one girl’s perspective on life, neopaganism, veganism, politics, books, films, and… stuff.

This particular tangent was inspired by a fantastically well thought out post on Southern Pagan.

I think a lot of NeoPagans get so caught up in the community (which is, realistically, not all that big – that’s not a bad thing, either) that they seem to forget that we are a religious minority. Well, let me qualify that – they forget that we are a religious minority when it comes to their expectations of how NeoPaganism should be accommodated within broader society. They sure don’t forget we’re a minority when it comes to crying wolf persecution.

I mean, seriously, so many NeoPagans expect that society should cater to us. Not just tolerate us, or be open-minded (that would be nice, but not just in regards to NeoPaganism), but openly provide specific opportunities designed to meet specific needs. Here’s a thought – why? It’s not a direct ‘persecution’ of NeoPaganisms, nor is it a denial of rights. Generally, it’s simply a case of practicality and lack of a realistic demand.

For example, the University of Sydney has Muslim prayer rooms specially set aside, because there are a large number of Muslims at the uni. None of the high schools that I went to made accommodations for this, because there was little to no demand – maybe one or two Muslim students. Considering that’s one of the major world religions, what’s the likelihood that society is going to go out of its way to make special arrangements for a religious tradition that is exponentially smaller?

Well, one could argue that it’s all about quality, not quantity. That the rights of one person is justification enough for changes being made. And theoretically, I’d wonder what planet you’re from agree with you, to an extent. No-one should be denied the basic human rights. Hence, I believe in tolerance, sure (and I do belief in tolerance – not even necessarily acceptance, just tolerance, because I really don’t care if you’re just humouring me). I also believe that there is a marked difference between not being accommodated and actively being discriminated against.

If you consider ‘not being given special time/space for religious services’ to be persecution/discrimination, your life is apparently way too easy. If they don’t go out of their way to accommodate every other religious tradition, major or minor, other than NeoPaganism, then you’re not being persecuted, you’re just not their primary concern. Most public domains do not have the time or motivation to cater to any minority group. That’s possibly bad, definitely sad, but it’s the way of the world. You’re not special, you’re not being discriminated against.

And when it’s all said and done – to what extent is it impacting on you, anyway? Sure, I go to university on days that are of religious significance to me; that’s what evenings are for. Or the day before or after. Sure, I don’t have a dedicated space/time/group devoted to my religious practices on-campus. So I’ll go climb a tree, or sit on the lawn, and don’t give a shit if there are other NeoPagans around to hold my hand and ‘lend support’ during class hours. Given the fluidity of the ‘orthopraxy’ of virtually every NeoPagan that I’ve ever met, I’m skeptical about people’s claims that this is a really that big of a deal.

Is it really about religious rights? Or is it about wanting to feel justified in your feelings of persecution?

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Comments on: "Some Thoughts on ‘Discrimination’ and ‘Tolerance’" (10)

  1. As an Australian, how do you feel about the government’s recent decision to allow religious groups to discriminate against gays, single mothers and people of other faiths (or non-faiths).

    http://www.irishtimes.com/newspaper/world/2009/0928/1224255368537.html

    Obviously everyone I’ve talked to over here (in the UK) is appalled. I just wondered how someone who’s actually over there, and in a position where you *could* potentially be discriminated against for being a Neo Pagan, felt about it?

  2. I completely agree with you. With so many people being discriminated against because they follow alternative religions, there is no excuse for someone trying to push so they are accomidated (probably spelled wrong). I just wish people would stop cringing at me whenever I sit beside them.

  3. I’m just wondering what kind of thing the university could do for neo-pagan students to make them feel more included. Are their neo-paganisms which require separate prayer areas or the like?

    Mind, one thing the union could do is curtail some of the christian pamphleteering. It’s pretty prevalent, and kind of intimidating.

  4. I think that that is starting down the slippery slope to REAL discrimination. However, realistically, religious groups have had this option all along, this just allows them to make it more overt – for instance, my mother was told that she couldn’t have my sister baptised at a certain church because she was a single mother. That was only 25 years ago. Also, in practice, hopefully this decision won’t actually change the status quo to a massive extent, because while this decision has been made, there is still an awful lot of legislation here governing anti-discrimination; not to mention society (far too) slowly coming to accept that you can’t burn people at the stake for being ‘different’. It’s still scary that the government is basically showing its hand in wanting to become a semi-theocracy like the United States. Because THERE’S a model you really want to follow… 😛

  5. They could have some kind of meditation room or something, but, to the best of my knowledge, they don’t provide that for the Buddhist students either. And the fact that there is no on-campus NeoPagan group is more the responsibility of the NeoPagans than the university. I certainly wouldn’t complain about them curbing the Christian tree-killers – I had one who saw my pentacle and was downright freaking nasty. (Oh, woe! Persecution! :P)

  6. Oho! Did you now? From which group were they?

    I assumed they did have a room for the Buddhist students. Huh.

  7. The EU, naturally. 😛

    The Buddhists have a representative in the university Chaplain department, but I’m pretty sure they don’t have a special room or anything. They also have a student group.

  8. See, I was beginning to feel bad for harassing the religious unions on campus. No longer!

    I may also start wearing my Mjollnir pendant on the outside of my shirt.

  9. Although, sadly, probably the only people who will even recognise it (other than history fans) are intelligent NeoPagans anyway. The EU probably won’t be able to instantly identify it as “omg symbol of evil!!!!!!!!!!”

  10. More’s the pity.

    Hey, I just realised that your tag is ‘elfmage’ and mine is ‘goblinpaladin’. We just need a ‘halflingtheif’ or something, and then we can fight evil.

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