The Witch and The Exorcist

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 27, 2011 — 121 Comments

Here’s something that doesn’t come along every day. Media critic, scholar, and practicing Witch Peg Aloi interviews Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist who was featured in the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist”. That book has since been adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins, and Father Thomas has been getting interviewed quite a bit in the process. Aloi’s interview is excerpted at The Boston Phoenix, but an unedited version, which features direct questions regarding the priest’s feelings regarding the occult, Wicca, polytheism, and indigenous spiritualities can be found at her blog The Witching Hour.

PA: So, in your view, polytheistic traditions are unacceptable, or evil? Does that include Native American spirituality, which is polytheistic?

FGT: It depends on your vantage point when you’re asking the question. I would say that anything that is outside the realm of the Supreme Being is polytheistic. But that term is not necessarily pejorative. Native Americans have their own religious culture, it doesn’t make them bad, but quite honestly, it’s opening them up to a spirit realm that could be very dangerous.

PA: I wonder if you also make a distinction between what you consider occultism and the modern earth-based spiritual traditions, such as Wicca or neo-paganism. And I should tell you that in addition to being a film critic and a media scholar, I am also a former Catholic, and I’m now what you’d call a neo-pagan, or a witch.

FGT: The occult is not the same thing as the satanic. So people who are involved in Satan worship are not the same thing as those are involved in Wicca, but we (priests, presumably–PA) would say Satanists are Satanists. I don’t even consider pagans in the same ways as I would consider those involved in the new age, but I think it’s fair to say the occult can be a doorway to the satanic.

The whole interview is a treasure trove. A rare chance for a Pagan to directly question a Catholic exorcist. As readers of my blog may know, I’ve been keeping track of the recent revival of interest in the rite of exorcism within the Catholic Church, and its undertones of spiritual warfare against non-Christian (specifically Pagan) faiths. Specifically chilling is that Father Thomas, and by extension I would hazard to guess other Catholic exorcists, still believes in Satanic Ritual Abuse (SRA).

PA: Do you believe there are a lot of satanic cults out there?

FGT: There are probably more than we think. In fact, I pray over a woman right now who is a satanic cult survivor.

PA: I need to ask this. Speaking as someone who has done extensive research on the Satanic Ritual Abuse scare in the 1990s: Do you think it’s possible your parishioner’s experiences are false, or that she may be lying, or delusional? Because despite many, many horrific accusations of abuse and murder and various other atrocities by satanic cults over the years, most of them by alleged “survivors” who claim to be former cult members, the FBI, after years of investigation, never found a single shred of evidence to suggest there is or ever has been an underground network of satanic cults in the United States.

FGT: I don’t believe that she’s lying. She had been seeing a priest in our diocese for a while and her memories stated to surface, and that’s how we learned of her involvement in the cult. But if even half of what she’s saying is true, and I have not found any reason to doubt it, in her system, if anyone exposes the group, they’ll be killed. There is a whole culture in terms of what these people tell their members.

This interview is essential reading, and I urge everyone to head over there. Kudos to Peg Aloi for not only landing this interview, but for asking the tough questions I’m sure many Pagans have wanted to ask this new generation of exorcists. For more on Father Thomas, do check out this profile in The Catholic Spirit where he outright says that dabbling in witchcraft “immediately disqualifies” you to run for public office. This movie, and its resulting publicity, may be a hidden gift to our community, as it is illuminating a very secretive subculture about their motives and world view.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Nick_Ritter

    This quote particularly caught my attention:

    "Native Americans have their own religious culture, it doesn’t make them bad, but quite honestly, it’s opening them up to a spirit realm that could be very dangerous."

    I think that says a lot about Christian attitudes towards polytheistic religions in general; at best, they're "unsafe".

    A good friend of mine writes a blog that largely consists of his musings on riding motorcycles. One of his recent posts discusses people's need for safety and comfort, and how this can be dangerous because safety and comfort are often illusory. (His post can be found here: http://pizzacrusade.blogspot.com/2011/01/comfort-… )

    Real religion is probably not "safe," in the sense that it has no possibility of negative consequences. One of the most intense religious experiences of my life felt decidedly unsafe: it seemed that I had gotten the attention of a god, and I was suddenly aware of what a big and awesome power a god is, and how effortlessly it could snuff out something as small as myself. It was terrifying, and at the same time exhilarating, and I wouldn't trade the experience for anything else.

    An overemphasis on "safety" and "comfort", in religious matters as in others, seems to me to bear the consequence of reducing adults to children, and putting them willingly in the power of those who decide what is "safe" and what is "dangerous."

    Real religion is "unsafe" because it puts people in a relationship with gods, the vast enormous powers of existence, who are decidedly "unsafe". Life itself is "unsafe"; at least authentic, adult living is, as opposed to the life of livestock kept safely in the pen. It is quite alright to keep children away from dangerous things (although they need to learn to deal with danger if they're to grow up), but it seems twisted to me to expect adults to remain in the safety of the creche, rather than to experience the danger, beauty, and joy of the real world, which includes the world of the gods.

    • Pagan Puff Pieces

      And "fear" is one of those… okay, they're not virtues, but they're a list of good things they teach kids doing confirmation.

    • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

      That said, none of us can say he's wrong about our spirituality opening us up to stuff that's out there, some of which is dangerous.

      Is that a reason to stay away? No, but there's a reason many paths caution beginners from rushing headlong into stuff.

      • Nick_Ritter

        "there's a reason many paths caution beginners from rushing headlong into stuff. "

        True, and I wouldn't argue otherwise. Looked at in context, though, Father Thomas isn't talking about beginners. He's talking about an entire "religious culture", that of Native Americans (so, in reality, hundreds of different "religious cultures"), and I daresay he'd say the same sort of thing about any sort of indigenous "religious culture" (under which rubric I would include Reconstructionist traditions such as ours) and any kind of Paganism whatsoever.

        His implication, I think, is fairly clearly that Christianity is "safe," and can keep people safe from the dangerous spiritual world out there. The result is, I think, both infantilization of people's religious lives, and an increase in paranoia. On the latter, I fully agree with the comment below that maybe the problem isn't *too little* devil-fearing.

    • Crystal7431

      This is the best comment you've ever posted. Spot on. I agree 100%. I think for many, this safety is what makes other more mainstream religions so bland and lacking. To contact the Gods IS dangerous, but how wonderful and awesome is that contact. I would like your comment 10 more times if I could.

      • Nick_Ritter

        Wow, thanks!

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001066176833 Neville Thunderbelly

      That whole "unsafe" comment just REEKS of Euro-centric, patriarchal condescension. "Oooh, that's not safe. You'd best only do or investigate things we tell you are okay. We know better and are here to guide you to the correct outcome."

      My head asplode.

  • http://vermillionrush.wordpress.com Vermillion

    "I’m also praying over a second woman who is involved with a Santeria group, which is a form of satanic witchcraft."
    Hand, meet forehead.

    Peg kudos to you on doing an excellent job with the questions, it's fascinating (and a bit scary) reading. Great job.

    • Robin Artisson

      Yes indeed, Ms. Aloi- a superb interview and a job well done. It presents another side of This Present Darkness that hovers over us.

      • Robin Artisson

        Aw shit. Now I have to go see "The Rite". Some droogs of mine were planning on going anyway, so I should tag along. I love Anthony Hopkins anyway; he's never made a bad movie, and by this point, I'd pay to watch him read the newspaper.

        I come from a Catholic background, ages ago. I met an exorcist once, as a kid. I remember him as a pretty intense and driven man (he came to visit my family and brought a piece of the Berlin wall- that should give you some time frame). But he was kindly. Just being an "exorcist" doesn't mean as much as some think, in the Catholic church. It just means they have dispensation or permission to use the Roman Rite in certain extreme cases.

        I've discussed demonic possession here before; in my view, it is a function of group psychology and religious culture, a psychological depressurization adaption native to certain churches and christian groups. Now, this is not to suggest that I don't think that non-human persons (like spirits) can't attempt to experience this world through the living body and mind of a human being- but that's a far cry from the malevolence associated with "demonic possession".

        Christians are paranoid to the extreme about the Unseen world, and this is an intentionally created paranoia, created by their churches to cut them off from spiritual alternatives and other non-approved spiritual activities and perspectives. It preys on the most primal, simple fears of being separated from the community, from being preyed on and violated, and being in the grip of the "evil" that belongs to the "outside" of their safety zone.

        Vodouisants daily allow non-human persons to displace their own minds and souls temporarily and assume command of their bodies. I don't see them all wandering around zombiefied and spitting bloody pea soup and coughing up toads (even though that would be cool, too.) This is a matter of religious worldview and the psychology it spawns.

        I know that the Unseen world presents psychological and spiritual danger at times and in places. But the attitude of extreme defensiveness that some are conditioned to assume does not help the balanced and respectful caution that everyone should have. The kind of caution a person needs, when facing the unseen, is almost precisely the same kind of caution you need when you go for a long hike in the deep forest or mountains. You go prepared, you watch carefully for snakes and bears, and you have a map or a compass. With just a few preparations and a lot of respect for your task, you can experience amazing freedom and beauty.

        It really is that organic, that simple. To populate the forest with demons out to destroy souls would be a good way of making sure that people never left their miserable little huts in their scared little village on the forest-edge.

        • bard08

          "with just a few preparations and a lot of respect for your task, you can experience amazing freedom and beauty"
          wonderfully stated.

        • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

          "Christians are paranoid to the extreme about the Unseen world, and this is an intentionally created paranoia, created by their churches to cut them off from spiritual alternatives and other non-approved spiritual activities and perspectives."

          Well-said, sir, well-said! The Fear of the Wild is rampant in our culture, and I think part of that indeed is the intent to cut people off from the freedom they can experience in connection with the wild.

          I remember as a youth people cautioning me against hiking up in the hills because "serial killers hang out there". Because of some vague danger — and wouldn't serial killers hang out where there were actually people around? — they deprive themselves of incredible communion.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667952307 Jennifer Parsons

      Like you, I'm going to get a callus on my forehead. When Aloi points out that Santeria is a version of New World Vodou mixed with Catholicism, Father Thomas responds:

      "FGT: Santeria does involve Satan. And it’s as dangerous for some people as any other form of Satanism. I’m in the process of connecting with a woman who is a clinical psychologist, to discuss it with her. The woman I pray for who is in the Santeria group, she is a person who triggers every time I meet with her, and there have been several episodes related to her Santeria involvement. "

      No, it involves Satan because he says so. No attempt to cite research, no mention on the Church's official position of syncretic faiths, no reflection that faiths related to Vodun are not well-understood. And this man is an expert, mind you.

      Ugh. At least this poor patient is getting psychiatric help.

      • Souris Optique

        I suppose the question is whether or not he knows he's lying.

        • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

          Actually, the question is whether or not he's a competent clinician. It is well understood by actual trauma therapists that some survivors of actual childhood abuse are also quite suggestible, and leading questions or (much worse) untrained work with hypnosis or similar techniques can cause clients to confabulate actual experiences with those suggested.

          In other words, just because there may have been real childhood abuse and the client is not deliberately telling untruths does not mean that a story that emerges from counseling is reliable. And the ability to diagnose and treat those with severe trauma and dissociation is not something that's handed out for a few boxtops–or even a few years of clinical training. It's a clinical specialty that requires years of professional supervision in order to engage in it competently.

          If one reads carefully the records of many of the most influential SRA accounts, one usually finds evidence of poorly trained or even non-professional (often religiously based) counselors, repeated suggestive questioning, and poor clinical judgment.

          Triggered and recovered memories of trauma can be quite accurate, of course, but it is important that those working with a known or suspected survivor of trauma understand some of the ways this form of therapy can go off the rails. Too many people misunderstand the workings of memory, and have read or seen too many sensationalistic stories.

          As a clinician, I have worked with clients whose recovered memories of (non-Satanic) childhood abuse were quite clearly accurate–in one case, the perpetrator kept photographs! I have also worked with cases where possible memories of abuse were so intermixed with clearly delusional material that it was simply beyond my skill to assist the client in question. (When someone is psychotic, it is not necessarily the case that they did not experience childhood abuse… but it is generally the case that their ability to be a good reporter of their own experiences is going to be muddied by the content of their hallucinations.)

          It's complex–which is one reason I am unhappy to see anyone with any kind of religious axe to grind taking on the role of therapist in such a case: there's a sad tendency of the adherents of many religions to simplify complexities to fit their preconceptions of the world.

          For sure that's what I've seen in the cases of most fundamentalist Christian "SRA Counselors" I have encountered. (I've seen a counter-tendency on the part of some Pagans, particularly outside the field of psychotherapy: to discount all stories of childhood trauma and abuse, or at least of those which involve periods of dissociated memory of the abuse.)

          • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=667952307 Jennifer Parsons

            "If one reads carefully the records of many of the most influential SRA accounts, one usually finds evidence of poorly trained or even non-professional (often religiously based) counselors, repeated suggestive questioning, and poor clinical judgment. "

            When all you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

            That's what's most awful to contemplate. I also do not believe the person with whom he's working is lying. I believe that her pain is sincere and it's possible that she was hurt in some way. I also don't think Father Thomas is lying; I just think he's been duped. (No doubt he would say the same of me.)

            I simply find it sad that everyone focuses on the alleged Satanic element of her abuse– hard to prove and extremely unlikely– instead of the most important fact: this person has been hurt and is suffering. She should be comforted, and if she was made to suffer unlawfully, the perpetrator should be punished. The abuse is bad enough; you don't need to invoke Satan or an evil spirit to justify your grief.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            Yes, yes exactly.

            And even if a survivor of abuse experienced trauma that entailed Satanic trappings, those are so tangential to the abuse itself that dwelling on them is missing the point completely when it comes to helping someone resolve their pain… let alone when a counselor or religious zealot focuses on alleged supernatural or global conspiracy tangents.

            Allowing oneself to be distracted from the needs of the client by such sensationalistic notions is at best unprofessional. At worst, it is a second form of abuse… not even considering the instances when the allegations get picket up and spun in to cultural or legal hysteria and prosecutions of innocent bystanders.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            Incidentally, when I refer to Satanic trappings, I'm suggesting that there are likely occasional perpetrators of abuse who like to dabble with things like inverted crosses and black candles–I am in no way meaning to suggest either a link between Satanic groups and child abuse or between individual abusers who casually introduce Satanic props into their abuse and any theoretical worldwide Satanic conspiracy.

            I have never found any evidence anywhere of such a thing on even a small scale–though perpetrators who involve odd props and ideas in their abuse do occur; I once knew of a molester who dressed up as Santa Claus, for instance.

            Which doesn't make me believe in child-abusing elves.

          • Bookhousegal

            Well, the fact that the iatrogenic 'Satanic ritual abuse' narratives are BS in terms of their religious and physical claims *doesn't* mean that abusers don't ever *use* 'Satanist' stuff or whatever gets them their power rush. In fact, these very sorts of memories, or the makings of what's 'recovered' as such are often induced by the initial abuse itself: Christian abusers claim the abuse itself is because of 'the devil,' not what the abuser is doing… often perhaps believing it's their 'Devil' or 'sin' and not them, themselves. That's part of how it happens in churches under less-dramatic situations than you'd think. The double-binds and reversals they employ actually *cause* dissociation, …as the distress amplifies over time, so does the denial, and therefore so does the narrative that it's labeled with.

            I mean, there *are* 'Occult-flavored' abuse scams, with real abuse attached, but they're generally pretty homespun and really just come down to someone pretty sociopathic going to elaborate lengths to get laid and feel to have power over someone. Tellingly, much more resembling the generally-defamatory witch-hunt narratives than anything real. For abusers, it doesn't have to be.

            Certainly, when people try to cook something up and call it 'Wiccan,' they clearly know less about Wicca than they do about popularly-spread fears *about* Wicca.

            If you ever see them in contact with community, they'll be the ones with their own theories on how all this Pagan and Goddess and responsibility stuff is all nonsense and 'really' it's more like a Jack Chick comic. Generally they stay away cause they'd be shown for frauds and that's not *really* what they're interested in.

            You see more of it regarding 'Ceremonial magick' and vampire stuff, cause that's kind of more amenable to individual 'teachers' cutting people from the herd and running their own game.

            Standard procedure for them is to take on a 'disciple,' flatter them as at the center of some 'cosmic battle' (Which is a lot more appealing than dealing with real damage) and then start convincing people they're more and more 'under psychic attack,' the more things get worse, do they need to do, this, do that, obey more, pay more, etc. Just like exorcisms, ironically.

            Anyway, the popular 'SRA' narrative doesn't just lead to false accusations against Santeria (And I won't tell you there aren't a number of scammers using *that,* either) …it actually, like notions of the Christian Satan, gives abusers a ready-made cover, if not justification.

            Not unlike abusers in Christian churches will claim that they're doing victims a 'favor' by variously 'correcting' them through their own 'battle with sin' or to 'git the gay divil out of you' or whatever.

            The whole 'war on Satan' (Satan being everything but Church authority) is a prime enabler, if not repeater of abuse, but that doesn't mean there aren't a few out there who'll take advantage of it from the 'other side.'

            Y'know, it's not so big and grandiose as people puff it up to be. Actually, it's usually pretty pathetic, let me tell you. (I didn't pick this screen name *entirely* arbitrarily, ….the bad stuff's out there, there's a number of bad people out there, assuredly, but it's not the nature of the universe. There's enough 'bad' to burn out on trying to fix and heal it, though, and the most of *that* doesn't involve some creep with a copy of La Vey or some Crowley they don't understand. )

            The damage is real, though, it's just about the opposite of what these preachers *say* it is. That's another double-bind these institutions employ, and not just to physically-and emotionally abuse people in extreme cases.

            It should all be very basic to most modern Pagans, how this stuff happens, from church basements in Kansas to C-street to the side-roads of Kampala. Exorcists? Demons? It's their very own shadow, and their very own denial.

            The real stuff isn't entirely *safe,* no, but the worst of it ain't supernatural. It's what people afraid to dream will do to themselves and each other.

          • Crystal7431

            "At worst, it is a second form of abuse". I agree. They are using the patient to forward an agenda.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            "Allowing oneself to be distracted from the needs of the client by such sensationalistic notions is at best unprofessional."

            In the highest pitch of the SAR panic was a tacit, erroneous assumption that Satanists were an organized conspiracy insinuating themselves into the likes of day care and Sunday school in search of victims. It was big-picture thinking.

            Here, of course, it's been degraded into advertising for a specious service.

          • Bookhousegal

            Yeah, and funny how that just *happens* to pit the victims of trauma against anyone who questions the Church's dogmas…. or accusations.

          • Souris Optique

            Oh, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt (as to his intentions) on the SRA nonsense, and agree w/ you as to the problems there.

            I was referring more to the blatant slander against Santeria. Since two minutes and any reputable reference source would have corrected him, and I have to assume given his necessary training that he is *not* illiterate, I have to wonder what his game is, and why he's on the attack against Santeria, but not similar groups.

          • Bookhousegal

            I'm really *not* willing to give him the benefit of the doubt on the SRA thing: this is a clear sign he doesn't know what he's *doing,* actually. Most *especially* if he claims to be counseling dissociative/MPD suspects, …then hanging their cases on some public claims about their 'recovered memories' having to have represented some physical reality. This kind of thing leads to, for lack of a better word, iatrogenic trauma. Just cause he wants to believe his 'enemy' is real, he's telling dissociative people that what they 'recover' is the 'literal truth,' …even from a plain old psychotherapy standpoint, that's very bad.

            That's not just false accusations against non-Christians, that's actively and directly harming people who may have been religiously-abused, and had these very notions of being 'devil-infested' *induced,* or been primed for such to appear in just these sorts of 'exorcism' rituals, and that's before we even start talking about what kinds of spirits *that* might attract.

            (And the simple fact is, that quite the contrary to what the Church and other exorcists teach, there's probably better than a hundred times as many spirits just acting according to expectations as there are actively-malicious ones. It's a big reason why this whole Christian 'Devil' thing has just been a cavalcade of damage and madness all this time.

            But, that's why it just burns my biscuit when I see people hurting people who've already been through enough about it, the sheer incompetence, the dogmatic agendas, the sensationalism and general psychological blackmail and terrorizing about the 'exorcists' themselves just far outweighs *anything* actually malefic out there.

            More than that, it's just plain another version of preying upon victims of abuse to convert them into whatever suits the 'exorcist's' dogma, so it's not just astounding ignorance and incompetence, it's enabling the *actual* abusers, who may not have splashy Satanic cult rituals, but sure do tell victims, and others to blame devils… And themselves, according to those very narratives.

            People with distressing MPD may not have met cults from the Fundies' narratives, but chances are *someone* did a real number on em. Blaming devils doesn't stop it.

      • Bookhousegal

        'Triggers every time he meets with her?'

        OK, kids. It seems Christians have some issues about this, but that's not a sign you're doing something *right.*

        Four years of 'eligibiity' to start defining the spirit world and what religions and practices are 'dangerous?' I'm pretty sure I've forgotten more about weird stuff than this guy's ever seen. :)

        And this guy's their first string? Gods help the poor people under his sway.

        • The Bony Man

          It seems to me that she has made meeting him an autonomic trigger for her delusions…

          • Robin Artisson

            One day he'll discover that her "demon" was just her way of trying to communicate with him.

          • Crystal7431

            Like saying, "Leave me the hell alone!"? Or worse, "Good day, Father." The devil is afoot.

          • Bookhousegal

            Yeah, this is a problem. I managed to sit through a TV interview of this priest last night, and the dude's just another myopic defamer, if you asked me. When asked how he tells the difference between demonic possession and mental distress, his answers weren't exactly living up to his claims to have gotten some great 'skeptical discernment' from an eight month part-time course at the Vatican.

            He cited A) (apparently the big one:) Not wanting to go into churches or look at Christian stuff (Which ought to be a pretty natural reaction for anyone traumatized enough by people who've likely convinced them they've got demons in them and need to be dragged to an exorcist,

            B) 'Kinda serpentine body language,' (I paraphrase, but ….yeah, *his* body language was seeming to reveal how thin even he thought that was understudio lights)

            C) The idea of people speaking languages they couldn't know. (Again, a read on *him* implies he's either never seen that or assumed glossolalia constitutes 'proficiency in other languages.' He sure didn't say *which* he might have heard, if any, and one doesn't get the impression he's any better at *identifying* other languages than most people are, never mind the grammar and all. One would think if it were a Bible-based 'demon,' they'd be speaking languages a priest *should* be able to pin down, though. ) Of course, if you stress a stressed person out with a lot of nonsense, you'll likely jazz the language centers of their brain and get *something* that seems like language, cause structure and content are separate processes. (Any lucid dreamer who tries to *read* very hard can see some of *that.* The language thing is of course much-talked about but never apparently recorded in detail by these exorcists, while claiming *they* can recognize ancient languages is… A pretty big one for an eight month part-time course. :) . The fact that there *is* of course a spirit word does complicate matters a fair bit, but claims that that happens and represents *possession* as opposed to people half-out-of their heads is of course …Pretty thin.

            But, yeah, triggering dissociatives with stuff likely connected to their *damage* isn't 'proof' that doing it more is in any way good practice.

          • Bookhousegal

            Don't worry, he's been interviewed in plenty of places where he didn't trouble to 'split hairs' about who he'll tell people lead to 'demonic possession.'

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

        Jennifer Parsons: "No, it involves Satan because he says so."

        This is what the Catholic Church has always taught. All non-Christian religions are the work of Satan. This was also the opinion of Luther, Calvin, King James, John Wesley, and so forth. This is not just the mainstream Christian position, it is the only Christian position with any credibility (as a position historically held by Christians and theologically consistent with and coherent within Christianity).

        • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

          I don't think you can speak to what Christian positions have credibility, Apuleius, though I do appreciate your qualifying your position with a definition ("historically held" and "theologically consistent").

          However, you are not qualified to give absolute and sweeping judgments on a religion you are not part of; you are certainly not a theologian.

          And while there is room to quibble over how old something has to be before it's "historically held," the position you outline has been explicitly rejected by Quakers since the mid 17th Century, and by universalists (both in the growing Universalist church and within many more mainstream Christian denominations) since the 18th Century. While still controversial, the influence of universalism grew throughout the 19th and early 20th Century, and can be detected easily within the writings of Christians like George MacDonald and C.S. Lewis, who are today deeply respected and widely read including (ironically) among fundamentalists and evangelicals. (I can't help but wonder if they actually _think_ about the writers they praise!)

          I'm sure you have noted that I am not using the term "universalist" to mean merely the belief in "universal salvation" which has become almost, itself, universal among liberal protestant denominations over the course of the 20th and 21st century, but in a much broader sense.

          I realize it is inconvenient, for those who would like to restrict their view of Christianity to only certain extreme positions–positions that are certainly well-established and remain influential to this day. But no matter how many times you say it, saying only the Christians you want to define as Christian count doesn't make it so.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com/ Apuleius

            Cat_C_B: "However, you are not qualified to give absolute and sweeping judgments on a religion you are not part of; you are certainly not a theologian."

            I believe that Pagans have, throughout our very long history, more than earned the right to speak as experts on Christianity. Besides, I do not impose anything at all on Christianity in what I said. I am taking the Christian scriptures not only at face value, but as they have been interpreted throughout the history of Christianity by Christian theologians. The position that all non-Christian religions are the work of Satan is orthodox Catholic teaching, and it is solidly grounded in the teachings of the earliest Church fathers as well as on the New Testament and the Old Testament. It has been consistently upheld by the Church throughout its history (both among the Orthodox and the Roman Catholic), and it has been seamlessly taken up by all the Protestant sectoids worth bothering with. In particular, Luther, Calvin, King James and John Wesley, if anything, compete to outdo each other, and the Catholics, in the vehemence of their condemnation of non-Christian religions as instruments of Satan.

            C.S. Lewis a universalist? If he was so, why did he never come right out and say so? Why did he play his cards so close to his vest? If he was a closet universalist who never felt that he could openly declare his universalism, then I will consider my point proven. On the other hand, there are those who claim that Lewis did throughout his Christian life defend the doctrine of Damnation: http://www.tentmaker.org/biographies/cs-lewis.htm . Either way, I don't see him as in any way helpful to your position.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            On the subject of being Pagan as a sufficient qualification to make sweeping generalizations about Christianity:
            You and I will simply need to disagree on this one. My belief is that not being a member of a group can give a clarity that comes with an outsider's perspective. But it doesn't always; nor does it in and of itself confer expertise in that group's full scope and diversity. And while being one of a group which has historically experienced oppression at the hands of another can give one kind of insight into the historically oppressive group, that doesn't necessarily translate into knowledge or wisdom either.

            Sadly, I think that many of the comments made at TWH over time tend to bear me out in that opinion.

            On the subject of the historicity of divergent Christian theologies: Can you find condemnation of non-Christians among the earliest Church fathers? Yes. Lots of them. But you can find a lot of things among the earliest Church fathers–because there was a great deal of theological diversity in the earliest period of Christianity. That diversity has waxed and waned over time, but it is disingenuous to pretend it isn't there simply because it is inconvenient to your point. I cannot agree that this is reasonable logic on your part.

            On the subject of Lewis (one example of a widely known Christian with universalist leanings):
            I would not say C.S. Lewis was a universalist. I would say that even a fleeting acquaintance with his work would support the idea that he held some universalist leanings and beliefs.

            As is often the case with Lewis, this is most easily spotted in his fiction… However, I don't think Lewis "played his cards close to his chest" either about his universalist leanings or his sympathies for ancient pagans (he knew of no modern ones).

            Incidentally, I wouldn't pretend that either Lewis or MacDonald believed in the simplest form of universalism–that all will inevitably be saved. I think they each held the older variation on that form of universalism–that salvation is possible for all, of whatever religious belief, but that there will be a time when they will have to make a choice inwardly which will determine the fate of their soul. (This, incidentally, is the more conservative of the two strands of universalism that run through Quaker thought from the 17th Century forward.) It is not necessary to become Christian in order to be saved, by this line of thought… nor to reject the possibility of individual damnation. (Which Lewis certainly did hold. That is indeed evident in his writing.)

            And, just in case Robin has read this far and thinks my discussing this subject in detail means I've been assimilated into the Christian Borg, let me just add that I do not now, nor have I ever had any use whatsoever for the notions of heaven, hell, Satan, or damnation. They seem like inherently silly ideas to me… which is part of the reason I've never been a Christian.

          • Bookhousegal

            CS Lewis doesn't actually have very much good to say about other religions: despite having a lot of insight about the Christian world, he, certainly as seen via Christian commentators, basically calls anything Pagan either a 'wonderful prefiguring of Christ' or very nasty and benighted indeed: ie the usual, 'Give the credit for anything noble to the Christian God and demonize anyone or anything *not* Christian.'

            Not to say he doesn't have good stuff going on, but the reason he *is* popular among some sets if precisely because he appropriates all along Christian lines, and plays into the notion that where it came from only had any good in it cause of Christianity, retroactively, or something.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            It's parochial and condescending to refer to the virtues of ancient pagans in terms of prefigurations of Christianity… but I'm of the opinion that the admiration was as sincere as it was awkwardly expressed.

            And I think the reason he is popular among many Pagans is that he actually thoroughly loved the gods and creatures of the ancient pagan world. He's really never able to bring himself to condemn the old gods–however readily his Christian audience might have relished it. (Though, again, the Christianity of his day was less fundamentalist and hateful than much of Christianity in our time.)

            If there had been a Hellenic Paganism around when Lewis was younger, I doubt Tolkien would have won him over to Christianity at all… probably to Tolkien's great relief. (I don't think Gerald Gardner would have impressed him much, however.)

          • Crystal7431

            "(I can't help but wonder if they actually _think_ about the writers they praise!)" The real question is: do they think? The answer is no. Ooh, I'm hateful today.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=10131763 Mathew Devitt

    Since Lucifer is a Christian fallen angel, doesn't that mean that being a practicing Christianity opens people "to a spirit realm that could be very dangerous?"

    • PJ G

      I'm glad you said this. My comment, in regard to the Father saying "Santeria does involve Satan" is: Doesn't Christianity involve Satan?

      • Lori F – MN

        A Hit! A palpable hit! Christianity lives to surpress Satan/the Devil. Without the devil, there wouldn't be a church.
        Truely a Catch 22

        • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

          Thumbs up for people who quote Hamlet.

    • timothywolf

      Mathew,
      There is a misconception in main stream Christianity about Lucifer. In according to tradition and western cultural influenced by thousands of years of christian doctrine Lucifer becomes the incarnate of evil. This is not what Lucifer was or represents. I explain this in a detailed entry into my blog. http://timothywolf.wordpress.com/2010/10/04/in-th

  • fyreflye

    "This movie, and its resulting publicity, may be a hidden gift to our community, as it is illuminating a very secretive subculture about their motives and world view."

    I can't believe any Hollywood movie is ever going to be critical of Catholicism.

    • Jason Pitzl-Waters

      I meant more that the publicity is allowing us a view into the exorcist mindset we rarely get to see so starkly.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      The DaVinci Code wasn't exactly flattering.

    • http://www.facebook.com/stenobauer Cathryn Bauer

      I know one that definitely makes the Church the bad guy, a 1985 fantasy flick called Ladyhawke. It's kind of dumb, but that reversal was interesting to see.

    • grimmorrigan

      The Order wasn't exactly pro-Catholic either.

      • Crystal7431

        It sort of played both sides. It was kind of anti-Catholic Institution but pro-individual-priests-fighting-evil wherever-they-go.

  • chuck_cosimano

    It reminds of a time years ago when I was at a wedding reception sitting next to a Bishop, who was regaling us with stories of how he performed exorcisms in the Phillipines. I made him an offer, that I thought was a good one. I would cast demons into people, he would cast them out and we could split the profits. He thought I was joking.

    • Bookhousegal

      Nah, they just do the 'casting-in' in-house. :)

  • Bookhousegal

    Yeah, at least there needs to be a higher ethical standard than representing a religious authority, instead of the 'client.'

    The simple fact that the first loyalty is to a hierarchy that's been covering up crimes, while demonizing about everyone else in sight, really means I'm just not sanguine about the Church claiming some 'expertise' in this sort of thing, particularly not through a promotional film.

    I mean, if you've got people flipping out and hanging and burning their dogs as 'devils' for chewing on a Bible, maybe the problem out there isn't *too little* Christian devil-fearing.

    At least if they're representing the same authority that's selling ideas of devils and blaming everyone and everything from New Agers to non-Christianity to … Porn? for damaged people in distress, while pretty much embracing denial of what their very own church's policies and theologies and structures have led to. (And, yeah, I think it's denial when he's as quick to blame anything but actual abuse for abuse symptoms: he can't tell his dogma from what he's claiming to be treating.)

    But, I could probably rant all night about this. I think in many ways the Church would have been right to keep backing away from this stuff. And they would have done a lot better to not spend all that energy using their sexual issues to the end of opposing the mental health care a lot of people out there need.

    Not that I have perfect confidence in Western mental health care, but one thing I know is that being good with the spirits doesn't mean you can materialize the kind of care and support a lot of people out there really need. Too often the effects of abuse and trauma are ignored, or even worsened *until* they deteriorate in bad circumstances. (And can also fall prey all too easily to charlatans.) And that's not doing the mental *or* spiritual health of the people any good. Even with Anthony Hopkins movies.

  • Ursyl

    "I learned that in Rome, the exorcist is the ultimate skeptic. I assume everything they're telling me is true, but my role is to get to the root cause of the problem." I find this statement of his to rather contradictory. If you're being skeptical, how can you then assume everything the person is telling you is true? Assuming that what the client is saying is true is the opposite of skeptical.

    Now if he had said that he assumes that the person believes that what they're saying is true, that's different. but that is not what he said.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I assume he means the exorcist is the hardest man to convince that he is dealing with actual demonic possession.

  • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

    Well, I'm gonna throw my two cents in.

    I actually do believe in demonic possession. I figure if all Gods are real, the Satan/Lucifer is real (I actually almost went satanist, before deciding I wanted to "take a third option" and became Asatruar. I still like Lucifer though, he seems an okay fellow from my perspective.) So figuring the "Dark Lord" is real (odd name for the "Morning Star") and I don't see why his demons couldn't come in and possess people. After all, he's fighting the Abrahamic god, make sense he'd do whatever and that the church would work to cast them out.

    Now, I don't know if this effects us Pagans and Heathens too much. Since most of us would be classified as "enemies of the church" by the church itself, I'd say we're probably something in the realm of allies or at least non-combatants as far as the other side is concerned. That said, our priests/shamans/wizards/witches/what have you, are sufficient to remove ill spirits of any order, be they demon, angel, fae, etc.

    The priest is right, by studying spiritual paths we open ourselves up, but with that we often learn how to protect ourselves better than anyone else out there. We have our Magic, they have their Faith, and in the end, it doesn't matter what they think till they try to wipe us out, and that's when it's up to us to prove our strength. Who cares if the priest thinks Satan's involved in our religions. For some of us, he is. That doesn't mean we're "evil" or "bad" anymore than it does Lucifer himself is "evil." That's the church's definition. We make our own.

    I am looking forwards to the movie though. Anthony Hopkins is great, but I'm more interested in his Odin, to be honest.

    • sarenth

      I guess this is my sticking point with a lot of Pagans: if we are going to say all our Gods are real in some fashion or another, from hard polytheist to panentheist, then why does the Christian God and His emanations suddenly not make the cut? From a hard polytheist perspective, why could Yahweh/Jehovah/Allah/etc. not just be considered a tribal Deity that has made a worldwide movement around itself (or alternatively, its followers have made a worldwide movement of Him)?

      If people believe in Deific panentheism, aka all Gods are one God, then why does the Judeo-Christian God not make the cut? The same could be said of Satan/Lucifer in the Christian tradition. Are the Christian God(s) less real than ours? Is this intellectual/spiritual elitism?

      Modern Pagans believe in a wide variety of entities, including Deities, genus loci, Fae folk and so on. Why is it such a stretch to believe demons might be out there? Take this from another angle, i.e. egregore creation, and you've pumped a figure like Satan and His armies of demons with so much energy from fervent believes in them, why could they not become autonomous or fulfill their collective functions that their creators endow them with?

      Even from a psychological angle, for those who pump this much belief into the God/Satan battle, the effect is intense on the believer. The constant on-guard atmosphere itself could generate enough stress that something comes along requiring a 'fix' to the person's life to realign their life with their principals, or let them act in ways they normally wouldn't as release. You could ask similar questions about those, like myself, who do intense or regular, faith-filled devotional work. Don't our experiences, both the liminal and mundane that enforce our faith, come from our own minds to help us deal with a situation or life that we need 'an excuse' to follow? Do our faith experiences bolster a 'fix' in our lives we otherwise would not do? I do consider, and reflect, that my spirituality could be 'all in my head'.

      Ultimately, as I see it, any religion is possibly dangerous because it requires, in some way, shape, or form, faith, and whether the individual sees that situation 'x' or 'y' reaffirms it, there is the possibility that the person is simply flat wrong. Any religion is also dangerous because it pushes you to have faith that there are invisible forces (to the naked eye, untrained or indoctrinated) at work in the world, whether through ideas such as Wyrd, or more in-your-face concepts such as vaettir. Any religion, in my view, opens you up to a host of possibilities and seeing things in the world that you might not otherwise consider, or see, and in that seeing you can lose yourself, gain yourself, empower yourself, deny yourself, etc. and go in a myriad of pathways that opens you up to changes that challenge who you are, what you are, and why you do what you do. In short, religion is dangerous because it has the potential to be wildly transformational, for both the person, and their community(ies).

      • Robin Artisson

        Absolute Bullshit concerning the Gods. The Devil or Satan is not a "God" in the polytheistic understanding of the word. And no, he isn't real. Beings aren't just suddenly "real" because a religion- even an ancient one- believes in them. Bad on you and Norse Alchemist, from whom I expected more as a Heathen, even one with some new-age inclinations.

        And "Deific Panentheism" isn't something that I, nor any person worth the name "Wise", would ever give the time of day to. So, "we" don't believe anything of the sort. You may. "We" don't. And the typical final new age response- that the Christian church has created powerful "egregores" that we need to worry about- is also nonsensical. What a disappointing eye roll for the early morning at "The Wild Hunt". It's like metaphysical drama queenery.

        • jabor

          so how exactly do you figure out which mythological being is real and which isn't? is it on "seeing is believing" basis, or you just consider germanic mythology real?

          • Robin Artisson

            This is the sort of question that only a person from a world destroyed by revealed religions could possibly ask. If you understood organic religiosity, this wouldn't be an issue.

            "Seeing is believing" is a good start, because personally, I only believe what I experience. Of course, experience- not just seeing- is a broad category. Now, due to the nature of things today, even our experience must be held to a certain standard of inquiry- a fearless inquiry into the many factors that condition experience.

            I don't deal with "mythological beings", ever. I deal with human persons, animal persons, non-human persons. The unseen world is a world of persons, just like this world is. "Mythologies" are artifacts of the past, records of human cultural experiences with this world and the unseen world, phrased in a symbolic language that was highly meaningful to a particular ancient people. There are no "mythological beings"- but there are persons, beings with personhood, who influenced ancient peoples in certain ways that led to certain sacred stories coming into being.

            The word "myth" today has taken on the pernicious unconscious implied meaning of "falsehood" or "untruth", even though their symbolic language encapsulates more truths than any scripture of any revealed mainstream religion. It's just another reason to demote the word "myth" to the place where it belongs, and return beings- persons- back to where they belong.

            There is a convincing and scholarly argument for the non-existence of "Satan". There are also convincing psychological arguments. Satan is the shadow of Christian society. He is the boundary-keeper of their fear. He is all that they repress and lock away into the hell of the unconscious mind, which they are also afraid of, and will not venture into. "Satan" is based- in name alone- on the earlier "shaitan" or adversary figures that represented all that challenged ancient Israel's own cultural psychological health, and their own goals in this world. A "shaitan" was not a demon, but could be anyone or anything- a spirit, an enemy tribe, a natural disaster- which was adversarial to Israel or its people.

            This is a concept, not a being. Your personal "shaitan" is anything that stands in the way of your goals.

            This idea that God had an "adversary" that warred with him and corrupted his creation was foreign to the ancient Hebrews. The "devil" of Job was one of a group of angels that served God by harming people, to test their loyalty and virtue. He was not God's enemy. The "son of the morning" , fallen from grace, recorded in Isaiah was the king of Babylon, not a fallen angel who was warring on God. Satan, as we know him, is completely a Christian invention.

            How can we know what non-human persons are real? It may be that we cannot, outside of our own experience. But we can still utilize our good sense and reason, and pay attention to history and honest scholarship to figure out *some* things that should inform us whether or not to be alarmed or in the grip of needless fear.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Robin, this is not a snark but a serious question/observation. To be brutally summary, your argument against the existence of Satan can be boiled down to the fact that we know a great deal about how Satan developed as a concept first and then a representation of that concept.

            How do we know the same is not the story for other gods we think exist, except that we are ignorant of that development because it's too deep in the past?

            One might cite one's own personal experience of a god but, after all, Martin Luther personally experienced the Devil and threw an inkpot at him.

            I speak as someone who became Pagan as the result of an epiphanal Goddess experience and who from time to time is spoken to out of my marrow by the God.

          • Robin Artisson

            If I really have to answer this, to explain this to you, serious doubt is cast on your "epiphanal Goddess experience."

            Shall I continue?

        • sarenth

          So he's not real or polytheistic because you say so? He's not real because people have deified an archetypal adversary force? Many archetypal forces in the life of the ancients were deified, or the qualities they thought were "truth", "magic", "ruler" or "war" were encapsulated in their Gods. Look no further than the Egyptians and the Goddess Ma'at, or the Greek's Eris and Harmonia. That said, I will admit that many the Gods tend to be more nuanced and complex than simple Jungian archetypes or all-encompassing archetypal forces as. The point, however, still stands.

          I never said we needed to *worry* about the Christian Satan, and whether or not He is an egregore. I asked if it was possible that such a thing might be. You have taken nearly every question I've asked and not answered it, or given a vitriolic response.

          I was asking people to consider their positions, and consider alternatives. I did not mean to say we should just accept Satan as a God or even a metaphysical entity. I was asking for people to go outside the usual responses of "my Gods exist and God/Satan/etc. monotheistic Deity, isn't real". I asked people to consider if they treat their spirituality in ways similar to Christians: does it 'fix' some problem in your life by engaging in it? What does that mean to you? I've no idea where you've gotten this notion that I think people need to accept Satan as real, but I want them to have better reasoning than "Well he just doesn't exist". I wasn't saying demons do or don't exist; I was asking people questions about their perceptions of whether or not they exist, challenging people to come up with better responses than "Well, I just don't believe." when there's a whole host of other things they do believe in that are non-physical.

          My point to posting, my whole sticking point with any issue like this, is lack of self-inquiry. I was hoping to get more introspective responses, reasons for why people believe demons exist or do not. Your post below was much more what I was going for.

          I especially liked your last point: "How can we know what non-human persons are real? It may be that we cannot, outside of our own experience. But we can still utilize our good sense and reason, and pay attention to history and honest scholarship to figure out *some* things that should inform us whether or not to be alarmed or in the grip of needless fear."

          • Robin Artisson

            The adversary is not an "Archetype". Don't talk about Jungian psychology as though it were the secret to understanding religion- which it is not- and don't talk about it if you don't know what archetypes are, or what forms they include.

            And "deification" is not something that has happened to Satan. Satan is not a deity in Christianity. Again, you speak as though you don't know anything about the subject. Beyond that, "deification" doesn't happen just because a bunch of people think something or someone is a God.

            The Divine Non-Human Persons you listed- Ma'at, Eris, Harmonia- these are not "archetypes". These are Persons. Does your new age impiety know no bounds?

            I gave you the only answer you're going to get from me. You can let your lack of understanding label it "Vitriolic" if you like; that's all you, and not me.

          • sarenth

            First, I did not say that Ma'at was not a Non-Human person, what I said was: "Many archetypal forces in the life of the ancients were deified, or the qualities they thought were "truth", "magic", "ruler" or "war" were encapsulated in their Gods." The name Eris literally means "Strife" or "Discord". The name Ma'at literally means "truth". How were their Gods, in some fashion or another, not encapsulating the ideas of the words They represented? People did not pray to "Truth" as some nebulous figure, they looked to the embodiment of it in Ma'at. It is entirely possible these Beings were here well before humankind and we simply attached meanings we saw in Them. There's a lot of possibilities as to why humans have viewed deities in the ways we have. Given that Eris was the mother of Kakodaimones, all of whose names mean things like "Ponos (Toil), and Lethe (Forgetfulness), and Limos (Starvation), and the Algea (Pains)" (http://www.theoi.com/Daimon/Eris.html), how is my reasoning terribly off the mark?

          • Robin Artisson

            Strife is a human description of a situation or a condition. Eris is Eris. What the relationship is between them further is the only field we have for debate. Strife is strife. Eris is Eris. You might say that Eris specializes in spreading strife or discord. You might say that, considering strife is one of the two processes that rules the cosmic unfolding (the other being love, that which brings things together, so that strife can separate them later) Eris is a servant of that law. She is certainly divine, immortal, forever fulfilling her purpose.

            For her to have a name like "Eris" is no more mysterious than a human having a name that happens to also be a quality. You'd never conflate the human with the quality. And I know of no Indo European mythology that states that the Gods were just qualities of the universe that were given a name and worshiped as though they were persons.

          • sarenth

            *nods* Very good points. Thank you for clarifying. I suppose, given I've reviewed what you said, I think I'm on board with you on this one. Thank you for having patience with me and explaining your points.

          • sarenth

            As to your point on "deification doesn't happen just because a bunch of people think something or someone is a God"…well, what does qualify something as deified to you? Isn't the idea of deifying the process of treating something as a God/dess, something to be worshipped, praised, propitiated, etc.?

          • Robin Artisson

            When the psyche of a person (not necessarily just a human person) is purified and no longer drawn into Hades on the confused instincts and fear of elemental mixture and fateful, desirous obscurity, but instead, through the immortalizing insights born from true Metis or wisdom, is transformed into a Daimon- a divine being- we have the first golden step up the deification ladder.

          • sarenth

            Wow…Well said. Thanks for the insight. Seriously.

          • Robin Artisson

            Oh, and to head off any useless theurgical debates, the nature of the psyche's transformation is not specified by me here. Sure, it may not change into anything different, but merely birth new awareness of its already-existing daimonic reality; or, it may undergo some true dramatic change; or, it may simply realize, within the mystery of awareness, how change is illusionary- whatever, however, I don't care. That wasn't the point of my post, just answering your question in a simple way.

          • sarenth

            All the same, I appreciate it.

            So if I am understanding you right, the idea that a person can come to being a deity, in this idea, is that the understand themselves as a daimon, having thrown off the idea that they are this Being, whether through trial, personal revelation, elevation from another daimon, etc.?

          • Robin Artisson

            You're dealing now with the guarded, forbidden reaches of the mysteries. I can't actually tell you answers to those questions, for multiple reasons, not the least of which being that it is impious to really discuss it further, at least traditionally. There are many boundaries allotted by Fate in this cosmos, and guarded by Nemesis, and the boundary between the mortal and the immortal is one of the most severe. The country of hubris lies between. All the same, Gods and Men are of a common parentage, and our "race" is of the daimonic alone, truly. But navigating by those facts in a world of mortality requires a special sort of cunning, and a special sort of caution.

            I would never say that the Daimonic couldn't be "reached"- which is another way of saying that a person's Fate can really radically be transformed, that a second destiny can be had- but reaching it isn't so linear a story or easy a thing to imagine, or even discuss, and certainly not to actually do. I can say that it requires nothing more or less than Metis- divine wisdom- both the quality, and perhaps the daimon herself. This is, again, another way of saying that it requires a very special quality of attention, a special quality of awareness, a special discipline of mind, which helps people to see things in a new way.

            Gaining this "metis" quality and then holding onto it long enough is the long and short of it. Trust me- it is simple, but not easy. But upon it rests everything.

            Most people think of all the rarified states and conditions, like "Wisdom" or "Perceptions of Wholeness" or the "Vision of Eternity" to be very, very hard to achieve- but the dangerous truth is that they are not hard to achieve. Just about anyone, with a burst of good effort, can achieve any of those things- temporarily. The hard part, tooth-grating, fingernail breaking hard part, is keeping them and integrating them into your life and mind such that they finally transform you.

            If you want my advice on the best sources you can look to for more- sources far beyond my intellect and ability to explain, and far more wise than I, please email me at howlet_dark@yahoo.com and I'll point you their way.

          • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

            "The hard part, tooth-grating, fingernail breaking hard part, is keeping them and integrating them into your life and mind such that they finally transform you. "

            Indeed! That is the great challenge. Wisdom once again flows from you, sir, as it often does.

          • Bookhousegal

            Well, Sarenth, there's a difference between polytheism accepting that others have Gods, and that there's no particular conflict between one set of Gods and another's being 'the real and true,' …that doesn't mean that *all* religious characters by definition *must be* 'real' or real-as-presented.

            Part of the issue here is that while Pagans may have no problem with Abrahamics having a tribal-lawgiver-God, their claims *about* that God and the universe and other people through dogma, and their similar claims about what that God's 'adversary' is and does ….Well, they *are* based in their dogma and definitions, and those *aren't* so universally-applicable.

            In many ways, they're nothing *more* than dogmas, that's the point of contention: they aren't saying 'We have this God and this Devil,' they're insisting things about the *world* that don't pan out. We may not be in the business of disbelieving in others' Gods, but that doesn't mean we have to accept their definition of the *world.* Or *our* Gods.

            '

          • sarenth

            I'm not about to argue the reality of whether or not a God exists. I really don't want to get into that territory, as it is so subjective and dependant on personal interpretation and understanding of reality, possible scriptures, experiences, philosophy, etc., that it's muddy waters I'd rather not wade in.

            I understand and agree with the notion that Yahweh is a tribal god that has gained great importance for the religions that worship Him/It, and I understand why their views are not applicable to mine. My issue at hand is people simply dismissing Yahweh or any other entity not in their purview without some thought as to why that God/Goddess/Entity would not exist. I get that the dogma of "I am the only God and all others are false" is repugnant; I don't believe this any more than I believe there is only Odin, Freya, etc. or any more than I believe the Norse pantheon is the only one. I think that rejecting Christian/Jewish/Islamic dogma, teachings, etc. is fine, I would just like more people to think about why they reject so much of it.

          • Bookhousegal

            Well, that's pretty much where we are, there. (Frankly, I doubt many Pagans get too far *without* thinking about the dominant religion's ideas, especially when they're accusing you of 'witchcraft' and 'devil-worship,' etc etc about it. When they *do,* though… We're under no obligations to defend the notion there's any basis to it. We have our own ways of dealing with the same problems that don't involve *generating* them. :) )

            The Christians have pretty much had control of *any* recognized literate discourse for more than a millenium, and their ideas of 'God' and the 'problem of evil' are a contradiction by their *own* standards. Their assertions about their 'force of absolute evil' in the form of a 'devil' really just neither hold water nor accomplish any particular good, while clearly doing a great deal of harm. I see no reason to join them in lending any power to the notion.

          • sarenth

            I also agree with you on your point in that " God and this Devil,' they're insisting things about the *world* that don't pan out. We may not be in the business of disbelieving in others' Gods, but that doesn't mean we have to accept their definition of the *world.* Or *our* Gods."

      • Pagan Puff Pieces

        It seems to be a "your mileage may vary" issue…

        • http://www.facebook.com/stenobauer Cathryn Bauer

          A well-done interview. Still, it would have been interesting to know how he would have responded had the interviewer not revealed their own Paganism.

          I actually rather liked the guy. I spent a lot of years trying to squeeze myself into the mold of Catholic Christian, only to find that the rationalization ("Well, Cathryn, it is a church of sinners, after all"), dithering, and waffling over the fact that priests were abusing children rendered it morally impossible for me to continue. It was a great relief to me to have a priest come out and condemn the bishops' inaction in no uncertain terms.

          I always found that in Catholicism, there is a core belief of "The world outside our circle is full of dangers; only staying right with us gives you a chance of staying safe." It seems to me that his views about polytheistic religion and the occult grew out of this assumption.

        • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

          Yeah, really.

          Now, I may be revealing my ignorance here, but I fail to see how Lucifer meets the qualities needed for "Godhood" or why he and the Abrahamic god aren't real (The latter certainly has done a lot of damage for an imaginary friend if he isn't). Sarenth made some very good points, which to me weren't so much "New Age" as "quantum physics." Ideas like hers were what turned me onto polytheism in the first place, the knowledge that enough people believing in something with enough energy and enough time could make them real. It convinced me that Gods could exist. Later on I was able to believe that the gods could have existed from the beginning, but it was that scientific knowledge/theory that helped me rediscover my gods and goddesses.

          And as far as I'm concerned "All Myths Are True." I'm not going to go strutting around saying that Heathenry is the only real religion. I'm not going to do that saying only the Euro/Egyptian gods are real. For me, all gods and goddess, fae and demon, spirit and hybrid, are real. It is not for me to say that a god doesn't exist simply because I chose not to worship him. The Abrahamic God exists, but despite his childish and tyrannical claims of supremacy and uniqueness, I don't have to worship him, and My belief in my sacred kin in the Nine Worlds and my acknowledgment of all of the other deities, Lucifer included, is strong enough that I don't have to deny the existence or reality of a set of beliefs just because they've co-opted my culture and have indoctrinated people to think they're the only way. Yelling that he and everything associated with him is fake doesn't make it fake or make it go away. I've "Seen" His so called mighty hand as it aided friends and turned itself against me, and I still laugh in His face and drink to the Halls of Asgard and Helheim.

          • Robin Artisson

            Do you know how much honor, wisdom, and power you are according to Christianity by giving them the privilege of having "mythology"? They don't have their own mythology. They have stolen mythology from the ancient Hebrews, which they have not organically developed. Mythology is the sacred inner life of a people, which grows with those people.

            The revealed religious canon is locked and dead. They don't have mythologies, just dead stories they don't understand the true origin of, theological debates, persistent errors of hateful judgment and morbid psychology. They don't get the honor of putting their false conceptions on the same level as Allfather Odhinn or the All-Giving Vanir.

            Do you understand that at all?

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            Robin, I am not saying they exists out of some PC Polythiesm. The Christians may have stolen what they got from the Hebrews, but He is the Hebrew God (and I would like to know if you're splitting the Christian god from the Hebrew when they are the same, or are you arguing that the Hebrew god doesn't exist either), and the Muslims may have stolen what they got from Jews and Christians, but Denying the existence of the deity that has worked so hard with his people to wipe our ways out isn't going to make him go away. I'm not "according Him honor" or placing him on the same level as the other gods, but I am saying that he and Lucifer exists, because it is logical in my mind to admit their existence. Doesn't mean I worship them. Doesn't mean I honor them.

            That said, the Christians do have a rather vibrant and living "mythology" of their own. The Divine Comedy is an excellent example of this. Paradise Lost as a manuscript is well equal to any of the Eddas in quality, and I can certainly see it and some other similar tales as increasing the Mythology of the Christians and even aiding in the apotheosis of Lucifer at some point. The fact that there are Satanist paths out there, some of which regard Lucifer as their deity, only confirms this. It is not my place to tell the Satanist that they are worshiping a "False, non-existent" deity and I certainly will not pull the Norse equivalent of the First Commandment "Thou shalt have no other gods."

      • Crystal7431

        "From a hard polytheist perspective, why could Yahweh/Jehovah/Allah/etc. not just be considered a tribal Deity that has made a worldwide movement around itself (or alternatively, its followers have made a worldwide movement of Him)?" This is how I view him.

        • Robin Artisson

          That Jehovah is just another tribal reflex of the Thundering Sky God? That not him, but his fanatical followers, have created a worldwide movement in his name? That theory has merit.

          • Crystal7431

            Yeah. It makes him a bit easier to stomach, too. From my biblical interpretation, Abraham was sort of the first to declare Jehovah/Yahweh (whichever) the only god. So it only makes sense to me that he is/was a tribal deity with really bad/great PR depending on your perspective. By the by, I once saw something about a desert dwelling people that worshipped Sheatan- and they pronounced it this way- as their tribal deity. I don't remember what these people were called, unfortunately. I also realized that something could have been lost in translation.

          • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

            In the Hebrew Bible 'Satan' isn't even really a proper name, the Hebrew says 'ha-satan' which translates to something like 'The Adversary'. Ha-satan essentially functions as a prosecutor in YHWH's 'court', it's his job to bring up everything negative about a person whom YHWH is judging.

          • http://norsealchemist.blogspot.com Norse Alchemist

            Well, it's a little more complicated than that. See, Yahweh said he was the only god first, but it was placed in the context of "I am the only god of the Hebrews and they shall have no other."

            Now, as time went on, this got a little cloudy. The Hebrews turned to other gods at times, and then Yahweh wiped out 10 of the tribes (leaving Judah, Levi, and some of Benji that hadn't been wiped out previously by the other tribes due to previous sins). By the time of the Macabees, the Jews were taking a bit more of a hard line about there being only one god worshiped in their territory (a lay over from the olden days when No other god was to be worshiped in the land of Israel). By the time the Christians came about, it was fairly well established that all other gods were "foreign" at best and "False" at worst. The Christians took this and ran with it, spreading the "all other gods are false" message and turning many of them into "demons" (hence one of the reasons I believe in demons).

            By the time you get to Islam, this is put on steroids by both Muslims and the Christians, while the Jews think everyone is following a false path/path not for them.

            After that, it's a debate as to if the Abrahamic god is still just a tribal god (with a real vicious streak) or if he has become a "divine superpower" thanks to having so many followers.

          • Pagan Puff Pieces

            Some stories make a little more sense when you view them with an "Our god vs. other gods" perspective instead of "Our god vs. false gods."

          • Crystal7431

            It makes the stories a bit more interesting, too.

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            They do indeed.

          • Bookhousegal

            Heh, btw, I suppose that's another thing about the screen name. There actually are kind of a lot of books in here. :)

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            And don't think that hasn't tempted me to butter you up! As a book addict, I'm fond of anyone with a good supply. *grin*

          • Bookhousegal

            It may be the only admirable form of greed, but I strongly believe in moderation… In the number of rooms full of books one accumulates. :)

            This is actually pretty pared-down, here, but it's still a pretty big favor to help me move. :)

          • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

            *grin* I hear ya, sister!

            We wound up having to set up bookshelves in the garage of our new house… after culling about 1/3 of the collection, and there's still more to thin out.

            I'm an e-book fan from sheer self-defense. I don't want a branch of the library of Unseen University around here!

          • Crystal7431

            "Well, it's a little more complicated than that."
            Yes, you're correct there. I'm a little rusty. It's been a while admittedly.

          • http://wyrdmeginthew.blogspot.com Siegfried Goodfellow

            I'm confused as to how the number of gnats circulating around a being increases its power. I will not insult the divine spark implanted into human beings as a great gift from the Gods, but at the same time I will not participate in an anthropocentrism that elevates our importance to a level of hubris.

  • jabor

    you know, this fear of satanists and of spiritual possession is just a projection of catholic insecurities. in their rituals they eat flesh and drink blood of an undead god, and confirmation in catholic church is specifically designed so participants get possessed by holy ghost who will impart virtues on those confirmed. plus you have obsession with death and almost hatred of life.
    and guess what are urban legends about satanists- that they drink blood, that they perform rituals so they get possessed by demons, that they are obsessed with death, that they self harm…. all of these dark elements are actually found in christianity. oh sweet irony…

    • Bookhousegal

      Noticed that, id you? :) Oops. Now that's what I call a Freudian slip of the keys.. :)

  • http://titansterrorstoys.blogspot.com/ Tim

    From the interview: "Native Americans have their own religious culture, it doesn’t make them bad, but quite honestly, it’s opening them up to a spirit realm that could be very dangerous."

    Given the abusive history that the Catholic Church has with Native American culture, from the church's Doctrine of Discovery to the terrifying boarding schools the church put up all across the Americas for purpose of forced indoctrination, I think it's safe to say that this guy has his head firmly lodged up his pious posterior.

    • Robin Artisson

      I think that's very safe to say. His outrageous malformed thinking about organic and native religions is the real spiritual danger, not the Native religions themselves.

      • Bookhousegal

        Yeah, here's the logic there: 'It's not safe in the water, therefore don't learn the forbidden knowledge of 'swimming.'

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100001066176833 Neville Thunderbelly

    "But if even half of what she’s saying is true…"

    Yeah, but given that NONE of what she's saying is likely true, what then, padre?

    • Robin Artisson

      Neville, only one thing is more terrifying to Christians than the devil and hell. And that would be discovering that there is no devil, hell, nor their God or heaven waiting for them. No big slices of pie in the sky when they die. They'd rather believe half-truths or untruths than that truth. *shrugs* After you begin to use a little more than 3% of your brain, you don't like being on earth too much…

      • http://titansterrorstoys.blogspot.com/ Tim

        Not to split hairs here, but I always thought that the thing that terrified Christians the most were empty seats at their churches. It seems that whenever I talk to a Christian about their churches these days, all of them talk about how not enough people are showing up for worship services. I guess you can no longer claim tax exemption for your church when nobody is a member of it, can you?

        • Robin Artisson

          Heh. An excellent and salient point, sir.

        • http://www.facebook.com/amberapple Peg Aloi

          Part of the central (if subtle) theme of this film is the notion that the seminary is not a desirable place for most young men. I found myself wondering if the only way to get Americans to continue to train as priests is to offer them unusual, glamorous opportunities…like performing exorcisms. Will that be the legacy of this (middling) film? I think the idea that exorcism will be what keeps seminary study alive in this country may not be unlike the unusual explosion of interest in studying forensics due to glossy TV shows like CSI and NCIS…too bad real forensic crime specialists have a very tedious existence at these laboratory jobs. Crimes don't get solved in 45 minutes…and exorcisms can apparently drag on for years. Pass the popcorn.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    I'd like to at least have some sort of theological condom….

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

    The covenant idea here is important. Abraham essentially agrees to accept this deity as his patron deity (and agrees on behalf of his descendants as well) and in return his patron deity will look after him and his progeny. Even the ritual described in Gen 15 that seals the covenant between them, involving animals cut into 2 pieces (even the ancient Hebrew term to make a covenant literally meant 'to cut a covenant') was a well known legal process used by people throughout the Ancient Near East when making agreements between parties, usually invoking a curse on anyone who breaks the agreement. The entire theology of the Torah is based more on the notion of these covenants than true monotheism, in that the existance of other people's deities are not questioned, but Israel is restricted to the worship of only YHWH because they have entered into a covenant with each other. All the laws in the Torah are the terms by which the Israelites honor that covenant, and in return for following those laws and only worshipping YHWH, he will make the Israelites prosper.

  • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

    cont.
    In terms of what we can know from a more critical historical view though, what seems to have happened is that the Hebrews were essentially pagans throughout the period described by the Hebrew Bible. At some point tensions began to arise between the cult dedicated to YHWH and the monarchy in Jerusalem and the various local practices and worship sites that existed. It may have been a power play on the part of the Jerusalem cult. The Assyrian and later Babylonian conquests would largely wipe out the local Pagan practices and when the Israelites would regain any power in the region under Persian hegemony, the restored cult to YHWH in Jerusalem was better able to consolidate its power and leading to the evolution of a monotheistic theology over the following centuries. The texts of the Hebrew Bible would largely be written or redacted out of earlier texts at this time, basically rewriting the past into a theological history that suited the new dominant ideology.

    • Nick_Ritter

      "the Hebrews were essentially pagans throughout the period described by the Hebrew Bible."

      Yes, precisely, and it is worth noting that the "foreign gods" that are railed against by the prophets aren't foreign at all to the Hebrews: the Hebrews, as another Canaanite tribe, have the same gods as the neighboring and closely-related peoples. The creator-god around whom the Yahweh-cult coalesced was, in the original pantheon, a "deus otiosus" ("retiring god"), who created the world and then left it to his children (the other gods) to govern. That god's cult, which had no symbolic representation of the creator-god, went largely forgotten until periods of great crisis, when he would be sacrificed to and asked for forgiveness toward those who forgot him. This pattern is well-attested in the early Middle East and much of Africa, and I would refer folks to Mircea Eliade's "Patterns in Comparative Religion" and "A History of Religious Ideas" for more detail.

      "The Assyrian and later Babylonian conquests would largely wipe out the local Pagan practices"

      It is important to note that the local Pagan practices were also wiped out by monotheistic zealots *within* Hebrew society.

      • http://kauko-niskala.blogspot.com kauko

        I probably phrased that Assyrian/Babylonian bit badly. What I had meant it to say was that the conquests by the Assyrians and later Babylonians with their deportations/ exiles of the local peoples would help to lead to an environment where, after the Babylonian exile, the priesthood in Jerusalem was able to begin the process of consolidating religious authority over the region (perhaps even with the backing of the Persians). What I wasn't trying to say was that the Assyrians and Babylonians went around deliberately killing Pagans :)

        • Nick_Ritter

          Sure, I understand you now.

          "the priesthood in Jerusalem was able to begin the process of consolidating religious authority over the region (perhaps even with the backing of the Persians)."

          This might explain what seem to be influences from Zoroastrianism on Judaism, particularly if that Yahweh vs. Satan dualism comes from an Ahura Mazda vs. Angra Mainyu dualism. The angels Michael, Gabriel, etc. might also (I have read) be "Hebrecizations" of Zoroastrian deities.

  • ES1966

    I have no reservations whatsoever. Religious/Faith based counselors shouldn't be allowed to practice at all.

    It's like letting the fox guard the chicken coop.

  • Fr. Tom S.

    Your post and many of the comments, it seems, could be summed up by saying, "Oh, my, we finally have proof that someone belonging to the Roman Catholic Church, with whom we disagree in their views on the supernatural, also disagree with us."

    It seems to me your post blurs the distinctions between Native American Spirituality, the various Wiccan groups, etc., so that they appear to live in harmony, and there would be no problems except for pesky Catholics.

    In any other area of human experience, people with different points-of-view regularly point out what they see as pitfalls and strengths. Even to the point of stating where they see the dangers of alternate views. Delving into the Supernatural can be dangerous, and any group that has historically dealt with the issues involved have passed down guidance as to how to deal with it.

    In the same way, I would expect that if I examined your blog, I would find ample examples of you actually engaged
    in apologetics explaining the danger of straying into realms that take one away from the gods or spirits or whatever it is you believe are particularly good and healthy.

    In Prayer.

    • Bookhousegal

      Maybe you should test that expectation before speaking.

      The Church demonizing people… Namely *us,* even by implication, then promising to be 'the cure' for what it 'expects' about other cultures, then uses that for *blame* *certainly* is of concern to us: we hear it all the time.

    • Robin Artisson

      Yes, Father Tom, it's true that many ancient and traditional organic religious cultures passed down advice and guidance on how to deal with the various "dangers" or problems that exist for humans who find themselves facing both this enormous, vast, beautiful natural world, and the vast, mysterious unseen world that is parallel to it.

      But the difference between what they do, and what revealed religions like your catholicism do, is this: they didn't invent or steal their religion from other sources. Their religion wasn't "revealed" to them by some ancient cult leader with a godly ego or just enough schizophrenia to be declared a messenger of the one supreme God of the cosmos- oddly enough, you don't catch many traditional peoples getting too focused on "supreme beings" at all- coincidence?

      These organic and traditional religions actually deserve the title "religion", because they have no "founding date", no pile of canon scripture that has to be worshiped and preserved, no triumphalist narratives, no immediate presumption of their absolute rightness and righteousness over every other religion, regardless. Their faith evolved and grew from the same earth that humans did; it came from the true dawn of human culture; it has always been here.

      By way of comparison, revealed religions are explosions of nonsense that are very finite within time- they have clear "begin" dates, and, dear Gods be thanked, "expiration" dates, too. Revealed religions lack the wisdom of organicism, lack the countless millenia of previous spiritual growth alongside human populations; what useful or actual ancient information they may contain to pass down is normally stolen directly from others- such as the theft of the Torah in Christianity and the Hebrew scriptures, or clear analogues and materials that are isomorphic to earlier pagan elements and practices.

      The Catholic Church, and all Christian churches, don't have the right to claim to be able to pass on "advice" about the unseen world. They don't know what the unseen world is; they just have ripped-off scriptures, contrived and invented scriptures, and guesses. They don't have countless millenia of cultural experience of the Unseen. They have, at most 1700 years of fear and stupidity regarding "demons"- the word demon itself lifted directly from the Greek "Daimon", which didn't originally mean "malevolent being", but "divine being". Even the Christian "bad guys" are misnamed, miscalled, and misapprehended. You aren't a religion like any other. You don't get to number yourselves among the truly wise. You are a cult, always were a cult, and still remain a cult, a scared following of people thirsty for an immortality and eternal pleasure that they will never have. You are children playing at morality and religion, in the face of true Gods who shun you to the same extent that you shun them.

      All the church did was foist its spiritual elitism and human exceptionalism on the world, with an invented story of spiritual depravity and moral evil, and carefully, calculatedly crushed all opposition. It was a crime then, and the foolishness that you embrace now, the fearful narrow perspectives that you call your 'religion', is the one of the modern outcomes of that crime against the Gods and humanity.

      We know what is good and healthy- and one of those things happens to be "anything that you are not." And your church is responsible for why we feel this way about you, not a made-up devil or an ancient Hebrew "shaitan". You. More than anything we want you to know this.

      Even if we didn't have the amazing logic, beauty, reason, art, and philosophy of the pre-Christian ancient world to prove to us how they actually knew the depths of holiness and beauty, as compared to the stark, raving, human-hating and world-hating Christian philosophy, we'd know the true colors of your organization and its soul just by how you guys- you representatives- act and talk. Your war on humanity is nearing its end date.

    • Robin Artisson

      And, as a side note, I think that the Fates have a sense of humor- it was your church's war on the sacredness of sexuality that brought about your downfall. Your eunuchs in seminary- men who were really just still boys, shamefully beating off in the dark- and your castrated leadership allowed the greatest and most heartless sexual abuse culture that the world has ever seen arise, and worked overtime to defend it, to conceal it, to perpetuate it. And now, the world knows.

      What a shame and an irony that it wasn't the literal physical, spiritual, and cultural genocide of so many native peoples at the church and church-backed government hands that brought you down! This actually sinks the knife in better, in my opinion, because it wasn't your war against the non-christian, but your war against yourselves- your barbaric struggle against sexuality, that power you have feared most of all throughout your misbegotten history- which finally delivered us justice. The warped character of your ideals is now plain and the misery it provokes will no longer be ignored in the name of the code of silence and tradition you created to enslave others.

      Welcome to the new world! You'll have my prayers, too, that the Queen of the Underworld forgives you for your lifetime of perpetuating wickedness against your fellow man, this natural world, and the true Gods- even if you perpetuated that wickedness in a fully unknowing state, or with the best of intentions. As you make your way to Hades, you'll discover that your tradition was right about one thing- the road to hell IS, indeed, paved with good intentions.

      • Bookhousegal

        Heh. Guess they had that coming, but easy on the brimstone, there, Robin, they've scared the crap out of themselves enough as it is, and Gods know there's enough cleaning up after these terrified amateurs to be done, already. *sigh.* :)

        Big part of how they get 'lost' in the first place. Panic. Fact is, some basic orienteering and not bringing a ton of fear to things (Not to mention not living in the kind of denial of Spirit that involves demonizing and hiding from it all till someone *totally loses it.*) It's always someone like me that ends up having to try and bail em out, and half of how they sell their thing with all that fear and terror is about the idea that 'only we can 'save' you from certain damnation.

        These people and religious institutions and systems that demonize the world and other cultures and anything spiritual to begin with need to bloody well realize they can save *themselves* from the path they've been on, …and that doesn't involve doubling down on where they've gone so terribly wrong.

        There's no measure of the dressing-down they may deserve, but remember who's got to try and heal the wreckage.

    • Bookhousegal

      BTW, preacher-man, maybe the way to deal with a spiritually-distressed population of your own adherents *isn't* to come to Pagan blogs and 'expect' that you can pronounce what you 'expect' as some kind of reality, never mind 'expecting' that people criticising Christian demonizations and incompetence at dealing with the results of it have just been 'waiting for a first excuse' or something, …particularly when you haven't been *listening* all along.

      Not to Wiccans, not to Native Americans, not to anyone else whose cultures and religions you've arrogantly seen fit to suppress and demonize. Particularly whenever your systemic abuses finally get some real coverage instead of a pass.

      No, these comments *couldn't* be 'summed up' that way.

      I think the post could be *read,* and if you want to *sum up* the comments, how about: 'The Church is being both defamatory and incompetent, both mundanely and spiritually.'

      Pointing vague accusations when it's mentioned you're harming people isn't what I call very considered or 'moral,' never mind wise or 'spiritually-aware.'

    • http://quakerpagan.blogspot.com/ Cat_C_B

      Wow, everybody! Way to do the interfaith… not. I'm not sure what in Fr. Tom's comment here–other than who he is–is so inflammatory that we couldn't respond with good manners?

      However, Fr. Tom, I would put it to you that you are mistaken in your belief that this post "blurs distinctions" between Native American polytheism, Wicca, and the various sorts of Pagan traditions that we currently practice, in order to make it "appear" that we live in harmony. Despite the sometimes acrimonious tone assumed by individual commenters at TWH, the vast majority of Pagan groups actually do live and practice together quite harmoniously… though, as you may know, we also do debate vigorously what the boundaries and ethics of our Pagan movement should be.

      This is not disharmony, however; even when our practices or beliefs differ enormously, we do a pretty good job at coming together both in small local groups, large national gatherings, and in our online communities. Better, I truly do believe, than most monotheist religions can claim.

      However, you are not too far out when you say that at least some of us sometimes frame matters as if the world would be a Utopia without the presence of Catholics (or other monotheistic religions). I would say it is the insecure minority who make such points, but even so, I think it's a foolish misunderstanding of human nature, to think that any religion has either cornered the market on error, or found a way to avoid it entirely.

      Is this really so hard to understand, however? A good many of us are refugees from a form of Christianity that is frequently typified by its willingness to judge and condemn whatever is not particular to itself. And, while I laud Peg's good manners in being open with you around her religious affiliation in the course of your interview with her, I join with those who wonder if your language would have been even more extreme in your characterizations of the "dangers" of non-Catholic, non-Christian practices, if she had not been so considerate.

      It's not your disagreement with us that rankles, sir, but your disagreeableness; Native Americans–and modern Pagans (which are understood by all readers here to be two different, albeit similar groups of beliefs) are best understood on our own terms. Your interview makes it rather clear that you insist on understanding us on hostile terms, projecting onto us beliefs which are alien to us.

      Not only is there a long and thorny history of Christian persecution of members of other religions, but a good many of us have personally experienced religious discrimination in the name of Christianity, and in some cases individual violence inspired by the intolerance of some forms of Christianity. This isn't an abstraction for us, sir–and when you conflate the deities of polytheists with your Satan and your Satan's demonic host, you do bring to mind all that is least loving, least compassionate, and least-Christ-like about your religious tradition.

      Is it any wonder that many of us are very, very angry?

      • Robin Artisson

        I never came here claiming to be an interfaith speaker. And no, Cat, for the hundredth time, not all religions are the same, or responsible for intolerance and stupidity. Stop tarring everyone with the comfort brush you like to paint with. You have more in common with this priest than you want to admit- both of you recognize the powerful one god that rules over all things, the theoretical common brotherhood of everyone, and how valuable of a guy Jesus was. After that, all else is really just details.

  • Bookhousegal

    So, people. I think that Catholic priest's showing up with his assumptions does point up one thing: as much as the Church likes to accuse everyone else of being responsible for the Church's own obsesssions with devils and the damage and all… we're really good at pointing out the defamations and denial and the harm that causes both politically and spiritually… Fact is, they ain't listening.

    I think any of us who've had a rep for handling, well, the kind of stuff mainstream culture freaks out about, especially if that rep extends anywhere past the Pagan community, have seen the type that come along pretty wigged out and figuring angels and devils and cosmic battles are involved, particularly since that's how most of Christianity treats anyone that shows either talent *or* effects of psychological trauma. (Which tend to go hand in hand in religions that believe anything 'psychic' probably *means* devils are involved: never mind the other 'sins' they also seem to refuse to understand are pretty natural. ) One thing that's clear enough is that there's more damage out there than we ourselves have the numbers of people to fix, and conservative monotheism is only redoubling that damage as they feel to be losing control over people. So. How *do* we speak about this from the standpoint of trying to help victims and stop further religious abuse, rather than simply condemning those who perpetrate and defend it?

    There's the injustice of it all, and there's the fact that, yeah, people get hurt. On the latter issue, there's the real fact that one can certainly pretty easily deconstruct the aggressive willful ignorance, there's also a certain amount of well-intentioned, terrified cluelessness among a lot of Christians. One thing that the West has *lost* amid all the debates about 'religion' and the supernatural is really the *human* factor, …trust between *people* rather than trying to define the world and others into some framework that promises 'safety and control' …and that goes beyond the 'big answers' and is right where we all have to live with each other.

    My own family was pretty torn apart by Christian, specifically Catholic, fears of the spiritual, the LGBT, the *other.* And among those who remain more or less Catholic, going toward healing *those* relationships with the 'shaman in the family' wasn't about politics, dogma, or any of that stuff, it was about rebuilding some trust in *me* as a person, spirits or not. I pretty fondly remember one of those days when my father was around when someone I helped came along to thank me. Then he was like, 'So, this stuff is real. ' I was like, "Of course it's real, what do you think everyone was freaked out on in the first place? Da, it's *me.* Knowing that, what do you *think* I've been doing with it all these years?"

    I mean, that's the real stuff, there, anyway. About *people,* not books or definitions or whatever. Some doctrines will make everyone terrified, helpless, 'fallen,' deserving shame and condemnation about those very things, therefore angry and often hateful.. But *people* are actually can be pretty freakin' brave. …Noble, and stronger than they think. Yeah, with the spirits as well as the rest of the world, sometimes you need a doctor. Sometimes you need a cop. Sometimes you need a lot of things, but it's *about people.* Not these 'demons' Christian authorities want to blame for every darn thing and pronounce human helplessness against.

    Sometimes, what people need most is actually just the notion that 'help exists. ' That they *aren't* helpless. Whatever their denomination or framework for it.

    Sometimes, you actually *can* 'fight evil with the proverbial macaroni duck.*

    What you can't fight 'evil' with, is seeing and fearing *more* of it.

    So, there's the real question in the face of all this, 'How can we help, there, sportoes? :)