I really should learn not to read the majority of NeoPagan writings on the internet anymore. MysticWicks has gone all to hell these days, with increasingly absurd posts by people who know as much about NeoPaganism as my desk lamp. But that’s not what “inspired” me to write this post. No, I could contain my disdain and irritation with the prevalent(ly idiotic) ideas of the online NeoPagan community, if I hadn’t happened to come across the ‘United Pagan Church of Australia website.
Oh my. Where do I even begin?
For starters, I have to give them some credit: they (to my surprise) at least type out the word “Christian” instead of using “Xian”. That being said, they then go on to use the term “Pagan [sic]” as a synonym for Neo-Wicca. I’m the first to admit that, in an official capacity, I tend towards pedanticism when it comes to NeoPagan terms, but this was rather irritating. Still, it’s forgivable. What isn’t quite so easily overlooked is the fact that virtually all the ‘articles’ on the website consist of the same bollocks that is so rife throughout the NeoPagan community. They focus on how ‘evil and oppressive big, bad Christianity’ is, how ‘great Paganism is, and totally superior to all other religions’, how ‘maligned and persecuted and misrepresented we are in today’s society’. Ok, I’m willing to entertain these concepts, provided that the author can produce at least SOME evidence that isn’t entirely anecdotal (and nothing more than a rehash of the same whining idiocy that I imagine being contrived by a 13 year old clutching their prized $RW books). Harsh, but true.
First, I encountered the article ‘Supernatural’ and Paganism: Is the Information True?. The instant I saw an article on misrepresentation of NeoPaganism in a FICTIONAL medium, I knew I was in for a treat (and that was before I even saw that one of their “references” is Wikipedia). *ahem* My response is as follows, but not posted on the site until they update the comments feature for this particular article:
I have a couple of issues that I feel are worth raising (other than the usual point I like to make in these instances, which is – the show is fiction, and subject to artistic licence).
1) If you watch the show carefully, they have previously stated a clear distinction between modern NeoPagans and “old world witchcraft” (i.e. the storybook kind)
2) If there is anything offensive in the show, for NeoPagans, it is the fact that ‘pagan Gods’ have been represented as mere supernatural creatures, who can be killed (such as those in the Christmas special), with the exception of the Trickster.
I have to admit, the “Samhain” bit made me cringe a little, purely because it so thoroughly mangled the lore. But then I sat back, and realised that they aren’t trying to accurately depict the lore at all; they’re taking enough elements of cultural history (most non-NeoPagan Americans who know the word “Samhain” pronounce it exactly as they did in the television show) to make it seem realistic, and then adding the supernatural element so characteristic to the show.
And that, I believe is the crux of this; the show is vividly farfetched in many ways. How often have you dealt with zombies/werewolves/rugaru in your life? It’s the fantastical nature of this show that largely negates the potential for an “offensive” interpretation; if they were representing realistic Wiccans/NeoPagans, and then villifying THEM, well, yeah, I’d have a problem. But while the ‘witches’ on the show are the Hollywood-esque over-dramatised demon-worshipping women represented in the show, I don’t think it’s really maligning NeoPaganism. Sure, no doubt some ultra-fundamentalist out there will use it to fuel their misinformed ideas about NeoPaganism; but these people will hold these beliefs in the face of any fact presented to them. As such, even the most accurate depiction of NeoPaganism (even though, as stated before, Supernatural is NOT trying to depict NeoPaganism, per se) in a television show is not going to sway those who are enthralled by their own ignorance. And knee-jerk reactions by the NeoPagan community are more likely to garner negative attention by representing us a bunch of fanatics, who can’t tell fantasy from reality.
I then stumbled across onto a little gem entitled 2000 Years of Hatred and Fear. “Oh boy!” I thought to myself, “I do love a good ol’ Christian-bashing didact! And they’re always so well researched and written and sensible and grand!”
Yeah. Not really. My response is down the bottom, but I’m also posting it here because it is the reason for my being considered a ‘heretic’ in the NeoPagan community:
I have to admit, after the first few paragraphs I skim read the rest. Honestly, does the NeoPagan community really need any more representative groups who are still stuck in the “Christians = bad, NeoPagans = persecuted” mindset?
I note that when describing the shift in religious domination in the Roman Empire, you passed over mentioning the severe and blood-thirsty persecution of Christians in the 2nd and 3rd centuries CE. Though, I guess it’s harder to establish a dichotomy of “good religion, bad religion” if you acknowledge that both religions have both good and bad aspects. Especially if you’re going to drag their histories into it. I have several points that, as an intelligent, RATIONAL NeoPagan, I feel need to be made:
1. The reality is that the Christianity of today is not the Christianity of 1500 years ago, or even 150 years ago. By the same token, NeoPaganism is no longer the same as the pagan traditions of Europe (no more of that nasty blood sacrifice we’re all so afraid of!). Judging religions – and especially judging their adherents – in today’s context by what that religion was thousands of years ago is completely pointless.
2. Yes, Christianity incorporated many aspects of NeoPaganism into it’s beliefs/practices. Just like modern Wicca adopted ritual elements from the Rosicrucians/Freemasons/Ceremonial Magicians, all of whom derive their theology from Christianity. No religion develops or exists in a vacuum, and getting into a petty pissing-match over “who originally invented what” is absurd.
3. Arguing over the discriminatory/elitist contents of the Bible is also pointless. Those Christians who are open minded enough to listen to you are already tolerant, and thus are probably not strict believers in the ‘false religion’ idea (or if they are, they’re not enforcing/enacting this belief, in which case, who cares?). Those Christians who AREN’T open minded enough to seriously entertain your arguments, well, you’re not going to change their minds. You know, deep down, that it’s a pointless argument.
If there’s one thing that the Australian NeoPagan community needs to learn it’s to walk away from the drama, and stop re-hashing old arguments and persecution complexes. Yes, Christianity has done terrible things in the past. But the pagans of history weren’t the nicest bunch of people either. Move on from history, and work on developing tolerance and ecumenicism now. Tolerance is a two-way street (i.e. stop the Christian-bashing that you all seem to enjoy so much), and we’re never going to be taken seriously if we keep espousing the same ill-thought out complaints.
So there you have it. I firmly believe in an ecumenical, pragmatic approach to inter-faith dialogues. Perhaps that’s why I’ve encountered minimal persecution in my lifetime. I have my faith, and my beliefs, and as such I don’t feel threatened by what other people say, especially if I know those people to be ill-guided, ignorant fools. At the same time, I try to encourage a positive view of NeoPaganism in society, by being a rational human being (and not foaming at the mouth and launching into a stupid, redundant diatribe every time someone mentions the word “Christian”). I’m not Christian: but I’ve been to church (voluntarily, and as a faithful NeoPagan), and I’ll read the texts of other religious traditions including those Christianity. I agree with Gandhi, that a truly spiritual man can find God in any place or book of worship. I find it ironic that most of the NeoPagans I know are so eager to pilfer bits of other religions (generally without understanding, or giving respect to, the greater context of those beliefs, but that’s another rant entirely), while denigrating Christianity as nothing but an evil force in the world.
Do I believe some Christians espouse hateful things about us? Of course. But that doesn’t mean we should do the same. One thing people seem to need to learn that is that at some point, someone has to take the next step and say “Enough. Enough with this drama and contention, let’s move on.” It’s not about being the ‘bigger man’, it’s about growing up and seeing how futile and destructive to all of us such actions ultimately are.
And if that’s heresy, I don’t think I want to adhere to your dogma.