Ask any group of Pagans what annoys them most about Christians or traditional religion in general, and you are likely to hear that it's the lack of tolerance for diversity. We are appalled that any religion that preaches universal love should have so many members clearly preaching hate - for anyone with an alternative lifestyle or religion, sometimes even for other Christians who are simply of a different church than their own.
We see these things, and - let's face it - we raise our noses a tad higher in the air and proclaim how proud we are to be Pagan. But are we really so tolerant? Are we really so open-minded?
From a very young age, I felt myself pulled toward the Wiccan path I now walk. Long before I had ever heard of Pagans or Wiccans, I talked and prayed to the moon, loved nature and the night, and had a great love for all animals. As soon as I learned to read, I became fascinated by Greek, Roman and Egyptian mythology. A textbook Witch in the making if ever there was one!
A few years ago, when I became familiar with the Internet, I found out that the things I felt and believed were an actual religion - Wicca. One of the first places I found was one of the Usenet newsgroups, and although the amount of flaming and warring going on within it almost put me off, I waded in and tried to learn something. My education was cut short when I made what was apparently the heinous error of admitting that I was politically conservative.
I'm pretty thick-skinned, and although the resultant flames and obscenities drove me off that newsgroup, they didn't drive me away from pursuing information about Wicca completely. I bought the books, I studied on my own and I began practice as a solitary. Over the last few months, I have cautiously tip-toed back into the virtual Pagan world, and this time around I've been lucky to meet some truly wonderful people who've made me feel extremely welcome. For this, I am grateful. However, I'm also left wondering how many seekers like myself are being run off on a daily basis for daring to be different?
What kind of a future can the earth religions ever have if we constantly divide ourselves? I can understand how some political beliefs such as a strong commitment to the environment would naturally go along with our religious path, but that doesn't mean every aspect of liberalism is or should be required. I'm a Libertarian-leaning Republican. While I completely oppose the G.O.P.'s recent push toward installing Christianity as a state religion, and I'm upset by in the anti-homosexual agenda some Republicans have adopted, neither am I willing to back a party that thinks I should give up increasingly greater shares of my paycheck to fund services for people who, unlike myself, choose not to go to work every day. Does that make me a bad Witch? Are you not a good Witch if you think that Capitalism is the best economic system? Or if you are pro-life because of your personal belief that abortions violate the Rede? Or if you think that the rights of law-abiding citizens supersede those of convicted violent criminals? I believe all of those things, yet I am also 100% committed to the Craft and intend to do anything in my power to educate others about our path and protect our religious freedom. Do you want me on your side...or not?
Unity is always a hard thing to come by. Witness the battles within the
Catholic church over issues such as whether or not women should be
allowed to enter the priesthood or whether the use of birth control
should be acceptable. We like to look at ourselves as being far more
tolerant than those traditional religions, yet on political issues, I've
heard from some sadly closed minds. Can't we stop flaming and focus on
our similarities rather than our differences? We will never be able to
band together to ensure the freedom to practice our religion safe from
persecution as long as we continue to divide ourselves and scare new
seekers away with narrow-minded attitudes. Witchcraft is a religion and
it is becoming more popular by the day. We cannot maintain it as some
kind of clique, open only to those with a set group of spiritual,
political and lifestyle beliefs, and still gain acceptance by mainstream
America. Which is more important to you? It's time to choose.