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[personal profile] lupagreenwolf
A caveat to start with: No matter how well a writer writes something, inevitably someone will misinterpret what they were trying to say. Such is the limitation of language. In that spirit, allow me to make one thing very, very clear before this essay even starts: I am not equating hard polytheism with religious fundamentalism. I am concerned that because of certain patterns I have seen among some, not all, hard polytheists, that this may, not necessarily will, in the future give rise to a form of pagan religious fundamentalism. Additionally, the “You’re wrong, I’m right” attitude that I’m observing is not limited to debates regarding polytheism, but other areas of paganism as well, and any of these could also give rise to a form of fundamentalism given the right circumstances. Polytheism happens to be the topic of the moment which finally gave me a chance to voice some concerns about fundamentalism in paganism that I’ve been chewing on a while. There. Now that I’ve said that, feel free to proceed.

I’ve been watching the recent discussion on several pagan blogs concerning hard polytheism, “bringing back the gods”, and so forth with some interest. I admit that the older I get, the more I am moving toward a more pantheistic viewpoint, with a good dash of humanism as well. It’s not that I discount the existence of the Divine, spirits, and so forth, but that my experiences with them simply haven’t led me to adopt a hard polytheistic view (and anyway, I tend more toward totems and nature spirits than gods).

So that obviously colors my perspective on all this. I don’t have a stake in the proven reality of deities as independent entities, but neither does it bother me that some people do. What concerns me is the possibility of the rise of pagan religious fundamentalism. (Yes, I know there are polytheists dropping the term “pagan” from their experience because they associate it with Things That We Aren’t, but for the purposes of my discussion, polytheists are still pagan, in part so I don’t have to keep writing pagans/polytheists over and over.) Fundamentalism as a concept was originally described in certain areas of Protestantism in the early 1900s. These people had a very strict and literal interpretation of their religion, and today “fundamentalism” is often used to describe any of a number of religious perspectives that hold similar, inflexible views on God(s) and the way humans are supposed to act.

There are a lot of pagans (and other people, but let’s stick to pagans for now) who have had bad experiences as a result of fundamentalism, usually of the Christian variety. The community is full of stories of people growing up in strictly religious households and being treated pretty poorly for the mistake of exploring new beliefs. These could range from having their pagan religious tools and effects taken from them and destroyed, to being assaulted or thrown out of the home. Adult pagans have lost jobs, homes, and children due to religious persecution. Pagan prisoners are routinely denied access to religious materials and clergy, and it’s rare for a pagan clergyperson to be asked to lead a prayer in a civic setting where such things still occur. While Christian fundamentalists proper were not always the opposition in these cases, the attitudes of fundamentalism tend to leak out into the wider cultural consciousness (I’ll talk more about that in a minute).

With these consequences of fundamentalism in mind, it seems strange to see echoes of them in paganism. Yes, of course there’s the fact that people often subconsciously emulate the behavior patterns they were raised around, but surely that can’t be the source of every single instance of “You’re wrong, I’m right!” in paganism. And while not every one of those “I’m right!” instances constitutes fundamentalism, the long-standing tendency for some pagans to tell others “You’re doing it wrong!” seems to be heading closer to fundamentalism to a troubling degree. And so while I don’t want to point at any single claim of “hard polytheism is the best and only way!” as fundamentalist, because of the general trend I do want to put forth a warning against the dangers of falling prey to fundamentalist stances. Allow me to present a few points for consideration.

Read the rest here.

on 2013-01-16 09:02 pm (UTC)
brushwolf: Icon created by ScaperDeage on DeviantArt (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] brushwolf
Religion is made for humans, and all humans are basically the same dudes and dudettes; there's no magic ethnicity, gender or religion which exempts a group from having humans exhibiting human failings. Usually in ways that stomp on other folks. Pagans always have had a lot of fundamentalists and we always will; it's like transphobia or racism in paganism, you can't get rid of it, you can just call people on it.

on 2013-01-16 11:22 pm (UTC)
laughinglotus: black scorpion (Default)
Posted by [personal profile] laughinglotus
Hiya. Thanks for giving a nod to all of us who are not particularly theistic. Not sure saying Atheist Asatru makes much sense to anyone by myself, but yeah, we're out there, and naturalistic pantheists, spiritual atheists and other odd flavors can be found bopping around pagan circles.

I didn't read the entire thing, but I like what I read and agree with the main thrust. The main challenge, as I see it, in stemming the tide of fundamentalism is that fighting fundamentalists feeds them. It's like feeding Internet trolls. However, standing by and doing nothing while fundamentalist just keep making inroads isn't a good option either. As an example of this, I'd suggest people study things like the "Moral Majority" and "Dominionism" in the american religious right. This leave us having to look for those willing to hear counter arguments and making a concerted effort to be genial even in the face of blatantly offensive speech and behavior. Besides, sometimes well meaning people are truly just speaking in ignorance and will revise their views once better information is provided. How many of us spent any time in our early teens telling anyone that Wicca is the oldest religion or at least older than Christianity?

On the other hand, combating religious fundamentalism opens up another risk and that is of just not calling a spade a spade, not telling people when they really and truly are flat out wrong. Sure, there are different theories about exactly what sparked the which hysteria in Salam Mass (Ergot in the wheat crop, land disputes etc.), but ever run into someone claiming there were actual practicing Wiccans? Yeah, this is when it's time to pass a few good links, suggest a book or two and let the individual know s/he is wrong. Sure, it's best done in a civil manner, but still.


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Lupa Greenwolf

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