Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Witchvox: The Challenge of Pagan Fundamentalism

As I was reading my friend Matt Stone's fine blog today I was made aware of an interesting article by Jedi Gordy on the Witchvox website. The title of the artice is "Future of Paganism." Gordy writes in part:

This article is on something most of us dislike: Christianity. But it is more on how modern Paganism is BECOMING much like Fundamentalist Christianity. We claim to be enlightened (which we should be to become the third degree) . We claim to be tolerant. We claim to be righteous and pure. Then tell me this: Why do I hear so many of us slamming the “big three” (Judaism, Christianity, and Islam) and calling those who call us out on our hate-speak “Christians” or other names?

I know many people of the “enlightened” path that know not where their religion was founded (for all religions are made by man, this coming from a Pagan) . Example: many people will fight hard and long to prove that Wicca is THE OLDEST religion when there is not a hint of archeological evidence to show that it was around before the mid twentieth century.

Why do we, the “wise” and “enlightened” ones follow propaganda like sheep? Are we not as bad as those we claim to not be? Or are we worse because we are ignoring the log in our eye to point out a splinter in theirs?

Also, some claim Paganism, Wicca or Witchcraft a harder system to get into. Not true, as some places (not most, but a few) will make any idiot a priest or priestess. I know a few idiot priestesses and priests who shouldn’t have even been given a first-degree initiation. So there we make ourselves look like idiots.

Another issue I have against the way some of us are behaving is that we associate ourselves with those whom should not really be given the power of clergy. By that I mean that they are deceitful, backstabbing, and treat others unkindly. Now many of you will say, “They aren’t true Witches/Wiccans”. In that case, how can Christians behaving badly be true Christians?
I find Gordy's candor refreshing, and a reminder that virtually all religions and spiritual pathways struggle with difficulties, and difficult people. Recognition of the challenges is the first step in correcting them. And at the risk of shameless self-promotion, perhaps books like Beyond the Burning Times can be read by members of both Christianity and Paganism and can serve as a starting place for our efforts at moving beyond our problematic fundamentalisms.


Jarred said...

I agree with much of Mr. Gordy's assessment of things. Unfortunately, I'm not convinced there's a good solution for any faith group when it comes to difficult people within the group, beyond vocally pointing out that such people, their views, and their behavior do not represent the faith's adherents as a whole, or even the majority of adherents. But in the end, there's no way to make people stop behaving poorly or claiming to belong to a certain faith while behaving badly.

Unfortuantely, I think Mr. Gordy is right when he points out that far too many Pagans expect people to ignore the "bad apples" in our communities while refusing to grant the same grace towards other faith communities.

Yewtree said...

Rule 1 of interfaith dialogue: don't compare your ideals with others' practices (compare ideals with ideals and practices with practices).

But many Pagans are (wrongly) suspicious of interfaith, thinking it's just a Christian plot to convert everyone. In fact, interfaith was largely founded by Unitarians seeking to learn from other faiths (afaik).

Marcus Goodyear said...

yvonne makes a good point. Interfaith dialogue shouldn't be an attempt by Christians to convert everyone. Unfortunately, that's what happens sometimes.

But it happens in politics too. It happens anytime that people feel strongly about their beliefs. We start talking about our own beliefs as if everyone should believe them.

I guess we just need to listen to each other more. When did we forget how to listen?

Imperator David Griffin said...

"Pagan Fundamentalism" is a value laden term with extreme negative connotations for common people. I have documented in the below linked article how results of existing Pagan scholarship are already being misrepresented on Christian blogs with a distinctively negative agenda towards Paganism. I am very concerned that the present discussions about Pagan Fundamentalism will be used against Pagans in the same manner. See my article on this important issue entitled:
"Pagan Scholarship and anti-Pagan Propaganda" at

John W. Morehead said...

Mr. Griffin, thank you for sharing your comments and concerns. I addressed the issue of Pagan fundamentalism more recently in a guest blog post at Sermons from the Mound. I write on this topic as a scholar interested in the phenomenon, and even though I am a Christian, I have attempted to be fair in my discussion of the topic. It is up to Pagans to work out the issues related to Pagan fundamentalism, but I do hope that Christians don't misrepresent the issue. I have worked hard to be fair with Pagans, and to improve Pagan-Christian relations. Thank you again for commenting.

Wiseshaman said...

Hello all! I am the writer of that article. It was quite a while ago! I can tell you that, nowadays, I have a deep respect for Christianity. It DID have some problems in the 1980s and 1990s, and even into the early 2000s. Most Christian churches reflected, re-evaluated, and grew as spiritual communities. I give them a lot credit for doing so.

However, my worries and predictions about what was happening to the Pagan community have, sadly, come true. They are collectivists that expect you to think exactly like every other pagan when it comes to views on sociopolitical topics. They ostrisize those with differing opinions, or even those who merely ask for people to provide evidence for things. They have become petty and mean.

While I still am technically a pagan, I dont "identify" as belonging to the community. It is with a heavy heart I say that I was right to worry about what was going on, for what I was afraid of happening, came true.