Sabina Magliocco: Pagan Fundamentalism?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  February 9, 2013 — 282 Comments

[The following is a guest post from Sabina Magliocco. Sabina Magliocco Ph.D. is professor of Anthropology and Folklore at California State University, Northridge (CSUN). She is an author of non-fiction books and journal articles about folklore, religion, religious festivals, foodways, Witchcraft and Paganism in Europe and the United States. A recipient of fellowships from the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation, National Endowment for the Humanities, Fulbright Program and Hewlett Foundation, Magliocco is an honorary fellow of the American Folklore Society.]

I am very grateful to Jason Pitzl-Waters for making this blog available to me to expand upon Prof. Patrick Wolff’s summary of my keynote presentation, entitled “The Rise of Pagan Fundamentalism,” at the Conference for Contemporary Pagan Studies at the Claremont Graduate Institute in Claremont, California on January 26, 2013.  It’s exciting that people have been discussing some of the ideas I presented, because that was exactly my goal: open discussion and critical self-reflection are healthy in any religious movement, and can help prevent the kind of rigidity and dogmatism that I critiqued in my talk.  At the same time, certain questions have been raised about my work, and I hope that I can address some of them here.

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Sabina Magliocco at the Conference on Current Pagan Studies. (Photo: Tony Mierzwicki)

Let’s start with the first one: what did I mean by “Pagan fundamentalism,” and how can a concept that developed to describe a Protestant movement based on literal biblical interpretations and tenets of faith even apply to modern Paganisms?  The application of the term “fundamentalism” to modern Paganisms is problematic, and I adopt it with some caution, because I’m well aware that it has often been used by those in power to stigmatize worldviews that differ from the mainstream.  I defined it as a form of ideology, religious or secular, characterized by a black-and-white, either-or, us-vs.-them morality that precludes questioning.  It generally involves insistence on belief in the literal truth of some canon, as well as a concern with identity politics and boundary-setting.  Fundamentalisms are inflexible and have difficulty adapting; they have a strong need for certainty and a clear sense of belonging, and anyone who disagrees is labeled an enemy or heretic.  My adoption of the term was both descriptive and provocative: I wanted to foster awareness and discussion about strains of ideology that could be deleterious to modern Paganisms.

So, are modern Paganisms fundamentalist according to this definition?  On the whole, no.  Dogmatism and rigidity are rare among most modern Pagans.  Nevertheless, there have been some discussions, mainly on Pagan Internet blogs and responses to them, which show some of the characteristics of fundamentalism, particularly an insistence on a single correct form of belief, and the demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions.  These have centered around two hot-button topics: the historicity of Wiccan foundational narratives, and the nature of the gods.

Is any form of belief fundamentalist?  Of course not.  Belief only courts fundamentalism when it becomes dogmatic, when we say “it’s my way or the highway,” when we attribute malice and ill intent to those whose beliefs differ from ours.   Ironically, those very sentiments were expressed towards me by a few respondents to Patrick’s post last week, confirming my hypothesis that there is a trend towards fundamentalism among a small number of Pagans.

Are Paganisms becoming more focused on belief? What’s interesting to me as an anthropologist of religion, an observer and participant in the Pagan movement for the last 20 years, is the shift I’ve seen towards an emphasis on belief, whether in the historicity of our foundational narratives, or the reality of the gods.  Twenty years ago, Pagans were insisting that Paganism was not about belief at all; it was about practice.  This appears to be part of an evolution, a dynamic change in the nature of modern Pagan religions, and perhaps part of the trajectory of religious development in general.  And no doubt the fact that we’re surrounded by a Christo-centric mainstream culture in which faith is considered the touchstone of membership influences the way some individuals and groups in our movement think about belief.

But there are a few reasons why we might want to be cautious about using belief as a criterion for defining ourselves.  The first is that belief is emergent, shifting and contextual.  It can change over the lifetime of an individual, and it is quite diverse within any community; even traditional indigenous communities have believers, skeptics and those who are in between.

Secondly, in many cases, belief is dependent on experience.  Many Pagans come to this group of religions as a result of having experiences that lead them to question the nature of reality and the teachings of mainstream science and religion.  Among the individuals I have interviewed, they run the gamut from feelings of unity with the world around them – a blurring of boundaries or feeling that everything was interconnected and part of a larger whole – to personal visions of goddesses and gods who had specific messages to convey.  I spoke with people who felt connected to animal and plant spirits, who connected with places in the natural world, as well as those who struggled to feel any sort of “woo,” but shared the values and aesthetics of modern Pagans.  Each of these individuals developed their own style of practice and belief as a result of their experiences.

What this shows us is that belief cannot be compelled.  If we accept a universe in which the gods and spirits are real, we can say that they choose to reveal themselves differently to different people.  If we prefer a more materialist interpretation, we can say that humans are uniquely adapted to have the kind of spiritual experience that is most helpful and meaningful to them, and that partakes of both their larger religious/cultural milieu and their personal experiences and memories.  Some people have a greater capacity to perceive spirits – or to have these experiences – than others.  It is therefore not helpful, useful or even fair to make belief a touchstone of religious or community membership.

Some Pagans feel that pointing out the difference between our foundational narratives and historical facts de-legitimizes the movement.  But the factuality of foundational narratives has no relationship to the legitimacy of a religion, nor does it make the spiritual experiences of its practitioners less real or authentic.  What seems to matter much more than the veracity of foundational narratives is their ability to capture the imagination of practitioners; that spark can lead to spiritual enlightenment.  There are better ways of constructing legitimacy than relying on foundational narratives: we can make reference to our now respectable age, our prominent public presence, the important contributions of our members to intellectual and theological exchanges, the depth of our religious experiences, the beauty of our expressive culture, and the influence of our core values of social justice, gender equality, and environmental sustainability on the future of our society and the world in which we live.

So is there no relationship between ancient and modern Paganisms?  No, and no reputable scholar has ever said that.  There are very clear links between ancient and modern Paganisms, but they are not the ones laid out in the foundational narratives.  The links can be found in folk customs, in the Western tradition of magic and esotericism, and in art, literature and philosophy.  Even if the people executed during the witchcraft persecutions were not the practitioners of a fertility religion going back to the age of the Venus of Willendorf, the threads of our modern practices can be traced back at least as far as Classical antiquity.  However, that transmission was not always direct or unchanging; all traditions are constantly adapting to their surrounding historical and social contexts.

I hope this clarifies some of the ideas I expressed in my paper; a fuller version will, I hope, be published in the near future in a way that makes it accessible online to the public.  I invite thoughtful discussion and debate on these issues that deeply affect our community.

Finally, I want to counter some of the malicious and untrue rumors about me that are being spread on the Internet by a few detractors: for example, that I am an infiltrator sent by an outside organization to destroy Paganism from within. These falsehoods impugn my integrity as a scholar and could threaten my ability to continue to work with the Pagan community.

As an anthropologist, I am bound by a code of ethics which demands that I put the good of the communities I work with before anything else, including my research program and professional advancement.  Research I do with human subjects must be approved by university Internal Review Boards, and peer review committees must approve any grants I get. My published work is likewise reviewed anonymously by my colleagues. Of course, no scholar can ever be completely objective, but at least I state my biases up front and publish material under my own name, instead of hiding behind an alias.  If anything, some professional peers have criticized me for portraying modern Paganisms in too favorable a light.

I have been studying modern Paganisms for twenty years now, and have been an active member of the community since 1996.  I lead an eclectic coven in the Los Angeles area, and am a member-at-large of a Gardnerian one in the San Francisco Bay Area.  I am a member of Covenant of the Goddess and hold ministerial credentials through them. While I may be critical of certain aspects of the movement, my criticisms are based on data, and I make them because I want to see the Pagan community live up to its promise and be taken seriously as a group of religions – not out of a desire to de-legitimize or destroy them.

I have worked with news media, law enforcement and other mainstream institutions to explain modern Paganisms, always emphasizing their positive qualities as creative, life-affirming religions. My books, articles and films have introduced countless academics, college students, and interested lay readers to Paganism, both in the US and beyond.  I donate 100% of my royalties from those books to Pagan causes.  I have dedicated my life and academic career to creating bridges between scholarship and modern Paganisms, bringing the results of my research back to the community for comment and critique, including at conferences and events such as the one that led me to make this blog posting. If I really wanted to destroy the movement from within, you’d think I’d find better ways of doing it that involved less of my time, energy and money – and surely it would have taken me less than twenty years to inflict the damage.  From my perspective, Paganism is emerging as a significant player on the global religious stage – larger, stronger and healthier than it was two decades ago.  I hope it continues in that direction, because it has a great deal to offer in terms of values and ideals that support a humane and sustainable future.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “our core values of social justice, gender equality, and environmental sustainability”

    Would you not describe those as the fundamentals of the vision of Paganism you have?

    I am not saying that I disagree with any of those values, merely that I don’t see them as ‘core’ to what Paganism is.

    For me, the core of Paganism will always be the acknowledgement of the gods, regardless of their nature (either as aspects of a greater supreme being, individual entities in their own right or archetypes of the collective subconscious.)

    I don’t see that dogmatism is a negative trait. It only becomes negative when you refuse to accept another stance as possible.

    If, for example, I were to hold a group ritual dedicated to Óðinn, I would want all members of the ritual to be directing their energies to the same Óðinn.

    • WitchDoctorJoe

      “Would you not describe those as the fundamentals of the vision of Paganism you have?”

      Based on her statement and context, I would assume those core values are fundamentals of *her* vision of Paganism. But *she* is not being a fundamentalist.

      To hold a group ritual for Odin and to require attendees to direct their energies at the *same Odin* is generally an axiomatic concept among Pagans.

      But to say that *your Odin* is the one, true and only Odin; and that all other beliefs and practices are wrong, false or in someway inherently flawed or invalid, *this is the fundamentalism Sabina is talking about.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I never disagreed with what fundamentalism she was talking about. I was merely noting the usage of the word ‘our’ rather than ‘my’.

        As to the axiomatic concept, with the idea that the practice is more important that the belief, I was unsure as to whether that extended to rituals dedicated to a specific god.

    • “our core values of social justice, gender equality, and environmental sustainability”

      Would you not describe those as the fundamentals of the vision of Paganism you have?

      I am not saying that I disagree with any of those values, merely that I don’t see them as ‘core’ to what Paganism is.

      For me, the core of Paganism will always be the acknowledgement of the gods, regardless of their nature (either as aspects of a greater supreme being, individual entities in their own right or archetypes of the collective subconscious.)

      You know, I used to agree with that until I had an epiphany some time in this last year: Paganism is not about religion. It’s loosely associated with certain religions, but it’s not about religion, it has never been a religious movement. The reintroduction of the word into common English usage was a critique of Byron and Shelley –two men who were ostensibly atheists. Later in the 19th Century, it was self-applied by the back-to-nature movement, of whom most were ostensibly Christian. It’s been a pejorative synonym for “primitive” and it’s been applied to religions so diverse that most have practically nothing in common.

      “Paganism” is a social movement, pure and simple. It’s not about religion. Sure, the nature of the movement’s current face means people are generally free to celebrate their religions openly, but if paganism was ever about religion, it wouldn’t describe itself with a term that’s basically descended of the Latin equivalent of “ignorant hillbilly”, it would associate itself with a single religion or group of religions that are actually related and / or similar.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I see exactly where you are coming from and, I think, you are most likely right.

        In the latter parts of the 20th century and into the beginning of the 21st century, I do feel that ‘Paganism’ was used as a term to describe/pigeonhole a group of religions. However, I have to agree that, nowadays, it has moved past that.

        And, in all likelihood, moved past me, as well.

  • Needless to say, let’s keep all comments civil. One can disagree with a viewpoint without name-calling or personal attacks.

  • Adon

    This is very disturbing; describing people who believe in the gods as fundamentalists opens the way for all kinds of abuse and exclusion. The next thing is a piece describing how these fundamentalists lack basic human qualities like rationality and compassion, and you’re set for a new kind of witch hunts.

    It’s really disappointing to read such piece.

    Oh, and i’m what you would describe a fundamentalist 🙂

    • Except that she doesn’t describe people who believe in the gods as fundamentalists. She says, quote, “Is any form of belief fundamentalist? Of course not. Belief only courts fundamentalism when it becomes dogmatic, when we say “it’s my way or the highway,” when we attribute malice and ill intent to those whose beliefs differ from ours.”

      • Adon

        Yep I read that, except that she cites more than once that the literal belief in the gods is some sort of gateway to it, along with thinking that ancient paganism has something to do with modern paganism.
        My problem is that these words are very dangerous to throw around, especially if we’re talking to each other, and the nuances in the text fade away with time and become reduced to single simplified phrases like the one i wrote.
        Having a critical eye for dangerous trends is a must for paganism, but in my humble opinion I don’t think that starting to categorize people is a good start.

        • WitchDoctorJoe

          “My problem is that these words are very dangerous to throw around”

          I strongly agree. However Sabina is clearly not haphazardly casting out the term. She has made an obvious effort to defined the term and the context in which she identifies it.

          “Having a critical eye for dangerous trends is a must for paganism, but
          in my humble opinion I don’t think that starting to categorize people is
          a good start.”

          Again, I agree to the necessity of a critical eye for dangerous trends, and categorizing people can be a slippery slope. But She doesn’t seem to be categorizing people, she’s identifying a preexisting category of beliefs (which are not axiomatically conducive to Paganism and could be considered a dangerous tend).

          The *title* is Pagan Fundamentalism, *-ism* not *-ists*

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Would you agree that there is a difference between dogmatism and fundamentalism (as described by Magliocco above)?

            After all, it is easy enough to be dogmatic about ones own beliefs whilst still being accepting of other beliefs outside your own.

          • Adon

            Yeah i would, and I don’t have a problem with both. Yet, when the meme of “you’re a fundamentalist” spreads among us, how much do you think people will notice these mindful distinctions?

          • Adon

            I agree, but again the nuances that she made in the texts will be blurred when people use these ideas to understand the pagan spectrum, this is the dangerous part.
            And since she doesn’t specify who she’s talking about, and since there are no fundamentalist groups on which all the criteria that she mentioned can be applied to, what she presented here can be used to paint a significant percentage of pagans.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          I don’t see anything of this gateway logic in her words. May I suggest that your sensitivity on this topic belongs to you?

          • WitchDoctorJoe

            I agree with Baruch. If she was specifying or pointing fingers that would be accusatory, and in a sense, categorizing people which Adon previously stated wasn’t a good start.

            So which should she have done?

      • Like Prof. Mogliocco, I have a PhD in Folklore. For the last two years, I have been working on an ethnographhy project about pagans who identify as “hard” or “devotional” polytheists, so I am keen to explore Prof. Mogliocco’s thinking on this topic. However, as regards her concern over the shift from practice to belief, I must add: belief precedes practice. many of the polytheists I interviewed have a strikingly different way of relating to, and ritual practice about, the Gods because of their beliefs about the nature of the Gods. Many of them actually experienced hostility towards their views from other pagans who tended towards a more vague and archetypal view of the Gods. The practices are also diverging here, and she isn’t taking that into account. Nor does she seem to realize that pagan fundamentalism can just as easily come from a traditional Wiccan coven as from a “hard” polytheist group.

        • Wendy Griffin

          But research in the social sciences demonstrates that belief doesn’t always precede practice. Frequently, in fact, we do something and then look around for a reason to explain why we did it. Then, we believe the reason.

        • harmonyfb

          Nor does she seem to realize that pagan fundamentalism can just as
          easily come from a traditional Wiccan coven as from a “hard” polytheist

          I didn’t get that from her commentary at all. ::shrug::

          For the last two years, I have been working on an ethnographhy project about pagans who identify as “hard” or “devotional” polytheists

          Would you mind elaborating on your research a bit? 🙂

          Personally, I find the demarcation between “soft” and “hard” polytheism to be…well, kind of useless. I believe that there are many Gods, and they are distinct individuals…but not all of them. The more I’ve worshiped, the more I’ve concluded that many disparate deities are really the same deity, albeit described and worshiped by different cultural groups (Yemaya/Aphrodite/Isis, for example). I worship in the Wiccan model (the Divine Couple, typified for me by Aphrodite and Hermes), but maintain a strong ancestral devotion and spend a large amount of time with the land-spirits around my home (they receive offerings much more often than the Gods, as a matter of fact). So what kind of polytheist am I? ::shrug::

          In the end, I don’t think it really matters, since I believe that my understanding of the Gods is imperfect. My mind assigns Divine natures a shape, but I’m not egotistical enough to believe that the shape I give Them is their true divine essence. If you see the Gods as less-distinct or more-distinct, so what?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Her stand is less about the belief about the gods and more about the beliefs about belief.

    • That’s not what the post says. This is what it says: “Is any form of belief fundamentalist? Of course not. Belief only courts fundamentalism when it becomes dogmatic, when we say ‘it’s my way or the highway,’ when we attribute malice and ill intent to those whose beliefs differ from ours.”

  • Judia

    I think much of what she says is true. Paganism has been spiraling into a world of violence and one-right-way thinking.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Nothing wrong with violence in itself. It is the motive and outcome that can be problematic.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      I’m not sure what your reference to violence is about. Inter-Pagan violence? I haven’t heard of any.
      Paganism can’t “spiral” into one-right-way thinking, as though it were something new, because it’s not a new phenomenon. I became Pagan rather abruptly in 1987 and, in reaching out for moorings, promptly met people (among many others) who felt they had a lock on the only right way to do it. It’s been around at least that long.

      • there was of course in the Roman Empire e.g. the persecution of Druids in Britannia and the persecution of the Bacchanalia in Italy starting 186 BCE which resulted in thousands of executions … but especially in the first case, the reasons were definitely political

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I am thinking people were talking slightly more contemporary…

    • “Paganism has been spiraling into a world of violence and one-right-way thinking”

      Just tonight, I was totally watching a news report on that recent attack by Pagan fundamentalists that killed all of those people….. oh wait, sorry I must be confusing Pagans with the actual religions that produce violent fundamentalists.

      • thehouseofvines

        That’s the crux of the issue, now isn’t it?

        Until there’s actual physical violence I don’t think this is warranted. Because clearly calling someone a fundamentalist isn’t intended to suggest that they hold strongly to beliefs – it’s to tar and feather them, damn them by association with jihadis and clinic bombers. And using unkind language isn’t enough, as far as I’m concerned. Too subjective. When a humanist pagan says my gods don’t exist I consider that insulting.

        • JoeMax

          Like a when fundamentalist Protestant says that the veneration of Mary is heretical, a Marion Catholic considers that insulting.

          And the religiously insulted exchange escalating insults, and in many historical cases, end up killing each other. I believe this is what Sabina is warning against. Being insulted when anyone questions one’s beliefs is a symptom of a fundamentalist mind-set, i.e. “How *dare* you question my faith?”

          • In other words, her whole argument is a slippery slope fallacy?

          • thehouseofvines

            Except that you’re missing the pretty significant point that most people who hold fundamentalist views don’t actually respond violently or escalate when insulted. It’s called self control and actually having a life. Just because a few nutjobs go off the handle at the slightest provocation doesn’t mean it’s fair for you to damn everyone else by association. Frankly, that says more about YOU than it does the fundamentalist mindset. Yes, I get insulted when some atheist spouts off. I shrug, write them off as a worthless human being undeserving of my time and attention and then go on with my life. No one has an innate right not be offended. If you don’t want to be offended, don’t associate with people. Simple as that. Needless to say, I don’t associate with most people.

    • Northern_Light_27

      I really need to see the receipts on this one, please. Cite examples of this “violence”.

    • Kilmrnock

      What? ,where did this comment come from ? explain this please , i’d like to hear the reasoning behind this one

  • Kalina Jones

    I enjoyed Magliocco’s responses to the critiques very much. I’m a little uncomfortable with the term “fundamentalist” simply because I fear that people other than those she intends will be labeled with the term. However, I think that her distinction between those who hold literal beliefs and those who think everyone should hold literal beliefs is helpful. I find the idea of this “fundamentalist” perspective potentially gaining significant strength within our community troubling, as many pagans turned to paganism out of a desire for a religious perspective that does not emphasize dogma and doctrine. I hope that Magliocco’s work can help us to look closely at such trends within our community so that we can maintain the diversity and acceptance that is so foundational to it.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      “many pagans turned to paganism out of a desire for a religious perspective that does not emphasize dogma and doctrine.”
      I’ve never understood the logic of that. I ‘turned to Paganism’ because of what I believe. I left Christianity because of their god, not because of their people.

      • M

        I left because of their holy text, what it has to say about that god, and what it has to say about what they should do to people like us.(Leviticus 20:13/ 20:27 resp.) Belief is central for some.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          For me, it wasn’t just their holy text, but I also started developing an interest in the history of gods (as opposed to religion). Seems I found the early historical references to YHWH more convincing than the modern, sanitised Bible.

      • Exactly that. If it was the people I could have easily become a United Methodist or a Episcopalian, but it is the pitfall of monotheistic theodicy/the problem of evil which led to me being unable to be any sort of Christian. I could not be intellectually honest with myself and be Christian, so I looked elsewhere. It was less what I believed when I stumbled into Paganism and the community, and more what I could not believe to begin with.

      • Kalina Jones

        I’m a little confused as to how you drew “because of their people” from what I said. Perhaps some people do come to paganism because of their unhappiness with people of another religion, but I find that to be a poor reason to do so and it is certainly not what I was referring to by “dogma and doctrine.”

        Also, M said “Belief is central for some.” I know that belief is very important to many pagans and I’m not in any way trying to invalidate that perspective. However, there are also many pagans for whom belief isn’t as central to their practice, and it is to them that I was referring.

        • Guest

          Who writes the dogma and doctrine, if not people?

          Who ‘enforces’ it, if not people?

          Gods don’t make religions. People do.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            ‘Guest’? That was me responding. Something is glitching.

      • I, too, “turned to paganism”, or rather, polytheism, because of what I believe; that Greek mythology from Hesiod to the D’Aulaires said something to me that rang true whereas The Bible did not. While they certainly didn’t help me want to stay, the people in Christianity are not the reason I left that religion.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I think that polytheist/Ēalgodan is a better term for me than ‘Pagan’, if I think about it. Defining as Pagan is more of a vestigial habit than anything else.

          • I’ve said before that I identify with Pagan over any particular sub-group or tradition within it specifically because I don’t fall quite under any one path. In many cases, it’s specifically easier.

          • Defining as Pagan is more of a vestigial habit than anything else.

            Same here.

      • Possibly another way of saying this is that the problem with Christianity is not that it has dogmas and doctrines, but rather that it has lousy dogmas and doctrines.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Not at all what I was saying.

          I was very specifically saying the dogma and doctrine (creations of people) was never something I had a problem with, as such. It was the god(s) behind all of the scripture that I take umbrage with.

  • Phillip Q

    It seems like some people who have fundamentalist beliefs whatever they might be are in a sort of denial about it as if by being Pagans we are not capable of being fundamentalists because that only applies to ‘those’ people. I think people are taking this as a personal criticism and most people don’t like to be criticized. I understand what Sabina is saying and I appreciate her perspective. It is not going to be popular with everyone especially those that don’t want to look too hard at how they present themselves and their beliefs. I have run into some fundamentalists over the years and a few made me just as uncomfortable as the fundamentalists of other religions. Even though many Pagan religions and belief systems tend to have at their core a certain amount of non-dogmatism, as with any religion or belief there will always be people who think that only their way or their belief is the right one. It’s human nature to not want to be wrong.

    • ChristopherBlackwell

      Anytime any group believes that they can’t have any bad people because they of course are special, then they re setting themselves up for a major fall. Look how many scams are pulled off by someone in the same denomination, just because of that we are special belief. That would include Pagans as well. It is best to start with we are not special, and the gods are not on our side therefore the same rules apply to everyone, will best keep us Pagans out of some of the trouble others fall into.

  • There is much in this article that I agree with (particularly about accepting historical fact), but there are some things that make me uneasy as someone who leans towards hard polytheism.

    “Belief only courts fundamentalism when it becomes dogmatic, when we say “it’s my way or the highway,” when we attribute malice and ill intent to those whose beliefs differ from ours.”

    My problem with this is that anyone, like myself, who acknowledges that we can’t all be right, is apparently heading down the road towards fundamentalism. But if I believe the gods are all distinct individual beings and you believe they are all aspects of one being, or of one God and one Goddess, we can’t both be right. Further I can acknowledge this without being uncivil. I may, by virtue of believing that I am right, believe that you are wrong, but that doesn’t mean I hate you or think that you’re a bad person.

    But while I may not attribute malice and ill intent to those whose beliefs differ from mine, there *are* reasons why I believe what I do. Am I allowed to critique others beliefs, in a civil way of course, without being a fundamentalist? If I mention, for example, that I fear that many of the non-hard polytheist theologies can act as a sort of religious and spiritual imperialism that, rather than converting like Christianity, has the effect of absorbing minority faiths and changing them to fit our Western ideals, am I now a fundamentalist?

    I understand the desire to maintain civility and unity, but at what cost? When we define fundamentalism, something that virtually every pagan abhors, as simply disagreeing and being open about why we disagree, I fear that we lose the ability to have meaningful dialogue. And rather than unifying paganism, I think that this kind of kumbaya-ism is precisely why some have felt the need to abandon the label pagan. Minority voices often seem to get silenced in the name of everyone getting along, but the consequence is the creation of a false sense of agreement on certain issues about which no such agreement really exists. And maybe this makes me a fundamentalist, but I absolutely believe that there really are serious issues surrounding cultural appropriation and imperialism that are tied up in issues of theology that need to be discussed.

    “our core values of social justice, gender equality, and environmental sustainability”

    While as a gay, progressive Democrat I appreciate these values, I wonder if they have become a kind of fundamentalism in themselves. How many Republicans would feel comfortable worshiping with pagans who identify these things as their core spiritual values? If we say that embracing these things are fundamental to being a pagan is that not it’s own version of the “it’s my way or the highway” attitude that is being attributed to fundamentalism? I have to be honest – I’ve always associated fundamentalism in the Christian world with political fundamentalism and sometimes I fear that modern paganism has become little more than the liberal version of Christian Evangelicalism.

    • It isn’t acknowledging we all can’t be right that puts someone on the road to fundamentalism – it’s refusing to entertain the possibility that you might be wrong.

      My polytheism is getting harder by the day, as more and more experiences of the old gods and goddesses strengthen my belief that they’re real, distinct, individual beings. I welcome civil critiques and polite debates – they force me to continually re-examine my beliefs, to adjust those that are weak and to confirm those that are strong. I’ll do the same with someone else’s, for the same reasons.

      But at the end of the day, it doesn’t matter to me what you or anyone else believes. It matters what you do. If you’re helping me pick up trash on the side of the road, I don’t care if you’re a hard polytheist, a soft polytheist, a pantheist, a humanist, or anything else.

      • BlackNyx

        Thank you!

      • Okay I get that. I guess I just worried that the way in which Magliocco framed fundamentalism would lead to honest disagreement and civil debate being labeled as divisive. I may have totally misread her article, I’ll have to give it another go. I have to admit I’m relatively new to all this, and it’s only been in the last month or so that I’ve encountered these debates. It does seem to me that honest debate can get shut down in the name of everyone getting along, but maybe I’ve just gotten a slanted view from my limited exposure to the conversation.

        • John, my intent was not at all to shut down debate; in fact, I wrote that I want to *encourage* the discussion of these ideas, because I think open discussion and reflexiveness is healthy in any community. There’s plenty of room in Paganism for honest disagreement. It’s good to see open, civil discussion on this thread.

          I also acknowledge the problematic nature of the word “fundamentalism,” and the way it has been used by those in power to denigrate particular ideologies. I admittedly used it with some trepidation and for polemical purposes.

          • Oh I don’t think you personally want to shut down debate. My concern is that the f-word is often used to do that. And absent any concrete examples of influential people or groups in paganism engaging in fundamentalism, I’m not sure how useful this conversation really is. Unfortunately without that example people conjure up their own, placing their favorite pagan boogeyman in the position of fundamentalist. Even worse, those adhering to a hard polytheism can’t help but wonder if, as in the past, they are the ones playing the part of pagan boogeyman and fundamentalist.

            Honestly, I really think that the f-word simply shouldn’t have been used. If there’s a specific group, person or movement that you consider fundamentalist, then say so and defend that point of view. Otherwise it seems like dropping the f-bomb just stirs things up that you really probably never meant to stir up.

            Just my two cents though 🙂

          • Northern_Light_27

            I have the impression that the “f-word’ is less of a “bomb” in the scholarly community for which her paper was written. Remember– she’s kind enough to show us her research, but it’s not written with us in mind as the audience. There are a lot of things that read differently in an academic setting than on the general internet. Which doesn’t mean you can’t criticize, but I think people should do so with that in mind.

    • Deborah Bender

      Few if any of the founders of Wica in the late Forties and Fifties thought that social justice and environmental sustainability had anything to do with their religion. IIRC Margot Adler noted in the introduction to the first edition of Drawing Down the Moon that she was surprised to find that those concerns, and liberal political attitudes in general, were not prevalent among the pagans she interviewed in the United States except on the East and West Coasts. These people were among the progenitors of the modern Pagan movement.

      The connections between spirituality, religion and social values are complex. Religions, as social institutions, have to address societal values. Individuals may be drawn to a religion or spiritual path which advocates social values they already hold. Participation in a religion or spiritual path may (indeed, should) influence an individual’s core values. However, IMHO, dogmatic adherence to any particular social value is an obstacle to authentic spiritual experience.

      Dr. Magliocco’s comment on these matters seems to be secondary to her basic argument.

      • As far as “social justice” goes, Gerald Gardner was rather vocal and active in the most important “social justice” issue of his day: the fight against fascism.

        • JoeMax

          That’s a too-easy stance to take. In his time, fascism was Fascism, in all it’s genocidal and war mongering glory. And England was one of its targets. It’s easy to be in vocal and active opposition to a political movement that is vocally and actively trying to kill you, your family and your tribe. Having bombs raining on your cities clarifies the mind wonderfully.

          A tough call in his time would be speaking out for women’s equality, or against the persecution of gays, i.e. a call for justice over something one don’t have a personal stake in.

          • In fact, Europeans (and Americans) proved to be rather conciliatory, if not just downright supine, in the face of the rise of fascism. Gardner actually gained brief international fame for a letter he wrote to the Telegraph calling for the British people to prepare for guerrilla warfare in the event of a Nazi invasion. In that letter he invoked the Magna Carta and declared that every British citizen had a right to bear arms. Gardner’s position was very controversial and many people considered it a violation of international law for civilians to engage in warfare, even for the sake of fighting against foreign invaders.

    • harmonyfb

      When we define fundamentalism, something that virtually every pagan
      abhors, as simply disagreeing and being open about why we disagree

      I haven’t seen anyone defining ‘fundamentalism’ that way. It’s not the disagreement which is problematic. Heck, you ask 10 Pagans, you get 25 opinions. It’s rigidity and characterization of all other beliefs as not just wrong but the ‘enemy’ (evil, insane, etc). It’s assuming, to coin a phrase, that ‘the laws of your tribe are the laws of the universe’, and anyone not following those rigid laws should be excoriated and/or punished. I’ve thankfully met very few Pagans who espouse fundamentalism, but I’ve heard echoes of it in a few very rigid reconstructionists (and even one or two Wiccans. Their heads didn’t explode from the cognitive dissonance, but I still kept my distance.)

      “our core values of social justice, gender equality, and environmental sustainability”

      How many Republicans would feel comfortable worshiping with pagans who
      identify these things as their core spiritual values?

      Bunches (including one of my coven members). One doesn’t have to espouse a certain set of political beliefs to agree that we should take care of our planet and be careful with our resources, or that human beings should be treated as equal under the law, or that we should help others in need. Politics is simply disagreeing on the details of how to do so.

      • “It’s not the disagreement which is problematic. Heck, you ask 10 Pagans, you get 25 opinions. It’s rigidity and characterization of all other beliefs as not just wrong but the ‘enemy’ (evil, insane, etc).”

        Okay I get that, but I’m still left wondering who these people are. I mean if you get a couple hundred thousand people together there are bound to be a few tools. But if this is enough of a problem to sound the alarms I’d imagine there would be signs of it. Maybe it’s just that I’m newer to all this, but in the year and a half I’ve spent in pagan circles in real life and on the internet I’ve not found anyone like this. I’ve found groups with rigid rules that required their members to adhere to those rules, but none of them demonized outsiders.

        “Bunches (including one of my coven members). One doesn’t have to espouse a certain set of political beliefs to agree that we should take care of our planet and be careful with our resources, or that human beings should be treated as equal under the law, or that we should help others in need. Politics is simply disagreeing on the details of how to do so.”

        I find it really difficult to believe that your average Republican voter would feel comfortable worshiping with your average pagan. And I think the proof is in the pudding visa vi all the libertarians and Republicans I’ve found in Heathenry who claim to have felt uncomfortable in other pagan circles. But I don’t know, maybe I’m just being too credulous.

        • harmonyfb

          I find it really difficult to believe that your average Republican voter
          would feel comfortable worshiping with your average pagan.

          I think your problem might be your imagining of the ‘typical Republican voter’.

          • How so? I grew up in a Republican town with Republican parents and a Republican family. I live now in a rural town that votes 70% Republican. They’re all really wonderful people, even if I disagree with them on some things. But I don’t see many of them feeling comfortable in a religion that defines its cores values in terms of traditionally liberal political positions. Maybe I’m just not understanding what you’re saying?

    • Mary K. Greer

      We are all fundamentalists somewhere. By this I mean that we all have certain unquestioned “fundaments” that are so foundational to our thinking that we don’t even realize they are there, and we tend to demonize (or deem crazy) those who don’t perceive reality the same way. I once sat next to a young woman on an airplane who I thought was joking about the Earth being flat. I laughed and kidded with her until I was hit with the realization that this was truly an unquestionable truth for her. Only later did I realize the depth of my own unquestioning belief that the Earth is round – as essential to me as her belief was to her. It came to me in part because of the ‘pity’ and, yes, scorn, I felt for her. Science and logic were external to both our fundaments.

      Since then I have tried to become as conscious as possible of my own fundaments (and it’s always a shock when I discern one). Fundaments are not bad; they just ‘are’. Fundamentalism is most dangerous because of a deeper fundament than the beliefs themselves. It assumes that those who do not hold the same beliefs should have those beliefs imposed on them, or that they are lesser than those who hold them and can be thought of and treated in ways we would never treat those who hold our beliefs. We should know and question our fundaments. They become dangerous only when they become an entity (or aggregore) that no longer tolerates any variation in others, seeking to harm (in words or deeds) whoever is deemed *other*.

      To negate a discussion and recognition of fundamentalism in the pagan community would serve only to drive it underground and guarantee its emergence in even more harmful ways (grounded in denial or justification). All we have to do is deny the right to ask questions or to make known possibly harmful trends that are observed.

      The first step is understanding what fundamentalism is, how it *might* look in Paganism, and then recognize ways in which it could be harmful. Finally, we have to ask ourselves to what extent our own well-considered beliefs and dogmas might be lending themselves to potentially harmful effects on those outside those strictures.

      • Jay

        Wow, I must say that it shocks me that the woman of which you spoke could still maintain that the earth is flat while she is FLYING. I mean, you can literally SEE the curvature of the earth as you’re doing so. I don’t think this was a good example to use to support your case about ‘fundaments’ (which I don’t have any real disagreement with, btw) since while “believing” the earth is round was not something that you came to rationally, on your own, but was rather taught as a fundamental truth of the nature of the world, that truth is undergirded by science, logic, and the evidence of your eyes. Really, “belief” has nothing to do with it, except when it comes between you and accepting the true nature of the world.

        • Mary K. Greer

          There’s a difference between believing what one has been taught and actually examining the evidence and reaching one’s own rational conclusions. I’ve been taught several things in regards to science that have since been proven untrue. I should probably have said that one fundament that was shattered was the notion that no modern, rational person (especially one who was flying in an airplane) could possibly believe something so crazy. But I also realized I had to look more closely at a lot of things I had been taught.

          • Deborah Bender

            If I got into an argument over the shape of the Earth, I wouldn’t have to depend on appeals to authority or to photos (allegedly) taken from space. I understand some of the arguments the ancient Greeks used to figure out that the Earth is round, and could base my opinion on that.

            I’ve not studied geology systematically, but I know enough about rocks and fossils to make a stab at showing why the Earth is more than 6000 years old. I think I understand genetics and the theory of evolution well enough to debate a Creationist. These matters were argued out in the nineteenth century, when any well read person could follow and understand most scientific debates.

            OTOH, if I were arguing against a belief that the stars in the Milky Way are a billion miles away, I wouldn’t be able to put up a convincing argument, because I don’t fully grasp the experiments and mathematics that were deployed, not very long before I was born, to determine the true size of our galaxy. I understand the standard explanation of why the sky is blue well enough to satisfy myself, but not well enough to teach it convincingly to someone else who is a skeptic. As to why the moon looks so much larger near the horizon than at the zenith, is the phrase “optical illusion” really an explanation?

            Many literate and intelligent people have not received a sound and comprehensive scientific education, and without this one’s belief in commonly accepted scientific facts are based as much on appeals to authority as any medieval Scholastic.

    • JoeMax

      “But if I believe the gods are all distinct individual beings and you
      believe they are all aspects of one being, or of one God and one
      Goddess, we can’t both be right.”

      Why not? What does “right” mean in this context?

      I don’t think hard-belief pagans holds that the gods actually are physical beings living on Olympus or in the clouds. They are Powers. They are beyond our direct sensual perception. They must Manifest in some way to be perceivable by our limited human consciousnesses. I assume most can agree on this.

      So when these Powers manifest, can we expect them to do so the same way to each individual consciousness? It’s not that all manifestations must be either “aspects”, or “beings”, it’s just how the Powers must to manifest to a match an individual human’s consciousness. The answer is not either/or, they CAN be both.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Right = objective truth.

        You might believe that ‘hard-belief’ pagans do not believe that the gods are all distinct beings (think of it scientifically as a non corporeal species or genus), but some do.

        When a soft polytheist says that Óðinn and Zeus are both aspects of one (supreme) being, I would have to respectfully disagree.

        I believe that both entities exist individually and independently of each other, but that they share a common purpose within their respective pantheons.

        It is, to me, like saying that both Carl XVI Gustaf (of Sweden) and Elizabeth II (of the United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland) are the same person, simply because they are the monarchs of their respective countries.

  • BlackNyx

    Sabina – I love what you’ve written above and I think it’s a conversation that needs to happen. I think something that might cause confusion in your response though is that belief (orthodoxy) and practice (orthopraxy) are not defined.

    I think a lot of pagans automatically take the foundational concepts of Belief and Faith from Christianity and apply them to whatever form of paganism their involved with. So they’re thinking is ‘what’s wrong with belief?!’ and ‘what’s wrong with having faith?’.

    The whole notion and concepts of ‘belief’ and ‘faith’ are enmeshed and rooted in Christianity, which for me is why it’s application to paganism or any other non-orthodoxic religion is problematic. It seems like there is another interlocking discussion that needs to happen around the distinction between the concepts of belief/faith (and their origins in Christianity and orthodoxy) and how those ideas are alien to non-orthodoxic religions and spiritual practices.

    • Thanks, BlackNyx. I completely agree with your post. However, for reasons of space, I chose not to go down the road of defining and describing orthopraxy and orthodoxy — also because I assume many who are reading this already know those distinctions and how they apply to Paganisms.

      Belief is notoriously difficult to define; scholars have done a piss-poor job of it. I’ve written separately on that, in an article entitled “Beyond Belief,” published in the journal _Western Folklore_ 71 (2012), available through JSTOR. One of the problems is that, as you point out, Christo-centric notions of faith have influenced how belief is understood, and that has crippled Western scholars’ ability to really understand it.

  • For what they are worth, a few thoughts from an outsider’s perspective. First, I really appreciate the work of Magliocco. She has been a part of my own ongoing understanding of contemporary Paganism. Second, I don’t know that some kind of increase in the shift among Pagans toward incorporating belief as a compliment to praxis is bad if the swing is not too much for the community. Praxis must be connected to beliefs in some sense, it seems to me, even if it is not to the extent that Christians and other traditions emphasize it. Perhaps something like Islam would be helpful as a sounding board where praxis is emphasized even while also incorporating various beliefs. Finally, I have encountered Pagan “fundamentalists” myself who emphasize boundary maintenance and who react by sounding the warning over alleged enemies, in this case in regards to certain Evangelicals. I have described this is an approach within Paganism that mirrors Evangelical “counter-cult” methods. These seem to be more rare within Paganism than within Evangelicalism, but that element is present. Thanks again for providing this space for Magliocco to expand on her ideas.

    • Deborah Bender

      This is a part of Dr. Magliocco’s guest post that I find problematical. In the paragraph headed “What this shows us is that belief cannot be compelled”, she makes several statements with which I agree. The final sentence of the paragraph draws a conclusion, “It is therefore not helpful, useful or even fair to make belief a touchstone of religious or community membership”, that I don’t think is altogether warranted by what preceded.

      It’s generally agreed (among people who are well informed about the history of modern paganism) that holding any particular belief or any belief at all has not been a requirement for membership in the pagan community in the past. I would not want belief to be a requirement for identification as pagan in the future. I do not think that will happen, because there is no group or institution with the power or authority to institute such a requirement over the whole community.

      However, if Dr. Magliocco means to say that if a specific cult or organization imposes doctrinal requirements on its own membership, that group is by definition non-pagan, I question the basis for that position.

      I expect to see groups with doctrinal or belief requirements to arise within the pagan community if they do not already exist. I think this is a normal development in the growth and maturation of the movement.

      On the one hand, as paganism becomes more mainstream, people who are interested in affiliating with it are not all going to folks who are fleeing Christianity, or folks who have had a long private period of spiritual struggle, from which they emerged looking for a spiritual path that is compatible with their personal gnosis.

      Some people are simply shopping in the marketplace, and want a religion with identifiable beliefs and some other characteristics that appeal, such as enjoyable holiday customs and people whose company suits them.

      On the other hand, as particular pagan religions develop and gain adherents, some are bound to become less experimental and tentative and more fixed on whatever has been successful for them, whether it’s a particular ritual format or a particular method for achieving gnosis. Particular methods for achieving gnosis survive because they have a high degree of efficacy in producing a specific experience, whether it’s a Zen Koan or the Eleusinian Mysteries. If a group has acquired such a method as part of its proprietary lore, there is no reason why the group would not believe that the insights acquired through application of that method aren’t true and important.

      • Deborah Bender

        Two edits: in the third from last paragraph, the phrase “all going to folks” should read “all going to be folks”. In the final sentence of my post, I lost count of the negatives: “aren’t true” should read “are true”.

    • “Praxis must be connected to beliefs in some sense, it seems to me”

      This! I’m very confused as to how anyone gets to orthopraxis (right practice) without some form of orthodoxy (right belief). Wouldn’t ones beliefs about the right way to practice their religion or spirituality spring from their beliefs about such? At the end of the day people’s ideas about the proper or most efficacious way to approach the gods must be somehow derived from their beliefs about the nature of those gods. Maybe I’m totally off, but these things seem intrinsically connected.

      • Jay

        “Wouldn’t ones beliefs about the right way to practice their religion or spirituality spring from their beliefs about such?”

        No, not necessarily. For many, “right practice” is simply defined as “what works” to connect one sucessfully to the divine and to the gods. And, depending on the experience that results from the “right practice” (and how those experiences change or do not change over time), you might develop any number of beliefs on the nature of reality and the gods. I was an agnostic Pagan for a number of years, keeping on keeping because I made sense of things intellectually, while reserving judgment on their reality, and enjoying the beauty of the symbols in the rituals (also, the company was good!). That began to change when I started to have direct experiences of the gods in ritual and taking notice of synchronisity and other signs and omens. I didn’t start out believing because I didn’t have a foundation upon which to build those beliefs, and beliefs without foundation are what I call “blind faith”, something that I should find more often in Christian circles than Pagan circles (at least, I hope).

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Buy you did believe that the rituals and practices had a special resonance with you, otherwise you wouldn’t have continued them.

          Belief is about more than just literal gods.

          • Jay

            Very true, but this conversation seems to be more about belief in gods than belief in general, which is what I was directly responding to.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’ve seen both forms being discussed here.

      • Jay

        That being said, my friends and I have come up with the “I Believe” button, to be pressed when it is necessary to turn off our analytical faculties and allow the experience to be the experience, which does kind of presuppose “believing” in a certain way in order to have certain specific experiences to occur as a result. So, it can work both ways.

      • Lianne

        Unless of course you’re a Pagan who doesn’t believe in any gods. Somehow those Pagans always get left out of these discussions. As a naturalistic pantheist, I have no faith, really. What matters to me is the way I relate to the world around me, and what I see as the correct way of acting in that world. Practice without belief. It works fine for some of us.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          You still have belief. Perhaps not of the supernatural, but there is belief nonetheless.

          Belief informs practice.

          • liannelavoie

            That seems rather vague to me. You’re telling me I have some kind of “belief” despite my not actually believing in anything supernatural? Right… The only things I “believe” in are the things that there is actual evidence for, so it isn’t belief, and most certainly isn’t “faith”.

            I think one thing that would help all the vastly different Pagans get along would be accepting each other’s ways, rather than thinking they just don’t understand their own religion.

          • You described yourself as “As a naturalistic pantheist…”

            Pantheist usually means a belief in the divinity of nature, or that everything in nature has a (non-anthropomorphic) divine nature. What definition are you using?

          • liannelavoie

            I would say that nature and the divine are one and the same. That doesn’t mean that I believe anything supernatural about nature. For me, nature is amazing enough all on its own. My type of pantheism is described well at

            In fact, some deny that this is even Paganism (Richard Dawkins called it “sexed up atheism”, which I disagree with, but I can see where he’s coming from). I still identify as a Pagan, though.

          • What do you mean by “divine”?

            You seem to have a Romantic view of Nature (I mean that in the 18th-19th century philosophical/literary tradition)–would that be correct?

          • liannelavoie

            I’m not sure. I’m not sufficiently familiar with the Romantic philosophy to know. I know that my view of nature is the same as the athiests in this video:

            Maybe “divine” is the wrong word. I mean to refer to something that fills me with awe, because it is limitless, and because it is so vast and we understand so little of it, yet we’re intimately connected to everything else in it.

          • @liannelovoie: The concept of Nature as Divine is found in Greco-Roman Paganism (aka Hellenism). In other words, it was a central feature of the religious views of the first people ever to be called Pagan – therefore it is one of the most appropriate theological ideas for modern day Pagans as well.

            Pay no attention to the know-nothing pseudo-intellectuals like Indigo Celeste who claim that this is a “Romantic” notion of recent invention.

          • Oops, I’m sorry, forgive me for thinking that a concept from a more recent period of history would be a little more familiar as a comparison point to someone not steeped in Hellenism. From now on, I’ll only use concepts that are greater than 2000 years old, just for you. How’s that, honey?

            If you’ll notice, Apuleius, I’ve been attempting this entire time to establish a common understanding of terms that other people are using, so we can actually have a conversation. I was trying NOT to be obscure.

            But by all means, condescend. That’s a great way to further dialogue.

          • Oh, if he wasn’t a condescending nincompoop, he wouldn’t be the Curt we all know and love! 😀 LOL

            Seriously, if you think he’s condescending here, maybe I should point you to some choice posts from the Hellenstai forum (which has been reactivated for some time now, and I wish people would go back to using it).

          • Actually, said “first people ever” were called paganus —which, as your alleged proficiency in Latin should tell you is the Roman colloqual equivalent of “ignorant hillbilly”, which is quite different to how the English word “pagan” is typically used in this day and age.

            But hey, I’m sure you’re going to invent some circular reasoning to “school” me on how those are the same words(???) and you can crown yourself King of All Paganism again. Don’t sprain your ankle on your victory dance, Curt.

          • Genexs

            Plato said it best, “The Gods created certain kinds of beings to replenish our bodies; they are the trees and the plants and the seeds.” And was it not in the Negative Confessions, that we “did not beat cows/animals”? I would say “The olde ways are best” but that would make me a Fundamentalist! Heh!

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We could get into a level of philosophy I don’t really understand and start questioning the existence of everything beyond the self (what is delusion).

            I am not saying that you do not understand your own religion. I am simply saying that everyone on this planet believes something.

            In grossly simplified theological terms, people fall into the following categories:
            Theist – belief in divinity.
            Atheist – belief in no divinity.
            Agnostic – belief in a lack of evidence either way.

          • What I’m trying to do is establish a common set of definitions for these terms, because thus far I think we’re using these words a different way.

            Only when we know what the other is saying can we actually have a conversation. It’s useless to me to try and tell people what they believe.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            A common set of definitions would be handy, but it would seem that those potentially under the Pagan Umbrella have an aversion to such a concept.

          • Yeah, makes me feel like Sisyphus, rolling my rock uphill 😛

            I think that may be part of the issues currently going around the pagansphere, is that with everyone having different backgrounds and worldviews, we use words differently. Still, doesn’t hurt to try for a lingua franca

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I honestly think that it is time for some traditions to branch out as their own identity, rather than as a subset of ‘Paganism’. There is just too much variation, now, for the label to really have meaning.

            I think that some people are worried that, by leaving the term behind, they have to sever all connections with ‘Paganism’. Nothing could be further from the truth, in my mind. I think that it would actually improve relations for many, as there would no longer need to be any arguments based on difference.

            Everyone could be happy with their own terms, there would be greater clarity for those not of the religions, which would make it more accessible. Yet they could still come together over shared interests and to act in solidarity of each other in times of need.

          • Ditto. I use “pagan” sometimes as a shorthand for non-abrahamic (especially among christian friends), but I do tend to refer to myself as a Hellenist.

          • I think that some people are worried that, by leaving the term behind,
            they have to sever all connections with ‘Paganism’. Nothing could be
            further from the truth, in my mind.

            Agreed. I really feel not only does “pagan” do a poor job of describing my religion, but that I’m personally so unlike what the common definitions of “pagan” are that I could probably get along just fine without the pagan community. Yet here I am. I haven’t gone anywhere, I’m not going anywhere (at least never for more than a few weeks, cos you people… let me tell you, Internet…). I see it as no different from a het person standing up for GBLT rights, or participating in PFLAG or SOFFA groups. And sometimes I run into co-religionists who still self-apply the term with affection; and sometimes I encounter seekers who might genuinely be interested in my religion.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t know about you but I really need to codify my religious views and get them written down.

          • It’s cos the apparent majority of speaking voices in the “pagan community” see to believe that beliefs are unnecessary, and what is the defined word but a mere belief?

            “Words mean things? Why? Cos the ebile X-tians said so? How preposterous!”

            Yes, I just want to define words to keep the community down cos I’m secretly in cahoots with Sarah Palin’s Dominionist Wunderkinder. I have no interest in making communication between people easy and efficient, I’m just a dogmatic fascist meanie poo-poo head who dares to think that there are better things that the pagan and polytheist (P&P) communities can be doing besides arguing about what words mean. Clearly the most important thing for us P&P’s is to do, for the rest of our bloody lives, is endlessly debate what we REALLY mean when we say “pagan”.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Yup. We really need to move past this argument of semantics and agree that complete inclusivity is not a positive thing to have.

          • liannelavoie

            I think that’s using the word “belief” too broadly. Especially for the agnostic, who is simply acknowledging that there isn’t any proof either way, which doesn’t require any belief.

            I think of myself as being somewhere between a theist and an athiest. I’m technically closer to the athiest. I just have issues with that label, and also I feel it doesn’t properly express my feelings of awe and reverence, even though many athiests do share those feelings.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            It is how I, and quite a lot of philosophers (not studied philosophy myself, I must confess, but have known plenty who have) use the term.

            There are those who would agree that there is ample evidence of divinity and that the agnostics simply reject it.

            You know, there are atheistic churches and branches of spiritual atheism. The term ‘atheism’ really only refers to a belief in no gods, after all.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Theist-Atheist and Gnostic-Agnostic are two different axes and can combine in any way. I’m an agnostic theist. I believe there is something or somethings out there which we have tagged as “gods” and experience in their varied, differentiated majesty. I do not think their ultimate nature can presently be known.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I did say it was grossly simplified.

            I know that one is technically based on belief and the other on knowledge, but knowledge is still, technically, belief or theory.

            I believe the gods can be known, we just currently lack the scientific instrumentation to verify them.

          • Northern_Light_27

            But that’s the thing, we don’t *know* anything. We only know our experiences and what others have said about theirs, all run through our own perceptual filters. We’re basically all blind men grabbing a piece of elephant. What the ultimate reality of the elephant is, nobody knows. The gods could be Sufficiently Advanced Aliens, sending us visions for who knows what reason. Or some shared quirk of our own human tendency to find patterns in things. They could be something like what some people think they are, only what they look like and act like to each other could be miles away from the lore and experiences we have of how they behave toward us.

            We see some tiny bit of whatever the actuality is, and we think that’s knowledge of the whole. Sometimes we’re even arrogant enough to say “we don’t believe, we KNOW. Just like we know the postman” (if i had a dime for every time I’ve heard the postman line, I’d be rich), yet honestly? It’s like you “know” the person on the other end of the internet, who you’ve never actually, physically met. I may tell you I’m a middle-aged woman on the east coast of the US, but I may not be any of those things. I’ve had experiences– as I think most people who spend enough time online probably have– of thinking I *know* who I’m talking to, that I can trust my perceptions that they’re exactly who they say they are, and been way wrong. If it’s that easy to be that wrong about other humans filtered through perception and words on a screen, how easy is it to be wrong about a being whose mere *existence* we can’t even know for certain?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Oh, I agree with that, in the broadest sense. I can’t even prove the existence of the computer I am using right now, let alone anything else.

            However, I feel comfortable not living with that level of doubt in my daily life. I believe in objective reality and that the gods are in it.

      • Northern_Light_27

        Not necessarily. I see each Pagan religion as being composed of an array of things, some of which are vital to a given individual and others less so. I’m process-focused. I’m interested in *how* people live their religion and what that does for them and others around them. I’m vitally interested in ethics, values, what are considered good vs. bad deeds, all of that practical-daily-living stuff. (And, actually, I chose the particular religion I’m most immersed in by looking at who seems most interested in that kind of thing, because *wow* did it annoy me to be told I’m “overthinking” dashed-off values lists and “you don’t have to agree with it” in the one I came from.) I could, however, give a rat’s arse about magic. I just don’t care– I see the mystical stuff as someone else’s domain. I’m glad there are other people who have that well in hand so that I don’t have to.

        In the same way, I freely admit that I don’t what the ultimate reality of the gods happens to be. I don’t feel like I *need* to have a settled opinion about this, because I’m following custom on this and it seems to work just fine. I imagine if they’re out there and they want me as a priest, they’d find some way to communicate that, at which point I suppose I’d have to get more granular about what I think. As that hasn’t happened, I’m fine with not-knowing. I can look at lore and I can look at discussion and I can look at people who I have some respect for and compare the three and see something that looks like shared gnosis, and go along with that unless there’s a really good darn reason not to.

      • Piffle.

        – Is what you are doing going to harm someone (or yourself)? Do they deserve it?
        – Is what you are doing honourable?

        All the rest is pearl-clutching and gossip.

  • Professor Magliocco has made a series of accusations that fall into two groups:

    1. She accuses certain unnamed people of being fundamentalists.

    2. She accuses other unnamed people of spreading “malicious and untrue
    rumors” about her, including that she is an “infiltrator”.

    I consider Justice to be a “fundamental” Pagan virtue. I also believe that Justice demands that serious accusations of this sort must be made openly and directly, not by vague insinuation. That is, those being accused must be publicly named. The reasons for this are obvious, or at least they should be. The whole Pagan community is damaged by the poisonous effects of these kinds of vague insinuations. And those who are being accused have a right to respond and answer the accusations.

    • The internet is not a court. It is ideas she is discussing not people. The ideas further the conversation of modern paganism. Conspiracy theorists and trolls do not such a thing though, which I think is kind of the point.

      • “The internet is not a court.”

        So what? Neither is television, and yet if someone where to get on CNN and claim that there was some mysterious group of people involved in a dangerous political radicalism no one would be shocked or upset when viewers asked who exactly they where talking about. Yes, this isn’t a court and Magliocco isn’t legally required to do anything, but it isn’t unreasonable for readers to wonder who exactly these pagan fundamentalists are.

        “It is ideas she is discussing not people.”

        Except that she’s discussing ideas that certain people in the pagan community have supposedly adopted. No one is being a conspiracy theorist by wondering who exactly these people are. She hasn’t simply said that there might someday be pagans who adopt fundamentalist ideas. She’s claimed that there are now today pagans engaged in this type of ideology. And again it isn’t unreasonable for the reader to wonder who exactly she’s referring to.

        • thehouseofvines

          I don’t see what the big deal is. What’s so bad with being a fundamentalist? Although there are many situations where things exist on a continuum there are also some where one side is right and one side is wrong and it’s as simple as that. The gods exist. They are many. End of debate. I’m not going to dump petrol on someone who thinks otherwise but you know what, neither will most people who hold fundamental beliefs. This throwing around the F-label is nothing more than scare tactics to silence the opposition. I think those of us who are serious about our beliefs ought to proudly embrace it. And if the other side keeps getting more strident in denouncing us … maybe we should stop associating with each other. But I have been arguing that all along.

          • Northern_Light_27

            What “other side”? What “opposition”? Seems to me that beliefs about the nature of the gods cannot be summed up as two opposing sides; the fact that you think they can is just… odd… to me. Are the people who think “they exist and are aspects of an unknown greater unity” on “your” side or on the “other” side? (Exist, yes; Many, possibly no) Are the people who think “I don’t think they exist, but as cultural concepts it’s important that they are many” on your side or the other one? (Exist, no; Many, yes) What about people who say “I have no idea whether they exist or not, but I’m going on the assumption that they might and treating them as many”? Or how about “literally, many; One, as a Mystery”? Or “they are aspects of our collective consciousness, so in a way they exist and are many, but not as literal discarnate beings”?

            What “side” do you think the author is on? Who does she want to “silence”, and why would she go about becoming a credentialed academic to do so? Who is it you want to “stop associating” with? Does everyone in Neos Alexandria believe precisely as you do? Are they required to?

            Also, what about the (many) Recons of the opinion that “deeds matter, the rest of this stuff matters much less or not at all”? I’ve listened to a favorite Heathen podcaster several times say that she’s met Christians who she thinks are Heathen by their deeds and the way they live their lives, and yet has met many Heathens with the “right” beliefs who she would never allow in her home because she finds their deeds unacceptable. Which side is she on?

          • thehouseofvines

            Just to make it clear I haven’t been associated with Neos Alexandria for a number of years now. Even when I was my views were never representative of the group as a whole.

            As for your other questions … they are of no concern to me. I am very particular about who I will share sacred space with and having theologically compatible views is really just the minimal requirement for that. If we aren’t going to be doing ritual together I’m not going to waste a second worrying about what you think or do.

          • Kilmrnock

            In my CR faith and most i know Deeds and how one conducts oneself does matter . Our beliefs those of our ancestors matter as well , all in a modern context and sensibility. We follow a code of honor and conduct , just as our ancestors did and the Tuatha De Dannan just as they did .We also honor our ancestors, just as they did. This is what a CR faith , way of life is all about . All the stuff being mentioned now is on the fringes of recon / poly not what most of us believe . And is quite simular to what most heathens believe just with a heathen pantheon .Not to say such groups donot exist just as eclectic polys exist , these people/groups are not the norm amoungst recons /polys .

          • Kilmrnock

            one the point of one side or the other i would say in modern paganism there is two views of how our religions work . The more Wiccan Jungian concept of architypes , all Gods and Godesses being of the God and Godess the dualistic newer Wiccan ways . And then there is the Older more Ancient approach , what Recons and Hard polytheists do .The belief that our Gods are distinct individuals each pantheon coming from a distinct Ethnic group . For example the Tuatha De Dannon being of the Gaelic Celtic Peoples . Each ethnic recon faith has their own pantheon or group of distinct Gods of their own .The only thing that muddles things is there are indivuals/ groups that follow both ways or a combination of these ways , such as an eclectic polytheistic Witch or eclectic polys to name a few .And just for the record Sabina seems to fall on the Wiccan side from what i can see, and that is ok . i just think we as pagans need to realise there are two ways or sides and deal with it ,so we can work together as a community or not .i see a trend amoung recons and polys to distance themselves from the pagan umbrella community just as the Heathens have done .

          • Northern_Light_27

            There are *not* “two sides”. There are a *multitude* of different approaches to deity. Some of you sound like it’s “hard polytheist” vs. “everything else”, as if “everything else” constituted a “side”. Also, there are hard polytheists who are Wiccan. This is just plain not so darned reductive. No, I’m not going to “realize there are two sides” because I think that’s baloney. That Paganism is comfortable with an infinite amount of complexity on such things is something I’ve always liked about Paganism. To see that boiled down to some simplified two-second schematic just so that some people can get their internet drama on makes me quite sad and frustrated. Honestly? “Are you a hard polytheist?” is a question I can’t even answer other than with “yes and no”. And I think I’m far from alone on that.

            (Also, calling polytheists “polys” is making my head hurt. There’s enough overlap between the Pagan and the polyamory community that I keep reading it that way and wondering how polyamory got into the conversation. Oh, and… “polys” are distancing themselves from the Pagan umbrella? So… *all* polytheists, or do “soft” polytheists suddenly no longer count as polytheists? Y’all, raise your hand if this sounds like the “hard sci-fi is the only REAL sci-fi” debate all over again…)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            As a ‘Hard Polytheist’ I have to disagree with at least part of what you said. I don’t subscribe to pantheons necessarily being tied to a cultural group.

            I believe that, in the main, gods (and their respective pantheons) are mostly territorial. That is to say that, even with cultural migration, we still see strong ‘homelands’ of the gods’.

            Obviously, there are some that are more attached to people, notably nomadic tribes, but these seem to be in the minority and, even then, will stick to a general area. (Obvious example – YHWH is the god of a group of desert nomads, so he moved around with them, but was still identifiable as being desert-based.)

      • “The internet is not a court.”

        The problem with this statement is that the concept of Justice that I am talking about is based in Pagan culture and in Pagan ethics. Justice is not something that is only the business of lawyers and judges and those who have been accused of a crime. Justice has more to do with the way in which we should personally conduct our day-to-day lives than how we should conduct ourselves before a court of law.

        And there is also another Heathen virtue involved: honor. It is dishonorable to make accusations against people behind their backs.

        But perhaps the quaint idea that Heathens should be concerned with such things as justice, personal conduct, ethics, and honor is a sign of “fundamentalism”?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Let’s not be confusing Heathens and Pagans, now.

    • Genexs

      Anthropologists are hyper-sensitive to accusations of being “infiltrators”, ever since “Project Camelot” of the 1960’s. A number of famous anthropologists were
      rooked into being basically spies for the US Army.

      • Northern_Light_27

        The other thing is that this process– first derision toward the subculture from academics, then the slow rise of insider academics, then the backlash from the subculture toward the academics (you don’t really understand us! stop putting us under a microscope! you’ve misrepresented our issues! maybe you just had an agenda all the way along and all you really care about is your career/making money!) is something that’s replicated over and over again in different subcultures.

        I don’t know how many other people reading this discussion are in fandom, but I am, and I’m getting a heck of a “been there, read that” sense of deja vu from this. The fine particulars are different, but the basic structure is the same.

        • Genexs

          If what you are say is so, it’s been going on for 20 or 30 years, at least.

          Anthropologists also suffer from the fact that they call the contacts they rely on in different cultures or subcultures “informants”. I guess
          it’s sort of how some people here reacted to the “fundamentalist”
          term. Regardless of the the intention, it’s just such a triggering

      • And it appears in Magliocco’s case she is so hypersensitive that she imagines such accusations even when none have been made against her.

        • Genexs

          That could be. The noose of Project Camelot was hung around the necks of Anthropologists for years, and it had a serious impact on their research. The governments of some countries would not let Anthropologists in their countries, as it was believed they were trying to spy or instill revolution or unrest.

  • There seems to be a misunderstanding the nature of the project before us. Students of religion, like Professor Magliocco, look for trends and impacts and report on them. They present their evidence and their reasoning. This was done in the original presentation. She is not accusing anyone of anything. Nor is she declaring that the belief in Gods leads to Fundamentalism.

    Rather that, in this time of fear and uncertainty many in the larger culture are turning to a mode of thought we have come to call Fundamentalism, which the Professor characterized in her post. What she has found is signs of this in our Pagan Community, a disconcerting finding to be sure. It is the job of those who study religion to say what they see even if listeners don’t like it. She is doing her duty, in that position her person is sacrosanct. Debate her data, debate her reasoning, but it is wrong and harmful to discourse to attribute motivations to her beyond that of presenting her thesis.

    Or would you harm the messenger who tells you your house is on fire?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Why would the presence of fundamentalism in Paganism be disconcerting?

      To (mildly) Godwin the conversation, look at the Neo-Nazi Heathen practices. People may not approve of their approach but I see no logical reason as to why it is any less valid than any other path or tradition.

      • “Validity” is not the question. The issue is “do they exhibit the characteristics of Fundamentalism”. After that we can discuss if we like it. I don’t, since it is a degradation of what ever religion or throught-system is under discussion.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I think that, perhaps, ‘validity’ is a major factor of fundamentalism, in that a fundamentalist will deem a contrary stance as invalid.

          I have heard/read more than one example of Pagans decrying the Neo-Nazi forms of Heathenry to the point of saying they are a ‘corruption’ and ‘not real’ forms of Pagnism/Heathenry.

          Which is no less fundamentalist than the exclusionist stance of the Neo-Nazis.

          • Northern_Light_27

            That’s just ye olde No True Scotsman fallacy. People frequently don’t want own their group’s particular a-holes, so they’ll trot out the Scotsman so they don’t have to deal with the reality that they share a label. I’m not a fan of that particular kind of dodge– it lets people out of the need to actually take a position on harmful behavior.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Pretty much, yes. (Although I have never really got the ‘Scotsman’ thing.)

          • The “No True Scotsman” label should only be applied when the actual content of the argument can be shown to be based on circular logic. There is no problem just because the outward form of an argument resembles the “No True Scotsman” fallacy. In fact, any attempt to precisely define a group so that certain people are excluded from the group will take on something like the form of the No True Scotsman fallacy.

            In the case of “Pagan Nazis” it can be shown that Nazi ideology is incompatible with Paganism, and, moreover, that Nazi ideology has its origins in modern Christianity. Therefore, to say that “No True Pagan would be a Nazi” is not necessarily a case of the No True Scotsman fallacy, providing that the argument is constructed properly (that is, not based on circular logic – which is really the underlying problem with the No True Scotsman fallacy).

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “In the case of “Pagan Nazis” it can be shown that Nazi ideology is incompatible with Paganism”
            Really? Why? (Of course, I did say Heathenry, not Paganism.)

          • First of all, Heathen=Pagan. People are of course free, if they so choose, to project their own idiosyncratic definitions onto these terms, but that does not change the well established and well-documented meanings of these words, which have both been in use for about 17 centuries. Both words simply refer to those who reject Christianity and instead choose to follow the old Gods and the old ways that preceded Christianity.

            Second of all, the three core documents of Nazi ideology are 1. Houston Stewart Chamberlain’s “Foundations of the 19th Century”, 2. Alfred Rosenberg’s “Myth of the 20th Century”, and Adolf Hitler’s “Mein Kampf”. All three works are explicit in their embrace of Christianity, and all three works either show no interest whatsoever in Heathenism on the parts of their authors (as was the case for Chamberlain and Hilter), or an outright hostility toward Heathenism, as was the case for Rosenberg.

            Third of all, the contemporary groups that feign sympathy for Heathenry while also espousing White-Nationalist, National Socialist or related Nazi-esque ideologies inevitably turn out to be in bed with groups and individuals who are openly Christian fundamentalist or even Dominionists, something that No True Heathen would stand for.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            First of all, Heathenry has distanced itself from the Pagan Umbrella, in the main. Sure, there are Heathen-Pagans, but there are also Christian-Pagans. Heathen, as a term, is *now* used to refer to a specific set of traditions as informed by the ancient Germanic tribes, as well as some followed by their immediate neighbours.

            You don’t want to respect that? That’s fine. You are quite entitled to do so. Just don’t expect popular opinion/common usage agree with you.

            Second of all, whilst the foundations of the Nazi ideology may have been based upon certain parts of Christianity (I think we can safely agree that universal love and tolerance was scrapped here), it is pretty obvious that, due to a lot of Germanic iconography being used in Nazism, there has been a lot of interest in both directions between Nazi Heathen ideologies.

            I am not even remotely saying that Heathen = Nazi. I am simply saying that some (enough to cause a problem in some countries) are both Heathen (religious) and NeoNazi (political). This is beyond dispute.

          • Lēoht, when it comes to specific groups and individuals that appear to be religiously Heathen and politically Nazi, these are precisely the type of people and groups I am referring to, and what I am saying is: in my opinion is they are either not truly Nazis or not truly Heathen.

            If they are Nazis, then they are not my “kin”. Period. And not only are they not my kin, they are my enemies. And at the risk of committing hubris I would say that they are the enemies of the Gods as well, for they do truly blaspheme in that they denigrate the Gods by associating the Gods with with their evil ideology.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            No such thing as ‘evil’, only conflicting points of view.

          • There is no fundamental evil as a basic component of the Cosmos. But there is plenty of evil created by humans.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Only if you believe in objective morality, which I don’t.

          • Well, last I heard, he was claiming to be a Platonist, so yes, he believes in an objective morality.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Then he is patently wrong. 😉

          • “Only if you believe in objective morality, which I don’t.”

            As far as “objective morality” goes, I prefer the term Δίκη, or Justice. Which I do believe in. And that is not something that each person makes up on their own from scratch.

          • Both words simply refer to those who reject Christianity and instead
            choose to follow the old Gods and the old ways that preceded

            Then what about the well-documented application of “pagan” onto atheists.

          • Throughout history, Christians have often used the terms “Pagan”, “atheist”, “unbeliever”, “Heathen”, “devil-worshipper”, and “heretic” interchangeably. This is an inevitable side-effect of the “One True Religion” world-view, which forces everyone into one of two mutually exclusive camps: Christians, and Everyone Else.

            But specifically concerning atheism, it is true that, from the Christian point of view, Pagans are atheists, because we do not believe in their God, in the sense that we reject the Christian God as the One True God who is the creator and ruler of the universe. It works the other way around to: from the Pagan perspective Christians are just atheists, because they do not believe in the Gods.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            We are not concerned (at this time) with what Christians called others in history.

            We are more concerned about what people self identify as now.

          • Dude, that reasoning is so circular, you don’t even realise that you’ve contradicted your previous definition. You’ve practically rendered “pagan” as the Christian equivalent of “muggle”, which is a negative-definition term (defining something by what it is not) that has no real meaning outside the community that uses it in such a way. When you can’t use a positive definition, a word that is defined by what one is, you’re doing one a disservice.

            If you’re that obsessed with and even approving of what Christians call others, then I certainly question your motives and intent.

          • Genexs

            Ruadhan, what Apuleius says is true: the back and forth accusation of ‘atheist’ between Pagans and Christians is well documented in the Greco-Roman world during the rise of Christianity. It seems many Pagans thought belief in one God was the same thing as believing in no god. Christians, otoh, though believing in the wrong god was like believing in no god. It’s strange, but well documented.

          • Genexs

            And that, i am not arguing. On the other hand, the pejorative implications of the Latin paganus are also well-documented. The current state of the English pagan is well-documented, as well. These well-documented definitions contradict Curt’s claim of what the word “pagan” means, and especially what he claims it has always meant. He’s basically been saying “B = C” when the evidence says otherwise. I’m sorry that I wasn’t clear in that, but his circular insistence that “pagan has always meant this…” is easily proven to be so untrue as to be practically an absurd declaration. He might as well be claiming that the word “fag” has always meant “gay” and that the word “gay” has always meant “homosexual”.

          • Exactly!
            I’m really tired of people trotting that fallacy out just because they don’t understand that sometimes words mean things. The fallacy is a variant of circular reasoning.

    • “She is not accusing anyone of anything.”

      Wait. What? Are you claiming that Magliocco views “fundamentalism” as something that is positive, or even neutral? She clearly views “Pagan fundamentalism” as problematic. And I think most Pagans would agree that “fundamentalism” is a very bad thing, indeed.

      It is true that she has so far refused to say exactly who these fundamentalists are. But she is obviously accusing someone of fundamentalism, even if she won’t, or can’t, say who.

      • aidanakelly

        Mr. A. Platonicus, you are still, as my daughter said, a goon. You are also a troll and an invincible ignoramus. If you ever manage to publish as many books as Professor Magliocco–and I know there is no chance that you ever will–then you would have the right to criticize her. And I have now wasted more time on you than you deserve.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Amount of books published does not count for anything. It is the substance of those books that is important.

        • I was under the understanding that ad hominem attacks were violations of the comment policy.

        • Folcwald

          So, unless you have published as much as someone else, you have no right to criticize their arguments? That’s quite fascinating. Is there a web site or something keeping score of how many publications people have, so that when I see, for instance, tiresome old academics engaging in ad hominems on internet forums I can determine whether it is OK to respond or not?

        • “Wasted time” would be right. This blog hasn’t seen as much ad hominem and fallacious logic as is displayed in your comment here in about two years.

      • Apuleius, you are much like the main character of your names-sake’s novel. I can only hope you have such a glorious end. Since she was quite clear in her initial presentation, go find Professor Magliocco’s paper and read it. Most folks are not like you, they understand what is being discussed and the context. If you wish to participate in adult discourse, it would help if you actually chose to participate like an adult. You are abusive and willfully ignore what is communicated. Unless you change your behavior, you are unworthy of participating, or of being responded to.

  • Luisadg

    Well reasoned and eloquent statement of what you have been trying to
    accomplish as a scholar and practitioner, and how difficult it can be to
    straddle that border.

  • Thank you, Dr. Magliocco.

  • LaurelhurstLiberal

    I would like to know how hard polytheism in particular fits into this discussion. For many Heathens, for example, hard polytheism is axiomatic. This may seem dogmatic to outsiders, but within the Heathen discourse as I have experienced it, it’s a given. We might argue bitterly about the status of Loki, but nobody argues that he’s just an aspect of Odin or of some greater male deity.

    Does this constitute fundamentalism according to the author’s ideas? I can’t tell.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Most Heathens don’t see Heathenry as part of Paganism, anyway.

      • See this is the kind of statement that slightly worries me. I could be completely misreading your response, and if so I apologize, but it feels to me like there’s an unsaid, “and good riddance” at the end of that. (Again I could be completely misreading and I’m sorry if that’s the case.)

        As someone who has come to identify as a Heathen, and who still feels like a part of greater paganism (even if that label does chafe sometimes) I do often feel a bit ostracized. Personally I would really like an answer to LaurelhurstLiberal’s question. Would Magliocco see Heathenry as fundamentalist? Do other pagans? Might this have something to do with why Heathens have moved away from the Pagan community in general? These seem like pertinent questions.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          You misread the sentiment. There is no sense of ‘good riddance’.

          I was merely pointing out that, for the majority of Heathens, the issue of Pagan Fundamentalism is irrelevant as it does not include Heathenry.

          I would say that, by and large, Heathenry is a dogmatic set of religious paths (it isn’t like there is One True Heathenry, after all), but that they are accepting of other beliefs.

          It is this acceptance that seems to be the major sticking point in the description of fundamentalism.

          Do I believe that my way is the right way? Yes.
          Do I accept that others believe differently? Yes.
          Do I attempt to force my beliefs onto others? No. Mostly. If they attempt to place their stance as the only valid one, then I fight back.

        • tlh

          Well, and some people could very well feel that “good riddance” that you describe here. So what? If that is a valid sentiment for them, there’s no reason to force them to change it or feel guilty about it.

      • LaurelhurstLiberal

        Maybe we’ll get to the point where polytheists are kicked out of the big Pagan tent, but I don’t see any advantage in leaving willingly. Heck, I spent years hanging around Wicca before I felt the Allfather’s call. And it was a Wiccan priest who made the introduction!

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I don’t see the advantage in being kicked out, but leaving willingly? Seems much more sensible.

          Also, I didn’t say anything about polytheists, just (most) Heathens.

    • harmonyfb

      In my opinion, it’s not that y’all believe that all Gods are distinct from one another…it’s how you respond to those who don’t believe it which does or does not suggests ‘fundamentalism’ (in the pejorative sense). Are soft polytheists to be scorned? Ridiculed? Is their religion held up as an enemy to ‘right thinking’?

      We don’t all have to agree – but when disagreement becomes toxic, I think we see the bitter beginnings of fundamentalism. As one commenter said up-thread, a lot of people bring baggage from former religious belief that can bleed over into their dealings with other faiths. If you were raised in a strictly fundamentalist Christian household, for example, you may find yourself speaking of your new faith in the same way without realizing it.

      • I get not wanting to feel like other people find your belief silly, but it often seems like there’s a bit of a double standard going on. How many people here have ever referred to someone else as a fluffy bunny, white lighter or crystal muncher? How many of us think that The Secret is ridiculous drivel? If we’re to castigate hard polytheists who considers those they disagree with fluffy as fundamentalists do we need to then call out eclectic Wiccans who think that most New Agers are a bunch of white lighters as fundamentalists as well? I honestly don’t have an answer for this. Part of me wants to avoid ever judging anyone else’s beliefs but another part honestly does find some things to be silly and fluffy. What to do?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Reject their beliefs as silly, but respect their right to hold them.

          That’s what I do.

        • harmonyfb

          How many people here have ever referred to someone else as a fluffy bunny, white lighter or crystal muncher?

          Well…not me, actually, because religion is personal, and what works for me might not work for other people. It’s not really any skin off my nose how other people interact with the Gods, and why would I call people such pejorative names in the first place? ::frowns::

          Part of me wants to avoid ever judging anyone else’s beliefs but another part honestly does find some things to be silly and fluffy. What to do?

          To quote Will Wheaton: Don’t be a dick. IOW, mind your own business and focus on your own beliefs, and don’t treat other people’s belief as something that you need to ‘correct’. It is entirely possible to say, “I believe XXY” without adding “…but if you believe DDR, your belief is shallow and silly”.

          • But is someone being a dick if, when engaged by another about theological issues, they are honest about their feelings and opinions? I would never walk into my local New Age or witchy shop and start theological fights with complete strangers, but I think there *has* to be a space for theological debate in any religious community or movement.

            What still really concerns me is that at the end of the day I *do* believe that there are theologies and practices which are shallow and culturally insensitive. And for me it’s just as important to call those things out (particularly cultural misappropriation, shallowness is infinitely less of a concern) as it is to call out the hipster wearing a “Native American” headdress.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I don’t think that’s what’s being talked about here, actual thoughtful meta. Calling someone on cultural appropriation isn’t the same thing as blanket saying that you have to be a believer (and a hard polytheistic believer, no less) to be a “real” Pagan, and if you’re not, you’re just cosplaying, you’re just LARPing, or you’re there in bad faith and shouldn’t be going to rituals, period, because rituals are for believers. That’s not “theological debate”, that’s “I’m going to act like anyone who isn’t like me is a bad person”. I don’t know about anyone else, but my jaw actually dropped when I saw those comments.

          • Tarian

            There is an issue though with some recon groups – I can think of one
            Celtic group in particular – calling out other pagans on ‘cultural
            appropriation’, by effectively claiming ownership rights over their
            particular pantheon, and drawing (I would argue false) analogies with
            Native Americans and other ‘indigenous’ peoples. The irony of a bunch of
            middle-class Americans claiming to be the only true representatives of
            the ancient Celtic peoples does seem to be lost on them, and would also
            be lost on any modern inhabitant of Cardiff or Dublin.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I must confess, I’ve always found the American appropriation of Native European culture as really quite ironic.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Ugh, yes, I agree. There are a few Heathens who do this, too, and it’s incredibly embarrassing.

          • harmonyfb

            but I think there *has* to be a space for theological debate in any religious community or movement.

            Theological debate doesn’t equal ‘fundamentalist’ (in the pejorative sense), to my mind. After all, fundamentalists don’t engage in theological debate, because anyone who espouses something counter to their narrow set of beliefs is wrongwrongwrong/the enemy/evil/crazy/etc.

            I *do* believe that there are theologies and practices which are shallow and culturally insensitive. And for me it’s just as important to call those things out

            Hmm. Why do you feel this is your job? (Not being provocative; I’m asking genuinely.) Why is it important to you to “call out” other people’s religious practices? What could be achieved by it that would not be better achieved by simply practicing your own faith?

            (And you might consider that what you perceive as ‘shallow’ could simply be an imperfect understanding on your part. Let me use an example from my own practice. I have an image of Hermes in my car which is a toy from the McDonald’s “Hercules” promotion. Someone who saw this thing might think that meant my faith was ‘silly’ or ‘shallow’, without understanding that I was led to this figurine by Hermes during a period in which he gave direct guidance to me. It’s presence in my vehicle is comforting and is used seriously for daily devotions while traveling. Outsiders might see a stupid blasphemous toy – don’t get me started on the ‘Zeus ball’ from that promotion – instead of an everyday miracle.)

      • Kilmrnock

        I can agree to an extent , in the recon/hard polytheist faiths there are some that are openly hostile torwards Wiccans /Witches but these folks are in the minority. The web pages of most recon / hard poly groups forbide or strongly discrourage such behavior . My group/faith also discrourages such behavior . Unfortunatly there are many out there that have had bad experiences with Wicca groups myself included , but i grew past that .Altho i can understand it, I donot condone such behavior .

    • It *is* hard to tell. My guess is that it’s the same “beliefs are WRONG!!” syndrome the pagan community has been suffering from, only this time dressed up in academia and Foucaultian verbiage.

  • I’m curious as to which persons or groups exactly would be considered fundamentalists. A corner stone of this argument is that we should be having these discussions because fundamentalism is a dangerous and real trend in paganism, so wouldn’t it be pertinent for the reader to know whom exactly the author believe might be advocating a dangerous theology or ideology? I understand the desire not to point fingers, but if one really believes that there are actual fundamentalists among us doing damage then shouldn’t they clue us in as to who those people might be for our own sake?

    • thehouseofvines

      I’m a Dionysian Fundamentalist. Does that count?

      • Amen! If you’re not following Dionysus, you *are* doing something wrong. This is objective fact 😛

        • Does frequently drinking copious amounts of wine qualify as following Dionysus?

          • It’s a good first step 😀

          • ChristopherBlackwell

            Well it did seem to be rather popular at one time. That doesn’t disturb me it was tearing apart animals and sometimes men that might have upset me then. [Grin]

          • thehouseofvines

            It’s a start.

        • thehouseofvines

          At the very least you miss out on his blessings and that’s a shame.

      • Only if you brand me with a hot iron for not converting 😉

      • Ha! Indeed, I’ve stumbled across your site more than a few times. Glad to see you commenting here.

    • John Blatzhelim: “if one really believes that there are actual fundamentalists among us doing damage then shouldn’t they clue us in as to who those people might be for our own sake?”

      This is true only if Dr. Magliocco is interested in a a real discussion of the matter. If that were the case, then her first order of business would be to identify who these fundamentalists are as clearly and unambiguously as possible.

  • I agree with most of this — indeed, some huge percentage of the text here is Pagan Apple Pie — but I’m left wondering why I’m so privileged that I am not seeing any of this “demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions.” Is my skin too thick? Have I hung out with demons so much that I don’t consider demonization A Bad Thing(tm)? (Just kidding. Sort of.)

    I think we need to avoid any tendency to anathematize, and leave “Paganism” as the Really Big Tent that it should be (and yes, I could be naive and a bit too late), and we certainly need to avoid slinging loaded terms around. Sabina says she has adopted the f-word with some caution; I would have advised whatever amount more caution as would have sufficed to avoid it altogether.

  • I believe that Prof. Magliocco only goes halfway in her explanation. When she rhetorically asks “what did I mean by “Pagan fundamentalism,”” she only goes on to define the second term. What, exactly, is the definition of “Pagan” that’s being talked about here? It seems the discussion would be well-served by knowing exactly what’s being discussed, and might go a ways to figuring out just who the “Pagan fundamentalists”, that she claims exist, actually are.

  • ChristopherBlackwell

    I think that we always must make sure that the very things that we did not like in Christianity do not become part of our own practice. As my first practiced religion was Buddhism, I can still remember how we noted how new Buddhist carried over traits of their former beliefs and we would talk about Catholic Buddhist, Born Again Buddhists and so forth.

    Changing your religion may not necessarily change how you think and practice religion. This is probably most noticed in us first generation Pagans. I will assume that as the second, third and forth generations take over we will see less Christian baggage. Meanwhile we don’t want to keep bashing Christianity as that keeps us tied to it, the last thing that we supposedly want.

    As for the comment someone made about Heathens, I happen to get to interview Heathens more and more often. As I actually talk with practicing Heathens, some of my misconceptions have dwindled away. I have found in them a range of people from failry conservative to some I might think of as sort of liberal. I think the worse thing that Pagans and Heathens and others can do is lose contact with our other communities. This is where our misunderstandings come from when we think about others based on our assumptions rather than speaking with them and getting their view.

    Some of them are equally surprised that a Wiccan is not all airy fairy, white lighter, nor thinks that all Pagans and Heathens must abide by the Wiccan Rede or the Law of Three. [Grin] Best of all I find Heathens, just as Druids, and Ceremonial Magicians, even Witches, who are just as interested as I am to keep in touch across the boundaries of our different custom and beliefs. Interfaith work has a place within our Pagan and Heathen communities, just as we are also doing with the larger religions.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      I’d suggest that interfaith with Pagan, Heathen and other similar systems is *more* important than with the systems that seem themselves as ‘in opposition’ to us.

      Solidarity through shared difference. It is when people stop supporting that concept that we see fundamentalism and intolerance.

  • tlh

    I think that the entire concept of “paganism is earth centered religion” is where pagan fundamentalism is found. Try saying that you are not an earth centered pagan and see what kind of response you get.

    • Yes! Though, I don’t agree entirely with it only being found in the “earth-centered” faiths, the concept of not being “Earth-Centered” ruffles more feathers than I have hairs on my head. Luckily, that voice is finding some room to grow. I experimented with trying to be more “Earth-Centered” but it simply didn’t do it for me. I respect my environment because I respect my Gods, but it is not the “center” of my spiritual practice.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I would also argue that some paths simply are not earth centred.

        If we look at those paths that have primordial entities, such as the þursar and titans, we see that these primordial entities are representative embodiments of nature whilst their offspring are the gods of humans.

        • I personally prefer to use the word “faith” instead of path, but I know exactly what you mean.

          On the one hand I agree with you on account of the Titans ruling natural things such as the Sun and Moon, on the other hand I disagree with you because a lot of the Titans are Gods of things that are not “nature” aspects such as memory, breast-feeding, order, etc. I would also go so far to say that many of these embodiments of nature exist beyond that which they embody, though that essentially comes down to be moot to you as I can’t “prove” that in any substantial or meaningful way.

          I’d also like to point out that many of the Olympians have natural associations. Zeus, Hera, Poseidon, Demeter, Hephaestus, Aphrodite (to an extent), Artemis (to an extent), and Dionysus all have natural domains( to name just a few). Where they differ is they also all have domains which contribute to civilization remaining (somewhat) stable. I couldn’t see why if someone wanted to focus on the natural aspects, they couldn’t. Of course, this person would benefit more and fit in far better with a group like ADF than they would with any Hellenic Reconstructionist group.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I know that many of the gods (Greek or otherwise) have natural associations, but they tend to be associations with the connectivity between humans and (the rest of) nature, rather than the ‘purer’ embodiments of the Titans (and similar.)

          • Hmmm, that is an interesting way of putting it, and quite true. I think it is more clearly demonstrated by the divide between the Aesir and þursar but I’d certainly say that many of the Titanic domains are “purer” for lack of a better word.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I think it could possibly be shown in other paths, as well.

            There is a fairly common theme of a race of primordial, elemental entities being displaced or deposed by a younger generation of more human-friendly entities.

            You could probably even include the Formoire or Ireland as one of those ‘first generation’ races.

          • Yes, I’ve noticed that to an extent. I was actually thinking of the Formoire, in terms of this first race being supplanted by other, “newer” Gods. I wonder, do you know if this is something that occurs in non-European mythologies?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I am not overly familiar with non-European mythology, but I believe that Abrahamic texts give a suggestion of this – notice how the Angels are portrayed as warriors from the earliest moment (even before a time we could consider ‘the Fall’.) They were an army for some reason.

          • I’d attribute that to the polytheistic ancestor of the Abrahamic faiths. Looks like I have a bit of research to do.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Research is always good, if not always useful.

          • I agree! I’ll message you again when I’ve turned up some nice bits!

    • Exactly!

  • Peter Dybing

    As a more simple observation. There are a few in our community who will take any chance they get to personally attack those who bring up subjects they don’t want discussed or are uncomfortable with. If allowed to stand, these individuals will manifest a “white washed” Pagan community. A place where only those who seek influence and power by creating an ever widening following of people with soft words and little depth in their offerings to the community.

    As for me, I admire those who do serious work like Sabina, real research and supported conclusions that call us all to reflection and deeper understanding.

    • More vague attacks on un-named people.

      “There are a few in our community ….”

      I call bullshit.

  • S Kaiser

    I have been reading through the many discussions however I merely wanted to thank Sabina for taking the time to post her thoughts an further explain the terminology she was using. Also a thank you should go to Jason for providing her this opportunity.

    For me she has provided many points for me to consider further and even provided me with a couple more books I look forward to obtaining and reading in an effort to personally expand, learn, and grow.

    • Deborah Bender

      I too thank Dr. Magliocco both for giving us something to chew over and for her presentations of research at non-academic conferences such as PantheaCon. The pagan movement is full of amateur scholars and students of religion who wouldn’t have a prayer of keeping up if professionals did not take the time to summarize their findings in non-specialist language, in fora that are accessible to us. Scholars who take the time to do this deserve appreciation.

      I would also like to thank Jason again for creating and directing a blog that keeps getting better and better.

      I agree with the point some others have made that a statement that a problem exists has more weight when bolstered by examples. However, a blog like this might not be the best place to do that.

  • kittylu

    There doesn’t have to be antagonism between pagans and academia. Unfortunately I think some of the hostility began on the academic side because they couldn’t understand how modern people could relate to “primitive” religions. There was a bias. But as this religious movement grows, reconstruction is important to informing our rituals. Wicca is still important even if it is a new version of an old religion. It is a helpful philosophy for people who are new to nature religion.

    • Debunker34

      The fact is, that most asatru organizations are spreading misconceptions and rubbish and they hate anybodys guts who wnat to correct this.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Evidence and/or examples, please.

      • Debunker34

        Jul and midsummer at solstices or all the other wicca feasts so called Asatru are worshipping; Loki worship is ok and was normal; blóts were done in a circle; seidr is something gay and feminist – a “queer phenomenon”; the priest was waving a hammer around

        I could continue for hours with that BS… wonder that nearly all scientist don’t take those asatruar for real – me neither

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          You know that Jul was a Germanic feast. right? Not to mention that Wicca is an Anglo Saxon term (meaning ‘wise man’)

          Seiðr is a feminine form of magic, yes. One that Óðinn was well versed in, according to the ‘scripture’.

          Not sure I am seeing your point.

          • debunker34

            Yeah right, beause you definetely belong to the group I mentioned. If you still don’t know that Jul was NOT celebrated at the winter solstice in pagan times but mid January and moved to the 21. to 25. decembre by Hakoon the Good to make it a Christian custom, you definetely have no clue. But you are a brave “pagan” that fits to those organiszations I and many scientists don’t want have anything to do with.

            “Wicca” was created by British freemasons as a typical syncretic game some decades ago….”We ARE THOUISANDS OF YEARS OLD” ….lol…..

            And pls: drop a seidr discussion, if you already start confusing feminine with gay and feminist

          • You know I guess I am a fundamentalist. Because as a gay Heathen I see you as part of an out group, and I really do despise people who hold to the beliefs you do and would you rather all go elsewhere. Well shucks.

      • ChristopherBlackwell

        Strange, I must be lucky I even have heathers who encourage other heathers to be interviewed by me and I am a Wiccan. By the way some of these Heathens are Asatru.

        This is one reason why I try to stay in touch with as many different communities. I once had a negative view of Heathens, but when actually talking with them found they cover quite a range of ideas, even politics. We only can understand each other if we talk with each other.

        Meanwhile some of them learned not all Wiccans think all Pagans follow the Wiccan Rede, and not all are air fairy white lighters. So there are Heathens that are just as interested in keeping in touch with other communities as I am. I find the same true of Druids, Witches, and Ceremonial Magicians. Meanwhile I keep expanding the communities that I learn a bit about.

        So please be careful about broad brushing any group.

    • Genexs

      I actually witnessed some of that hostility from academia in the 1980’s. A friend of mine in college was a grad student in Anthropology and also a Wiccan. She wanted to study Wicca, and received nothing but flack from her advisers. When they finally relented, and she completed her project, she was subjected to some of the harshest criticism I’ve ever seen. She took it in good stead, but I think it’s one of the reasons she left the field.

    • Kilmrnock

      There is also a bias in academia where it comes to ancient cultures . As a CR i see this all the time . To most researchers /academics the Romano/Greek societies are the benchmark by which all others are the be judged. All others including Celtic are savages that benefitted from Roman intervention /conquering .Whereas from a Celtic Point of view this is clearly not the case . And there is also a Christian bias in academia as well . In a perfect world this would not be the case , but so it goes .In Celtic studies we must remove the veneer of Christianity and cultural bias to find accurate information about our ancestors . As most valid information about ancient Celtic pagan society was recorded by Conquers, Christians , or academics . Celtic Paganism was an oral tradition , very little if anything was written down by the Celt Pagans themselves .

      • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

        That’s not always true. I’m a history major, and also someone with similar beliefs as you.

        If you read older histories, then yes. Historians even a few decades ago were taught Greco-Roman society was the epitome of the world and other societies were lesser. Even some prominent Celtic scholars fall under this (Nora Chadwick comes to mind).

        But now many historians are past that, and we’re taught not to allow biases like that. Not to mention the significant number of Celtic scholars that entered the field without those biases (sometimes they don’t account for to broadly pro-Celtic biases however).

        However, I don’t disagree in the least about the Christian bias, though it’s less pronounced and I think continues on its own inertia rather than active support. But I think generally the attempts of scholars to remove Christianity from the sagas and use modern disciplines like textual criticism and linguistics to find the pre-Christian beliefs have been done in good faith and with professional quality.

        • Kilmrnock

          i will aggree things are slowly improving, but this is a slow process and alot of the information we use was written before things started to improve . Most of us still have to deal this bias.But i am quite happy things are improving and that Celtic Scholars are being taken seriously as is their work

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            Nothing changes quickly in the terms of historians. Half of the relevant literature on any given topic in the classical period assumes that I’m fully fluent in Latin (I’m not. Unfortunately). I’ve seen it in stuff as late as the 1990s, even though compulsary Latin stopped some time earlier. Nothing like a block of untranslated Latin text.

            I’m excited. I hope after I graduate to continue in the field which seems to be getting even more interesting with some of the “Celtic from the West” theories (if you want to talk about pushing against the weight of older material that’s a good one. Most people I’ve asked just assume the Celts came from Austria because we’ve considered Hallstatt Celtic for so long. But the actual data to “prove” Hallstatt as proto-Celtic is thinner than it appears. Though the case is far from closed.)

  • After reading a great many of the comments, I’m having some difficulty seeing what the boo-rah-ha is about. Unless I am misinterpreting her definition of fundamentalism, it seems reasonable. I am a Hellenistos, my faith is Hellenismos. It would, by her definition, make me a fundamentalist if I told a Wiccan who worships the same Gods as I “Everything you are doing is wrong, and the Gods hate you for it” whereas it would not be a fundamentalist action or stance if a Wiccan was going around claiming that his or her magical practice is directly descended from a long line of Greek witches or some such tosh, that my looking them in the eyes and saying “Stop lying” and then proceeding to explain how I know they are lying would not be fundamentalism. It seems that a lot of people are kind of getting hung-up on one or two details which must be taken with the whole.

    After it is all said and done though, I don’t really care if someone calls me a “fundamentalist” at the end of the day, for whatever reason. I’m going to expect this word to be thrown around a lot now, like the phrase “true will” has been getting thrown around. Like the phrase “true will” I suspect that some people throwing it around won’t have a good handle on what it actually means, but many will. I am a Hellenistos first, and a member of the Pagan Community second, and I’m not altering my practice or beliefs to fit a sub-cultural group’s mores.

    In the words of Sweet Brown “Ain’t nobody got time for that!”

    • I think it is very much the case that a Wiccan who claims that it is literally true that Wicca goes back to the dawn of time, yada yada, is a species of fundamentalist. And I think it would be equally fundamentalist for reconstructionists to claim that Wiccans are doing it completely wrong and that the gods hate us for it. As Prof Magliocco said, any tendency to view things in black-and-white and embrace one-true-wayism tends towards the fundamentalist.

      • Agree with you 100% Yvonne.

      • Yvonne: “a Wiccan who claims that it is literally true that Wicca goes back to the dawn of time, yada yada ….”

        The problem is that it is now accepted, at least by scholars such as Ronald Hutton and Owen Davies, that modern Paganism (including but not limited to Wicca) does indeed have a great deal of “connectivity” with historical forms of Paganism going back at least to late antiquity.

        So it all hinges on what we mean by “goes back to”. It is only the straw-man argument of a “continuous, unbroken lineage uninfluenced by anything else going back to the Stone Age” that can be summarily rejected based on modern scholarship. More nuanced versions of the “Old Religion”, including the positions that Charles Leland and Gerald Gardner actually espoused (if one bothers to read what they wrote), have actually gained in strength over the last 20 years due to the work of scholars.

        • If you truly believe that’s only a strawman, you aren’t nearly as experienced with other people as you think you are.

          • I would challenge you to provide a single instance of a person who explicitly espouses the “continuous, unbroken lineage uninfluenced by anything else going back to the Stone Age” idea.

            As far as my experience goes – my experience is that many people argue against this straw man, but I have never heard anyone actually take that position.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I’ve met several people who have made that claim. Sure, they are not authors or academics, but the position is out there.

            I could name them, but what good would that do, since they are not anyone famous?

          • I am not posing some rhetorical question here. I am honestly asking for actual examples of actual people actually claiming something along the lines of “Wicca is a continuous, unbroken lineage uninfluenced by anything else going back to the Stone Age.”

            People often have mistaken impressions concerning what other people have said. I believe that this is a case of such mistaken impressions.

          • Northern_Light_27

            What are people who’ve encountered that thinking in the wild supposed to do to please you, find them again somehow and say “please make an idiot of yourself on this website so you can help me win an internet debate”?

          • If I knew how to get a hold of some of those people who were both a) practicing “Wiccans” and b) genuinely and sincerely believed that “Wicca is the oldest unbroken and unaltered religion in the world”, or genuinely and sincerely believed in the fabled matriarchal utopia that preceded all Indo-European cultures…, I’d give them a brownie for their troubles –I love finding any excuse to bake, so I’m all for it, but you know, over the years, surnames or forenames get forgotten, or or are so common that looking them up on FB is a crapshot, and that’s even assuming that they’re on FB.

            But hey, I should just stop thinking about it, now that I have Curt to assure me that unless these people wrote a book, I apparently just imagined them. Every single one of them. After all, if they’re just strawmen unless Curt says so, the only logical explanation of my recollection of having all these numerous conversations with people (a few of whom I even can prove I knew at one time, “IRL” and everything!) is that I just imagined it! Nothing is true, unless it says so in a book! Which is funny, cos I thought Plato’s definition of Reality was incredibly different from that.

          • I could try and get you in contact with a few girls I knew from the University of Michigan pagan student group, but I lost contact with them years ago, and I’d rather not hunt them down on FB or something. Last I knew, they *literally believed* in Murrayism and that Wicca *was* the “unbroken, unaltered” face of the so-called “matriarchal witch cult”.

            But let’s say I did get a hold of them and put them in contact with you: They’re no-one famous (not that I’m aware of, anyway), and they’ve never written anything substantial (again, that I’m aware of), so you’ll just respond to their existence with “So, Ruadhán, when are you going to have some evidence?” Cos that’s just the way you are. You arbitrarily redefine the definition of “existence” to suit your purposes, whatever they may be at the time. No matter how widely held a belief may be, you don’t acknowledge it as anything but a “straw man” until some-one famous in the pagansphere says it –on the other hand, you’ll put any cockamamie nonsense that Christians talk under a microscope, as if it’s a substantial representation of the religion as a whole.

            You got issues, boy, and I’m getting a tad bored of your nonsense. I mean, fuck, Lewis Carroll is believed to be the king of nonsense books, but I have a feeling that your Wild Hunt commentary alone could put The Hunting of the Snark to shame.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Fair enough.

            I used to know this girl, Sarah, who described Wicca as “The religion of this country before the Christians converted or killed most people.” She then went on to say that some of the witches (she was one of those who used the term Wiccan and witch synonymously) survived the purges and practised in secret, handing down their books of shadows to their successors through the generations, before the repeal of the witchcraft act allowed it to come out into the open again.

            Then there was Stuart, a guy who didn’t call himself a witch/Wiccan, but always stated that Wicca was a pre-Christian religion that survived in the shadows through the centuries.

            Is this helping at all, or do people I know first hand not count?

          • Only if they wrote a book, is my guess. That’s just how our buddy Curt is.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I think he underestimates how popular the movie ‘The Craft’ was. I’ve met Manon worshippers before. They seemed to think that film was more documentary than entertainment.

          • Not only popular, but incredibly influential on young pagans in the mid-to-late 1990s, and really shaped how Pop Wicca is understood and practised. CoG’s Pat Devin, a consultant for the film certainly affords it some legitimacy in the eyes of some –and the weird shit the casg and crew claim happened while filming some scenes, and apparently filming The Craft was what sparked Fairuza Balk to convert to paganism…. Seriously, to a lot of young people interested in Wicca in the mid 90s, well obviously some stuff was just made up or embellished for the film, but it certainly carried a stronger air of legitimacy than some other films produced during the 1990s media fad for witchcraft. It was the scourge of grown-up pagans and witches at the time, but if you were sixteen, this was your Godspell equivalent –it presented some basics, including a mythical “past golden age” that was popular with the older generations at one point, and it had a crew that included people with a legitimate interest, and during the final stages of production, the cast’s antagonist became THE most prominent pagan in Hollywood. Balk even owned a pagan & witchcraft shop in the L.A. Area, for a few years.

            Have a lot of people who initially formed their own personal paganism after watching The Craft grown up and learned better? Sure, in fact I could easily believe that most have –but some people just don’t proceed past the first chapter. Maybe they get bored and change books, or maybe they decide they don’t want to “ruin it”, with the “it” being that so-called “perfect” idea of what’s supposed to happen, what it’s all supposed to mean, and they retain those ignorant beliefs, cos they’re very happy with them.

          • Thanks for those examples, Leoht. Unfortunately, we only have your report of what Sarah and Stuart have said. It’s not that I think that you are misrepresenting them, its just that second hand reports of what person X said, especially when coming from someone who strongly disagrees with person X, cannot be given much weight. To properly evaluate what someone says, especially on matters like religious beliefs, it is absolutely necessary to have both the exact words of that person, and the complete context in which those words were spoken.

            The starting point for this little side discussion that we are having is Magliocco’s claim that there are “Internet Pagan blogs” espousing a “fundamentalist” view of “Wiccan foundational narratives”. This raises the bar significantly above second-hand reports of what other people may or may not have said in private. If the blogs that Magliocco is talking about actually exist, then we would (if we knew where these blogs were) have public statements coming from people in their own words.

          • Really now?

            You clearly haven’t been to the same pagan meet-ups I have, nor the same pagan student groups I have. Or been on every single one of the same e-mail lists I have. Sorry I can’t provide you “linkies” to the “peeps” I’m thinking of, but yeah, when I’ve asked people what they meat by “Wicca is the oldest religion in the world”, every once in a while, I have been told, in no uncertain terms, that the person claiming that believes that said is *the oldest, continuous and unbroken religion in the world*; I’ve asked for evidence, they either suggest some book they clearly didn’t understand, or they’ve insisted that their “grand/mother said so”. You’re certainly welcome to doubt my experiences as I’ve lived them, or at least jump on your other common tactic of going all “of course there are naive people who think all sorts of wrong things, you know I meant *serious pagan writers*, yadda yadda yadda…”, as you often do in these sorts of arguments. You’ll just put me that much closer to filling up my “Curt’s Stock Replies to Any Sort of Disagreement” bingo card.

            You can say it’s a straw man all you like, but the fact remains that there is a minority of incredibly ignorant / naive people in the pagan community. At least as many as I’ve encountered of Christians who’ve claimed Christianity to be “the first and only true religion” –and believe me, I’ve met Christians who think those Jack Chicklet-heads are “just a straw man”, too.

          • In other words, you’ve got nothing.

          • Oh, grow the fuck up, Curt.

          • Genexs

            “the fact remains that there is a minority of incredibly ignorant / naive people in the pagan community” Heh, I think that holds true for any community! But I see what you mean, I’ve been told “we belong to an Earth centered religion” by some with a mouth full of animal cruelty (fast food chicken wings), while they skip recycling and toss their beer/wine bottles in the trash dumpster.

          • Northern_Light_27

            I haven’t run into very many of that kind of Wiccanesque person in a while (though I have no doubt they’re still out there), but I can definitely attest to the fact that an awful lot of people in the Goddess Spirituality community still 100% believe in the prehistoric matriarchy thing *and* the 9 million witches killed in the Burning Times thing. I’m still on the RCG-I mailing list, I see both show up entirely too often. That and all the foibles of second-wave feminism are why I took a big ol’ step away from that community.

      • Genexs

        So, what you are saying is that anyone we can claim is acting loopy is a “fundamentalist”? Or, maybe someone who thinks they are ‘calling down the moon’, or someone who uses tarot cards?

  • Debunker34

    Most pagans don’t know the hell what they are talking about and that is what most pagans want. Most belief wicca is a religion thousands of years old and asatru is about Loki worshipping and gay marriage. But that is eactly what most pagans want and they are served very well in thos misconceptions…..

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Evidence and/or examples, please.

      • Debunker34

        Jul and midsummer at solstices or all the other wicca feasts so called
        Asatru are worshipping; Loki worship is ok and was normal – Loki was a funny gay with adolescence problems ;-)) ; blóts were
        done in a circle; seidr is something gay and feminist – a “queer
        phenomenon”; the priest was waving a hammer around….

        I could continue for hours with that BS… wonder that nearly all scientist don’t take those asatruar for real – me neither

        Just look around you….

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Methinks that, perhaps, it is time to employ this: ᛟ

    • You seem to have an ax to grind. Drive-by slurs aren’t in the spirit of a constructive debate, please re-think your approach or start your own blog to share your many opinions about Wiccans and Asatruar.

  • The problem I find is that Prof. Magliocco’s underlying assumption that pervades her writing is that “Paganism=Wicca,” which I suppose is understandable given her own background. This assumption leads her to say things about “Paganism” (specifically the paragraph titled “Are paganisms becoming more focused on belief?” as well as the line “It is therefore not helpful, useful or even fair to make belief a touchstone of religious or community membership.”) which are generally not accepted in hard polytheist circles, and I think this is one of the reasons so many polytheists are having difficulty with Magliocco’s remarks. If you worship Odin and Thor, then you are part of Asatru, not Hellenismos. This is not a difficult concept. Belief *is* a touchstone of religious/community membership.

    I agree with those others who have said that if people in the Pagan community are engaging in this dangerous philosophical stance of fundamentalism, or casting “malicious and untrue rumors” about Prof Magliocco, why be coy about it? These are dangerous and negative elements, yes? Who are they?

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      You over simplified. Not all followers of the Aesir are Asatru. Also, there are plenty of eclectics who pick and mix their own personal pantheon. Nothing wrong with that approach, if it works and is respectful.

      • Yes, I oversimplified, but your comment about eclectics still proves my point. “Hellenismos” is a specific defined category of beliefs and rituals. Of course there’s nothing wrong with eclectic pagan paths, but if you pick and mix your own personal pantheon, it’s still not the same as following the ritual guidelines and beliefs of the ancient greeks. Now, if you are following entirely those traditional forms, you’re probably not an eclectic.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I’d easily agree with that.

    • Northern_Light_27

      I don’t know about that. I just saw, not three days ago, someone post a confession that they are an atheist to a *very* non-Wiccan, reconstructionist-inclined internet space. The reaction was basically “cool”. Here’s an excerpt from a well-liked comment: “Heathenry
      is not like Christianity; you don’t need faith. Heathenry contains
      elements of religion, ethics, understanding of relationships to family,
      community, and world. There is room to be athiest Heathen, as there is
      solitary heathen, just as there is room for those who believe the gods
      are ideals or archetypes, rather than discrete beings who can and have
      taken physical form. We are our deeds, that is what makes us heathen.” That seems to be settled opinion offline where I am, too.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Heathenry is as much an umbrella term as Paganism is. There is plenty of room under the umbrella for different takes on it.

        The only thing that is really needed by anyone under either umbrella is respect for all others sharing the term.

      • Kilmrnock

        From my experience not all or most heathens are that open minded . Most are pantheon oriented . Those examples are a minority most certainly not the norm

        • Northern_Light_27

          IIRC it’s the biggest Heathen group on Facebook, and like I said, it’s the thinking where I live, too. I’m starting to think the ones who are all “hard polytheism is the only acceptable option” are the minority, not the open-minded ones. Honestly? This looks like an internet tempest in a teapot.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Where do you live?

            Here in Britain, pretty much everyone of a Heathen persuasion I have met (and Heathen groups I have looked into) starts their definition of ‘Heathen’ as one who believes in the Germanic pantheon (in whatever guise, be it the Norse, Englisc, or other variant of the same group of gods).

          • Northern_Light_27

            Mid-atlantic US.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Like a lot of things, I imagine this is a case of regional variation.

      • Certainly in the various forms of Heathenry (Asatru, Forn Sidr, etc.) there is, IMO, a much stronger cultural aspect than what one finds in nearly any other kind of paganism, so that is, I imagine, a strong draw for many adherents. (Confession: I am a Hellenist now, but I came to hard polytheism and the recon mindset originally as an Asatruar. I have the most experience with other recon/hard polytheists in Heathenry.)

        But keep in mind (and this is an important and common mindset, I have found, across various recon paths) that if you are performing a ritual, to whom are you performing that ritual? For what purpose?

    • Kilmrnock

      I tend to agree her writings and comments are very Wiccan centric . things that don’t work is Wicca and those types of beliefs are the norm in Hard polytheistic, recon type faiths and visa versa. Wide sweeping statements about paganisms made from a Wicca Centric point of view are going to upset those of us in the recon ranks . Granted Wicca is the most common form of paganism at this point , but sweeping generalised statments are bound to upset the rest of us .

  • Tarian

    A couple of points. Firstly, much of the recent controversy over academic approaches to paganism might be attributed to the fact that certain academic scholars are perceived, rightly or wrongly, to be setting out to de-legitimize certain Pagan ‘foundational narratives’, and to insist that the only valid community history is that approved and validated by the academic community. One might contrast that with the situation in a traditional religion, such as Christianity, where academic theology participates in upholding the traditional narratives, even against historical criticism. Thus to characterize a belief in, say, the continuity of ancient and modern paganism, as ‘fundamentalist’ would be equivalent to calling a Christian who believed in the Resurrection or the Virgin Birth a ‘fundamentalist’, which is clearly ridiculous.

    Secondly, the phrase “an insistence on a single correct form of belief, and the demonization of those who hold different beliefs and opinions” could very well apply to those who insist that pagans believe only in the new, ‘revisionist’ history, and suggest that those who refuse to do so are themselves ‘fluffy’ or ‘wilfully ignorant’. Thus we have the fundamentalist ‘Huttonite’, who insists that all modern pagan writing is judged against ‘Triumph of the Moon’, whether the author is writing for an academic journal, or writing for an informal pagan magazine, and who knows that any criticism of Hutton’s work is incorrect without even reading it.

    Perhaps finally some of these commentators might like to consider that the role of a foundation narrative is different from the role of a history textbook, and that both have their place, as is the case with established religions.

    • The biggest problem with the Huttonite fundamentalists is that they stubbornly cling to a view that Hutton himself has now abandoned. In “The Pagan Religions of the British Isles” Hutton proclaimed that ancient and modern Paganism “have nothing in common except the name.” In “Triumph of the Moon” he doubled down on that by labeling as “fundamentalist” anyone who lent any credence whatsoever to the notion of the Old Religion. But just a few years later, Hutton admitted that he had previously completely overlooked the most important connections between ancient and modern Paganism (in the book Witches Druids and King Arthur, especially chapters 4 and 5).

      It is now widely accepted among academics that (1) modern Paganism has many and varied connections with pre-Christian Pagan religious traditions, and (2) that the early modern Witch Hunts were at least in part directed against practitioners of beneficial forms of magic that constitute genuine Pagan “survivals”.

      It should be recalled that the original formulation of the concept of the Old Religion comes from Charles Leland, and he did not claim that modern Witches represent an unchanged and unbroken religious lineage going back to the Stone Age. In fact, what he claimed was that the Old Religion represents a survival of certain myths and beliefs from classical Greco-Roman Paganism, combined with more regional and folk beliefs that also predate the historical process of Christianization. Gardner’s formulation of the historical roots of Wicca is actually very similar to Leland’s notion of the Old Religion.

      • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

        Widely accepted among academics? I’m sorry, I need to see some citations.

        I’ve a history major, and I’ve spent a considerably amount of time studying the “barbarian” cultures of Europe, and what we know of ancient religions. I have yet to see any reputable scholar claim there are “many and varied” connections.

        The entire idea of any sort of “old religion” or religious unity in ancient Europe is absurd from a historical perspective. Even amongst one ethno-linguistic group there wasn’t religious unity.

        • “I need to see some citations.”

          I would be happy to provide several citations if you can provide ONE that contradicts what I have said. (But here’s a hint: my first two citations will be to Ronald Hutton and Owen Davies.)

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            I’ll start looking, I don’t exactly have an academic library right next to me.

            However, the idea that, when YOU make an assertion, and I ask for documentation to back it up, the burden of proof is somehow on ME is ridiculous and childish. If you have sources, please let me read them. I’m quite familiar with scholarly historical works, and how to make a good guess at their veracity and reliability.

            Off the top of my head, to disprove the “Old religion” hypothesis (I’m not sure if you’re following Gimbutas on this one or not, so I won’t deal in the matriarchical/Goddess oriented inventions of hers, but rather the discussion of pre-Indo-European Europe as one culture) I would present Barry Cunliffes massive “Facing the Ocean:The Atlantic and It’s Peoples” , which is a pretty solid archaeological overview of Neolithic Europe AND the Indo-European periods and pretty strongly demonstrates that there was no unified culture in ancient Europe. There’s also the afore-mentioned Hutton. Not to mention dozens of articles criticizing or disagreeing with Gimbutas or any theory of that type. I find very little contemporary that even bothers, the consensus on this has been set.

            Leland is not exactly a reliable source. Let’s just say if I tried to quote him in a historical paper it would not be allowed. He has very little training in that field, and is better understood as one of the many “lay-experts” of the period, who were often of very questionable veracity. Some of his claims (for example, that a religion MUST have a scripture) show how thoroughly entrenched in his time and culture he was.

          • Here’s the thing: I know what I am talking about, and I can provide citations all day long. I am just making the point that the same does not appear to be true for you. Whine all you want, but if you demand citations from people you disagree with, you should be prepared to provide your own citations for your position. But of course you can’t do this for two reasons: 1. you have not actually researched these areas at all, and 2. there are no such citations.

            I can almost do this in my sleep anyway. As far as point 1 goes, namely that “modern Paganism has many and varied connections with pre-Christian Pagan religious traditions”, see this interview with Ronald Hutton, and this interview with Owen Davies:

            As far as point 2 (“that the early modern Witch Hunts were at least in part directed against practitioners of beneficial forms of magic that constitute genuine Pagan ‘survivals'”) see Ruth Martin’s “Witchcraft and the Inquisition in Venice 1550-1650”, Eva Pocs’ “Between the Living and the Dead”, and Emma Wilby’s “Cunning Folk and Familiar Spirits”.

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            First, I don’t like your tone. Whatever your purpose, being a rude prick will serve nothing.

            Second, To start with, I don’t see how Owen Davis is supporting your point. Recognizing that NON-RELIGIOUS practices sometimes survived in folk practices is not controversial. Claiming and sort of LINK between whatever it is you practice, and ancient practices is lunacy. There is most likely none, and even on the off chance there was one, there is essentially no way to support that. What he suggests seems to be that the reconstructed portions of many faiths (say, the basis in Irish or Norse mythology) can lay claim to being ancient. He specifically mentions literary sources. Moreover, pre-Christian ORIGINS are not a pedigree. Many things have origins quite distinct from their current practice, and folk practices in Southern Europe likely fell under the same system. He explicitly denies any sort of direct or oral connection.

            Hutton suggests the same ” my belief in the idea that witches were members of an ancient pagan religion gradually evaporated.” or “neither Carlo nor any other reputable historian since 1980 has argued that the people accused of witchcraft in early modern Europe were practitioners of a surviving pagan religion…” He mentions later CULTURAL connections, some of which would be extremely minor for any neo-pagan, and some of which apply to most of Europe rather than just neo-pagans. I don’t see any support for any religious connections, whatsoever, except for what he suggests as “ritual magic”, which would apply to a minority of ancient peoples, though a majority of modern neo-pagans. I’m not familiar enough with the work in question, but that specifically as a direct connection seems to be a case of stretching it’s relevancy. I do agree that a defined pedigree is unnecessary, and I only care because you presume to suggest what “historians” believe.

            I’m not familiar with Ruth Martin’s worth, though from numerous reviews I see no support for them being “geniune survivals” whatsoever.

            Pocs I’m also not familiar with, but I’m extremely skeptical of ANYONE discussing “European Shamanism” as any sort of unified thing, or even applying the term shamanism broadly. But a quick search brings up some criticism, especially that the book in question does not meet the standards of a historian or anthropologists, rather than a folklorist (since you are so fond of Leland perhaps it’s a pattern).

            It seems to me this isn’t the slam dunk you so assume, and why on Earth a few vague folkloric connections the vast majority of modern neo-pagans are completely ignorant of would be relevant is beyond me.

            But you’re right, this isn’t my area of study. I don’t really care. My beliefs were never in question, and I have no truck with witchcraft or Wicca of any type. The sensationalism surrounding this issue is pointless to me, I have no sacred cow to support in this. So you can take your attitude and surety somewhere else.

            Thank you for the citations, they might be interesting reads, though I doubt in any way they “prove” your assertions in any way. Nor does it represent ANY sort of consensus in academia.

          • Gearold: I apologize for my overly aggressive tone in my other replies to you. My only excuse is that I must have gotten you confused with someone else — but that is purely my own fault. It was not called for. I assure you that on a good day I am perfectly capable of disagreeing in a civil way, and that I always strive to avoid being hostile except to those who go out of their way to invite it, which you did not do.

          • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

            No harm done. I can respect that.

  • Kilmrnock

    I need to speak on this topic from a CR , hard polytheist point of view . As a fairly long term member of this group i donot consider us fundimentalist at all . I will admit there are some amoungst our ranks that are not fond of the softer forms of paganism but this is not the norm . And no group is inherantly fundimentalist . We generaly don’t openly associate with soft pagans . Now i personal hold no hostility torward any pagans . Altho we may be the fastest growing segment of pagans , recons and hard polytheists are still a small , scattered group . In my area Wiccans are the largest active pagan group . Most of the pagans i personal know IRL are Wiccan or some strip of Witch . Now online i mostly confer and associate with those of my kind . Getting back to the main topic , CR, Recon and Hard Polytheist traditions and ways inof themselves donot make us fundies by anyones defintion . Just because we believe our gods are individuals , follow/honor a set group or family of Gods dependant on ethnic choice of pantheon doesnot makes us fundimentalist. I am pleased these misconceptions were cleared up

    • GearoidMacConfhiaclaigh

      Glad someone said this.

      I’m not formally associated with any CR group, by my beliefs lie in that direction. I’ve had some Wiccans and others say I’m too much of a fundamentalist, because I tell them I disagree with their view of the world, even though I make no moral judgements concerning it. I just disagree philosophically/theologically with soft polytheism.

  • as far as I know, some scholars do say, that it does not really make sense to use the term ‘fundamentalism’ for other religions than those who are based on a relatively small corpus of writings like Shia and Sunni Islam and Protestantism and who also do draw a political blueprint from these writings; for e.g. the Pius X bunch in Catholicism, the terms ‘integrism’ or ‘traditionalism’ are more appropriate (their preferred political models do not originate in Catholicism), and e.g. not every biblical or koranical literalist like Jehovahs Witness or Plymouth Brethren or even some quietist versions of Salafism who don’t do politics

  • William

    With respect, I think Fundamentalism is the wrong term to use here. The term began as a ‘back to basics’ campaign in Christianity and became applied to Islamic movements presenting themselves in a similar manner but with a strongly militant, absolutist, anti-secularist and intolerant character. As a result fundamentalism has become misapplied to other groups exhibiting these latter characteristics without necessarily espousing a return to traditional or scriptural values.

    I absolutely agree that there are increasing numbers in contemporary Pagan communities around the world who are abandoning the near-relativistic pluralism and tolerance which has tended to characterise much of Contemporary Paganism.

    I would characterise this trend as absolutism rather than fundamentalism in that it emphasises a belief in the correctness of one’s own spiritual/religious ideas or practices to the denigration of all others. I would suggest that absolutism is one of the most destructive and dangerous ideologies humanity has ever conceived and that it needs to be challenged at every opportunity.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Absolutism is fine, when tempered with tolerance and respect of others.

      I absolutely believe that my take on the gods is right. But I do not feel that I have to worry about other people who, in my opinion, are ‘doing it wrong’. If that works for them, that’s fine.

      What is a problem is the absence of respect or tolerance for difference.