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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: 16,997,944  

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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 

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?

What Is The Proper Response To Bigotry And The Religious Hatred? I... Mar 19th. at 5:22:12 am EST

John T Morgan (U.S. Army) Age: 23 - Email

What is the proper response to bigotry and the religious hatred?

I have been a pagan as long as I was able to walk my mother and her mother walked the pagan path; while my fathers side of the family is devout babtists this posed some interresting discussions while i was growing up from one side of the family i was taught that do as thou will but harm ye none. but the other side of the family was if you even think of doing anything that we don't say is right you have sinned and out came grams bible for her interpretation of the word.

This taught me that it is always a good idea to look at everything with an open mind because there re vthose who don't look at things with an open mind and these are the people you have the most opposition from.

when i was in high school I was teased andtaunted because of my size; I am a man of small stature but I got the worse taunting because of being pagan I had sinner written on my locker I was active on the sports teams which they didn't care much about that.

One thing that living as a pagan has taught me is that there is a whole world of people that will find something to hate you for because they are clo0se minded and ignorant "There really must be bliss in ignorance because alot of people not just christians are enjoying it".

As for interfaith relationships my father was babtist he and mymother were married for 12 years before they devorced becuase of his drinking.I have had interfaith relationships it is a fear that when they find out my religious preference that they will run.. ohh well I guess that it was not meant to be so off to the market I go..

when you feelthat you have been truely threatened that is pretty much enough and time to defend yourself physically and spiritually. but don't jump to conclusions that will bite you back in the long run.

Why complain about what someone has on their site it its not like they made you go to that sites pay it no my and keep traveling your path

this is the wisdom of a Man a Pagan and a Soldier in the U.S. Army and Yes I Stand up and Fight for Your Right to Agree and Disagree...

The Appropriate Response Depends On The Action Of The People Involved. If... Mar 19th. at 1:21:48 am EST

Perrin (Denver, Colorado US) Age: 24

The Appropriate Response depends on the action of the people involved. If it just words, then great, verbal sparring is always goof for a democracy. If it becomes physical, make certain you have the bigger guns, it was not that long ago in our history that Witches were burned at the stake. Personally I would rather not be on the barbique. As to inerfaith marriages, they can work if both parties involved are truly in love, but if it is a forced marriage, IE someone caught doing some thing they should have waited for, then it won't last for more than 6 months at best.

Personally ENOUGH is when there are 300 of them & 1 of you, which is why I started looking into witchcraft.

I Have Been A Practitioner Of Wicca For About Three Years Now... Mar 19th. at 1:16:39 am EST

Amber Nicole Spires (Lancaster, Ohio US) Age: 20 - Email

I have been a practitioner of Wicca for about three years now. It never ceases to amaze me that, in the twenty-first century, many people harbor the same hatred toward Wiccans that there forefathers did in the sixteenth century.

I have several methods for dealing with those who "attack" me for being a Wiccan. Usually, those who confront me about my religion are simply misinformed. Once I have explained what exactly the Wiccan religion entails, they have a tendency to change their views. They become more receptive to other religious views.

Others, however, come into the conversation in "Attack Mode". They have no interest in listening to what I have to say. Not only is their way the Right and Only way, but it is also their personal responsibility to "save my soul". The method that seems to work best on those who insist on being belligerent and rude is that the United States Constitution recognizes Wicca as a valid religion. I have every legal right to wear my pentagram to work (and I do, which almost cost me my job) as my follow co-workers do their crucifixes.

My negative experiences with those of other religions does not lead me to stereotype all of the followers of that religion. It isn't right to hold all responsible for the actions of one. Especially if that one doesn't officially represent the many.

Wiccans must forgive and forget to abide by the Rede to an extent. If it is a situation where the person simply disagrees with your religious views, then let it go. They are just as entitled to voice their opinion as you are to voice yours. However, if the opposition becomes hostile, then a person has the right to defend their beliefs. Just remember, "the pen is mightier than the sword".

I think it seems rather contradictory to support the beliefs of those whose goal it is to cause me harm. It would be the same as an African-American voluntarily going to a Klan meeting and handing the Grand Wizard a Cat-of-Nine-Tails. However, I fully support their right to voice their opinion. All I ask of these anti-Pagan/Wiccan followers is that you remember your Rede to which you refer as the Golden Rule: "Do unto others as ye would have them do unto ye".

Concerning anti-Pagan/Wiccan webstites and publications, again, I support their first amendment right. I firmly belief in the saying of the French philosopher, Voltaire, "I may not agree with a word you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it."

Those who insist upon hating me because of my religious views are in exceptional need of my tolerance. I have a very hot temper, once it gets going. However, for the sake of my religion, I have learned to keep it in check. If people see me getting angry and hostile in defense of my religion, that could have adverse affects. If I am the first and only experience they have with a Pagan and/or Wiccan, I am obligated to make sure that their experience is a positive one. We all know what they say about first impressions.

I have no problem having a religious or Dogmatic DISCUSSION with those whose views differ from my own. My horizons could always be broadened. However, for those who insist upon preaching to me, I calmly remind them that if I wanted a sermon, I would go to Mass. I graduated from a Catholic high school and have probably read the Christian Bible more times in those four years then they will in their entire lives. The point is, I have given their religion an honest go and found that it is not the right path for me. They have choosen their religion (and I do NOT mean to stereotype) because it was the same religion as their parents. They never bother to question what they are told to believe. But, you know what, neither did the Nazis (CALM DOWN! I am not saying that Christians are Nazis by any stretch of the imagination, but I got your attention, didn't I?). I respect the fact that, for whatever reason, they have choosen their religious path. I ask that they give me, and all of those whose views differ from their own, that same respect.

We need to remember that we are all human beings and that we all serve a purpose on this planet. Certain people cross our paths at specific times for specific reasons (even those whose soul purpose seems to be to frustrate you, for they are here to teach you patience and tolerance). I will never forget an incident that occured probably around December 2000. A gentleman had approached me and asked me about my pentagram necklace. I told him that I was a Wiccan and a witch. After that, he launched into a forty-five minute tirade (trust me, I was not able to say a single word the entire time he spoke) about how I was evil and going straight to Hell. He ended his "speech" saying that it was not coincidence our paths crossed for he was here to save my soul from eternal damnation. Without missing a beat, I replied, "How do you know I wasn't sent here to open your mind?".

My Mother Once Told Me Simply Not To React, Because Someone Who... Mar 18th. at 11:17:16 pm EST

David Diotel (Montreal, Quebec CA) Age: 16 - Email

My mother once told me simply not to react, because someone who shows hate cannot change his mind with the help of what they hate. Sadly, I'm not as mature as my mother is, and tend to overreact. I'm currently learning the truth of these words, however, as this year is the first year where I have a practicing Christian demolishing most other faiths in his religious classes(which are supposed to be comparative religion classes). After three months of seeing him tossing my questions away with other negative remarks, while seeing that he is always repeating his rethoric, I discovered that the best I could do was to simply let him talk and answer a few questions(or correcting some falsehood during revisions before the exams). I've never faced real hate, except on the Internet. I don't think these sites can be taken really seriously, as many people know that lots of things on the Internet wouldn't be worth the ink to print them down. Only real-life hate is dangerous. A person is much more convincing than a message in a virtual area. Overreaction is never good, but reacting to a direct attack can help to forge sympathies(unless you're doing so in a congress of Southern Baptists) with other peoples who are not really part of the group. It can be encouraging to see that people care about rights of minorities(not only relgious). If someone is simply quoting the bible, without real support to prove his word this is not even necessary to care about him(unless he is influential), he is not worth attention. I belive that my ideas on this post seem to be all mixed up, and if you make a sense out of it, I apologise for the confusion of my ideas.

Blessed be

It Hurts When I'm Insulted, And Verbally Bashed By Others Due To... Mar 18th. at 10:56:41 pm EST

Silver Butterfly (Edmonton, Alberta CA) Age: 18 - Email

It hurts when I'm insulted, and verbally bashed by others due to my religion, especially when that attack comes from someone who I considered a good friend and someone that I could trust. When I first stumbled upon paganism, I could see only the evil in Christianity. I did everything I could to put it down. About six months later, I recived a very big wake up call. I realized that Christian beliefs were not that different from my own when I really looked deeply enough. I became a lot more open and accepting of other faiths. I think taht in many ways bigotry and religious hatred flow both ways. Sure it hurts to be called names, teased and taunted because of what we belive. I've learned to laugh at the people that call me a satan worshipper and evil incarnate. I simply smile and reply that I can't worship satan since I don't believe in him and that if I was the evil one, why were they the ones bad mouthing my faith.
Fortunately, I know very few people that think like that. I go to a Catholic school and even our school chaplin is open to sitting down to sensible, rational, civilized conversations about Christianity/Paganism. I don't think that any one individual can speak on behalf of his/her entire religion and I think that in every faith there will always be some ignorant and/or closed minded people who feel that their path is the only right one and that everyone else's beliefs are wrong. There is a point were we have to say enough is enough but I think the best method to deal with those people that express bigotry or religious hatred is to simply laugh it off and ignore their future rants.

I've Been At This Discussion For A Very Long Time Now. I... Mar 18th. at 10:22:49 pm EST

Charlayne Denney (Friendswood, Texas US) Age: 44 - Email

I've been at this discussion for a VERY long time now. I was one of the Pagans that Tammy Richie (Sounddoctrine) got into discussions back WAY back in the days of the pagan/christian debates on the Christianity Online Message Boards on AOL. Yeah, that far back.

Most real Christians, and really anyone else with any original problems with pagans, generally respond to respectful education and dialog. They find out we're basically Episcopalians who see god as a woman (or something equally as benign) and they go "ok, whatever" and that's that.

Then there are the zealots, those who see the only way to their own salvation is in pushing someone ELSE into their place in Hell. These folks really aren't about saving your soul, they're about saving their own by either trying to save or condemn you. Theirs is a world full of fear, pain, and the only way they feel like they're doing "God's work" is to be condemning those who aren't what they say THEY are.

Funny, I don't remember that part being in their Bible. do I handle them. I smile sweetly and I say "well, we'll agree to disagree" and I move on. I don't waste the energy on them.

Now, that's not to say that if they decide that my turf is their turf that I wouldn't defend what's mine...damned skippy in a heartbeat with a gernade! There is a line, it's well marked and if they cross it, it's THEIR karma. Burn a cross on my yard and you'll be Bubba's bunkmate in a cell for a few years. Touch one of my children and being Bubba's bunkmate would be a RELIEF from what I would be doing...

Meantime, we teach those who need to know, show them how ridiculous the zealots are looking in THEIR name (making other, real Christians look really bad is not a good thing) and then working with them to shut these people down.

I can tell you, Tammy had to leave AOL due to the spew she put forth. Even the Christians who didn't like many of us Pagans were glad to get rid of her because she made THEM look bad. After going through 5 different ISPs, she finally had to set up one herself to do her ugly work. And it shows to this day.

We educate, we cooperate, we are inclusive to those who are reasonable and then we show the others we don't tolerate their behavior, together, the Real Christians and the Real Pagans, hand in hand.

They may not believe what we believe but they do respect our passion.

Blessed be:

When Someone Attacks Me For Being A Pagan, My Reaction Usually Takes... Mar 18th. at 10:08:27 pm EST

Nidawi Badria (Sangerville, Maine US) Age: 15 - Email

When someone attacks me for being a Pagan, my reaction usually takes the for of one of three responses. If someone I know and feel is open-minded enough to discuss religion with says something derrogatory, I will take the time to sit down and talk to them about it. Explain all that I can to get rid of the misconceptions. If someone random says something derrogatory, I ignore them. If someone ignorant and rude says something derrogatory, I'll probably say something condescending like, "You're not even worth the effort." I never judge a religion as a whole upon the actions of one member. You could write off any religion if you were to do that. Although I know that the people who are destructive to another person's religion will get what's coming to them, it is sometimes hard to repress your anger. But when girls are killing themselves to escape harrassment, we need to stand up and be heard. What is happening right now, all across the country, to our Pagan brothers and sisters is inexcusable. I think that the point has been reached, no, the point was reached long ago, when we need to put a stop to the hatred towards our faith. If we just keep letting it slide, saying we'll do something next time, nothing will ever change. Ignorance is deep rooted in the people of this country. Historically we can see that people resist change at all costs. But it can still be done. Just look at the African-American community, and the great strides they have made towards equality and freedom. Hatred is something that will never completely leave us. There will always be one more misinformed individual, one more evangelist, one more rabble-rouser. But what is one compared to millions? And about the hatred websites, there is nothing we can do about that. We are not the only ones who are targeted by such forms of negative media. But if we continue our efforts to educate the people, and to educate the government, we can emerge from the battle victorious. And we will.

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