Don’t throw rocks at other glass houses
by Jason Mankey
Though I’m a member of a minority religion, I try not to be bitter about it. Unlike some atheist groups, I’ve never felt the need to protest nativity scenes on public grounds, and hearing someone wish me a “Happy Easter” doesn’t get my hackles up. I’m well aware that Christianity is the dominant spiritual path in the United States, and that many of its followers are particularly demonstrative. I will admit to being annoyed when someone’s faith rises to the level of public spectacle (cough, cough, Tim Tebow). I also believe it’s important to be vigilant, and prepared to fight, when someone tries to impose their religious values on society as a whole. “Creative Design” is not a scientific principle.
While I’m proud of my Paganism and wear it pretty loudly on my sleeve, I don’t seek to convert anyone to it. I honestly believe that everyone’s faith (or lack thereof) is generally fine; as long as no one is trampling on the rights and freedoms of others. A lot of Pagans get caught up in the idea that they are “part of a larger faith community.” I remember hearing another Pagan speak of how the folks at the Mosque down the street from him were a part of his “larger faith community,” and how important interfaith work was to him.
I disagree with that line of reasoning. The average Muslim doesn’t give two shits about me, and I’m willing to guess that the majority of American Muslims aren’t even aware that Modern Paganism exists (and is growing). That’s not a slight to Muslims — why should they care? We don’t bother them and they don’t bother us. I’ve had Muslim friends before, but I just don’t think my local coven is going to have a barbeque get-together with the folks from the mosque. I don’t think there’s any reason for our faith communities to interact outside of the rare “Various Religion Panel” at the local university.
When it comes to religious outreach, all I really want is to be left alone and for everyone to know that I’m not sacrificing babies or doing anything that might be considered evil. I don’t care if people agree with me, or even accept my faith (I understand that being a monotheist often means you can’t accept a different belief system); just keep your ignorant comments to yourself and go about your own business and I’ll go about mine.
There are times when I have trouble looking away, and that’s generally when someone from outside of Paganism takes it upon themselves to wear the mantle of “expert.” I’m not talking about academics here, but members of other faith communities who are mostly talking out of their asses. I came across one of those folks recently who decided to label “neo-paganism” (his term and spelling, thanks for the respect) “fake.”
Paganism has its share of romantic truths (myths that aren’t literally true) but so does every religion. One of Modern Paganism’s “foundation myths” is that Modern Witchcraft is a survival of an ancient pagan religion dating back to the Middle Ages or earlier. There’s no scholarly evidence backing up that idea, but that doesn’t mean Paganism is “fake” for being a relatively young religious path. If you are going to use scholarship to argue that my faith is a lie, then I can just as easily use it to discredit yours.
Despite what some Christians think, there are no reputable scholars out there who think Jesus rose from the dead. I don’t think this makes Christianity a “fake” religion, it just has a romanticized past like most other faiths. In a column for another site I used the phrase “pot calling the kettle black” to describe this line of attack. Scholars will also tell you that Matthew, Mark, Luke and John didn’t write the gospels bearing their names, and that the Apostle Paul only wrote seven of the thirteen epistles attributed to him. I don’t think this diminishes Christianity in anyway; and it certainly doesn’t make it invalid, just don’t try to ridicule my faith on academic grounds when that same ground can so easily fall around you.
I think it’s generally for the best when we keep our opinions about other religions to ourselves. It’s one thing to educate someone on what another faith actually does, another thing entirely to start throwing rocks at other proverbial glass houses. Let me go my way and I’ll happily let you go yours, but if you say something completely ignorant I am going to call you out on it.