The Mask of Understanding and Concern

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 22, 2011 — 69 Comments

Earlier this month I noted the publication of a new book on Witchcraft that was used by a British columnist to toss rhetorical brickbats at modern Pagans. That book, “Wicca and Witchcraft: Understanding the Dangers”, subsequently got mentioned in various mainstream outlets and around the blogosphere. Yesterday, The Catholic Herald published an essay from the author, Elizabeth “Liz” Dodd, concerning her “Teen Witch” years and subsequent return to the Catholic fold. While Dodd says she was “hoping to diffuse” the “the persecution complex among Wiccans” and inform Catholics about the non-Satanic “realities of Wicca”, her narrative so closely follows the modern Pagan-to-Christian conversion story that it could have been written by a missional-minded committee.

“As a teenager, with only a limited amount of say in what I’d have for dinner, for example, the idea of unmitigated supernatural power, coupled with such a self-governed morality, was very appealing […] Finally, inevitably, about three years into my study of witchcraft – like any teenager who has ever played with a Ouija board – I became convinced I had communicated with a “spirit”?whom I had failed to banish. The accompanying sense of dread lasted for weeks. A Catholic schoolfriend wrote out the Hail Mary for me – I’d never heard it before – and suggested I say it when I felt spiritually threatened. I stopped practising witchcraft soon afterwards.”

Unlike old-school conversion narratives, where the Satanic heart of all non-Christian faiths are eventually revealed, often with lurid tales of sacrifices or massive spiritual battles, the new form of narrative portrays Wicca and other Pagan religions as largely benevolent yet flawed and lacking depth. They crumble like dust in the face of “true” Catholicism or Christianity. This newer narrative is found in recent works like “Generation Ex-Christian”, “UnChristian”“Generation Hex”“Wicca’s Charm”, and many, many, more. It is the new mask of understanding and concern that Western Christians have adopted once they realized that demonization was merely isolating them, and that modern Paganism was expanding and entering the mainstream despite their best efforts. Naturally, the tactics of demonization and conversion under various forms of duress persist outside the harsh glare of mainstream Western media attention.

Like all conversion stories of this type, as “nice” as they are to non-Christian faiths they ultimately are forced to construct a straw-man in order to fully discredit their previous choices. For Dodd, that means conveying outright falsehoods, though one can hardly tell if it is through bad source material or triumphalist malice.

“An innate respect for history, if not tradition, led to an uncomfortable awareness that the religion as I knew it had existed for little over 20 years […] the occult witchcraft I was studying was at core misogynistic. Crowley wrote some unpleasant things about women; in the works of Anton LaVey, the self-appointed Satanist and a friend of Crowley’s, I encountered rants about women’s intellectual inferiority.”

Even the most conservative anti-direct-lineage partisan would admit that the origins of Wicca stretched back to at least the late 1930s. As Ronald Hutton, Owen Davies, and other scholars have noted, modern Paganism’s beginnings aren’t  some cut-and-dried “Gardner made it up” or “Gardner stole it from Crowley” anecdote. That instead there were unique events, folk survivals, and cultural shifts that made the emergence (or reemergence) of modern Paganism possible. But such a complex narrative wouldn’t work well when trying to convince your readers of Catholicism’s superiority. As for Anton LaVey (interesting that she felt the need to insert a Satanist into her narrative), he was never “friends” with Aleister Crowley, who died in 1947 before LaVey ever read his works.

Dodd wants it both ways, she wants to be seen as the “real deal” when she talks about her time as a Witch, but her own biography is that of a seeker, a dabbler, who simply rebelled for a time against her childhood faith (later in the article she talks of a post-Pagan period where she was a “vegan Buddhist”). She tries to sound authoritative about Wicca, but has obviously not read deeply, or kept up to date on recent scholarship before penning her Catholic pamphlet. Her emphasis on spiritual danger is also typical of modern anti-Pagan narratives, one that I addressed several years ago when reviewing Catherine Edwards Sanders’ book “Wicca’s Charm”.

“Finally I feel I must address the “dangers” of the spirit world that Sanders brings up again and again in her book. She takes great pains to point out that every Wiccan she has talked to speaks of the dangers of working with the world of spirit if you are untrained or unprepared. She hammers home how our circle-castings and quarter-calls are done to “protect” us from a dangerous world beyond this plane. She doesn’t mention that many of these beliefs are part of the Christian heritage she feels we would cast away if we were “true” Pagans. Many of the ritualistic “protections” we have incorporated were written by Christian men with a Christian sense of fear of the world of spirit. The problems the inexperienced adept encounters when working with magick is the same problem that fervent Christian converts have when they ask a loving God to grant them the destruction of enemies or great material wealth. They experience an ego death when they realize these wishes will never be granted. You can call this the “three-fold law” or “God’s grace,” but the results are quite similar. Either the convert or the adept will grow up, or they will remain delusional and jump to the next spiritual path they feel will grant them their wishes.”

Dodd is wearing the mask of concern, but the fact that she felt the need to write this pamphlet shows her own spiritual immaturity. She notes that she continues to “struggle” with her faith, and seemingly clings to the idea that her faith is more “ecological, feminist, pacifist” than Wicca, for to believe otherwise might irreparably crack her insistence on Catholicism’s superiority. The “best” faiths, if we insist on talking in imaginary hierarchies of belief and tradition, feel no need to write pamphlets calling other faiths into question. Their excellence would shine through without the need of half-truths and omissions that cast opponents in a less favorable light. Having just spent a long weekend surrounded with some of the best individuals and groups my family of faiths have to offer, I can tell you that her failure to find depth or breadth was a personal one.

In the end, her work does us a favor I no longer wish to beg from the dominant monotheisms, the kindness of not calling us Satanic. As I said in my commentary on “Generation Hex”, refraining from calling us Satanic baby-killers is no longer enough. Realizing that the extremist slanders are false is a small first step, not the journey’s end. No doubt some, and perhaps Dodd herself, will consider this work a great leap forward, but I would rather all the masks fell away and we can truly estimate each other on the merits and deficits we truly possess.

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Pixie

    This is just one more example of a short-sighted seeker falling back into the fold. Catholicism is a perfect religion for someone like Elizabeth Dodd, a person who would rather fall into the familiar than forge a new understanding of any depth. I'd love to see real transparency so that an intelligent discussion could be had without the veil of secrecy – and that veil works both ways.

  • Pitch313

    As for Catholicism, I have puzzled over the observation that some, perhaps many, good-hearted and thoughtful folks uphold an alliegance to the Church despite their deeply-felt objections to the Church's doctrines and policies and processes.

    As for devaluing Paganism and Wicca because it is a "new" religious movement, well, back when, Christianity was "new," as well. If I were coming from a pro-Christian viewpoint, I would hesitate to undermine all those early Christians' adherence to that religion–and the value of that religion–because the Christian movement was "new."

    "New" religions and spiritualities may possess enduring and profound values and insights and life ways.

    • EricSchwenke

      Yes, but most Christians don't see their religion as ever having been a new religion. As far as they're concerned, they are Judaism reformed , the rightful successors to YHVH's pact with Abraham and the laws of Moses. but renewed/altered by the man they believe to have been the messiah.

    • Cathryn Bauer

      This is certainly a legitimate question. I am a former liberal Catholic and would like to try to shed some light here.

      What a lot of non-Catholics and perhaps even some Catholics do not realize is that this is a very big church that spans a variety of viewpoints. There are numerous niches, orders, and lay groups within it, and people practice this faith with varying levels of personal involvement and commitment. It is in my experience and observation fairly easy to find a niche that does satisfy you and to stay with it. And it is a fact that many Catholics flatly ignore some of the strictures — for example, birth control — and view others with a question mark. For example, quite a few Catholics will say that abortion is a terrible thing, but there might be a reason to have one. This type of matter-of-fact, everyday rebellion is so commonplace that among some Catholic populations, the strictures do not even exist in any real way.

      I believe this is particularly true if you are in a position to see that, in fact, a great deal of social good is done, more or less quietly, under the aegis of some form of Catholicism. I used to attend mass at a Catholic seminary/monastery in Oakland that employed new immigrants without asking questions about their citizenship status. The monastery was a safe place where they could earn a living and also receive a great deal of help with adjustment. The Catholic Workers, St. Vincent de Paul Society, and St. Anthony Foundation are just the best-known of the Catholic agencies that feed people, period, no questions asked. I volunteered at the St. Vincent dining room for a few years. And Catholic Social Services agencies provide a surprising amount of assistance in many areas; I have personal reason to be very grateful for their guidance when I was considerably younger.

      My point here is that if you are embedded in the Church, it's a complex picture. You may be in a situation where you see the good counterbalancing the utterly wrong and awful and decide you will be there supporting it through a dark time. That choice wasn't possible for me, but I do understand how someone else could come to it.

      Hope this helps.

  • http://www.hecatedemetersdatter.blogspot.com Hecate

    Jason,

    One of your best posts. I agree wholeheartedly that "just" refraining from calling us Satanists isn't enough. And I can only shake my head at the notion that Catholicism (the religion in which I was raised) is "more feminist" than Wicca.

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Thomas-Valdez/100000652494019 Thomas Valdez

    Just another dabbler, whom I bet within ten years either moves on to some other path or becomes the epitome of the crusading anti-pagan. The first rule of whatever path you are on is to STICK WITH IT. Any path will feature what Catholic thinker John of the Cross termed the dark night of the soul. Sad too that the author of this little tract could not scan the internet to get her facts straight, which would undermine her point for any earnest seeker, assuming of course she was not actively distorting the facts. I'm too polite to ponder that seriously, so again, I just think dabbler.

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com highway_hermit

    I think it's really important that as a community we stand up to people who would belittle our respective paths, but also that we confront and call-out those who would deliberately confuse us with others. Just as Elizabeth Dodd conveniently (or ignorantly) juxtaposes Wicca and Satanism (two totally different paths) – or just mashes up Wicca, Thelema, Satanism, and "the occult" to suit her purposes – I think it's also worthwhile confronting the people who do the same under the radar of the popular press. Most of us are familiar with the work of Jack Chick whose gospel tracts have "educated" generations to his vision of Christianity – his campaign washes everything outside of Christianity as being the one same body of Satanic thought. We all remember the shameful media uproar over Dr. Gonzales's Native blessing / invocation at the memorial in Tuscon, but I think it's really just indicative of a greater problem broadly present across the country: consider Jack Chick's 2010 tract "Crazy Wolf" in which Native traditions are combined with misconceptions of Hatian Voudoo, Satanic possession, trance meditation, werewolves, and supernatural warfare: http://www.chick.com/reading/tracts/1061/1061_01…. It's a sad situation and I wish I knew what more to do about it.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ALynnThomas Amanda Lynn Nielsen Thomas

    "A Catholic schoolfriend wrote out the Hail Mary for me – I’d never heard it before – and suggested I say it when I felt spiritually threatened. I stopped practising witchcraft soon afterwards.”

    So she used an incantation to the Christian version of a Goddess? And this made her stop her dabbling…I mean studies of Wicca? Sounds a great deal like magic to me, but I have always held that Christians do more magic then I do as a full Pagan

  • http://www.thehighwayhermit.com highway_hermit

    I've always thought it strange that Christians look down their noses at polytheists but have no problem believing in a triune God, a virgin goddess, (and for the Catholics) a whole host of magical saints.

  • Jennifer Parsons

    Ssh, Amanda! We don't want to confuse all those people who think that magic and witchcraft are practiced only by us dirt-worshipping-tree-hugger-hail-fellow-well-met Pagan types. ;-)

  • Aelwyn

    Wow, well I'm glad someone who read Silver Ravenwolf as a source of "Wicca", rather than being part of a lineaged coven, is able to have so much insight into the religion of Wicca. And considering she said that she used that book (that came out in August 2000) as her primer, and said "Wicca had only been around for 20 years", she's obviously uneducated.

    Gerald Gardner openly introduced Wicca as a religion in 1954, she must have been a teenager in 1974! But then, she was also a teenager in 2000. Does she time travel?

    It's disappointing that people like her "get out of" any alternative, esoteric or occult religion and joins a larger Christian one and then bashes her former religion (or dabbling) to make a name for herself.

    It's happened many times before, and will happy many times after.

  • Peg Aloi

    Excellent article, Jason! In our book on cinema and the occult my co-author and I are researching these contemporary "dangers of Wicca" books as an interesting backlash not unlike the one that followed the occult revivals of the 1960s-70s, and the 1990s. The discourse is becoming slightly more sophisticated, but also more watered down at the same time. Sadly, seemingly anyone who writes a book is eligible to be quoted as an expert on conceivably any topic. Better-informed media communicators and journalists are the answer; but can we hope for this to happen any faster than it has?

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Any feminist kind of Catholicism is likely to be an area of it at large with the people at top and Catholicism as a whole.

    I was shocked! Shocked, to find misogyny in anything written by a human being on the planet earth!

  • Beth Winegarner

    Great post. Thanks so much for checking out my blog (Backward Messages) and including my post in your roundup. On the one hand, Dodd is showing more respect for Wicca than most of these kinds of books do, and at the same time, she's showing the overt disrespect of saying it's a religion that people need to be converted away from. How about not having any such books at all anymore? Sheesh.

    Jason, have you ever read Harshbarger's "From Darkness Into Light?" It's about how he got into — and got out of — Satanism. You might find a lot to chew on in that one, too.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    You know, the Christian faiths are big enough to be a norm to fall back to with your tail between your legs when something doesn't work out. They have plenty of room for dabblers and people who don't go very far spiritually. I know people who aren't really all that Pagan annoy a lot of people, but not all of us can or want to reach that deep, and some of us will never have gods, but that doesn't make us atheists or anything. This used to be a thing of the masses, after all, with the really special things being exclusively for initiates, as I understand it.

    You know, you go from "I couldn't possibly come from these parents! I must really be an adopted prince!" to "Okay, these are my real parents, and nothing is going to change that," or you become an emancipated minor and disown them altogether. Or it's like how people are young and idealistic and then become cold and fixed when they get older, and then they look back on their hopeful phase as a thing of foolishness best not dealt with. "Yeah, that's from when I thought I was a witch."

    Or something. Either way, I'm not saying "Oh, no! We have to stop our dumb fringe people from leaving to keep our numbers up!" But I'm not sure what I am saying, either.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    More pacifist? *facepalm*

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

    In terms of the historical roots of modern Paganism, Dodd's "outright falsehoods" are different from those peddled by Ronald Hutton in Triumph of the Moon only in degree, not in kind.

  • Ursyl

    I'm confused. If she returned to Catholicism after her dabbling years in Wicca, that would mean she was raised Catholic, which would mean going to Mass, maybe even a school, but at least also to CCD (Catholic Sunday school) if she didn't attend a Catholic school.

    How could she possibly have gotten through a Catholic childhood without ever hearing or hearing of the "Hail Mary?"

  • bard08

    She expects people to believe that Catholicism is more liberating for women than Wicca or any other earth-based faith??! When was the last time a woman was ever appointed a leadership position in ANY book faith? Complete idiot.

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

    *head-desk*

    Apuleius, is it really necessary for you to make an insulting comment about Ronald Hutton every time his name is mentioned? Can't you just link to the last time, and spare the readers here the sense of being caught in an eternal rerun?

    Seriously–it's like hearing Marty Feldman repeating the name, "Blucher!" just to hear the horses panicking in Young Frankenstein.

    (Psst! Apuleius! Hutton!)

  • chuck_cosimano

    Well, this is probably the least of worries. Consider this. There are 2 billion Christians in the world, half Catholic, half everyone else. And for the most part they all have only one thing in common–they really don't like Pagans. If that elephant decides to stampede…

    It is a waste of time telling them how wrong they are. They do not need to listen, they have each other to listen to. The Pagan voice simply does not matter very much in the affairs of the world.

  • Robin Artisson

    Apuleius is completely correct about this. Why don't you ever question your unthinking and unquestioning devotion to Hutton?

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

    The "mask of understanding and concern" is actually quite central to Hutton's spiel.

    When someone like Dodd puts on that mask you can easily see the horns, so to speak, poking out from behind it. But Hutton manages to use the mask much more effectively.

    Oh, and Cat, is it really necessary for you to make personally insulting comments about me every time I criticize Ronald Hutton? Hmmm? It doesn't really do Ronnie any good if that's the best his fans can come up with.

  • http://argentwolfwing.blogspot.com/ argentwolfwing

    It seems to me (and after reading the quotes, I think people would agree) that Christianity is a way out. It's not really a faith, at least for most "followers," but more of a way to fit in. A way to comfortably not actually believe in anything. The fact that children are so deeply indoctrinated sort of precludes any objection they may have to it as thinking [theoretically] adults. I know that a lot of people come to a personal faith even after having Christianity shoved down your throat, but I feel like it's the exception, not the norm. Christianity is one of those things that people just say "hey, I'm Christian" without actually thinking about it or knowing what it means.

  • Crystal7431

    I don't think most Pagans feel the need to keep our numbers up. That's a monotheist thing. It's the reason books like these are written. They feel threatened even though we're not really doing much of anything to gain numbers. We don't proselytize. It just happens. We have what some people are looking for, others not so much. Paganism isn't easy and some people want easy. It's not something you do one day a week, or somewhere you go and everything's prepared for you where all you have to do is plop into a seat. And that's fine. But they should recognize this and not criticize us simply because they were too lazy to dig a little deeper. Or they should just admit to themselves that they were never very serious about it in the first place, that it was a phase in an effort to be cool and rebellious and move on.

  • Robin Artisson

    I was thinking the exact same thing.

  • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

    I have to wonder the same. The Hail Mary prayer is just, if not /as/, important as the Our Father. Anyone who has even watched a few movies with a heavy dose of Catholicism involved knows penance usually includes five Our Fathers and 10 Hail Marys. ;)

    "Father, I ran over a toddler while drunk and drove off, had sex with my wife's sister, dosed my boss's coffee with Visine and used the F word at least a dozen times in the past week."

    "Are you truly repentant, my son?"

    "Yes, Father."

    "So be it. Five Our Fathers and ten Hail Marys."

    "Thanks, Father! See you in church tomorrow!"

    ;D I'm terrible. Terrible, I say!

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    The Hail Mary is not prayed as part of the liturgy. A Roman Catholic could go to mass every single Sunday in her/his life and never pray the Hail Mary. It is traditionally part of non-liturgical devotions such as the rosary.

    What's more, there are a significant number of Catholics who only show up at church for baptisms, weddings, and funerals, and an even larger number that show up for those rites of passage plus Christmas and Easter. Not all Catholic kids go to CCD. Not all Catholic kids go to confession. Not all Catholic kids go to mass. Not all Catholic kids pray the rosary.* Not all Catholic kids have the same experience.

    While it seems unlikely that she would never have heard of the Hail Mary, she might not have heard the prayer itself, which is what she claims.

    * Heck, all three of my parents were readers and/or Eucharistic ministers, my father was on the finance committee of the parish, we went to Catholic school–and we didn't pray the rosary. I didn't own a rosary until my brother made me one as a gift during his novitiate as a Jesuit. He sent me instructions with it, since he knew it wasn't part of our upbringing.

  • http://kallisti.writingkaye.com Kayleigh

    I knew some feminist Catholics in college, and they were really nice, open-minded people. However, when the financial crisis hit and the school decided to get rid of the chaplains, they revolted. Apparently their only alternative was to visit the local Catholic church, which did not approve of the college women's feminism or pro-choice leanings … and none of them wanted to go. Catholic feminism is really only doable on the outskirts where you've made a safe space for dissent.

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

    *laughing out loud*

    Oh, Robin, you are a treasure! I was just sharing my comment with my husband, who is also a huge Young Frankenstein fan.

    "Of course, " I said, "I'll probably come back later to discover that Robin had to add a comment slamming me in some way."

    Your timing, my friend, your timing! Sheer comedic genius!

  • Daniel

    Churchianity, the greatest ponzi scheme on earth. Wallstreet worship. I will admit, however, some Church's do very well with their charitable work. That is, charity that places an emphasis on "need, not creed." And there are many who work behind the scenes, so to speak, doing genuine good works with the utmost of sincerity. The hierarchies, however, need to be gutted for the most atrocious of deeds.

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

    Good distinction–polite (particularly publicly) to individuals does not translate into respect for a religion. And it sure doesn't sound like she'd have a very impressive bibliography, either.

  • jadelynkaia

    Goodness. I think my head just exploded from the irony. A convert/re-convert to effing CATHOLICISM, cites MISOGYNY in the Pagan world as one of her reasons? Talk about out of the frying pan and into the fire…

  • http://witcheryofone.libsyn.com/ Jay O'Skully

    Thanks for this Jason.

    You know, I think that maybe Dodd is suffering from "Convert blindness"…it's this glorious state where you bask in the glory of the older, the bigger, the more polished, the more "thought-out". What a relief it is to have all of the answers laid out for you, how wonderful to have your morality chiseled in to stone, how wonderful to have that stone be part of some greater stone edifice built for the "glory of God."

    How do you convince someone like her that she has missed the mark (which is actually what sin means)? The wee witch who seeks understanding in the dirt may come to learn that the greatest stones, given time, will pass through your fingers like so many grains of sand.

    My religion is compassion. Wicca helped me realize this. Wicca did not provide a cut and dried morality. It gave pointers that have been far more helpful to me than any catachism.

  • Malaz

    "There are 2 billion Christians in the world…"

    Consider this…the number…is dropping. :)

  • http://nihhus.jimdo.com/ Malaz

    Something for all concerned:

    "The great defense against an air menace is to attack the aircraft as near as possible to the point of departure."
    Churchill

  • Crystal7431

    It seems like he could be sued for defamation.

  • Crystal7431

    She obviously doesn't know about the whole birth control thing.

  • http://ianphanes.livejournal.com/ Ian Phanes

    The Presiding Bishop of The Episcopal Church in the United States is Katharine Jefferts Schori.

    Let me make that more specific for you: One of the oldest and most traditional mainline Protestant Christian denominations in the United States has not only permitted women to be ordained to all three orders of ministry (deacon, priest, and bishop), but has elected a woman to the highest office in the church. She is a primate within the Anglican Communion, making her a peer in all things but seniority with the Archbishop of Canterbury himself.

    While this certainly does not apply to the Roman Church, you generalized to "ANY book faith." You were wrong to do so.

  • Crystal7431

    And about as spiritual as a country club…

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

    And this is one reason why it is a practical necessity for Pagans to very firmly and consciously break with Christianity. The Jesus cult is so psychological pervasive in modern society that one cannot fudge on this. In fact, it is not enough to just renounce Christianity and be a "none of the above." One must make a serious choice to embrace some other form of religiosity, and do this explicitly as a rejection of Christianity. Otherwise, one has not really freed oneself from the slave mentality of the creed-making fishermen. There's no hedging on this bet.

  • kenneth

    It's an absurdly inflated number to start with. It's a count of everyone who ever had water splashed on them ie almost everyone born in the Western Hemisphere, Europe, etc. The Catholic Church claims 1.3 billion. That's absurd. If we were to count the number who actually practice and believe in substantial communion with Rome, the real number is closer to one third of that, at best. It's also an absurd number because there is no possibility of being an "ex-Catholic" in the church's eyes. One in 10 Americans is a former Catholic, including many pagans. Guess what? We're all still counted in that 1.3 billion figure, as are the tens of millions more who only go to church for weddings and funerals.

  • Crystal7431

    I think so many Pagans find it hard to believe because most of us know it, mainly because it's the only part of Catholicism that appeals to any of us. Heck, I have a Pagan friend who prays the rosary and carries a set with him, but ihis rosary has been adjusted so that it has a goddess symbol at the end instead of a crucifix.

  • Pagan Puff Pieces

    Well, that explains my skepticism of that claim: I went to Jesuit school. I could probably still recite it in Latin, if you want.

    To echo the "incantation" comment earlier in the thread: She was inspired by a non-liturgical incantation to Mary muttered by people in the pews of church because, back in the day, they couldn't understand what was going on during mass, anyway, and they had to get their prayer on somehow.

  • Robin Artisson

    I've been to many masses. Many. 18 years worth. We said the Hail Mary in nearly every mass.

  • RedBeardedWierdo

    “It seems to me (and after reading the quotes, I think people would agree) that Christianity is a way out. It’s not really a faith, at least for most “followers,” but more of a way to fit in. ” –argentwolfwing

    I agree with this notion. The impression I used to get sitting in church was strongly that the people around me were just there putting in time trying to fit in.

  • Crystal7431

    No worries : )

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Crystal, this whole flap isn't about us. It's about them. They used to control the known world, and it's been going downhill for the last few centuries. In the present time frame their butts-in-the-pews numbers are slipping, more people are afraid of Osama bin Laden than Benedict XVI, secularists are gradually recapturing the United States from obtrusive religion, abortion is still legal, gays and lesbians are getting equal rights (and, gradually, rites), women are demanding ordination, et cetera. They need a boogeyman, and we're it.

    Ultimately they're right, you know. We *are* dangerous. We tell people to think for themselves about religion.

  • Nick_Ritter

    "One in 10 Americans is a former Catholic, including many pagans."

    Quite so. I'm a former Catholic, myself, so I'm probably counted among the 1.3 billion.

  • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    While I realize that I am in the minority here never having been Christian (or anything else), I really don't understand the fascination so many Pagans have with it, and why they spend so much time and energy on something that they obviously don't like and don't care for (except, obviously, for the fact that they care for it a lot, in that they care for it to go away). But really, why is anyone's relationship with their deities any of your (generic your) business?

  • Bogomil

    It's worth remembering that a great deal of post-Christian ideology in the West is really Christianity with God removed, and that even those who think they are not infected with Christian ideas because they were not raised religiously or something often have internalized a great deal of Christian ideology and often live with ethics and values that are more Christian than not.

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

    Christians have spent the last 2000 years doing their best to wipe out all other religions. For the last 1400 they have had the assistance of the Muslims, and for the last 100 years they have had the additional assistance of the Communists.

    Together, Christians, Muslims and Communists have made stunning progress in their world-wide ideological clear-cutting campaign. This process has accelerated greatly over the last 500 years, and even more so just in the last century. The point being, this is not ancient history. You obviously don't give a rodent's buttocks, Eran, so why not just keep your lack of empathy to yourself?

  • http://xkcd.com/285 Eran Rathan

    Apparently touched a nerve, eh?

    As a matter of fact, yes, I have studied history, and I am well aware of Christianity's track record, both past and current, and the various issues that Islam and both Soviet and Maoist Socialism (considering that neither is/was actually Communism) has in regards to other faiths, viewpoints, etc, in trying to silence anyone with a different opinion (Sound familiar?).

    My point, since you apparently don't get it, is why do so many people spend so much time and energy on something they dislike? Why not use that energy on constructive activities?

    "It matters not if my neighbor claims there are twenty Gods or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg." – Jefferson

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    But Christianity does "pick our pocket and break our leg" in that parts of it are subtly — and sometimes not so subtly — enforced as norms in our society. One flagrant, current example is the treatment of the Maetreum of Cybelle by the taxing authorities of the town of Catskill NY. All of the reasons for denying tax exemption to the Maetreum fall apart when one examines other, Christian exempted properties in the town. As long as this kind of situation exists — and, in fact, it abounds — we either have no care at all for the fate of fellow Pagans or are bound to rally to their side against the incursions of Christianity.

    Apuleius is more concerned with the history and atmospherics of this conflict and is consequently more extreme (and rather repetitious and often rude) but at bottom he is correct. We have enemies and they are active right now, as we speak (um, write). If we have any care for our fate we must be concerned.

  • Bogomil

    Because, in fact, followers of Christianity and other post-Christian ideologies actually do pick people's pockets and break their legs. Constantly.

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

    Eran: "Apparently touched a nerve, eh? "

    Um, I responded to your comment (which was in response to a comment of mine). Are you suggesting that there is something remarkable about the fact that someone bothered to respond to your drivel? You may actually have a point there.

    Eran: "why do so many people spend so much time and energy on something they dislike?"

    Why not take your own advice then? Since you don't seem to get it, that would mean not responding to people who are saying things you don't like. My bet is you still won't get it.

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

    I am rarely rude, but when I am it is quite intentional. And if I am "repetitious" then that is only a reflection of topics that come up frequently in Jason's posts.

  • Cathryn Bauer

    I see this type of writing as a call for attention within a particular community, a way of becoming a superstar. The more lurid and dramatic the pre-conversion belief and behavior, the more redeemed the author (speaker, blogger, etc.) is. I haven't read her book, but I do trust what I read here, and it certainly sounds as if what this young woman is after is attention. When she didn't get what she wanted by her misinformed, superficial dabblings, she used them post-conversion to get the admiration she craved. I'm afraid my first reaction to this story was, "Good riddance. Let the Christians have her."

  • Robin Artisson

    Thank the Gods someone else sees this…

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    So what? The First Principle of Unitarian Universalism is respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. That is easily traced back to Universalism, a Christian heresy. Does this mean that Pagans should *not* respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person?

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Dear me, it seems Eran isn't the only one touching nerves today. And I was, in fact, defending you. albeit with faint praise.

    You trot out your declaration that Christianity delenda est more frequently than necessary. Really, we heard you the first time.

  • http://military.pagannewswirecollective.com Lori Dake

    Yup, me too. I've never been exposed to someone raised Catholic who doesn't know it forewards and backwards. Those nuns drill it in your head, I tell ya!

  • Bogomil

    I don't know that I believe every person has inherent worth and dignity. Some people make choices such that they make themselves worthless. I refuse to respect them and I base my refusal on what I believe to be good pagan reasons. However, a pagan may disagree with me, and if they do I won't begrudge them their paganism so long as they disagree for their own good pagan reasons, not just because this kind of sentiment, grounded in Christian heresy as you say, is popular today and questioning it would be socially unacceptable and cause some discomfort.

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

    "The First Principle of Unitarian Universalism is respect for the inherent worth and dignity of every person. That is easily traced back to Universalism, a Christian heresy. Does this mean that Pagans should *not* respect the inherent worth and dignity of every person?"

    Um, Pagans and Jews both had versions of this so-called "first principle" before there was any such thing as "christians", let alone "christian heretics". So there is no reason to avoid it, because it is not a christian idea at all. Certainly christians have never in their history acted as if it were.

    It quite easy to divide christian ideas into two categories: (1) stuff christians borrowed from others, (2) stuff that is unique to christianity. Everything in category 1 can be referred back to wherever the christians got it originally and judged on its merits, and if one has the time and inclination, one can also look at any changes made to the "original" by the christians and make some judgement on those changes. Everything in category 2 can also, and quite easily, be judged on its merits.

    Bogomil's point, however, was not that there is some such thing as jesus-cooties, and that anything in any way associated with christianity must be avoided therefore. Rather, the point was that if you do not want to influenced by christian ideology, you have to do more than simply disbelieve in their "god".

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Following the First Principle is not done because of its Christian history but for its own sake. I take it you are not rejecting it because of that history but because you don't agree with it.

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

    The "oh, don't be so sensitive" routine is textbook passive aggressive malarky. This goes double when you lamely claim that the criticism was actually some form of praise for which the other person should be grateful. I'm telling you this because I want to help you.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I'm not trying to help you and I'm not pressing you to be less sensitive. I'm being funny, evidently below your humor threshold. (You wouldn't be you if you were less sensitive.)

    And I did praise you, or rather your position, just a milder version of it.

  • Aron Gamman

    I find this sad and embarassing particularly as someone who's made a subtle shift from calling myself a Jewish-Pagan to an earth-based Jew over the last few years. Some of us still identify closely to what one might call magical or Pagan ideas, even if we're shifted in one direction or another. I just hope articles like this don't make Pagans more suspicious of us, even I I still see myself as a Pagan ally and why I read blogs like this regularly.

  • Bogomil

    Right. My disagreement is with the principle, not its origin. However, a lot of what people accept and act on they do in a rather unconscious manner. Personally, I think that Christianity (and not only Christianity, but its the most important of these sorts of traditions in the West, which happens to be where I live) is not just another tradition but is a particularly unhealthy one, and that what makes it unhealthy is not merely some accident of how the institutionalized Church happened to develop, with all its inquisitions, crusades, pedophilia, insane guilt complexes among its worshipers, and so forth, but is inherent to its beliefs about the nature of man, the nature of the divine, and their relation to each other, and thus I think it is dangerous when Pagans retain, whether consciously, or, as is most often the case, unconsciously, these, in my opinion, dangerous views.