Most places in Iceland pipe their hot water up from springs deep below the ground, the water still smelling strongly of sulfur. It isn’t until almost a week into my trip that I realize sulfur interacts with the metal of my wedding ring. I send my wife a picture. “What a souvenir,” she says. “I don’t think it’ll last.
Yesterday Charles Jaynes, convicted in 1997 of participating in the abduction, molestation, and murder of 10-year-old Jeffrey Curley, went before a judge in a Brockton, Massachusetts District Court to petition for a name change. The man who would be named “Manasseh Invictus Auric Thutmose V” seeks to abandon his “old human name” as it is “religiously offensive” to his claimed Wiccan faith. He further elaborated that this name came from “God” after his conversion experience. “I can’t hide from my crime,” Jaynes said. “I wake up in prison, I see my crime every day.
What’s it like to be a religious minority in a Christian-dominated culture? Jews on First has published a must-read in-depth exploration of what it’s like for Jewish students going to public schools in the South, consistently exposed to peer pressure and conversion attempts by their Christian classmates, behavior often (directly and indirectly) supported by faculty. “It can be the little stuff, like my classmates wishing me to have a ‘blessed day’. I know that really means that Jesus blesses you,” says Jane. “I have a friend who introduces me as her ‘Jewish friend, Jane’.
Some people love watching the sport of tennis, but I am not one of them. This should in no way reflect on that no-doubt fine sport, the talented people who play it, and the fans of said talented athletes. I’m sure it’s a deficiency on my part, nobody’s perfect, right? Similarly, I just can’t get too worked up over the ongoing theist-atheist tennis match, the way some read so much meaning into every “point” scored by each side, how “heroes” and “villains” are created, how “experts” in the commentary box try to explain how one point was more devastating than another point, or how one player’s career is on the decline. Worst of all is when a prominent player on one “team” decides to switch teams, then things really start to heat up!
There must be something uniquely unsettling to certain factions of Christianity about the existence of modern Pagan religions, something that makes them over-react. It can’t be our sheer numbers, despite consistent growth Pagans account for only 0.4% of the population (around a million people) in the United States. No matter what the odd conspiracy theory might say, Pagans don’t pull the strings of any powerful politicians, and there is no Pagan lobbying organization in Washington DC. Despite these reassurances of Christian dominance, a good number of Christians are preoccupied with us to the point of distraction. How has this strange state of affairs come about?