The Kids Are Alright and other Pagan News of Note

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Top Story: The Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life has released a new study, entitled “Religion Among the Millennials”, that tracks the beliefs and views of the generation born after 1981 (and who largely came of age in the year 2000, hence the name).  The report asserts that Millenials are far more “unaffiliated”, religiously speaking, than the previous two generations, and less concerned about “culture war” issues like gay marriage and abortion than their predecessors.

“Young people are more accepting of homosexuality and evolution than are older people. They are also more comfortable with having a bigger government, and they are less concerned about Hollywood threatening their values. But when asked generally about morality and religion, young adults are just as convinced as older people that there are absolute standards of right and wrong that apply to everyone. Young adults are also slightly more supportive of government efforts to protect morality and of efforts by houses of worship to express their social and political views.”

As for Millenials and modern Paganism, 2% of adults aged 18-29 adhere to a Pagan, New Age, Unitarian-Universalist, or “eclectic” faith (the “other faiths”). Outstripping adherence to Buddhism, Islam, Hinduism, and roughly tied with Judaism and Mormonism. Further, Millenials are about tied with Baby Boomers in adherence to an “other” faith, with Generation X making up the demographically largest grouping. You can download the entire report, here. You may also want to take a look at Pew’s 2007 Religious Landscape Survey, something I’ve covered in depth here, which much this data is culled from.

What does it all mean? It could certainly mean a more tolerant world, as an overwhelming majority of this generation believe there is more than “one true way”, and that the Bible isn’t the literal word of God. Less than half even believe that religion is important. Millenials, along with Generation X, represent a sea-change in attitudes that have so bitterly divided previous generations. A “post-Christian” future, one where Christianity is only one voice among many, seems ever more likely. A world where religion may be female-dominated and largely private. Sounds like a future I’d like to stick around for.

In Other News:

Did the Founders Mean Pagans Too? The Newsweek/Washington Post religion site On Faith features an editorial from Dr. Barbara McGraw, Director of the Center for Engaged Religious Pluralism at Saint Mary’s College of California. In it she addresses the now-infamous WallBuilders amicus brief in McCollum v. California that argues the Constitutional religion clauses only applied to monotheists.

“…perhaps Richard Henry Lee put it best when he said in 1787: “It is true, we are not disposed to differ much, at present, about religion; but when we are making a constitution, it is to be hoped, for ages and millions yet unborn . . . .” In other words, those who differ about religion in ages and among millions yet unborn are included in the protections of the Constitution. What is especially sad about the narrow way that Barton wants to interpret the founding era is that Barton’s approach obscures the real contribution of Christianity to America: support for a political system that protects the individual’s relationship with the Divine (however understood) … genuine Christianity supports religious rights for all. Christianity was not at the founding, nor is it now a monolithic “ism” that justifies the domination and suppression of others–not even Wiccan/Pagans.”

I’d recommend reading all the various quotes she offers, building the case that the founders meant for religious freedom to apply to all Americans, at all stages of its existence, no matter what that future may bring. You can expect to hear a lot more about Patrick McCollum’s case in the near future, when I spoke to him at Pantheacon it was clear that a lot of attention and interest is building in this case. Expect things to break out into the mainstream media very soon.

Anti-Pagan Smears: WorldNetDaily, where no nutty conspiracy theory goes unloved, touts the new book by its managing editor David Kupelian, entitled “How Evil Works: Understanding and Overcoming the Destructive Forces That Are Transforming America”. Along with the usual stuff, Obama is a Marxist, Hollywood is bad, public schools are turning boys into big sissies, mental illness is a scam, etc, we get a whole section on the dangers of Paganism and the “New Age”.

“Why are neo-pagan and New Age religions like Wicca becoming so popular? (America’s increasing disillusionment with Christianity has created a giant cultural and spiritual vacuum, into which alternative religions are being drawn.)”

Now, I’ve covered WND’s anti-Pagan stuff before, but I usually just ignore it nowadays. However, since Kupelian’s new book is being promoted by a major publisher, and he’s making the publicity rounds with conservative heavyweights like Sean Hannity, I thought this deserved a bit of attention. It matters in this instance, because the folks who like to gobble up those pop-journalism partisan books (from the left and right) that burn up the bestsellers lists will be getting a bit more than political opinion. They’ll also be getting anti-Pagan talking points. It’s not very pretty when political populism starts mixing with intolerant religious ideologies, so we should keep our eyes open.

Bob Barr Recants Recanting His Anti-Pagan Views: If you all were wondering what conservative/libertarian politician-turned-pundit Bob Barr thinks about the Air Force Academy building a Pagan worship area, wonder no longer!

“A few years back, when I was in the US Congress, I took the Army to task for permitting the practice of Wicca on its bases, including at Ft. Hood in Texas.  After speaking with a number of officers and military leaders, and meeting with several former military who adhere to the practice of Wicca, I was convinced that a belief in or practice of witchcraft, was not necessarily incompatible with the good order and discipline essential to a military lifestyle.  However, one might legitimately wonder just how far such tolerance should extend … the Air Force Academy in Colorado Springs, has taken the notion of religious tolerance to a new level, in creating an outdoor worship area for pagans.  The site, apparently sacred to pagans, consists of an inner and an outer circle of large stones.  I’m sorry, but this truly is hilarious … if I were in the Air Force and was being commanded by an officer who practices hedonism as a religion (another part of the definition of “pagan”), and who dances around a circle of stones in the woods carrying a lighted candle, I would be more than a little worried about following him into battle.

I like how he talks out of both sides of his mouth there, saying he doesn’t think Paganism isn’t “necessarily” incompatible with military discipline, but then saying he would be worried about following a Pagan soldier into battle (note: Bob Barr has never been in battle, or served in the military). Barr, of course, is famous in our communities for his attempts to get Pagans banned from military service, a position he kinda-sorta recanted while running for president (as a Libertarian) in 2008. Looks like he’s reverting back to his full-throated anti-Pagan ways now that he doesn’t have to woo the libertarians any longer.

Gatesville Muder-Suicide Involves a Pagan? On monday, outside the Gatesville, Texas County Courthouse, David Louis Henry shot and killed his ex-girlfriend Carrie Dean Stroope, then preceded to shoot himself. While that’s tragedy enough, expect the story to soon be adding a Pagan angle, as commenters who claim to know the shooter are alleging he’s Wiccan.

“I have read some things I know to be true about the killer. I have also read he was a wonderful father. Really because I don’t think “wonderful fathers” kill someone’s mommy in cold blood. The guy gave me the creeps and talked about the Wiccan religion at work. Frankly his act of cowardness doesn’t surprise me at all. To bad for the kids they never had a chance with a parent like him.”

“First off, he WAS MARRIED, he ans his wife were swingers and they were open Wican Worshippers. This is in my opinion VERY sad, and “Kay” says did she push him to this? Please, Why is it a woman has to be at fault of pushing because a crazy non Christain man snaps? His religion would not ever condem him for murder. His Myspace page comments from his wife ask him to shoot her in the head, the man was a nut case and society is better off without him sad but true…”

If these comments are showing up in my news feeds, you can bet local journalists are also reading them. With lurid accusations of “swinging” and Witchcraft, you can expect things are going to get ugly, and the press sensationalist, real soon. I’ll be keeping track of this story as it develops.

Thorn has Moved! In a quick final note, T. Thorn Coyle’s blog has migrated to a new home.

Be sure to update your links and RSS subscriptions.

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