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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: 17,147,034  

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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 

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.

A Mailing List I Am On Has Been Having A Very Similar... Mar 20th. at 8:46:26 am EST

Amanda (Dallas, Texas US) Age: 27 - Email

A mailing list I am on has been having a very similar debate, and recently the issue os "hate sites" has come up. An angry response only brings you down to the level of the immature, insecure beings who would build hate sites. Not good company to be in. There are claims to refute, so go out, do your homework, and refute them. Don't let their Big Lies stand without an answer, but make your answer a calm, rational, well-researched one. If a hater uses some half-quote against us, quote the whole thing and explain the quote. If they cite the words of some "ex-witch", cite the research by *Christian* journalists that has proven what frauds many of them are. If they say Joe Blow said something in an interview with the Detroit Free Press, see if you can obtain a copy of the whole interview from the source. A handy quote to start off with would be one involving the "blood libel" the Pagan Romans used against the Christians, or the Christian Europeans used against the Jews----things we all know not to be true, but a fearful few *wanted* to believe to justify their hatred. This is a great opportunity to educate people, and assuage their fears. Yoda is right, fear leads to anger, anger leads to hate, and hate leads to suffering. You want to kill hatred, attack the fear.

As Usual, So Many Good Responses. And Some Particularly Sad Stories About... Mar 20th. at 7:34:49 am EST

Skye Cat (Edinburgh, Scotland UK) Age: 27 - Email

As usual, so many good responses. And some particularly sad stories about religious hatred. I feel lucky to live in a big city in the UK. Scotland isn't that ethnically diverse, but there does seem to be more everyday exposure to other belief systems in my day to day life than for some of those who have contributed here. That makes things a lot easier, I think.

There are a number of things I either do or am planning to do to work towards eliminating this:

1. I'm open about my beliefs, but I don't shove them in people's faces.

2. I try to understand the beliefs of others.

3. I support organisations such as the Pagan Federation, who help to promote interfaith dialogue and support the rights of pagans. I'm planning to join the volunteer scheme for interfaith work too, when I get the time to do it.

But most of all, I feel that unity within our ranks will be extremely helpful when it comes to promoting religious tolerance. There's a whole different slew of belief sets represented in the answers to this question, be it Asatru, Celtic Reconstructionist, Wiccan, or whatever (I'm a whatever, by the way!). Pagan fundamentalists are as unpleasant as fundies of other religious persuasion. And the media loves to capitalise on division within the ranks.

It's by accepting the differences between our own belief systems that we will be able to stand as an united force and push for our religious freedoms.

I've Recently Begun Openly Wearing My Pentacle As Well As Other Pagan... Mar 20th. at 5:52:35 am EST

Jason Jacobs (Gadsden, Alabama US) Age: 23 - Email

I've recently begun openly wearing my Pentacle as well as other pagan type jewelry ('Blessed Be' buttons, etc) and I've gotten a mixed reaction from most folks. I've been pleasantly surprised that even living in the heart of the Bible Belt, most people simply give a stare and maybe avoid me. The few people wwho have been bold enough to give me grief about my beliefs, I've been more than happy to sit down and try to calmly explain to them what I believe and why. I think one of the most important things that we as wiccans can do is represent our faith. Not proselytizing, but being an example that the old stereotypes /aren't/ true. We need to stand up for our rights, but we need to do so without resorting to hate ourselves, instead being 'above' that sort of bigotry. We need to try to live lives that show that wiccans and pagans have just as many moral standards as do any other religion out there, and that we are just as deserving of tolerance and respect as them as well. So, to sum up, I think that we /must/ defend ourselves against attacks, but at the same time, we cannot lower ourselves to the level of our attackers.

As Confusious Said, Repay Kindness With Kindness, But Repay Evil With Justice... Mar 20th. at 1:53:39 am EST

Asta (Kailua-Kona, Hawaii US) Age: 15

As Confusious said, repay kindness with kindness, but repay evil with justice. If I experience prejudice, I tell that person the hard facts. They may not believe me, but I haven't heard any backlash from those people yet. Most are just acting out of misinformation, and I have found that even my hard-core Jesus-freak friends are interested to know how that public hype is wrong. As for mass campaigns and anit-pagan sites, I ignore the latter and haven't ever experienced the former. Say enough is enough whenever something gets abusive for uncomfortable. Since I live in Hawaii, most of the people are very tolerant towards anything different. I get more trouble when I say I think gay people should be allowed to marry than when I tell people I'm pagan. Still, stand up to the hate! Don't let people demean you because of your religion. When to say enough is enough. Now. Enough IS enough and its been that way for a long time.

My Mother, And Open Minded Christian, Asked Me The Other Day, "does... Mar 20th. at 1:39:01 am EST

Deni (Danville, Kentucky US) Age: 27

My mother, and open minded Christian, asked me the other day, "Does it ever bother you when people see your pentagram necklace or you happen to mention that you are Wiccan and they decide they dont want to talk to you?" My first reaction was "No, why should it?" For me if people are going to be that closed minded, judgmental, and prejudges then those are people I would rather not talk to anyway.

There is a man who comes to my school every semester and screams words of hate out on the quad. He carries a sign that suggest pagans and Wiccans are evil and that they are going to hell. Even when other Christians confront him about it he staunchly defends his beliefs. The school has tried for years to force him off the property, but because it is a public university and he has filed permits to speak there seems to be noting they can do about it. He always gathers quite a crowd. Im proud to say that the overwhelming majority of people are heckling him, and trying to preach love. Yet he persists. I just find that this is his ignorance. I dont even bother. I avoid him. I dont listen to him.

I have been very fortunate. I havent had to deal with hatred of this sort on any kind of personal level. Most people just avoid me if they know about my path and they dont approve. I leave those people alone too. It amazes me how many people offer genuine curiosity. I get asked lots of questions. I like answering question... dispelling myths, and the like.

I think if I was ever faced with dealing with this kind of hatred on a personal level I would just walk away muttering..."love not hate". I would fight for the rights of people, and I would fight if I thought my civil liberties where in anyway violated.

I think that the best thing that we can do as pagans is ban together, let our voices be heard, educate as many as will listen, and love each other. We can not be silent and expect things to change. I am involved politically, and with movements to further the cause of tolerance. Because I honestly believe the best way to fight hate is with love.

Peace and Love

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