I’m noticing lately that the pagan community has its own contingent of fundamentalists who give no credence to any other belief system. They want to tell the whole community what to believe instead of understanding that we aren’t one religion. We are the category “other.” If you ask three pagans a theological question, you’ll get four different answers, and that’s okay. We can have a community without having a hive mind.
Here are some of the ideas that I’ve been particularly annoyed with lately from people thinking they speak for the community:
1. Pagans should be modest and pure, because lust is immoral. Lust is sexual desire. Sexual desire is necessary for the continuation of the species. It also raises a tremendous amount of energy, as anyone who’s felt the hum of electricity in their skin at a lover’s touch can testify.
2. All pagans should be sexually open, because sex is sacred. Sacred doesn’t mean you want to deal in it all the time…unless you do, in which case, have fun, be safe, and accept that I’m not comfortable joining you. This is a highly personal choice, and a person has no more right to tell me to strip down than they do to demand that I cover up. My body is mine.
3. All of us honor The Goddess (TM) as Maiden, Mother, and Crone. No, no, no, no. Everyone has a different view of deity, and there’s nothing wrong with that.
4. Christians are terrible people, and ex-pagan Christians are traitors. Christians are people. They aren’t evil, they aren’t Nazis, and they aren’t out to burn us alive. There are extremists who make life difficult for anyone who believes differently, and admittedly, Christianity as a whole has a HUGE degree of privilege in American society, but that doesn’t mean we have any reason to hate the whole religion. It particularly doesn’t mean that we have any reason to hate people who leave paganism to go back to Christianity. Teo Bishop, in particular, has made MASSIVE contributions to the pagan community that don’t go away just because he’s gone back to Christianity. Yes, there have been horrible things done in the name of Christianity. My grandmother is completely opposed to equal rights for gay people and to reasonable access to reproductive health care, but she also serves at soup kitchens, provides school supplies for impoverished children, and volunteers for cancer charities, and when I was in Maryland, out of money, with no car, unable to pay my bills, she drove up and brought me back to NC to live with her until I got on my feet. And all of this, good and bad, is motivated by her religion. That doesn’t make her a bad person, and I triple-fucking-dog-dare anyone to say differently.
5. Atheists are the enemy. Why? Some of my dearest friends are atheists and agnostics, as well as most of the people I’ve dated. They may not be as small a minority as we are, and they may have been out in the open a lot longer than we are, but they are subject to marginalization by the majority too. And seriously, why do we need an enemy? There’s enough out there to wage war on without going looking for a fight.
6. We have to accept everyone. This one’s complicated. I mean, everyone has inherent worth and dignity as a human being, but that doesn’t mean allowing registered sex offenders to attend your family-friendly event, or that recons are going to feel comfortable at an eclectic ritual.
7. Racism/sexism/whatever-ism isn’t really an issue in paganism like it is in the rest of the world. Have you looked around lately? We are not post-racial or post-gender, and even among a group that has been marginalized on a religious basis, there are still people on varying axes of privilege who act on that privilege at the expense of others.
8. Paganism is the one true and ancient path. Which of the hundreds of paths within paganism would that be? And if you’re preaching that you have the one true way, what makes you so different from the fundamentalist evangelical Christians you so despise?
9. We all need to boycott X. Here’s the thing. Not everybody feels the way you do about whatever company you’re bitching about this week, and even if they do, not all people can afford it. Not everyone can afford not to shop at the place that has basic necessities for that much cheaper. Not everyone can afford to eat organic or to drive a 40-thousand-dollar electric car to save the environment. See above where I talk about privileged people acting on their privilege–assuming everyone has the same advantages economically is part of that.
It’s time to use some common sense and stop trying to tell everyone else how to live. The people who are making uninformed and overreaching blanket statements are not, as the phrase from my childhood goes, the boss of me. Please, if you’ve got beliefs about how to live and you want to live by them, be my guest. But don’t ask anyone else to live that way, and don’t act as though you had the right to explain someone’s lived experience to the person who’s lived it.