Pagan Voices: Sarah Anne Lawless, Oberon Zell, Chas Clifton, Yvonne Aburrow, and More!

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  December 3, 2013 — 66 Comments

Pagan Voices is a spotlight on recent quotations from figures within the Pagan community. These voices may appear in the burgeoning Pagan media, or from a mainstream outlet, but all showcase our wisdom, thought processes, and evolution in the public eye. Is there a Pagan voice you’d like to see highlighted? Drop me a line with a link to the story, post, or audio.

Oberon (Tim) Zell, an important figure in the early Pagan councils.

Oberon Zell

“We the undersigned are a coalition of academic scholars and authors in the field of religious studies, who have done research into contemporary Paganism, and written books on the subject. Pagan studies represents a growing field in academy and the American Academy of Religion has had “Contemporary Pagan Studies” as part of its programming for more than a decade. We are approaching you with a common concern. The word “Pagan” derives from pagus, the local unit of government in the Latin-speaking Roman Empire, and thus pagan referred to the traditional “Old Religion” of the countryside, as opposed to Christianity, the new religion with universal aspirations. Paganism, therefore, was by definition pre-Christian religion. Over time, with the expansion of the Roman Church, “pagan” became a common pejorative by Christians toward any non-Judeo-Christian religion. In the 19th century, the terms pagan and paganism were adopted by anthropologists to designate the indigenous folk religions of various cultures, and by Classical scholars and romantic poets to refer to the religions of the great ancient pre-Christian civilizations of the Mediterranean region (as in the phrase, “pagan splendor,” often used in reference to Classical Greece). Today, the terms Pagan and Paganism (capitalized) refer to alternative nature-based religions, whose adherents claim their identity as Pagan. Pagans seek attunement with nature and view humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of Mother Earth (Gaea). Contemporary Pagans hearken to traditional and ancient pagan cultures, myths, and customs for inspiration and wisdom.” – Oberon Zell, and a coalition of Pagan scholars, from a petition sent to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style advocating capitalization of the word “Pagan” when referring to the religious movement.

Chas Clifton

Chas Clifton

“One thing I did at the recent American Academy of Religion annual meeting was stop by the University of Chicago Press booth and get the name of the managing editor of the press’s Manual of Style, which is the holy book, all 1,028 pages of it, for editors of academic books and journals—plus many publishers of serious nonfiction. A petition has been sent to her by Oberon Zell of the Church of All Worlds, etc., as well as to the editors of the Associated Press Stylebook, the holy book of American journalists, about the capitalization of the word “Pagan.” Oberon has lined up forty-some writers and academics in support of the petition [...] So far, the University of Chicago Press has acknowledged receiving it and plans to forward it to its Reference Committee. This is a worthwhile cause, I think, and it is a battle that I have fought since the early 1990s (at least) when I was writing The Encyclopedia of Heresies and Heretics for the reference book publishers ABC-Clio. (A friend working there at the time commissioned it.) I won the battle on Pagan — even for ancient polytheists — but lost on BCE/CE versus BC/AD.  As editor of The Pomegranate, I have continued to insist on capital P’s except in direct quotations. This has put me in gentle conflict sometimes with British and other European contributors who favor “pagan” or at most use “Pagan” for self-conscious contemporary new religions and “pagan” for pre-Christian practices. I think that bouncing back and forth is confusing for the reader’s eye.” - Chas Clifton, talking about his support for the capitalization campaign, and his own efforts on that initiative’s behalf. 

Sarah Anne Lawless

Sarah Anne Lawless

“Modern witchcraft is changing its stripes. I need only to talk to elders and attend long-standing events to see this clearly. The young people are upsetting and delighting the older generations with their newly evolved beliefs and practices. One old-timer is horrified by an ecstatic ritual at a festival full of nudity, body paint, drumming, trance, possession, and ecstatic dance. They complain loudly to everyone and try to get nudity banned at an event that’s been clothing optional for twenty years because they don’t know how else to deal with their extremely uncomfortable reaction to the ritual itself. Another elder’s eyes shine with joy to see young people hosting a ritual the likes of which they haven’t participated in since they were taking amanita caps in the woods with their friends from college in the 1960s. They clap loudly in glee and ask for more. [...] The big name initiatory traditions are no longer the be all end all of witchcraft. Younger generations of witches are putting less and less importance on lineage and formal initiation choosing personal gnosis, mysticism, direct ecstatic experience, and spirit initiation over the customs of previous generations.  Many of them would rather follow a personalized spiritual practice than follow the dogma of a set tradition. Many of them do not agree with the hierarchical structure of witchcraft covens and the many interpersonal problems it can create. Many consider strict traditions to be as divisory to witchcraft and Paganism as the different sects of the Church are to Christianity (i.e. witch wars). Others don’t like the polytheistic restriction or the inexplicable focus of only the ancient Celtic and Greek cultures within traditions. They want more options, more flexibility, and a more involved, hands-on style to their craft.” – Sarah Anne Lawless, on how the death of modern Witchcraft is a myth.

Yvonne Aburrow

Yvonne Aburrow

“It is a little known fact many of the early pioneers of the Pagan revival in England were gay: Goldsworthy Lowes Dickinson, who came up with the idea of the League of Nations, was a gay man. Back in the late 19th century, he advocated the revival of the Greek view of life, including Paganism and same-sex love. Edward Carpenter, a gay Pagan vegetarian socialist poet around at the same time, also advocated a return to nature and wildness. [...]  Those of us who are LGBT and Pagan, together with our allies, are working to recover the ancient pagan traditions of the gender-variant shaman Divine Androgyne, deities of same-sex love, and to discover or invent new symbols for the diversity of LGBT experience. The Pagan community also supports marriage equality, and we see the struggle for LGBT equality and the recovery of LGBT stories, mythology, and ritual as complementary efforts. [...]  If we look back into the Pagan past, we can see many queer deities, such as Odin, Vertumnus, Pan, Artemis, the Pales, and so on. There is a tradition of the Divine Androgyne in Wicca. It is not difficult to tweak the rituals slightly to make them more LGBTQ-inclusive, and this is also great for heterosexuals who find the gender binary paradigm rather tedious. In Heathenry, there is the practice of seiðr, a shamanic practice which can involve gender-bending and same-sex love, and many LGBTQ people are attracted to Heathenry as a result.” – Yvonne Aburrow, on the LGBT experience within modern Paganism, the deep history of LGBT people within Paganism, and the current state of same-sex marriage within the UK.

iao131“The fundamental Law of Thelema is “Do what thou wilt” which is a radical exhortation for each individual to explore and express their true nature, whatever that may be. Fundamentally, we as Thelemites uphold everyone’s right to be who they are. This involves a revolutionary form of tolerance or acceptance of diversity. Thelema itself is partially the result of a syncretism of many religions and philosophies. It says in The Book of the Law, “Aum! All words are sacred and all prophets true; save only that they understand a little.” We can also find reference to Jewish, Christian, Muslim, Egyptian, Greek, Hermetic, Buddhist, and Hindu ideas within The Book of the Law itself, let alone the other Holy Books and writings by Aleister Crowley. This speaks to Thelema’s ability to appreciate the truths that are held by the various ideologies across the globe and throughout history. Our eclectic syncretism is not arbitrary though insofar as everything revolves around the core of “Do what thou wilt”: threads are gathered from all corners of human existence to be woven together through the harmony expressed in the word of the Law that is Thelema. The tolerant acceptance of different points-of-view is what distinguishes Thelema from virtually every other religion that has come about in human history. This can be seen very explicitly in the declaration of the rights of man in “Liber OZ,” wherein it is written, “Man has the right to live by his own law—to live in the way that he wills to do.” We are radical in our acceptance of others as they are, however they may think, speak, or act, yet we also take up arms against dogmatism, prejudice, and superstition that impede the full expression of humanity’s liberty.” – Frater IAO131, on why Thelema kicks ass.

Anomalous Thracian

Anomalous Thracian

“Whether we draw our strength and comfort at an identity level from our absolute service to the divinities and spirits we serve and piously praise, or in our gods-spurred service to community, I think that it is important also to recognize the value in the things which make us uncomfortable, to own that discomfort (rather than to blame others for drawing it up within us), and in that way learn to either build upon resources and skills we did not previously find place for within ourselves, or else value them in others (whose participation and proliferation in those pursuits frees us to do that which we are doing). We are not all meant to be the same, or engaged in identical jobs or tasks or even modes of relation, but we are all meant to engage in the same space and occasionally come up against each other conflictually, and in so doing find new ways of pioneering the continued development of our social and spiritual and devotional topographies. Unlike chimps and bonobos, humans have the capability or at least the potential to choose to correct impulse which is at its source purely chemical and an archaic throwback to the glory days of gatherer-hunter society, before iPhones and IKEA and internet forum trolling. When these conflicts in our communities come up, I comment again and again at the value to be found in them. The key piece is not where you fall on a given issue (although, please, find out where you do, at least for your own benefit and that of your religious and social engagements in order to be more authentically and fully realized a form of yourself!) but rather that it is that these very differentiated stances actually bring authenticity and integrity to our religious movements. These discourses (gnosis and mysticism versus social engagement and advocacy, etc) are not new, in the realm of theological and religious debate; they are tried, true, and unending in terms of “resolution” or “rightness”. They are to religious debate as “nurture versus nature” is to psychological debate! The fact that we are having them demonstrates once more that we have achieved that which we have sought to achieve: status in practice (rather than mere theory!) as a religious social entity and set of movements! Our theologies and social theories and institutional (gasp!) structures have reached such a place of firmness (or fluidity..?) that they can come into competition with one another in a way that actually constructively pushes, propels, and encourages further discourse and growth, rather than theological “shut-downs” and “walk-outs”.” - Anomalous Thracian, on the subject of dissonant comfort.

T. Thorn Coyle

T. Thorn Coyle

“The Goddess Athena came to the door in disguise. Telemachus welcomed her in. Today at the soup kitchen, I saw two people I haven’t seen in over a decade. One is an old school leftist with a bright smile, a man who struggles with clinical depression. The other is a woman for whom I used to offer hot compresses to soothe the abscesses up and down her arms, drawing the pus and poison from the pinpricks on her body. I looked at her today and thought, “How is she still alive?” How is she alive after years of chronic drug use and living on the streets? The grinding of that day to day would be too much for me. Yet here she was. Then came in the well dressed, well spoken man with work steady enough to pay his rent but not feed him until the rest of the month. His shoes were shined, as usual. Then the guy taking classes at City College who was also short on cash. On and on people came, sat, laughed, ate. 125 gallons of fresh soup, and equivalent amounts of salad and bread. Everyone who walks through the gate – guest or volunteer – has a story we don’t know. Everyone gets fed. Who is a stranger? What is the unknown? Whom do we choose to welcome? Whom do we choose to spurn?” – T. Thorn Coyle, on welcoming the stranger.

Glen Gordon

Glen Gordon

“Amidst my panic and dread that I killed the deer, a flash of imagery and sensation overcome me and I pulled off to the side of the road several yards from where I hit the deer. There was no exit or other way to cross the lane and head back to the site. My mind filled with a vision of seeing the world as a deer, feeling the world as deer, smelling the world as deer (there is no other way to describe it). I felt the impulse of four legs darting underneath me, and saw another deer ahead of me. Then an unsuspected blur streaked in front and I felt the pain of impact. I was myself again and sitting on the ground next to the passenger side door which has a deer-sized imprint. To this day, I can’t look at that door without thinking of that flash of being a deer. I was shaken, as tears swelled in my eyes and I felt the fur that stuck in the crack between the door and rest of the car’s body. (In some places the fur stayed for a year.) I  trembled as I touched the bristly fur, and an unexpected sound came from my mouth. A simple string of vowel sounds in different combinations. My voice trembled as the sounds grew stronger in my abdomen and moved through my throat and escaped my mouth. The singing intensified as I got into my car and continued driving. It felt important to me that I not stop the song.  It weaved in and out in different arrangements of the same sounds. The tempo would speed up and slow down at intervals and filled up the space of the car. I sang for at least 3 hours before entering the nearest town on the route. My eyes watered and my body was moved by these sounds that moved through me but came from outside of me.” - Glen Gordon, on the “death song” he learned to sing.

Sam Webster (with Herm), photo by Tony Mierzwicki.

Sam Webster

“Love is oft touted as the solution to all ills. I’m not seeing it. Without love, life is not worthwhile. It is gray, dismal, lonely and harsh. Love, mercy, compassion, care, kindness give value and joy to all we do. But is not a solution to our problems. Our problems are from bad choices, from promoting the stupidity of selfishness over general wellbeing. What love is here is too narrow a love, just for self or those closest. Wide enough love can be the spark that leads to action, but it is not the solution. For love, alone, is used as a palliative: Don’t worry, just love each other and all will be well. At worst is it the mere sentiment, the subjective feeling of love, that we are enjoined cultivate, having no impact on anyone except ourselves, and we feel so good about it. Yet the object of our love gets nothing of our sentiment except maybe words, perhaps flowers. Love at its best is the will for another’s happiness, and this at least has the virtue of being motivating, to someone. Yet, in and of itself love is not a solution. Wisdom is the ability to make the right choices, even without sufficient data, because it is founded on data, which when contextualized is knowledge, and when the pattern in the knowledge is then understood and recognized time and again such that general principals of the ways of the world can be intuited. This is wisdom and takes hard work to get there. So hard is it that the most direct discipline to acquiring it is called the Love of Wisdom: Philosophy. To forestall the hubris of claiming to be wise, we only claim to aspire to wisdom through the love of it.” – Sam Webster, on love and wisdom.

That’s all I have for now, have a great day!

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Jason Pitzl-Waters

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  • Guest

    Yay for “pagan popes” who decide who is and is not a real pagan.

    • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

      It has nothing do with pronouncements from some pulpit, but everything to do with respecting traditions where they exist.

      • Katherine de la Haye

        Most ridiculous thing I have heard in over 20 years of pagan life.

        • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

          Respecting tradition is ridiculous?

          • Katherine de la Haye

            What “tradition” is this? It must be a fairly new one.

          • Katherine de la Haye

            How old is said tradition? What about other traditions that many are ignoring? Can’t talk of respecting tradition if you’re not respecting tradition.

          • Charles Cosimano

            Yes.

          • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

            May I inquire as to why you think that is?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          You don’t hear much, then.

        • Franklin_Evans

          I’ve heard and seen many things more ridiculous in over 40 years of pagan life. Just sayin’…

        • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

          I’m not even sure where to begin. You are either being deliberately coy, or simply failing to make any sense. “Can’t talk of respecting tradition if your not respecting tradition”? This statement makes little sense.

          Traditions, where they are established, hold that the values and teachings they espouse are worth passing on to the next generation. If one belongs to such a tradition, why is it wrong for them to establish a base line for membership, and why is it okay for someone else to come along, take the bits they like, and discard everything else?

          I’m not sure where ignoring traditions, in favour of tradition comes into any of this conversation, other than for the purpose of obfuscation.

          • kenofken

            I don’t know that the underlying post is even referencing the old “trad vs eclectic” or trad vs solitary divides so much as the normal generational divide that happens in any culture.

          • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

            It is this bit here:

            “Many of them do not agree with the hierarchical structure of witchcraft covens and the many interpersonal problems it can create. Many consider strict traditions to be as divisory to witchcraft and Paganism as the different sects of the Church are to Christianity (i.e. witch wars). Others don’t like the polytheistic restriction or the inexplicable focus of only the ancient Celtic and Greek cultures within traditions. They want more options, more flexibility, and a more involved, hands-on style to their craft.”

            Which belies the lack of understanding, as Leoht put it, of the purpose of having a tradition in the first place.
            I do get the generational element inherent in the discussion, but if a point of tradition is to establish a set of parameters which are to be adhered to, and they are not, because of a lack of willingness from the newer generation of that tradition, then it goes beyond generational differences because it makes the whole point of tradition, moot.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Exactly.

            It is not about saying that people can’t be eclectic, or can’t be syncretic, or whatever. It is about saying that “Our tradition is this, if it is restrictive, go find one that isn’t, but please do not appropriate from us.”

          • TadhgMor

            This. Exactly this.

          • Katherine de la Haye

            There are pagans out there who aren’t earth-based or nature-based at all. But according to this petition, and the definition of the word “pagan” set forth here, such pagans aren’t “real pagans.” Yet this definition of pagan – a nature-based religious path – only dates back to the early 1900s. This is a fairly new “tradition,” this earth-based idea or concept. But who said these people could establish this definition for all pagans? Why are these people acting like pagan popes?

          • http://threeshoutsonahilltop.blogspot.com/ gorm_sionnach

            I see, I do believe we’ve got our wires crossed.
            I was referring to the Lawless quote, not Zell’s.
            I see Zell’s efforts as more of an attempt to get the word Pagan capitalized in style guides, but as to the definition of “Pagan” in a modern context, it is remarkably difficult to peg down a term that has become all things to all people.
            I do not think the intent was to exclude non-”earth based” traditions or individuals, nor to act as “Popes” who get to decide what’s what. Rather to provide some basis for journalists and academics to capitalize the word Pagan. They style guide is not a dictionary, nor an encyclopedia, just a convention on writing.

          • Jason Hatter

            Thank you for providing the context for your comment. I, for one, didn’t know what you were referring to for sure when you made your comments, so I didn’t respond. Now, I don’t need to, others already have. :)

          • Franklin_Evans

            I’m honestly curious: which religious paths for which the term “pagan” is accurate are not also properly referred to as nature-based or earth-based (assuming a distinction between those two qualifiers)?

            In all of my readings, and I do think of them as extensive, I’ve not encountered this. Also, I’ve learned to discount what I read in the face of a person stepping forward with new or contradictory information. That’s also why I’m asking.

          • TadhgMor

            It’s quite arguable that Celtic Reconstructionism is not a “nature based faith” in the sense that the New Age conceptions of nature and our place in it are entirely foreign. Most recon traditions in fact.

            I would not use either term to describe my practice.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I can’t help implying that this is a personal comment — I really do want to see a variety of sources in response — but here it goes: why do you have a “New Age” filter on this? It seems to “color” your reactions to just about everything.

            I don’t deny that your filter can be accurate. I just don’t accept that it is valid all the time. Maybe the context of such statements need to be more exact — and I’d join in asking for that — but nature- or earth-based could just as simply refer to traditions that found their strongest expression in agrarian cultures, and contained strong components attached to that type of culture. Is that last not a fair description of the Celtic traditions?

            I can offer a personal variation: My beliefs start with the UPG (well, in a general sense) that our planet is a living organism. I do not worship our planet as a deity, while referring to it as “Great Mother” as a useful (and heartfelt) metaphor. I see no reason to reject earth-based as a valid description of my beliefs, even while having no use for New Age in general and some strong objections to it in certain specifics.

          • TadhgMor

            New Age is the vector that introduced a large number of non-traditional practices. It’s the intellectual playground of many eclectic and syncretist groups, and it’s where these many of these nature oriented ideologies brewed and matured, if not originated.

            I find it to be an absolute scourge on the pagan community. It is the nexus of appropriation and where many of the negative stereotypes about us as a whole are formed.

            I have never seen anyone use the terms in a way to suggest agrarian cultures and their worldviews have any connection to the “sacred nature” ideas. I do not seem them as the same. Nature can have sacred characteristics without a faith being “nature-based”.

            I’d argue that’s very much within the realm of New Age ideas, even if you reject the term. If we were to classify it it’d fit within that area. Certainly it is not an idea from antiquity.

            Your beliefs might be earth based, but it certainly does not mean the term has much validity, unless you broaden it significantly to agrarian like you did (which again I’ve never seen before) for most tradition practices. The worldview and assumptions behind it are modern.

          • Franklin_Evans

            Much food for thought. Thanks.

          • Northern_Light_27

            Kemetic Reconstructionism. Wishing I could link to some of my friend’s very irritated venting on this subject, because it really gets her goat.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    “Many of them would rather follow a personalized spiritual practice than
    follow the dogma of a set tradition.”
    Perhaps they are not really understanding the point of tradition, then.

    • Franklin_Evans

      That could be true of some. I would take her phrasing at face value and avoid ascribing generalization and its pitfalls to it. “Many of them” is an accurate description, from my perspective.

      I have encountered many fellow travelers who agree on a personal principle that guides my own path: I do not accept or reject, I observe and discover. If there is anything on my path in which others may find value, they have to do their own walking and discovering; my words and descriptions pale to insignificance next to their personal examination. Tradition attempts to describe the paths of those who walked ahead of me. I can no more accept it blithely and blindly than I can accept someone’s words “this is the best tasting chocolate you’ll ever eat” even after that first bite, because I can never know when I might find the next person trying to convince me of that with their own offering.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        There is a fine line between belief and imagination. That is all I will say.

        • Franklin_Evans

          Fair enough. I’d rather debate the relative merits of beer vs. ale. ;-)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I wouldn’t have a clue about that, I’m not a drinker. (Heathen heresy, I know.)

          • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

            You do know that every day you don’t drink alcohol a kitten dies somewhere?

          • Franklin_Evans

            I heard it was a leprechaun is forced to swallow a coin from his pot of gold.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            And who doesn’t love a bit of unlucky fried kitten, every now and then?

          • Wyrd Wiles

            SHHHUUUUUUUUUUNNNN…..

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I get that a lot. :p

          • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

            I have “the need for mead” myself ;)

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      I think its the dogma that they reject, not the other religious elements of practice, theory, ecstasy, custom, community, etc.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Nothing wrong with dogma, in itself.

        What you are saying, in essence, is that some people pick and choose the bits they like/find convenient, and discard the rest, regardless of whether it makes sense afterwards.

        • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

          No, I am not saying that. I am saying they do not accept the idea that beliefs are fixed and eternal and unchangeable. These can change to adapt to a person’s spiritual needs. The rest of the non-belief aspects of the tradition they accept and pass on.

          • TadhgMor

            Seems like a rather simplistic false dichotomy on their part then. Either you’re a free flowing eclectic with no attachment to tradition or a specific culture, or you’re a dogmatic authoritarian with fixed beliefs that have no room to shift.

            Seems quite a bit like a stereotype to me.

    • yewtree

      Tradition is an evolving thing.

      Wicca in the USA is much more rigidly defined by lineage than is the case in the UK. Here in the UK, we build on what went before.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        Yes traditions evolve, but they are still respected (in the main).

        I can’t talk much about Wicca or the USA, being a Wessex based Heathen, but I can still see why people hold to traditions. They are how communities are built.

  • Franklin_Evans

    Oberon presents in succinct and erudite fashion the context of our predecessors, our modern experiences and the lexicon surrounding both. I know him by reputation as well as by his writing, and I trust his intentions as well as his conclusions.

    • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

      Yes, kudos to Oberon for spearheading this important change in our society.

    • Charles Cosimano

      I’m sorry, I just get really weird when people try to tell other people how to write.

      • Merlyn7

        But this is the Associated Press Stylebook, it’s only purpose is to tell journalists how to write.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        You must hate English teachers.

      • Katherine de la Haye

        I get weird when they tell me how to think.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Paganism and, to a lesser extent, Heathenry are demanding respect in interfaith, and wider society in general.

    Thing is, respect is earned. How, then, do the Pagan and Heathen communities earn the respect of other religions?

    • Ursyl

      If the rule is that the proper names of religions and types of religions are capitalized, then that rule should apply to the various Pagan religions, and the label “Pagan” itself.

      There are many sects of religions for which I have little enough respect, but I capitalize their names. That is the convention in writing.

      I don’t think respect has anything to do with the suggestion that the various style guides should apply their own rule to everyone equally.

      It’s either a rule or it is not.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        There are many who do not even see Paganism(s) as a (collection of) valid religion(s).

        • http://www.cernowain.com/ cernowain greenman

          And there are those of us who understand the Pagan movement as a “religion”, just as in the sense that the Hindu religion is a collection of religions.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I was referring to such people as the previous Pope. Not too sure about Frankie, yet.

        • Ursyl

          That’s not up to them.
          Once upon a time, the same was true of Christianity.
          After enough time, the same was true of break-away sects of Christianity.
          And so it goes.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Unfortunately, in many ways, it is. They hold the power and might really does make right.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      By being willing to dialogue, by contributing to joint good works, by supporting others seeking respect… Oh, wait, we already do that…

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        And it doesn’t work.

        Have we asked those we want to get respect from how to earn it?

        It may turn out that we do not even want it, if the cost is wrong.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          It does work. It’s the way BGLTs and Pagans got respect among Unitarian Universalists.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Christianity is the dominant religion, and it marginalises and ignores (for the most part) Paganism, Heathenry and similar religious groups.

            Paganism gets about as much respect as Jedi.

    • Franklin_Evans

      Also read the other responses so far, and I believe you are asking two separate questions.

      In the public space where all religions (and other identity definitions) meet — speaking from a US point of view — we expect the same respect afforded to all citizens and residents. Pluralism is the sharing of a common ground first, and separating into groups and enclaves second.

      In the political space — in which I also lump the social politics wherein the remnants of theocracy safely live on without threatening the rest of us, at least not directly — respect is a commodity with a very real intrinsic value, not subject to rational examination or debate. By that last I mean that even when not named explicitly, association remains the strongest of the knee-jerk motivations. Guilt by association is our lot in this realm, being the perennial scapegoats behind the Christian dualism that to this day cannot own its dark side. Praise by association is there also, and hardly discussed at all. It makes finding corruption all the more traumatic. It is just as dehumanizing as guilt, because it convinces others that those praised are devoid of or immune to human frailty.

      I jumped off into a lecture there, sorry about that. I don’t think I could have made my point with any brevity. We — Pagans, Heathens and fellow travelers desiring other labels or no labels — are the modern heirs to centuries of propaganda and fear-mongering against us. In that sense, we will have to fight for respect. Hopefully it will not manifest as physical violence, that being usually a self-defeating method. Shrug, YMMV.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        I would not be surprised if physical violence is in the future.

  • Ursyl

    In as much as the historical pre-Christian religions were religions, and the modern non-Abrahamic, non-Hindu, non-Buddhist, etc religions are also religions (by whatever beliefs and practices), then it is simple logic that their names should be capitalized just as the more well-known religions’ names are.

    This is not rocket science; neither is it a matter of thinking any particular religion is valid or true or worthy of respect.

    If the rule is that the names of religions and families of religions (Abrahamic) are capitalized, then the rule should apply to all.
    It’s either a rule or it is not.

    I have done this on discussion forums in the past to demonstrate the concept to some who refused to follow the rule by then refusing to capitalize any religions’ names. The rule either applies across the board, or it is no rule at all.

    • AndrasArthen

      The “rule” isn’t quite that simple, and it hinges on the grammatical distinction between a proper noun and a common noun. A proper noun defines something unique and specific, such as “London”, and is almost always capitalized; a common noun, such as “city,” has a much more generic and inclusive definition, and therefore is generally not capitalized. The Chicago Manual of Style indicates that the names (including derived adherents and adjectives) of “major religions, denominations, etc.” should be capitalized, and specifically recommends the capitalization of Druidism and Wicca, for instance. But words like pagan and paganism are considered “generic terms” much like animism, monotheism, polytheism, or fundamentalism — i.e., they’re held to be common nouns, and as such are not capitalized.

      On the one hand, the petition states that “Pagan and Paganism (capitalized) refer to alternative nature-based religions,” which actually seems to be making the case for non-capitalization by indicating that those terms have a generic, rather than a specific, meaning. On the other hand, elsewhere we find the statement that “Pagan and Paganism are now the… nominal identifiers of a defined religious community.” That’s better, but it begs two questions: defined by whom, and defined how? There’s the crux of the problem — paganism is not one thing, it is many different things; it doesn’t have one definition, it has many, and lots of them clash with each other, as do their proponents. Individuals and groups are free to define paganism for themselves as specifically as they want, but does the pagan movement as a whole have enough cohesion to agree on a common definition? I think we all know the answer to that one.

      • Ursyl

        By that logic then, “christianity,” as the umbrella term for that segment of the abrahamic religions should not be capitalized either.

        Christian sects clash with each other over what is required. Christianity has more than one definition, even with them all hinging on one figure. They do not all share the definition of that figure: his nature, his divinity or lack of, what he requires of followers, trinitarianism versus unitarianism, the role of women, etc.

        They no more all agree on one definition than we do.

        For Paganism to be only a common noun, we’d be accepting that from the start, those who slapped that label onto the European non- and pre-christians, then turning it into a pejorative, were correct that those were not religions, that there wasn’t true religion until christianity brought it to our ancestors.

        Do we really want to do that?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Christianity is a religion, not an umbrella of religions. Yes, there are any sects, but they all have the same ‘source material’. They all have a common theme.

          Paganism, on the other hand, is an almost undefinable concept, these days.

          I like the idea of lower case paganism for historical and general ‘umbrella’ referencing but keep it capitalised for those who use it as a primary identifier of their spiritual beliefs.

          • Ursyl

            I think that would be confusing.
            The people practicing their indigenous European faiths before converting to Christianity were practicing religions, not umbrella terms. I think out of respect for those being actual religions, whatever terms we have for them should be capitalized. I don’t like the erasing of them as being just as legitimate as the newer religion by not capitalizing.

            I’m good with others disagreeing though. :)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            The beliefs of Pre-Christian Europeans were seldom named, until the Christians came a-convertin’ with their fire and steel.

            Considering that quite a few people already do as I mentioned, I don’t think it is that confusing.