The opinions posted on the Pagan Perspective pages are those of individuals and are not neccessarily shared or endorsed by the Witches' Voice inc.
Posted: Nov. 17, 2002
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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.
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| I Am A University Student Who Is Fortunate Enough To Be A... ||Mar 19th. at 6:29:52 pm EST|
|Antigone (NYC, New York US) ||Age: 25 - Email |
I am a university student who is fortunate enough to be a part of a very liberal and accepting school. I have yet to encounter open religious bigotry. My father is aware of my beliefs, my mother is not. She is a very devout Xtian and I am afraid of her response to my choice. If I was put in the position of having to defend my faith, my tactics would be depend on the nature of the attack. If someone was only half-heartedly chiding me I would simply say "you don't know what you're missing". If it was more serious, I would mention the fact that I have seen both sides of the coin. I was christened a catholic, baptised a baptist, I was a Sunday school teacher and a member of the Billy Graham crusade choir and I STILL became a Wiccan. No one "led" me to it. The Goddess found me and I found my true home. Those who know me, know that I am an intelligent, compassionate person (not too modest, though) they know deep down that I could never follow anything that was "evil". I think the church maintains ignorance of its followers because it is afraid they might LIKE WHAT THEY HEAR.
| I Find Myself Very Alarmed By The Number Of Posts I Have... ||Mar 19th. at 5:12:24 pm EST|
|Tamara K Winfrey Bennett (Indianapolis, Indiana US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
I find myself very alarmed by the number of posts I have seen saying that we should just ignore the hate. Ignoring those kids at school didnÕt make them stop torturing me. Ignoring the homeless doesnÕt prevent people from being cold and hungry. Ignoring the Nazis didnÕt stop them from murdering millions of innocent people.
Would anti-pagans ever return to the burning times? Probably not, but before you say no, look at the religious persecution going on around the world. Even Christians, who seem to give us the most grief, are being persecuted, mutilated and murdered for their beliefs in many countries.
If youÕre lucky enough to live in a free nation you may think that ignoring the hate will make it go away and that Òit will never happen here.Ó You have your laws, your government and your constitution to protect you. But what are YOU doing to protect YOURSELF? Will you ignore the problem until it shows up on your doorstep with a rifle to escort you to bible study?
My husband is a Roman Catholic. He fully supports my choice of faith, and even exhibits interest in the craft. He himself is not an extremist, but as an architect specializing in church design, he is in direct contact with extremists every day. He says that most of them probably do not have the stomach to burn or hang us. However if they ever managed to slip into power most likely pagans(and all non Xtians for that matter) would be rounded up into camps so that we could be ÒdeprogrammedÓ and get Òsaved.Ó Sounds disturbingly familiar doesnÕt it? Who says that on our way to be ÒsavedÓ we wouldnÕt be killed in the process?
Sure, itÕs highly unlikely. But anyone who has been face to face with a fundie, or even watched Christian television on a regular basis, knows the zealousness and sometimes blind hatred we face. What is any one of us doing to stop it? And how much can one person alone accomplish?
Many of us are solitary by nature, and even more are secretive by necessity. Our religion does not require us to gather together like Christianity for example, which promotes fellowship, and that may ultimately be what keeps us from ever being able to live openly and freely. Most other minorities or groups that have suffered discrimination have some national organization to look out for their interestsÉ a group that educates, lobbies in congress, has lawyers to help protect constitutional rights, and most importantly unites. NOW, the NAACP, League of Women Voters, GLAD, PFLAG, even the NRA or the big three religions all have or are national organizations. Sure, there are a few small pagan groups, but nothing on the level of a NOW or a Christian Coalition. Where is the National Pagan Association?
IÕm not talking about wearing a ribbon to show you Òcare, Ó or sending anonymous postcards en masse. IÕm talking about something big and bold enough to make a real differenceÉ not a group out to harm or hate, but one that would educate and defend.
How many of you would be bold enough to carry a National Pagan Association card, or to be active in such a group? I can't honestly say that I would. Thankfully I probably wouldn't be burned at the stake but the consequences at work could be very bad for me. A fundie might decide for fire me on trumped up charges and I would lose my income and my health insurance. I guess I could sue, but who wants to go through all that? As things are I have adopted a don't ask don't tell policy. I'm not willing to lose my health insurance... what are YOU not willing to lose standing up for your religious freedom?
Do you wear your pentagram proudly, or do you tuck underneath your collar?
Respect and tolerance will only come if we stand together and demand it. A nationally united, politically active group demanding tolerance and educating the public is the only thing that will be successful. Otherwise we are doomed to forever be solitary practitioners, shifting the contents of our broom closets to make room for the altars we can't even keep in our living rooms anymore.
| I've Been Confronted Only A Handful Of Times. My Friends Find This... ||Mar 19th. at 3:10:01 pm EST|
|Sam-I-Am (Lawrencville, Georgia US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
I've been confronted only a handful of times. My friends find this unusual because I'm very comfortably out of the broom closet living in an area of religious predjustice. I'm not a flaming pagan, rubbing it in everyones face, I'm just happy with who I am.
I think that attitude has brought me to the philosophy that any confrontation is a learning experience. Weather I'm the student, the other person is the student, or we both are students, someone will walk away with new knowledge.
One incident with one person from one religion would not taint my feelings toward the whole group. Nor would thousands of incidents with thousands of people. A spoiled apple does not rot the bunch! I just have to learn to make hard cider out of that spoiled apple!
I watch my words and actions carefully when replying or defending myself because I'm being watched! My children look to me to learn how to handle these situations. Unfortunatley I have been confronted more often in front of the children than by myself.
Trying to use Christian scripture to debate will usually backfire. I don't try to use that advantage! I just smile and politely inform the person that they are misinformed. I tell them where they can get information from an unbiased source(the library!). I thank them for their concern and wish them a beautiful day/evening. Once or twice I've been told that the person's church will pray for me. I do consider that an honor so I reply "Thank you! My coven will meditate for you!"
| I Am Not A Wiccan, But A Celtic Reconstructionist. My Ethics Are... ||Mar 19th. at 3:05:41 pm EST|
|Aedh Rua (Prophetstown, Illinois US) ||Age: 35 - Email |
I am not a Wiccan, but a Celtic Reconstructionist. My ethics are in consequence somewhat different from those of Wiccans, being more concerned with the righting of wrongs, and the doing of good, than with avoiding harm. My comments must be seen in this light.
I have noticed that the fundies are very good at bullying little girls, abusing those who will not fight back, and "fag bashing", when they outnumber the "fags" ten to one. When faced with aggressive resistance, however, they tend to fold up and run home to Jesus. They seem singularly unable to take what they dish out.
Three examples come to mind: In the mid 1990s, Operation Rescue came to Minneapolis. A very great fear went through the pro-choice community based on the way they had shut down Topeka, KS, a couple years earlier. Counter demonstrations were organized, which the mainstream pro-choice groups made certain to keep entirely legal and non-violent.
About 200 Anarchists, however, had a different idea. They found out where operation Rescue was holding its training. They showed up in force, and pounded on the hoods of the Operation Rescue members' cars with hammers chanting "die, die, die". They keyed cars and slashed tires. They put up posters saying "Operation Rescue, you come to our town, we'll lock you in a church and we'll burn the f****er down."
Irresponasible tactics, you say? Probably. But Operation Rescue left the Minneapolis/St. Paul area within days, utterly humiliated and terrified. The next year, their funding had dropped by 90%, and they were never again a national political force. Whatever one may think of brutal tactics, in this case they worked, spectacularly well.
Another, less violent, example is the recent "faith based initiative". Here, rapid and insightful leadership by the Witchvox team, and by Americans United led to the complete collapse of the Bush initiative within a few weeks. Again, an aggressive response, with clear-eyed and insightful leadership led to complete fundie defeat.
A third example is the case of the Seabrook, NH Public Library, which scheduled a pair of workshops on "occult" topics, and then cancelled them after fundie protests. An effort was organized to donate used occult books to the library, and given national publicity. As a result, the Seabrook Library received several thousand books in the mail from all over the country. They quickly relented and allowed the workshops to go on.
As the second and third examples prove, aggression need not be physical. It may involve lots of propaganda, and the assurance of prompt legal action. It is, however, essential to defeating the fundies. For too long, Pagans and other progressives have been seduced by a non-violent ideal which, while fine in theory, has left the field to those who would destroy us. It is only by threatening to do physical or legal harm that any group has ever gotten civil rights. If Martin Luther King was important to the Black Civil Rights Movement, so, too, were Malcom X and the riots of the mid 1960s. Is it a coincidence that the left has been almost entirely non-violent since 1980, and, at the same time, the right has dominated the country. I think not.
In the case of recent harassment, I wonder if very aggressive tactics would not be appropriate. Anti-Pagan websites could be crippled by viruses or flame wars. Churches which lead attacks against us could be deluged with cards and letters bearing stories of persecution, and NEVER embraced in the name of interfaith relations or treated as legitimate religions.
Active efforts to harm us physically could be met with massive, if hopefully nonlethal, force. In the Walker, LA case, a multi-million dollar discrimination case may be in order, designed to make an example of the mall owner, by destroying his/her life whether by the settlement or through court costs.
At the same time, we need a set of "mainstream" leaders more palatable to the mundane world. These leaders could preach the tolerance and peace which we really do believe in, while saying, in effect, "if you don't cooperate with us, you may end up having to deal with those embittered radicals over there". It is a tactic which has worked for centuries.
As to my own opinion of the fundies, I don't like 'em. Is it right to judge an entire group? No. Do I care? Only slightly. These people have hurt me and mine, and will not stop doing so when asked nicely.
From what I have seen, their deity is a form of Crom Dubh, the ancient Irish devil, and their cause is Fomorian, which is to say, based in oppression, impoverishment, and the poisoning of the land. They preach love and virtue, but do not live it. There are plenty of good Xians out there, and probably even some decent fundies, so I refuse to hate them completely. I do not wish to hurt them except when they hurt us, and then only enough to make them stop. But, by and large, their movement is a disease.
| When Someone Attacks Me For Being Pagan, I Generally Ignore It Unless... ||Mar 19th. at 2:20:37 pm EST|
|Blue (Citrus Heights, California US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
When someone attacks me for being Pagan, I generally ignore it unless it is a legal issue, such as discrimination at the workplace. These are small-minded people with small opinions we are talking about here. People who actually THINK have the capacity to understand that some people choose Paganism because it works for them. It does not color my perception of another person's religion, nor do I see it as a reflection of the religion itself when a person shows such prejudice. There are many Christians and practitioners of other religions who accept Paganism as a valid religion. I think the key to finding kinship between ourselves as Pagans with peoples of other religions is to understand that there are small-minded people everywhere, sadly even in our own community, and those of us who know better must strive to be better brothers and sisters, not only with our "siblings" in the Pagan community, but in our human community as well. When people won't relent, walk away. Ugly dark fear consumes these people, and there is nothing we can do to stop it but pray.
| My Approach To Hate Towards Pagans Has Changed Over The Past Few... ||Mar 19th. at 2:18:17 pm EST|
|Iko (Chicago, Illinois US) ||Age: 36 - Email |
My approach to hate towards Pagans has changed over the past few years. When I first discovered that Paganism (Wicca) was the home I had been searching for all my life I actively searched Pagan/Wiccan sites and came across a large number of anti-Pagan hate sites in the process. There are plenty out there. I battled with AOL (along with what seems a zillion other Pagan users) to get and anti-Pagan website run by an aol member (the same "Tammy" that Wren lists for Christians to visit her current site if they want to see intolerance in action). It seems that AOL was afraid to use its own guidelines to get rid of Tammy. When AOL finally got rid of Tammy (and it took A LONG TIME), I found where she moved her hate and visited her new site, and posted in her message boards. She kept blocking me, but I just kept coming back under new names. After a while I guess I grew weary of beating my head against the wall, and I stopped with Tammy. I just felt I might be feeding fires that might go out if I ignored them. I did still see anti-Pagan hate on the Internet and in AOL chat rooms. So, I applied, went through the training and became an AOL Guide. (I figured if you can't beat them, join them.) For a few months I spent as much of my Guide shifts as possible in the Pagan, Buddhist and gay/lesbian chat rooms. I would be lying if I said I didn't get a certain joy from "TOSing" hate filled folks who came into the rooms to disrupt them. (TOS refers to AOL's Terms Of Service - Guides can - or at least could - block members ability to chat. After a certain number of TOS's, a member's AOL account would be terminated.) AOL does not pay its Guides, and I realized I was spending way too much time doing Guide stuff (I was working full time and going to law school full time - something had to give.) So I resigned. What I have done lately is begin to come out of the broom closet to friends. It seems to me that positive information about Paganism and Wicca given to folks from someone they know and have known for years can battle hate more than a zillion posts on one of Tammy's message boards, or TOSing dozens of hate filled people from AOL chat rooms. I am not saying that everyone should come out of the broom closet. That is a personal decision that should not be made lightly. Once out one's life does change. (There are some friends who do not call me anymore.) The other thing I do and will continue to do as long as I have a law license is to help anyone (no matter of what religion) to battle any form of religious discrimination. If I cannot help personally, I can help with pointing someone to where they can get help. I also donate monetarily to sites like the Witches' Voice - because it places like this site that do enormous amounts of positive PR for Paganism, and we would all be so much worse off without them. Thanks Witches Voice!
| With Smith's Story, The Subject Of Religous Hatred Comes Up In My... ||Mar 19th. at 1:47:21 pm EST|
|Jeremy Boyd (marietta, Georgia US) ||Age: 20 - Email |
with smith's story, the subject of religous hatred comes up in my mind again. on a backround of what i am about to say i will tell you that i (a pagan) grew up under a father and mother who were a pastor and a pastors wife. the beginning of my 10th grade year when my parents discovered that i was studieing paganism and witchcraft my parents came and took me from band camp to a rock quarry to yell at me... while there i was told by them that they would stone me to death right then and there because the bible said "suffer not a witch to live", but decided not to because they were running late to get my brother to bible college 8 houres away. my brother wouldn't even look at me or give me a hug goodby. but through all this religious persicution (even in the family) i have learned that when someone hates you for the religion that you practice the only thing you can do is love them any way. it's not a matter of which group is resonible... every one is responsible. pagans bash christians every day... christians bash pagans every day. if we (as a species) want the hate to stop than it has to start with the individual. jesus said turn the other cheek. Gondi propigated non violance. budda taught compassian. all these men were from diffrent religions all these men changed the world. now i know some of you out there are saying to yourselves "yeah, but jesus changed it for the worse"... but that's not true. the man jesus had amazing things to say... not ones did he bash gays, or pagans. his followers may have decided to discriminate . but jesus didn't. christans teach that jesus died for the sins of all. if thats what jesus said he was doing than weather or not he was god inccarnate, i thank him for that because, from the point of view of a witch, to give up ones life for another would be a pritty powerful thing. the greatest spell in history. this is one thing that has helped bridge the gap between my father and i. and now as a twenty year old i can have an indepth conversation with my father about god and be able to share a love that goes beyoun religion. in closing i would like to say that if we are to overcome religious hatered than we must overcome that which divides us. the jews and the christians alike believe in YHVH (this is another thing that really helped bridge the gap between my father and i) . YHVH was the beginning the end and everything in between. the first to the last. the earth, the trees, the rocks, the air, the stars up above, and each individual person. the celts called it IAO, the muslums call it ALLA. the end of the hatred starts with us. if we are to overcome it than we must overcome our own fears, and love beyond our own hatred.
| I Have Written My Story Many Times For Witchvox, And Everytime I... ||Mar 19th. at 1:36:02 pm EST|
|Mary Alderman (Wixom, Michigan US) ||Age: 36 - Email |
I have written my story many times for witchvox, and everytime I find the opportunity I will continue in hopes that things can be changed. My daughter and I had to deal with persecution for 3 years in Chandler, Arizona. She had students beat her up on a daily basis, in the lunchroom kids threw food and bottles at her, and she even had teachers attempt to rip her pentacle from her throat. I made complaints about police officers, who were to teach the "dare" program, regailing christian stories in proof that as a female she was a natural sinner. I had preachers drag my daughter out of the lunchroom with other students to "pray over her" because she was "going to hell". It finally came down to 3 death threats left in her locker and on her school desk, that I finally pulled her out of that school and moved to another state. The school of course, told me that I didn't have good enough reason to pull her from school since those threats are rarely carried out. I had to remind them of Columbine and a variety of other schools. I read a letter sent from a Snert (Snot Nosed Egotistical Religious Twit) in response of Tempest, complaining how Christian hyms should be banned. I say why not. They are offensive to some, and I notice that everytime there is a school shooting that officials have no problem banning the music that the shooter had listened to recent to the incident. I find it appalling that they can't seem to put the blame where it belongs, on the person who committed the act. My daughter listened to Lincoln Park as well, and she does relate with the lyrics. Being pushed to the edge because of the religious hate and intolerance in this country. Though our move has ended the worst of her being abused, she still comes across many bigots and christian rightous twits who will push thier uneducated ideals down her throat. My family is Astaru, so we have a different rede than the Wiccans my daughter defends. We are walking Karma. Yes we fight back daily, and will continue until this ignorance can be stopped. We let it go for years until my daughter almost lost her life. It can not be let go of any longer. To let it go is too high of a cost. Our children's lives.
| I Have Two Approaches When Someone Attacks Me Just For Being Pagan... ||Mar 19th. at 12:53:01 pm EST|
|Gryphontamer (Corona, California US) ||Age: 29 - Email |
I have two approaches when someone attacks me just for being Pagan. It depends on whether the person seems like they'd be willing to listen or not (and I always try that approach first, assuming that they'd be willing to listen and learn). I managed to get through to a fundamentalist friend of mine by explaining the concept of "many paths, one destination." And I always try to educate, first.
But if someone gets rabid about me being Pagan and refuses to be educated about paganism, I have no qualms about using humor to blow them off. I will explain about Paganism to anyone who's willing to listen. If they're not, then I'll just toss their sanctimonious nonsense back in their face. For example, to the cry of "I'll pray that you find Jesus!" I'll come back with "Why, is he lost?" or "And I'll pray you find the Goddess." I have no qualms about that.
I'm willing to forgive if the person's willing to learn. If they're not willing to open a closed mind, I have no use for them and it doesn't even become a question of forgiveness. Why should I need to forgive someone who doesn't want my forgiveness and wouldn't accept it if I offered it? Better to just let them go on with their life, without me in it.
There's a difference between ignorance and willful ignorance. The people who tend to get in my face about my paganism are usually willfully ignorant, and there's nothing I can do for them.
I admit it took me a while to differentiate between Christians and rabid fundamentalists. But now when I run into a person who attacks me for my faith, I find it almost pitiful, or laughable, that they've chosen to close their minds in this fashion.
As far as the anti-pagan sites? They have a right to their opinions -- misguided though they be -- and any reasonably intelligent person will probably see right through their arguments. I doubt they'll go away, but we don't need to give them any publicity, either. They live off of hate. The less response they get, the faster they'll dwindle and disappear.
The more accepting we can be of other faiths, the worse the unaccepting members of those faiths will look. So yes, I think it's important that we participate in interfaith and just let the rabid antipagan nonsense bounce off. It usually makes the rabid antipagans look much worse than they think it does.
| Don't Engage People Who Attack Your Religion In A Fight. If They... ||Mar 19th. at 12:26:32 pm EST|
|Blu Coyote (St Paul, Minnesota US) ||Age: 22 - Email |
Don't engage people who attack your religion in a fight. If they seem genuinely interested in learning about your faith, explain as honestly as you can, but people who attack you should either be ignored or answered briefly with something like, "I'm sorry you feel that way. Hopefully someday you'll realize that we all follow the same Divine Power; we just call it by different names & practice in different ways." Unless they're harassing you at bus stops and grocery-store check-out lines, in which case pretend they're not there. No one wins these arguments. I used to get into fights about gay rights, prayer in schools, abortion; you name it, I probably fought about it. My father is Jewish, & my Christian fundamentalist class-mates claimed that not only was he going to hell, but my mother & I (devout Christians at the time) would join him because converting him wasn't our lives' work. I got TIRED of fighting, because no one ever changed anyone's mind. But educate anyone who really wants to know about Paganism; when I told my dear Catholic friend I was becoming a Pagan, she admitted she had a hard time taking me seriously because of the fairy tales she read as a kid. I take every opportunity I get to explain what I believe & practice, & I see her skepticism (which could've soured into hate if left unchecked) expand into understanding. If we stop hate before it starts, we benefit not only ourselves but the generations to follow.
The ENOUGH line gets crossed where there is a large-scale attack against you or your community. Hit back--with a POSITIVE message. If they call you Satan-worshipping child sacrificers, don't say, "We want our cross-burning, hate-mongering opponents to know that we are about harmony & love." Acknowledge the concerns, & explain your side. Talk about your Paganism honestly; show the love & respect you have for Nature & all people. Don't feed hatred by stooping to their level. The dumbest thing I ever did was help my friends write an angry email to Fred Phelps with graphic descriptions of gay & lesbian sex. I'm sure it's on his web page as "further proof of the depravity of homosexuals." Be proatcive, not reactive. But do defend yourself. There IS a limit to free speech. As my government teacher said, "Your right to swing your fist ends where my face starts."
| I Think Walking The Walk Is Key To Combatting The Efforts Of... ||Mar 19th. at 12:09:46 pm EST|
|Greg (Mesa, Arizona US) ||Age: 24 - Email |
I think walking the walk is key to combatting the efforts of the militantly ignorant. Walking the path of love, light, compassion, self-exploration, and joy radiates into the world around us. People will react positively for this, and then when they find out you're some brand of Pagan, their heads will spin. They don't know what to do with someone who is a good person and not a Christian. I tend not to engage in debate or confrontation with people who are totally closed off, because I don't need that energy in my life. Words are powerful tools especially when they are supported by action.
Blessings to all!
| I Run A Couple Pagan Websites, And I've Gotten Some Pretty Nasty... ||Mar 19th. at 11:57:02 am EST|
|Rev Lisa G Whittaker (Madras, Oregon US) ||Age: 37 - Email |
I run a couple Pagan websites, and I've gotten some pretty nasty emails about them. I've had people literally wish me dead. I've gotten emails from people saying they "hope God gets his revenge" on me for having these websites...it just goes on and on.
If they leave a return email address, I generally respond to them. I don't flame them or get nasty back. I generally give a short synopsis of Pagan beliefs and compare them to the beliefs and practices of the person who has just slammed me. Rarely have a had a response, which I find interesting. Perhaps they are turned off because I don't respond with the same kind of hate and intolerance they have shown me. Who knows.
I'm clergy, so I deal with intolerance and misinformation about the Pagan path all the time. I've just learned not to let it get under my skin. Also, my particular path, Goddess Moon Circles, as a wonderful support system in our other clergymembers.
If anyone needs someone to talk to because of religious intolerance, please feel free to contact any Goddess Moon Circles clergy. You can find our clergy listings at http://www.goddessmoon.org/Clergy/Crisis/confidential.html
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