Archives For panthesism

Boing Boing points to a fascinating essay by author Ken MacLeod in Aeon Magazine about moments of ego transcendence and “ineffable encounters” that he’s experienced over the years, and how he experienced them completely outside a spiritual or religious container.

John Muir, Washington Column. Yosemite

John Muir, Washington Column. Yosemite

“I was on my own, exploring the banks of a river that ran along a broad, deep gully. I wasn’t far from human habitation but I don’t remember any sound except the river on the stones, dripping moss and humming insects. The sun was high in the west, brightly lighting one side of the gully. I was on the other side, in shade but nothing like darkness. There was nothing spooky or scary about my surroundings, nothing dangerous about my situation. Out of nowhere, the feeling of presence came back, ringing from the rocks.”

Interestingly, the first person I thought about when reading this essay was famous naturalist and conservationist John Muir, who embraced a pantheism, a religion of holy nature, that completely transcended his Christian background.

“Walk away quietly in any direction and taste the freedom of the mountaineer. Camp out among the grasses and gentians of glacial meadows, in craggy garden nooks full of nature’s darlings. Climb the mountains and get their good tidings, Nature’s peace will flow into you as sunshine flows into trees. The winds will blow their own freshness into you and the storms their energy, while cares will drop off like autumn leaves. As age comes on, one source of enjoyment after another is closed, but nature’s sources never fail.”

Muir would no doubt explain the presence “ringing from the rocks” that MacLeod experienced as nature conversing with him, or perhaps even the God in nature reaching out to him. What Muir isolated himself in nature to experience, MacLeod, free from the shackles of a traditional religious education or upbringing, came upon the feeling naturally and left its mystery intact by not trying to attribute it to “God.” I call this a sort of proto-pantheism because both of his experiences happened in nature, while alone, and both left him with a feeling of there being a “enormous presence. It was everywhere, like the shimmer of the heat in the air.”

The mystery of MacLeod’s experience, and his other experiences of ego transcendence, are the building blocks of spirituality. The containers we create to give names to the ineffable things we can’t rationally attribute. Paganism and indigenous religions often reach back to these building blocks, especially among our mystics and seers, who commune with nature, and seek to remove themselves from their conscious ego. Our structures following natural cycles of season, sun, and moon, our powers and omens seen in wind, fire, storm, and thrashing wave. Today our faiths, while closer to the building block moments detailed here than some belief systems, also have generations of tradition and detail to contend with, factors which lead us to label these moments and perhaps even diminish them in a haste to understand.

These moments should be an opportunity to lose our containers, and simply be. I think the mystery and lack of explanation are good things, goads to our creativity, a sense of interconnected wonder at the world we live in and the finite lives we lead.

Oh, and do check out Aeon Magazine, there are some interesting essays to be found there.

I haven’t discussed the massive, mind-shattering, and ongoing eco-disaster that is the Gulf of Mexico oil spill/leak, a disaster that we still can’t full quantify because the gusher of oil has yet to be successfully stopped (and could gush for years, if not plugged). Just about everyone agrees that it will end up being the worst oil spill in recorded history, and guesses about the long-term ecological impact have been grim, with some saying the Gulf of Mexico could become a giant “dead zone”. I’ve been so overwhelmed by the scale of this, and the heartbreakingly futile efforts to control it so far, that I haven’t had a chance to develop my own response, let alone a “Pagan” response to this crisis.

That said, some tentative forays into grasping the enormity of this have surfaced within the Pagan community, the most elegant and apt of them may be T. Thorn Coyle’s simple poem “A Prayer for My Beloved”. Here’s an excerpt.

Your oceans saline quick, flow in our blood.
Lover, forever we can say, “I’m sorry,”
But actions speak far louder than strong words,
And we, though brave and brash, are also feeble.

Lover, I fall now to my knees before you.
I will not beg forgiveness, not just yet.
My good friends shall be gathered all around me,
Holding hands, we will make better still, amends.

Alison Shaffer at Pagan+Politics, looks at our tendency to see nature as a luxury instead of a necessity, and that we need to recommit now more than ever to changing our relationship with the Earth.

“Yet it is my conviction that in order to remedy our abusive, exploitative relationship with the very earth that sustains us, we must learn again how to live as part of the natural world with awe, with reverence, and with love. It is easy to feel a tug of pity as I watch the pathetically struggling gull gasping in slime, or to feel sentimental regret over the thought that my partner and I might never be able to follow in my parents’ footsteps and see the Everglades as they once were. But there is real sorrow, and rage, when I think on the human species as an animal of nature in its own right, capable of selfishness, ignorance and destruction on such a scale. Confronted with this reality, and the reality of the natural world as itself bloated with strife and death, I swing between despair, and the ugly wish that Mama Earth rid herself of us once and for all and get on with her life. The only thing that can resolve this for me — the only way I can make peace with this reality of the natural world — is through love.

To seek the beauty and balance in the cycles of creation and destruction, life and death, to acknowledge a joy that permeates and lifts up these moments of desperation and depression — this is not a simple task. There is something disingenuous, even dishonest, about those who would criticize a view of the natural world as beautiful and awe-inspiring because it is “superficial” or naïve. Without a capacity to see the beauty within destruction, to seek the spirit and meaning by which we might better live our lives, it becomes all too easy for us to shrug our shoulders at our own acts of violence and dismiss them as “only natural.” But we do not love the natural world because it is lovable. We love the world because we have a bone-deep need of it, a longing to be whole.”

Others, like Sia Vogel, are throwing themselves into clean-up and rescue efforts for a disaster that we may not see the end of (here’s a list of ten things you can do to help), while Wes Isley at The Huffington Post wants to “seize this opportunity” to turn the disaster into a “moment of triumph”.

“But the major religions tell us that the Earth is not our home and that we are to subdue it for our use. The Neo-Pagan community, in contrast, celebrates nature as a great teacher and encourages us to nourish our connections to the Earth, of which we are only a small part. Other religions teach that nature, like humanity, is broken and damaged. Neo-Pagans, conversely, see nature — and humanity — as perfect just as it is, warts and all. So if you view the Earth as family and home, then you’re less likely to trash your front yard and kill off all your resources.

From this perspective, a Neo-Pagan might say that Mother Earth is using this oil spill to test us. What will be our response? Will we simply continue to pursue cheap oil for as long as it lasts regardless of the costs? Or will we make alternative energy a true priority? All faiths often use natural disasters — “acts of God,” they’re called — to teach important lessons. I say this oil spill can be used in the same way.”

While I tend to take a sacral and pantheistic view towards nature, I’m personally uncomfortable with the notion that this man-made disaster is Mother Earth “testing” us, since such a view diminishes the culpability of those truly responsible, and takes us into the murky territory of the Earth punishing us for our environmental trespasses. Such thoughts, in my mind, are only a degree or two away from the mindset that blamed the Haitian earthquake on Vodou, or that it’s an “opportunity” to religiously remake their society. I think re-examining our relationship to nature in the wake of this ongoing tragedy is only natural, and something that should happen, but I think we should be careful to avoid ascribing any supernatural will or motive to this situation.

I think prayers and workings at this time are appropriate, and I think involving yourself in clean-up and rescue efforts is even more appropriate, and I hope that we can stop this “leak” (hardly an apt term, under the circumstance) before things get even worse. We should reject any re-casting of this as a “natural” disaster, and make sure those responsible are held to account.  We can carry on in doing the small things we can do at this stage and hope that life can eventually return to the Gulf of Mexico, that our oceans will be spared an even larger eco-crisis due to these events. We can work and hope for a saner policy of tapping the Earth’s natural resources emerging from this event, and commit ourselves to a better future. To, as Thorn writes, better love this world.

Lover, I fall now to my knees before you.
I will not beg forgiveness, not just yet.
My good friends shall be gathered all around me,
Holding hands, we will make better still, amends.

Together, we will clean, slow down, and listen.
Together, we will sow and reap, and kiss.
We will arc around combusting star in season.
And learn to better love you.

So I pray.

The Utah Standard-Examiner talks to author Sharman Apt Russell on the event of her visit for the Weber Pathways’ Seventh Annual Author Dinner Event. Russell, well known for her science and nature books, branched out in 2008 with “Standing in the Light: My Life as a Pantheist”, which explored the history of pantheism, and her own devotion to that religious philosophy.

“Tell someone you are a pantheist, and she is likely to wrinkle her brow in confusion,” said Russell. “Tell her you believe that the universe is a miracle worthy of awe and reverence — and she may well nod her head in agreement.”

Which is all fine and good, some of my best friends are pantheists after all, nothing to write home about within the scope of this blog. What is particularly interesting is when Russell, a Quaker, discusses the distinctions between her pantheism and outright Paganism.

“I’m not a pagan dancing around a tree, I anchor myself to the Quaker community,” she said. “I belong to an organized religion, Quakerism, which is eclectic and diverse in its beliefs, but does have a sense of the sacred and … a sense of reverence. It has a lot of history to it, and so I’m am not unanchored.”

Which immediately made me wonder about all the Pagans dancing around trees who also anchor themselves to Quakerism. Some of whom I count as friends. Now, given that newspaper articles often paraphrase or quote out of context, we make not know the fullness of Russell’s feelings on the divisions between pantheism and Paganism. That said, there are an awful lot of implications to unpack from her statement. Is Paganism, in her opinion, unanchored? Does Paganism not have a sense of reverence or the sacred? What is she even speaking of when she speaks about “paganism”? I can’t imagine that a self-professed pantheist is completely ignorant of the advent of modern Paganism. Or indeed, that a Quaker pantheist would not know of the growing movement of Quaker Pagans, a phenomenon large enough to gain the attention of large Christian publications.

In the end, her statement sounds like a disclaimer. I may be a pantheist, it says, but I’m not too different. I shouldn’t scare or unnerve you. I’m not like those margin-walkers trying to co-exist in two different traditions, or taking my reverence for the universe into the realm of actually celebrating its existence by “dancing around a tree”. I’m safe, I’m one of you.

I don’t say that to mock or belittle Ms. Russell, only to acknowledge how those statements sound to actual Pagans who have been known to dance around the odd tree, or find a sense of true reverence outside a Christian-founded institution. Indeed, Russell, and her message, are important. She is making pantheism safe for those made nervous by the Pagans, in a very real sense she is preparing her community for a post-Christian society.

I have a confession to make, I love award shows. I’m not sure why, maybe it’s the pomp and pageantry, maybe it’s the idea of a shared cultural experience, maybe I’m just drawn to fabulously wealthy people giving each other statues. Whatever the reason, barring a few exceptions, if there’s an award show on, I’m generally watching. So it’s a given that I’ll be tuning into the 82nd Annual Academy Awards tonight. So as long as I’m doing that, why don’t we examine the nominees from a Pagan perspective.

Avatar’s pantheism vs. monotheistic morality: If there’s one dominant theme this year, it’s James Cameron’s “Avatar” vs. just about everybody else. Will the highest grossing movie of all time, the one that sends conservative Christians into fits, also take home the critical accolades of its peers? Most critics are split on whether Avatar, up for nine Oscars, will sweep the big awards, or if it will be shut out by critical darling “The Hurt Locker”. What’s fascinating when looking at the best picture, best director, and top acting awards, is that if Avatar is a showpiece for pantheism, then it’s up against a slate of films very much centered in Judeo-Christian morality (to different extents). From the evangelical dark-horse hit “The Blind Side”, to the vengeful Jews of “Inglourious Basterds” (and the suffering Jew in “A Serious Man”), to the redemption-song of “Precious”. We’ll have to wait and see if the pagan CGI blue people can win it, though Vanity Fair seems pretty certain of “Avatar” bringing home the best picture award.

“So, you’re left with Avatar vs. The Hurt Locker. One made mega-billions; the other isn’t even posting its box-office results for its Oscar re-release. One ends with its hero suffering shell-shocked ennui and masochistically heading once more into the breach; the other ends with a bulimic blue Ewok rave party and true love conquering all, even American capitalism. Because that’s what connects today’s Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences with Louis B. Mayer’s, faith in a simple movie formula that never seems to wear: boy meets girl, boy gets girl, boy turns into giant blue alien. All in 3-D!”

There’s a part of me that still has a hard time believing that box-office populism (and “rampant pantheism”) will win out at the Oscars, but then, the lightweight but popular Shakespeare in Love did win best picture once, as did “Dances With Wolves”, which “Avatar” is compared to quite often.

Other films to watch for: It’s often the smaller categories where we find interesting films for a Pagan sensibility. For instance, in the Animated Feature Film category you have Neil Gaiman’s darkly inviting otherworld-traveling “Coraline” and the (for better or for worse) Voodoo-drenched Disney production “The Princess and the Frog”. There’s also the little-seen Celtic myth-drenched film “The Secret of Kells”.

You may also want to see if “Food, Inc”, which examines food production in America, wins an award.

Beyond that, pickings get even slimmer. Will the imagination vs. base desires weirdness of “The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus” take home a statue? Will they throw a bone to the latest Harry Potter flick? Will the Golden Dawn/Masonic occult conspiracies of “Sherlock Holmes” garner an art direction award? Will they give an award to Helen Mirren simply because she’s so awesome? We’ll find out tonight. See you at the red carpet!

The New York Times conservative columnist (and blogger) Ross Douthat seems like a fairly smart guy, but he tends to lose his cool whenever his theological buttons (he’s Catholic) get pushed. Remember his “living in Dan Brown’s America” freak-out from May? Now he’s wound-up again over James Cameron’s new CGI opus “Avatar”, and how it’s symptomatic of a deep-rooted commitment to pantheism amongst Hollywood’s elite.

“It’s at once the blockbuster to end all blockbusters, and the Gospel According to James. But not the Christian Gospel. Instead, “Avatar” is Cameron’s long apologia for pantheism — a faith that equates God with Nature, and calls humanity into religious communion with the natural world. In Cameron’s sci-fi universe, this communion is embodied by the blue-skinned, enviably slender Na’Vi, an alien race whose idyllic existence on the planet Pandora is threatened by rapacious human invaders. The Na’Vi are saved by the movie’s hero, a turncoat Marine, but they’re also saved by their faith in Eywa, the “All Mother,” described variously as a network of energy and the sum total of every living thing. If this narrative arc sounds familiar, that’s because pantheism has been Hollywood’s religion of choice for a generation now.”

Douthat pokes pantheism saying it romanticizes nature instead of acknowledging the “suffering and death” of our world (with just a pinch of the conservative environmentalism = pagan religion meme, and a dash of despair over America’s syncretism added for spice). That it offers no transcendent literalism as the dominant monotheisms do, instead damning its adherents to simply being “dust and ashes”.

Smelling chum in the waters, Beliefnet’s conservative blogger, Rod “Crunchy Con” Dreher, decided to join in on the anti-pantheism pile-on. Bemoaning how Hollywood has suffered a “creative defeat” by “trading in its sentimentalized version of Christianity” for a “sentimentalized pantheism”, (he also seems to misunderstand the concept of panentheism in relation to Orthodox Christianity, but that’s a different topic) and linking to Weekly Standard neoconservative commentator John Podhoretz’s review of the film.

“…one would be giving James Cameron too much credit to take Avatar-with its mindless worship of a nature-loving tribe and the tribe’s adorable pagan rituals, its hatred of the military and American institutions, and the notion that to be human is just way uncool-at all seriously as a political document. It’s more interesting as an example of how deeply rooted these standard-issue counterculture clichés in Hollywood have become by now.”

So I guess the conservative intelligentsia has spoken (David Brooks must not have gotten the memo). Pantheism is bad, Hollywood is bad, Americans are foolish eclectic-syncretic Eckhart Tolle-reading dupes who love pantheism, and we (and our souls) are all in big (I assume) trouble. Of course this reading of Hollywood’s output is a tad skewed, and relies on a rather scatter-shot selection of films (“Dances With Wolves”, Disney’s “Pocahontas” and “The Lion King”, “Star Wars”, and, well, “Fern Gully”, I guess) to convince us that pantheism is the with-it thing in Hollywood and beyond. But it just doesn’t seem to line up as well as they seem to think it does. I mean, isn’t Harry Potter supposed to be all stealth-Christian underneath the spells and hexes? Is the Dan Brown gnosticism panic over and done? What about Star Trek’s secular rationalist populism? Where’s the outrage there?

It seems to me that this is all just a big excuse to write about how America’s going to heck in a hand-basket because Christianity isn’t being treated like the cool kid at the pop-cultural lunch table in a few films. There are plenty of reasons to criticize Cameron’s “Avatar” (which I haven’t seen yet), from claims that it’s visually repetitive of his past work, that it peddles old white-guilt fantasies, or that it’s filled with clunky “godawful” dialogue, but pantheism? Really? That’s the awful thing that really stands out? Just wait, after “Hypatia”, the “Clash of the Titans” remake, and the “Percy Jackson” adaptation hit theaters in 2010, it’ll be polytheism, not pantheism, that’s the real problem. I look forward to the forthcoming Ross Douthat column on the subject.

For more Pagan commentary on “Avatar”, check out Chas Clifton’s musings on “creeping pantheism”, Adrian J. Ivakhiv’s review that notes the “pagan mythology with a sledgehammer” aspects of the film, and Kvond’s philosophical and multiple-hyphenated take on the whole thing. Have you seen “Avatar” yet? What do you think? Creeping pantheism? Popcorn-munching eye-candy? Something else?

It’s like George Barna is trying to win us over. First, the head of Christian polling organization The Barna Group seems to hint at wanting a cease-fire in the culture wars, and now he’s humanizing gays and lesbians!

George Barna, whose company conducted the research, pointed out that some popular stereotypes about the spiritual life of gays and lesbians are simply wrong. “People who portray gay adults as godless, hedonistic, Christian bashers are not working with the facts,” declared the best-selling author of numerous books about faith and culture. “A substantial majority of gays cite their faith as a central facet of their life, consider themselves to be Christian, and claim to have some type of meaningful personal commitment to Jesus Christ active in their life today … Although there are clearly some substantial differences in the religious beliefs and practices of the straight and gay populations, there may be less of a spiritual gap between straights and gays than many Americans would assume.

I can tell you that the above paragraph won’t win him any fans from any number of prominent conservative Christians. Then again, Barna has been increasingly re-positioning himself as something of a maverick within evangelical Christianity. So what else does this recent batch of polling data reveal? Well, while “straight” America and “gay” America have an awful lot in common, spiritually speaking, according to Barna there is one somewhat noticeable difference.

One of the most basic beliefs has to do with one’s understanding of God. This proved to be one of the biggest differences noted in the study. While seven out of every ten heterosexuals (71%) have an orthodox, biblical perception of God, just 43% of homosexuals do. In fact, an equal percentage possesses a pantheistic view about deity – i.e., that “God” refers to any of a variety of perspectives, such as personally achieving a state of higher consciousness or maximized personal potential, or that there are multiple gods that exist, or even that everyone is god.

In other words, homosexuals tend to be more “pagan” that heterosexuals. But this “pantheism” isn’t a barrier to finding common ground, as according to Barna all the “faith tribes” (including the pantheists) need to work together to restore America.

Citing his research, Barna indicated that the United States has seven dominant faith tribes that hold the key to the restoration of the nation. “We must recover the values that made this nation great and that must be firmly in place for order, reason, freedom and unity to prevail,” the researcher explained. “Our faith tribes are central to the development and application of people’s worldviews, which in turn produce the values on which we base our daily decisions. It is on the basis of such values that a nation rises to greatness or plummets to oblivion. The choice is ours. And it is up to our faith tribes to demonstrate the courageous leadership necessary to facilitate a national restoration of the mind, heart and soul. Without a nationwide commitment to this process, we are destined to become a country of historical significance and present-day insignificance.”

This is an awfully big tent that Barna is building. Is he being prophetic, or simply marketing to the changing times? I’d be curious to know how his largely evangelical audience is responding to this shift towards inclusion, bridge-building, and interfaith outreach. Perhaps he’s making a break from the old evangelical order and embracing the (generally) more tolerant “Mosaic Generation” (aka “Generation Y”)? I guess I’ll just have to wait for the next installment of George Barna’s quest to “unite the tribes”.

As regular readers of my blog know, I like to keep track of what George Barna and his conservative Christian marketing and polling firm The Barna Group get up to. While I often suspect some ideological bias in their data collection, Barna has provided some interesting food for thought concerning interactions between Pagan faiths and Christianity over the years. Now George Barna has authored a new book entitled “The Seven Faith Tribes” that claims to hold the key to restoring America’s strength and stability in these trying times.

Citing his research, Barna indicated that the United States has seven dominant faith tribes that hold the key to the restoration of the nation. “We must recover the values that made this nation great and that must be firmly in place for order, reason, freedom and unity to prevail,” the researcher explained. “Our faith tribes are central to the development and application of people’s worldviews, which in turn produce the values on which we base our daily decisions. It is on the basis of such values that a nation rises to greatness or plummets to oblivion. The choice is ours. And it is up to our faith tribes to demonstrate the courageous leadership necessary to facilitate a national restoration of the mind, heart and soul. Without a nationwide commitment to this process, we are destined to become a country of historical significance and present-day insignificance.”

So what are the seven “faith tribes” that Barna describes?

“Casual Christians – 66% of the adult population, Captive Christians – 16% of the adult population, Jews – 2% of the adult population, Mormons – 2% of the adult population, Pantheists – 2% of the adult population, Muslims – one-half of 1% of the adult population, Skeptics – 11% of the adult population”

If you guessed that Pagans are probably filed under “Pantheists” (along with, I’m assuming, Buddhists, New Agers, and “Spiritual But Not Religious” types) you’re probably correct. But how can tribes with such extreme differences of opinion and theology as these renew America together? Barna has identified twenty values that all the “tribes” share, which they can use to form a new moral leadership that will help America thrive.

“In The Seven Faith Tribes, I examined interviews we have conducted with more than 30,000 Americans to better understand our worldviews, moral perspectives, spiritual foundations, lifestyle expectations, family behaviors and core values. The result is an understanding that the United States is home to seven dominant faith tribes, each of which has a divergent worldview – but all of which embrace twenty shared values that help to define their heart, mind and soul and have historically permitted the U.S. to thrive. It is my belief that if we were to refocus on the central values that made America great – and on which a formidable culture can truly be based – then our country can get back on the path of unity and progress. If we continue to focus on the attitudes, expectations and customs that divide us, then we are doomed to self-destruct, leaving behind a legacy as perhaps the most intriguing, longest-running experiments in democracy in world history.”

If I didn’t know better, I would almost think that Barna is proposing an end to the culture wars, a “cease-fire” agreement between faith groups so that an interfaith coalition can re-ground the country for the common good. It sounds, almost, well, progressive in tone. I’m almost tempted to get a copy and read this tribal manifesto, could a prominent conservative Christian be calling for a new attitude in Christian-Pagan relations?

If I could outlaw one rhetorical and stylistic device I think it would be comparing your idealogical opponent to Hitler, Nazis, and fascists*. It cheapens the true horrors of WWII and the Holocaust, and instantly destroys any chance for a civilized debate. The political left and right both employ this “scorched earth” tactic of demonizing the other side, and some religious leaders aren’t much better. So I felt a certain amount of disappointment when I read an article about an intermittent California Bay Area ban on wood burning sent to me by a reader of this blog.

“…most Bay Area residents have been surprisingly receptive to a new rule banning wood fires on pollution-laden Spare the Air days during the winter, say officials at the Bay Area Air Quality Management District … But don’t try telling that to the neo-pagan pantheist who fired off an e-mail to district employees and members of its board of directors. ‘I will NOT be deprived of my constitutionally guaranteed right to freedom of religion by bureaucrats looking for more ways to control even more aspects of our lives,’ wrote the pantheist. ‘I’m claiming an exemption because this ban violates my right to practice my religion, a right that is guaranteed by the Constitution … When the government controls everything we do, say and think, that’s fascism … Anyone who would turn in their neighbor for burning wood would be right at home in Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia. Think about it, people, what have we become.'”

Who knew that the new jack-booted thugs would come in the guise of a program banning wood burning on Winter days when air pollution reaches unsafe levels.

“In the wintertime, fine particulate matter (PM2.5) becomes the pollutant with the greatest impact on air quality … When our morning forecast predicts that concentrations of PM2.5 will exceed the national health-based standard, the Air District will issue a Winter Spare the Air Alert. Winter Spare the Air Alerts will be posted on our Spare the Air home page and on the Air District’s home page.”

Now perhaps our anonymous Pagan pantheist had a point in asking for a religious exemption, but by comparing an initiative to improve air quality with Nazi Germany and Stalinist Russia he has labeled himself an un-serious crank who will be ignored by those in power. In addition, Pagan groups who do seek to get an exemption should a holy day fall on a day when a Winter Spare the Air Alert is issued will have to combat the impressions made by this Pagan who cried “fascist”. So if you are planning to write a letter of complaint about a local ordinance, try not to compare your elected officials with regimes that have murdered millions of people, you might be surprised how much further you get in resolving your issue!

* Of course, should your idealogical opponent actually aspire to emulate Hitler, Nazis, or the principles of fascism, feel free to let those analogies, metaphors, and rhetorical flourishes fly!