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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: 17,147,025  

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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 

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 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

Amidst All The Hate, Heated Rhetoric And Emotion That Surrounds This Issue... Mar 19th. at 11:46:26 am EST

Caireen Caerdhu (Kalamazoo, Michigan US) Age: 28 - Email

Amidst all the hate, heated rhetoric and emotion that surrounds this issue we must strive to remember we reap what we sow. If we react to those who hate us with hate, we will receive only hate. Speak out against ideas, not people or groups of people. Not all Christians hate pagans. Several people who know me as a pagan have come to truly understand what that means, not just by what I say, but by how I choose to live and how I choose to be. These lessons are stronger, by far.

I am not included my mundane name as I am a closeted pagan because I teach in a highly conservative Christian community where everyday I strive to teach tolerance for all the earth's creations, not just pagans and not just humans.

Dear Witchvox, Well To Tell You The Truth I Either Ignore Them... Mar 19th. at 11:43:35 am EST

Goldragon (Hazleton, Pennsylvania US) Age: 20 - Email

Dear Witchvox,
Well to tell you the truth I either ignore them or try to educate them. I've found that most criticism is based on ignorance I've always found that once you educate them they usualy leave you alown..I've even found some that wanted to practace paganism after hearing about it. The biggest thing to keep in mind is NOT TO LET IT GET TO YOU. Letting it get to you only fules the fire so to speak. As I've said to many people in the past..don't hate anyone for their faith...all faiths take you to the God and Goddess in the end:)(:


In My Eight Years On My Path, I Have Experienced Everything From... Mar 19th. at 10:37:34 am EST

SilverCat (Boston, Massachusetts US) Age: 26 - Email

In my eight years on my Path, I have experienced everything from complete joy to complete hatred about my beliefs. The joy in its purest form comes from the family member or friend who comments "It's just so clear how much your faith has helped you grow into the beautiful person you are." The hate in its purest form comes in actions that suggest that I should feel like I am not worthy of being part of the human race.

I have been spit upon, screamed at, and received threats of "burning me at the stake" (how original *snort*) for my beliefs. And what do I do in return? For the harassers that are face to face with me, I look in the eye and tell them I'm sorry they feel so much hatred, and hope that someday they will find the connection to the Divine that their soul seems to be desperately crying out for. This usually sends them running, because it clearly is NOT the reaction they're trying to get. If it's in email, I either delete it, or send it to the ISP.

Although it's the hardest thing in the world to do, show that you are above the garbage being directed to you. Vent to the people you know you can release the pain in front of, but do not break down to the abusers, because it's exactly what they want.


Each Situation Has To Be Handled On It's Own Merits. We Cannot... Mar 19th. at 7:18:48 am EST

Trish Telesco (Western, New York US) Age: 40 - Email

Each situation has to be handled on it's own merits. We cannot allow faith to become a side show... we cannot give in to temper tantrums. There are some people's whose minds will not be changed no matter what we say or do, others whose minds will change with time and tenacity, and some who are willing to listen. Our wisdom comes in educating the latter two and not wasting energy on the first.

I fully believe if you are being persecuted for your faith you have the right, and perhaps the responsibility, to fight. If this country is going to have religious freedom, at some point we may be called upon to stand up and be counted. This process can be scarry and difficult, but thanks to organizations like the ACLU, AREN, and Americans for separation of Church and State - we do have a "voice" with which to speak in unity.

In educating people we need to avoid certain traps. Use jargon that person will understand ... be real, be honest, be direct, and be professional (Wren's works here are an excellent example). Don't speak of those things of which you're uncertain (either say you'll get back to them or direct that person to someone else you know has the correct information). If you follow that basic guideline you'll rarely go wrong. The problem becomes that all too often those who should not speak - do and paint incorrect or immature portraits of the whole.

We may not change the world overnight - but improvements are happening. Even five years ago magick wasn't in the public eye like it is now (mind you that means more scrutiny too). We just can't get complacent and stop because change is happening. Keep walking the walk; live your life in a unique spiritual way; be the magick. One moment and one person at a time - we can make a difference.

From My Experience, I Believe That There Are Several Reponses To Bigotry... Mar 19th. at 6:34:24 am EST

Naomi Claydon (Derby, England UK) Age: 22 - Email

From my experience, I believe that there are several reponses to bigotry. There are the mildest cases, where a bigot (I will not use the term Christian to describe these people, because the Christians I know in no way deserve to be tarred with the same brush as these people) spots your pentacle, homes in you, and asks if you know that 'Jesus loves you'. Disconcerting though this is, it's worth bearing in mind that these people, however much your beliefs diverge, are generally motivated by a genuine concern for the state of your soul. The least they deserve is courtesy for this, so the best thing to do here is simply thank you and walk away. Feel free to walk quickly, though.

For more severe cases, for example, such as the endangerment of your family, friends, employment, and so forth, there is generally a recourse to law. Those of us in the UK, and our American friends, are blessed in that we live in countries where are religious freedoms are protected by law. I know sometimes bigots give us good cause to doubt that, but believe me there are countries all over the world where the inmhabitants could, and have, killed for the freedoms we enjoy. So why not employ this legal freedom if you're being threatened?

Coupled with these short-term solutions, the longer term benefits are probably best felt by interfaith communication. This doesn't mean you must actively embrace the die-hard bigots (except when they're one of your own parents, as in my case) but the greater majority of people- and most Christians are lovely, intelligent people practising the very virtues the Bible teaches, it's just that the bigots shout louder- are people who simply aren't sure what paganism involves, and interfaith dialogues help replace half- believed fears with the truth about pagans and what we do. Ignorance is bliss, but knowledge is tolerance.

Perhaps this is the best thing we can do for paganism: Instead of getting into a slagging match with the bigots, let's lead by an example of tolerance and openess. Again in my experience, nothing form a person's idea of paganism like knowing a pagan, and the behaviour of that pagan will fix that person'a idea of the whole religion for ever. What message would you like to give?

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