Home is Where the…

Have you encountered any obstacles as a result of your religion?

If you’re asking whether or not I’ve faced oppression from the mainstream world because of my Paganism, the answer is, “Surprisingly little.” Really, even when I lived in Iowa, I encountered confused looks more often than angry glares. When the police came by because someone had reported suspicious looking people cavorting in the park at night, they were actually pretty relaxed about things, once they saw that we weren’t hiding bodies, doing drugs, or setting fire to the trees.

Sadly, the majority of problems I’ve encountered as a result of my Paganism have come from other Pagans.

There were the “you’re doing it wrong, but we won’t tell you how to do it right” folks, back when I was a baby witch and just starting out. When it was just me, two friends, a couple of books, and the internet, for every one person who was willing and able to help a new kid out, there were six who clearly didn’t know any better than I did (which didn’t keep them from writing volumes on it), and three who would tsk and tut disapprovingly, but refuse to help.

The numbers are better now, with maybe three helful folks, four clueless folks, and one disapproving voice out of every ten.

Then there were the one-true-wayists, the Pagan fundamentalists who would show up at our meetings and argue pointlessly about how we were ignorant because we didn’t already agree with them. The fact that we weren’t doing it the right way was proof that we were posers who had no contact with the gods, because if we did, the gods would have told us to do it the way the one-true-wayists did it. Honestly, I have had fewer problems with Christian fundamentalists than I have had with the Pagan/Polytheist variety.

These people are still around, mind you, and they’re on all sides of the debate. Just read back over the last year’s “debates” over Polytheism, wiccanate privilege, and Humanist Paganism.

The worst are the ones who use their religion (whatever that religion is) as an excuse to justify their bad behavior. In the Pagan community, this is the sex offender who claims that the rules don’t apply to them, because all sex is sacred. This is the wounded veteran who and wraps up in a cloak of Born Warrior Macho Aggression when the flashbacks get too painful. This is the old guard priest/ess who uses a position of trust and authority to spread hate when the next generation goes to follow their own dreams, rather than those of the old guard. I could go on, but you get the idea.

Strangers are relatively far away, and not usually in a place to generate conflict. It’s my neighbors who have the greatest opportunity to rub me the wrong way.

My lover Ember and I have decided to go through Galina Krasskova’s Devotional Polytheist Meme questions together, over the next several months. We encourage our friends to follow along, and welcome links to other people’s answers in our comments, as well as your thoughts on our answers. Ember’s answer can be found at her blog, Embervoices.

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About Lon Sarver

Lon Sarver is a polytheist priest of Dionysos, living in the San Francisco Bay Area and contemplating (with a healthy amount of dread) making a second attempt at a career in Marriage and Family Therapy. View all posts by Lon Sarver

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