Pagan Intolerance: nothing new under the sun

Posted on May 14, 2013
Filed Under Culture, occult culture | 2 Comments

tolerance1

I came across a couple articles decrying the rise of intolerance in the Pagan community. Joseph Nichter discusses his own experiences with intolerance in the Pagan community, while Peter Dybing notes the rise of intolerance in the Pagan community in the last few years. The sad truth is though that this intolerance has been around a lot longer than the last few years. Perhaps, if anything, the internet with its continued evolution has just made it much easier to see the not so pleasant truth of the Pagan community: there is a fair amount of intolerance when it comes to a variety of topics including the practice of one’s spirituality, experimentation in magical work, whether magic is even part of Paganism anymore, as well as cultural issues surrounding how Paganism is accepted by mainstream cultures. As someone who has been labeled a fluffy bunny from well before I began professionally writing in 2003, I can tell you that Pagans can be pretty opinionated. I write that tongue in cheek, because I must come off as pretty opinionated in this blog post.

But the reality is that this isn’t any different from any other religious community. Christianity has its sects as well, which disagree on matters of doctrine and culture. At least we haven’t, as of yet, started calling each other heretics and engaging in more violent activities. Instead it’s just online flame wars, and people getting their @$$es handed to them for expressing opinions. I’ll probably get some flak for this but I’m used to it. I wish I wasn’t though. I wish the Pagan community really was better and not so intolerant. But I learned in the 90’s that wasn’t the case. I actually went on a hiatus from the community because I was disgusted with the amount of negativity and intolerance being expressed. And in the years since it hasn’t changed…This is nothing new under the sun, nothing sudden that has just occurred.

That doesn’t mean we just should sit back and not do something about it. However to change it we need to explore what that change would look like. I think a better appreciation for diversity would be a good start. Instead of labeling people as fluffy bunnies or decrying what they choose to do spirituality, we need to accept that even if we don’t agree with someone’s spiritual choices it doesn’t make him/her a fluffy bunny or anything else. Agree to disagree and leave it at that. And if you feel the need to get in a debate ask yourself exactly what that debate is supposed to accomplish. Most like its just you venting hot air because you don’t like what someone is saying or doing, but do you really want to invest your time and energy in that way?

And if there are issues to debate let us debate them civilly, with agreed on rules of interaction and dialogue that foster a space of collaboration and cooperation. There are any number of resources that can be explored and used to help accomplish this. The book Dialogue Gap by Peter Nixon, is one such resource. And perhaps most important. Don’t let the people who are being intolerant win. Keep doing what you know is right and keep speaking up. I once was interviewed by the Pagan Centered Podcast. Everyone on there was hostile toward my work. It was a great example of Pagan intolerance, but after the interview was over I didn’t let it stop me. They could call me names, tell me I was fluffy and hand my @$$ to me, but what they couldn’t do was stop me. If anything their intolerance inspired me to continue speaking because I realized that if I did stop speaking up or writing, I’d just be letting them have the final word, and in the process glorify the intolerance that they advocated for. In any given community there will always be those people who are intolerant and have a loud bark. Ignore them and keep doing what you need to do. There will always be intolerance, always be people who will sit in judgement, arguing that they and they alone know best. They are wrong, but you can’t change their mind, so focus on your work and make the world a better place. Speak out against the intolerance, as needed, but don’t expect to change it, unless they are willing to actually accept that there can be other perspectives in the world that are as valid as their own.

Dark Sun Radio recently posted the interview they did with me late last year. You can listen to it here.

Comments

2 comments
thesilverspiral
thesilverspiral

I've experienced a lot of intolerence around here.  In my part of the country, if you aren't in a pagan church doing things the way a church would, you aren't considered "pagan enough."  People who work in covens or as solitaries aren't afforded the same respect as people who attend pagan churches, and you hear quips all the time from community leaders about how covens are passé or how churches are "better." (Better for whom?) 

aartiana
aartiana

Well expressed Taylor! :-)  I might note that people are really hung up on their identity about being different (which they view as being the best) and then wish to force others to validate them by joining their group, no matter how extreme.  It is the negative side of tribalism that often is the resulting expression of this, and it can be also said to be a symptom of immaturity.  So what is the reason they are insecure about their identity in the first place?  If that could be solved, I bet everything else mentioned here would fall in line, but the truth is many are leaving paths where they didn't get to have an identity and the struggle in an attempt to discover or create their identity.  In the process, they try out stuff - sometimes for self-discovery but sometimes out of shear rebellion because they were so suppressed (which means anger too).  Then, anyone who even hair-triggers the anger button inadvertently gets a larger load than warranted due to the build-up over what is most likely years!  I believe people becoming confident in themselves while allowing others to be confident in themselves is a good start, and perhaps some of us can set examples on how this works so others can learn from example.  I don't know what else would work!  Now I won't be the first to deny that I have my own very strong opinions about things!  However, shoving them down others' throats is not the way to go as there are kind ways of communicating one's viewpoint of truth; nor is there any benefit by feeling you can't truly express your opinion without inadvertently "hurting" another whom in reality has a chip on their shoulder that they are wanting the world to knock it off so they can have an excuse to get angry.