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Occasionally I wandered in where I was not wanted and gave truthful answers.
Sometimes I even did it deliberately. A little disruption now can prevent disaster later.

On Christians and Pagan tolerance

This is a page from the third version of Technopagan Yearnings. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at www.neowayland.com/C550866538/E20100105161725. This entry was misfiled in 2007 for years.

On Christians and Pagan tolerance

Long, involved, but some good points

This is another selection of my emails posted to a list.

Same deal as last time.

December 31, 2009 16:18
Please let's not make the Christians the irredeemable villains of this tale.  
It makes no sense to judge their morality by the standards of our time.

It's way too easy to blame someone else for the troubles of the world, especially when we're more than a thousand years removed from the times that we're discussing.

From what I can tell, a unified Christian religion was a POLITICAL tool, not a matter of faith.  The Roman Republic could live with ten thousand sects, the Roman Empire had to have only One True Faith.

I'm not excusing the behavior, I'm just saying that we should put in context for what it was.


December 31, 2009 13:40
Beep!  

And there we go.

I knew that soon there would be a reference to World War II.

Would you blame a Missouri Baptist for the actions of Christians in Munich during Nazi Germany?  What about a Brazilian Catholic?

There are at least as many sides to a story as there are people involved.  Add the nations involved and you reach a staggering number.

Again, I am not defending atrocities. 

I am saying that it's far too simple to cram everyone you don't like onto an Enemies List.

If you think that the world is "Us vs Them," then all of the sudden "if you're not with us, you're against us."

And that is the same trap that the Christian empire builders fell into.  That's what let them justify slaughter.

It's also one thing that Julian fought against.  One faith among many, not one over all.

I'm not going to blame my neighbors for something that happened a thousand years ago.  Even if they get evangelical on me, I won't punch them in the nose. I can argue them under the table.

You want to blame Christians?  Then you have to blame ALL of them.  Including their own heretics that were ruthlessly suppressed.  Including all those who never even knew that there were other ways to approach the Divine, all those who lived and died never knowing anything except what was they were forced into.  You have to proclaim that absolutely no Christian is worthy based on the actions of a very few, and the decisions of fewer still.

Do you see the trap?

Aren't you better than that?

I say it's better to wake up the sheep and let them judge the shepherds.


December 31, 2009 15:30

I can certainly agree with that.

I'd maybe go a step further and say that Christianity was the justification, not the reason.

There's a great quote from Daniel Webster that applies.

"In every generation there are those who want to rule well - but they mean to rule.  They promise to be good masters - but they mean to be masters."

—NW


December 31, 2009 15:55
I just feel it's more important to judge an individual by their actions and words and not by the group label.

Especially when they may not have anything to do with the definition you attach to that label.

Honestly I'm not really fond of categorizing people by groups.

In my writings I often use something I call the parity test. In this case I could point out all the various things that neopagans have been accused of over the years, everything from child molestation to demon worship to plotting the Ultimate Destruction of Christianity. Now, you know that isn't true, I know it isn't true, but that doesn't stop the accusations.

I'm telling you that not all Christians are guilty, most of them haven't even thought about it. And those that have are deeply troubled.

Did you know for example, that the acceptance and celebration of homosexuality is one of the key factors that may split the United Methodist Church sometime in the next generation?

Did you know that there is a underground but growing movement among American Catholic nuns that really isn't that happy with some of the latest papal declarations?

The one thing that could turn this all on it's ear is a very visible common enemy. Get in their face and shout at them for something that they had nothing to do with and you'll close their minds.

—NW


January 1, 2010 1:11
But I wasn't talking about the person who vandalized.

I specifically referred to the people who didn't, but who share a label with those who did.

I think you should hold the individuals responsible, not the groups.  

Was every Christian a member of a mob?  

If you can't show that everyone who shared the label was responsible, then it's time to focus on who was, and ideally, keep anyone with that mindset from holding power again.

When you label all Christians as dangerous, that strikes me just as dangerous.  You're doing the same thing to them that their extremists did to the pagans of the day.


January 3, 2010 6:35
As long as we blame only the people who did it and not everyone in a group, I've no problem.
—NW


January 3, 2010 12:07
Pardon, but I would no more want to dictate what books the Christians could use than I would want Christians deciding what books I'm allowed to use.
Parity test again.

Even if you don't like the writings, you have to let people make their own choices.  Otherwise you're not treating them as fully human.


January 4, 2010 7:08
Offline and online I find myself defending unpopular groups.  Not because I agree with their ideas, but because I believe that if I am free to choose my own path, they should be free to do the same unless they impose on someone else.  I talked about it some at my political blog.

Do I disagree with certain Christian ideas?  Definitely, especially with the top two on their hit parade every time certain Christians insist that their beliefs are universal and apply to everyone.  I will tell individuals that I disagree with their ideas and why, but I won't denounce Christians as a group.  I don't believe that groups are responsible for individual actions.  

I guess what I am saying is that until a Christian forces their beliefs on me, it's Somebody Else's Problem.  That's an idea I borrowed from the late Douglas Adams.  I don't pay attention unless it affects me or mine.   I may notice it, but I blip right over it.  

That being said, yes, I believe that Julian was one of the great Might-Have-Beens of human history.  If he had survived for another fifteen years or so, if he had fathered an heir, if he had withstood the inevitable challenges that were already rising, I think the Dark Ages could have been avoided.

Now I don't blame Christianity for the Dark Ages, although I will say that certain Christians made matters much much worse in the name of their faith.  I do blame Julian's immediate successors, but I am not sure you could call them Christian in any sense of the word.  Sometimes I wonder if you could even call them human.

BTW, Julian is a personal Hero with a capital H.  My own path leans towards CR, but if ever there was a historical man who embodied the best of what humanity could become, it was Julian.  What makes him unique is that Christians revile him for the very reasons that would make anyone a Christian saint if they had chosen Christianity.


January 5, 2010 7:38
You won't hurt my feelings.  Honor requires me to warn you I'm very good at this sort of debate.  I'll be honest and tell you I enjoy it as well.

The exclusionist thing - 
I'll skip over the obvious with certain womyn/goddess groups.  A little while ago there was this debate floating around the web asking if Real Pagans® did blood sacrifice.  There was a very vocal group who declared that No Real Pagan Could POSSIBLY Do Blood Sacrifice.  I don't want to revisit the blood sacrifice issue here, but I want to point out that there were all sorts of Pagans who were only all too willing to exclude people they found unacceptable.

Nor is exclusion necessarily a bad thing.  Almost every established Pagan group has it's Inner and Outer mysteries.  As a solitary, I don't do the coven bit myself.  But I do know of a handful of covens/circles/what-have-you that I would trust, mainly because I know people involved.  At least one has some very intriguing ideas that I can only guess how they do.  But I've taken no oaths and I'm not a part of that fellowship, so if we discuss the ideas at all it can only be in the vaguest generalities.  Now I am good at improvising, but let's face it, they've excluded me from the knowledge because I don't belong.

A while back I was on another list with a guy.  Pretty much his only issue was getting acceptance for gay marriage.  Now I had no problems.  Things were fine for the first five or six times.  Then I suggested that as long as we were accepting gay marriages, let's toss in group and poly marriages as well.  In a heartbeat I went from being ally to enemy in his eyes.  The conversation got pretty ugly.


The history thing - 
Let's face it, it makes sense to celebrate the good things.  Without that, there'd be no reason to celebrate Julian.  But this "unto the seventh generation" belongs to someone else.

I wasn't going to say anything before, but I'd like to propose a Rule.  Let's call it the Practical Grudge Limit.

I'm a big believer in networking, and I keep a lot of information on some of my contacts.  But too much information keeps me from focusing on the individual, so in my address book I have a one-off rule.  Basically I'll go one degree of separation.  So I may have their spouse's name, but I won't have their uncle's name.  Unless he's a regular contract too.

So in keeping with that idea, let's be generous at put the Outer Grudge Boundary at your grandparent's birthday.  It's just not practical to hold a grudge for something that happened before your grandparents were born.  The chances of you being able to do anything is nill.  As a Middle Grudge Boundary, let's say the day you were born.  Yes, important things happened before that, but it's not likely that it affected you directly.  Finally, the Inner Grudge Boundary should be your 18th birthday, or whenever you were recognized as an adult.  That marks the practical limit of when you could start doing something about the things that happened to you.

Now, chances are I'd be willing to take a stand for any injustice that happened within your Inner Grudge Boundary.  You'd have to really convince me before I would do something about an event that happened between your Inner and Middle Grudge Boundaries.  Without a really important reason, I'm not going to help you between Middle and Outer Grudge Boundaries because I don't see how it affects you or me right now.  Beyond your Outer Grudge Boundary, you're on your own.

Guess what?  These boundaries work with people and not just time.  If it happened to you, that's important and within your Inner Grudge Boundary and I can work with that.  If it happened to someone you're close to, well, that's a Middle Grudge Boundary.  If it happened to someone you know, that the Outer Grudge Boundary.

Yes, we can make noise about stuff beyond that, but what's the point?  It doesn't touch us directly.  Besides, like calls to like.  If we are filling our minds with desires for revenge, it really doesn't leave much space to live a life, does it?

The enemy thing - 
I don't know about you, but to me, the word enemy means that someone has taken direct action against me or mine.  Someone shooting at me, that's an enemy.  Someone stealing my car, that's an enemy.  Someone slandering me, that's an enemy.  Mrs. Jones tsk tsking as she sees me because she knows it's a full moon and I'm going to do the "nekkid pagan thing" in the privacy of my back yard, that's not an enemy.

It doesn't mean I won't watch here carefully, it just means she's not an enemy and I don't need to counter everything she does.


"If you are not part of the solution, you're part of the problem."
Not necessarily true, as even Malcolm X recognized by the end of his life.

This either/or mindset has really got to go.  Isaac Bonewits calls it dualism.  If we reduce every situation to "Them Vs. Us," then exactly how are we better?  Because our thoughts are pure?  Because we have the True Faith?  Because the gods have granted us the strength of many?

I say that if someone offers you a choice between black or white, go for the fuzzy.  And then maybe the sweet.

Christians aren't unified, and it is a mistake to pretend that they are.  The Baptists aren't talking to either the Mormons or the Catholics.  The Methodists want everyone to get along, but they aren't sure about those Unitarians.  And so on and so on.

BTW, organized religions are all exclusionist.  Think about it.


Christianity as a pathogen - 
Hoo boy, does that open up a can of worms.  

If they call YOU an abomination, how does calling Christianity a disease make things any better?  You might be letting off steam, sure, but at the end of the day, you're going to have Christian neighbors.  I used to think that polytheists were better at accepting monotheists than vice versa, but lately I'm not so sure.

Just remember, not all germs and viruses are bad.  Some even encourage evolution.  

From their viewpoint, guess who the cancer is?


Finally, most Christian denominations pick and choose which parts of their Bible that they follow.

I don't care about the label or the title or the name.  I want to know what they do to manifest their belief.  

Don't tell me what you think the group is responsible for, tell me what the individuals did.  Then we have something to work from.

—NW


January 5, 2010 13:29
"Exclusionist" wasn't my term.

I agree with your definition, but I disagree that polytheisms aren't exclusivists.

I've also known some pretty intolerant polytheists who remain convinced that they have the only True Way to the Divine.  And they aren't all neopagans.


January 5, 2010 14:29
That's precisely my point, and has been since I jumped into this conversation.

It's behavior that we would not stand for in anyone else.

If (and I stress IF) I called Jews a pathogen, or blacks a disease, or homosexuals a cancer, you would quite naturally call me on it.

Again, please notice I said IF.  I didn't call anyone that.

But because some Pagans believe that Christians are inherently guilty, it's okay to attack without proof?  They can't (if you'll pardon the pun) be redeemed?

"Some of my best friends are Christian."  Do you have any idea how that sounds?  Is it any better than saying "some of my friends are gay?"

Those racist fools from the Westboro Baptist Church who stage those pseudo protests, they're certainly racist and homophobic.  But that doesn't mean that every Christian is.  I'm a former seminary student who stays in touch with some ordained ministers, they are a lot more open minded than you think.  All of them weren't always that way, but guess what?  They changed. 

The group label tells you very little about the individual.

Judge the individual by their statements and their own actions, not by the group label.

Do you want to stay a victim?  Do you need to be persecuted?

I do not believe that true power comes through victimhood.  It's the same thing I've been saying for years.

Pagans and Pagan groups will never be taken seriously if the only social power we can claim is because we are threatened and oh so very put upon. Stars above and Earth below, do you really think that your Gods want you to exist as a victim and only at the sufferance of others? 

Take the power that is your Divine right, look the bullies straight in the eye, and proudly claim your humanity and Paganism in that order. You don't have rights because you are a Pagan and because you have to be protected. You have rights and privileges because you are HUMAN. 

Anyone messing with your HUMAN rights threatens the rights of every other human. That and only that is the reason why those rights should be defended.

Again, not because you are Pagan. Not because you are a victim. Not because you are oppressed. But because someone tries to make you less human by denying your rights, the same rights they claim for themselves.
You can't call ALL Christians bigoted.   I won't let you because I think you are better than that.

I can show you intolerance from almost any religion you would like to name.  

So Christians follow a book that has some pretty shaky ethics.  Guess what?  They know how to change.  Let's take the obvious one.  There's a passage in Luke 12 where Jesus seems to approve of slavery.  That doesn't even cover Ephesians 6 which not only details slavery, but compares slavery to the relationship of Christians to their god.

So who put an end to the slave trade?  No, they didn't do it right away.  But Christians did end it, on a moral basis because they believed that their faith demanded it from them.  Whatever else we say about them, I don't think there is another religion voluntarily that stopped practicing slavery.

Bigotry, oh yes, some Christians can be bigots, no doubt about it.  Except Martin Luther King, Jr. was a minister.  He organized his stuff through his church.

Ah, but they still go after homosexuals, don't they?  Except there is this little thing called the Phoenix Declaration, among other things.

Do you understand?

It's not the group that is bigoted.

It's individuals.

No group has exclusivity on bigotry and hatred.  No group has exclusivity on tolerance, acceptance, and understanding either. 

It's ALL about the individuals.  It always has been.

Religion is sometimes the justification.  So is gender, skin color, economic class, or any other difference.

But in the end, it's the individual.

—NW


January 5, 2010 15:29
Um, excuse me? Make them enter the 21st Century? Make them realize? What did they do to you lately?

If it's within the Practical Grudge Limit, then by all means let's confront the individuals for the things that they have done.

Why should we make them do anything?

Do you think they should be able to make you do something?

If they haven't done anything recently, like to you and within your lifetime, you're going to have to give me a much better reason than that.

Otherwise I'm content to let them find their own path. Just as I would expect them to let me find mine.

Parity test again.


January 5, 2010 15:43
Of course it's about if "ALL Christians are X" You've told me that they can't possibly be anything else.

This would be a lot simpler if you would say "some Christians" or "the Christians who did Y."

I'm willing to bet that you wouldn't stand for these overly broad generalizations in any other context. Christians just happen to be a convenient target. If someone started saying "All Women" or "All insurance salesmen," you know it's not accurate.

Religions aren't intolerant. People are.

People take what they have, what they can find, and what they dream and work from that. Christianity no more guarantees intolerance than Paganism guarantees wisdom. As always, it's up to the individual and their choice.

—NW

Not much else I can add.

Groups aren't intolerant. Individuals are.

The choice is yours

Posted: Tue - January 5, 2010 at 04:17 PM

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