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Author Topic: Neo-Pagan Unity: Does it Exist, Should it Exist?  (Read 14364 times)
RandallS
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« Topic Start: January 16, 2008, 02:16:35 pm »


Web Site Article Discussion ThreadThis thread is for discussion of a specific article on our web site. Please limit discussion to questions and comments specific to this article. Feel free to start a new thread in an appropriate board if what you wish to discuss is not specific to the named article. Note that if you have arrived here from the discussion link on this article on our web site and are not a member of this message board, you will need to register an account to post in this thread. Thank you.

Neo-Pagan Unity: Does it Exist, Should it Exist?

Many books and articles discussing Paganism -- especially the part of Paganism called "Neo-Paganism" -- often describe an interesting beast called "the Pagan religion." At worst, you can find descriptions of "the Pagan religion (Paganism) and its many traditions", as if all of Neo-Paganism was in fact different manifestations of one religion or if all Pagans would fit within simplified definitions. These definitions are most often based on Wicca, or rather Neo-Wicca, especially when it comes to ethics, concept of deity and the religious calendar to follow.

This mysterious "Paganism (the Pagan religion)" is portrayed in such a manner that it seems as harmless and "normal" as possible. The practitioners of this "religion", in turn, are depicted as being even nicer than what so called major religions demand of their followers. That is to say, too harmless to persecute. However, this type of un-definition ignores the fact that there is no such thing as "the Pagan religion", none at all. There is a large number of widely varied Pagan religions and the variety of individual Pagans is even wider. Superficial definitions -- be it a definition of Pagan religions or "Pagan religiosity" -- will always leave somebody out. All too often this "somebody" is a Pagan religion, or even several of them.

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« Reply #1: January 16, 2008, 02:45:43 pm »


Neo-Pagan Unity: Does it Exist, Should it Exist?

Read the Full Article

That's a really good article. I especially love the finishing sentence  Smiley

I don't know how to quote from the article (and not sure if I am actually allowed to?) but I think the point mentioned about Wicca being seen as being the Pagan religion, and that all other Pagan religions follow a very close format is, of course, entirely true.

However the writer points out that Wicca itself should not be blamed for this fact, but rather the media. I agree with this, as Wicca is usually the only Pagan religion (if any!) that most people have heard of. Consequently, this is the religion that book publishers focus on and thus, all other areas of Paganism are left in the dark.

It becomes quite easy to see why you can meet someone and it arises that you're Pagan, and they say 'ahh...Wiccan?' or 'Oh, I know all about Wicca!' A person who gives the latter response isn't aware that they are ignorant in the slightest. In fact, they can be generally quite pleased that they think they have knowledge on the subject. Because, as far as walking into a book store and going to the Relgion/Spirituality section and reading what's available, they actually do have knowledge.
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« Reply #2: January 16, 2008, 02:51:49 pm »


What!?  Not believe every word that falls from the lips or pen of one of Neo-Paganisms elders???!?!  Wait, that's his own advertising, isnt it.  Sigh.

I think that Bonewits means well, but he has always pushed my buttons with his know-it-all controlling attitude.  I prefer, even when you put neo in front of pagan, to stick with the definition of what it's not (not JCI) and tack on 'self identifies as pagan'.  Anything else is limiting.  And why do we need to present a unified front?  Are we a voting block?  No.  Are we a single constituency?  No.  Do we have to claim 'a religion from the list above' ever?  I think not.  So, why do we ever need to appear unified?  Especially when were are about as unified as a herd of cats.....

So, not I don't think it exists, and I don't think it should.  Nor so I think it ever will.  Especially since I self identify as pagan, but in the ubiquitous other catagory.  Grin
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« Reply #3: January 16, 2008, 03:21:12 pm »

However the writer points out that Wicca itself should not be blamed for this fact, but rather the media. I agree with this, as Wicca is usually the only Pagan religion (if any!) that most people have heard of. Consequently, this is the religion that book publishers focus on and thus, all other areas of Paganism are left in the dark.

I do and I don't agree with you and Faerie/Fausta about this.  I mean, I certainly don't blame Wicca as a whole for it, nor do I think that every Wiccan contributes to it.  In fact, most probably don't.  And the publishing industry and the media do play big parts in it.  However, even just here at TC I've run across too many people pushing for unity through homogenization and arguing the same way Bonewits does on the subject to feel comfortable not laying some of the blame at the feet of individuals who do seem to want "Pagan" to mean "Wiccan".

Moving on to a more general response:  I feel like there's more to say, but I also feel like Faerie has said most of what I'd say anyway.  Smiley  The whole article honestly takes me back to the Pagan Unity Campaign days, to some degree.  (Which is perhaps not surprising; I see the article was written in 2003, and the PUC mess was in 2002.)  That was what StormBear and Ginger were trying to do--to show "Pagan Unity", specifically to show it to American politicians in hopes of having a "Pagan" voice heard in Washington--and in one sense it succeeded.  We united...  against them.  Grin  I pity the poor congresscritters who suddenly started getting all these letters telling them that a PAC they'd probably never heard of did absolutely not represent a group of people they'd likewise probably not really heard of.  I know the form letter response I got had a vaguely puzzled tone to it.  Good times.

Anyway.  It's one thing to want unity; it's another to create it by insisting that everyone define the term you're uniting behind the same way, conform or go piss off.  The two are not the same, but unfortunately a lot of the time people who are arguing for Pagan unity do come across like that's what they want.

Aaack, crap, and now I'm late getting out of the office.  More later if I think of anything.  Smiley
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« Reply #4: January 16, 2008, 04:25:31 pm »

I do and I don't agree with you and Faerie/Fausta about this.  I mean, I certainly don't blame Wicca as a whole for it, nor do I think that every Wiccan contributes to it.  In fact, most probably don't.  And the publishing industry and the media do play big parts in it.  However, even just here at TC I've run across too many people pushing for unity through homogenization and arguing the same way Bonewits does on the subject to feel comfortable not laying some of the blame at the feet of individuals who do seem to want "Pagan" to mean "Wiccan".

Those people exist, definitely. I just can't help but think that they themselves are the ones who aren't as knowledgeable as they think they are. For instance, their knowledge of the scope of Paganism is so limited they probably think all pagans share the same beliefs and so don't see why there is a problem with 'Pagan Unity'. Not that there is a problem, but as you have stated below, there is a big difference between unity and conformity.

Anyway.  It's one thing to want unity; it's another to create it by insisting that everyone define the term you're uniting behind the same way, conform or go piss off.  The two are not the same, but unfortunately a lot of the time people who are arguing for Pagan unity do come across like that's what they want.
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« Reply #5: January 16, 2008, 05:22:53 pm »

However, even just here at TC I've run across too many people pushing for unity through homogenization and arguing the same way Bonewits does on the subject to feel comfortable not laying some of the blame at the feet of individuals who do seem to want "Pagan" to mean "Wiccan".

I agree with you on this point. There are a whole lot of regular Pagans who would really like Paganism to be a single religion with a very (Neo-)Wiccan flavor. As much as I would like to put most of the blame on various "big name" authors, I think quite a lot of it belongs on regular Pagans who really do not bother to look at things they aren't interested in seeing.

As for Isaac Bonewits, I've always liked him. He's one of the few "Big Name Pagans" who I'd go a bit out of my way to talk with as he is just a very neat person to talk to. I disagree with much of what he has said about Paganism over the years, but I really like him as a person.
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« Reply #6: January 16, 2008, 06:29:27 pm »

I agree with you on this point. There are a whole lot of regular Pagans who would really like Paganism to be a single religion with a very (Neo-)Wiccan flavor. As much as I would like to put most of the blame on various "big name" authors, I think quite a lot of it belongs on regular Pagans who really do not bother to look at things they aren't interested in seeing.

As for Isaac Bonewits, I've always liked him. He's one of the few "Big Name Pagans" who I'd go a bit out of my way to talk with as he is just a very neat person to talk to. I disagree with much of what he has said about Paganism over the years, but I really like him as a person.

AS a person he seems just fine, but he uses his position to push his persnoal agenda - for the good of us all of course.
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« Reply #7: January 20, 2008, 06:41:51 pm »

Neo-Pagan Unity: Does it Exist, Should it Exist?

Does unity exist in any other religion? Take Christianity. All Christians believe in the divine resurrection of Jesus, among a few other core beliefs. I don't know if I'd call that unity... politically and ethically, Christians run the same wide spectrum that pagans do.

I don't think unity can exist on a grand scale. People are too good at villifying what they don't understand, or what is fundamentally different from them. But cooperation and tolerance *could* go a long way. I don't need to agree with someone's politics or religion to work beside them volunteering at the animal shelter. We'll share a common belief in animal welfare, and could ignore/tolerate anything else.

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« Reply #8: January 24, 2008, 03:35:04 pm »

Does unity exist in any other religion? Take Christianity. All Christians believe in the divine resurrection of Jesus, among a few other core beliefs. I don't know if I'd call that unity... politically and ethically, Christians run the same wide spectrum that pagans do.

Yeah, that's a good point. It's not really unity when one sect of Christians believe that another sect of Christians have gotten it all completely wrong. However, from my own personal experience of Paganism, it is not unusual for one sect of Pagans to be quite happy to let another sect of Pagans believe whatever is right for them- each to their own. Of course, there will be those who believe their way is the only way- but thats universal in all religions.
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« Reply #9: January 24, 2008, 10:11:31 pm »

Does unity exist in any other religion? Take Christianity. All Christians believe in the divine resurrection of Jesus, among a few other core beliefs. I don't know if I'd call that unity... politically and ethically, Christians run the same wide spectrum that pagans do.

I don't think unity can exist on a grand scale. People are too good at villifying what they don't understand, or what is fundamentally different from them. But cooperation and tolerance *could* go a long way. I don't need to agree with someone's politics or religion to work beside them volunteering at the animal shelter. We'll share a common belief in animal welfare, and could ignore/tolerate anything else.

Karen

I far as I can tell there is no realunity within the Christian faith.  Even if there was, the only way to apply it to paganism would be to a specific pagan religion.  Possibly Wicca, since it appears to have the most, but very diverse, followers.  Certainly you can not lump the recon religions into one group, and a great many eclectic would be willing to fight you tooth and nail if you tried to lump them to gether.

We have had threads in the past talk about unity, but no agreement.
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« Reply #10: January 25, 2008, 03:34:00 pm »

Does unity exist in any other religion?

This seems to me to suggest that 'paganism' is a single religion, which is kinda the assumption that makes folks cranky in the first place.

Comparing paganism to Christianity is like comparing vegetables and oranges.
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« Reply #11: January 25, 2008, 04:12:41 pm »

This seems to me to suggest that 'paganism' is a single religion, which is kinda the assumption that makes folks cranky in the first place.

Comparing paganism to Christianity is like comparing vegetables and oranges.

Definitely. But I think what dargonfaerie was saying is that comparing one sect of Christianity to another sect of Christianity is also like comparing vegetables and oranges (for example: Catholics and Jehovah's Witnesses). Dragonfaerie, please correct me if I'm wrong.
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« Reply #12: January 25, 2008, 04:19:35 pm »

It's not really unity when one sect of Christians believe that another sect of Christians have gotten it all completely wrong.
Even to the point of calling another Christian sect Pagans!  Cheesy I don't think we should do it vice versa.  Wink



BTW, which Pagan religions do practice animal sacrifices apart from Santeria? Not that I find it wrong, I'm just a curious newbie. How does Hellenismos deal with that for example?

As for Bonewits' 'stabs at Satanists'. I'm not sure the author is right about Bonewits' 'hate' of them. Reading his definition I would have just thought that he tried to draw a line as sharp (or thick?) as possible to counter the prejudice that all Pagans worship Satan. I don't see any definite hate in the stuff the author quoted. And intolerance doesn't have to be based on hate. (Even if it is often.) But maybe he really does 'hate' them, it's possible. I just don't see evidence in those quotes. (Or maybe that's just a fact everyone but me knows?  Huh )
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« Reply #13: January 25, 2008, 05:20:07 pm »

As for Bonewits' 'stabs at Satanists'. I'm not sure the author is right about Bonewits' 'hate' of them. Reading his definition I would have just thought that he tried to draw a line as sharp (or thick?) as possible to counter the prejudice that all Pagans worship Satan. I don't see any definite hate in the stuff the author quoted. And intolerance doesn't have to be based on hate. (Even if it is often.) But maybe he really does 'hate' them, it's possible. I just don't see evidence in those quotes. (Or maybe that's just a fact everyone but me knows?  Huh )

(Note: I haven't talked to Isaac about this is ages, so this could be out of date.)  As I recall from discussions with Isaac, it's not that he hates Satanists, just that:

1) he does not believe that they are Pagans.

2) he believes that they only want to be part of the Pagan community because it helps to legitimize them.

3) he thinks that allowing them to be part of the Pagan community hurts the non-Satanist part of the community by association.
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« Reply #14: January 25, 2008, 07:02:24 pm »

(Note: I haven't talked to Isaac about this is ages, so this could be out of date.)  As I recall from discussions with Isaac, it's not that he hates Satanists, just that:

1) he does not believe that they are Pagans.

2) he believes that they only want to be part of the Pagan community because it helps to legitimize them.

3) he thinks that allowing them to be part of the Pagan community hurts the non-Satanist part of the community by association.
'Bout that.

Bonewits' own words on the topic can be found in a couple of essays on his website:
The Enemies of our Enemies
My Satanic Adventure

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