inside only leads to strong depression and contemplation of suicide. Trust me, I lived through it in high school before I even learned of Paganism. If you beleive you can talk to God and/or Goddess, fine. But I beleive one must talk to one of this plane. One who can listen and give a direct response, and also hug. God and/or Goddess WILL be there listening, through the person you are talking to and through yourself.

I, myself, have difficulty in my own home with a very Christian father. He is very open minded, but when it comes to differences of religion, he tries to convert me. We both, of course, defend our views and I try to show my father that all religions, in a sense, are the same. Hes stubborn, he doesn't listen. So what do we do? We laugh it off and go at that.

The recent killings at schools and recent suicides of our nation's children MUST stop. Parents, you MUST talk with your children on the virtues of life. Not just in a Pagan or Christian way, but in a way of the whole. They can't just learn it all on their own. They need guidance and support from YOU. They WILL open up to you, it only takes a matter of time. My parents got through to me (in a time of rebellion and pain), You can get through to your children. The hate and bigotry will always be and to teach our children that it is out there and that the world isn't all fluff and sugar, they can see and learn how to handle this crazy place we live in. You must also teach of other religions of the world, not just your own. Please people, we need to start NOW to help. There are many books, websites, and even counseling that will help you make it through.

Another bit of advice, forget the past. Only use it in certain situations. Just remember it so that certain things may not happen again, but do not use it in a religious battle. We all must look to the future and move on. We have new times ahead and new generations to teach.

Oh and, never use Bible passages against a Christian, they'll always find a better one. And Christians, look past what you 'know' and learn that Pagan people are wonderful and that they do not kill small woodland creatures or make newborn sacrafices to the God and Goddess. Peoples may have done it way back in the past when they were just learning, but so did Christians. Our religions have evolved and so we must move on to the next level.

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