The Pagan Heart
Myth, Magic, and Madness

June-July 2005 Issue

Discrimination - the way society treats those of "inferior" faiths

By Axiom


Discrimination is the "unfair treatment of a person or group on the basis of prejudice" (courtesy of

A Pagan is "one who is not a Christian, Muslim, or Jew, especially a worshiper of a polytheistic religion" (courtesy of

Discrimination is such a pervasive element in our society. It has a natural place, there's no doubt of that. It helps us form bonds and community by creating a sense of belonging through our similarities. "We are the same", and of course the inference is "not like them". It helps create a competitive urge, and inspires people to change and seek out new ways.

Subtle discrimination is normal and healthy.

It's the less subtle ones that concern me. The ones that rely upon community through differences - "We aren't like them" - the inference being that this common difference means we are better than them. This form of discrimination terrifies me as it is the precursor of mob mentality.

With the current climate in the States, mob mentality discrimination is growing and spreading. There is a sector of society - Christian fundie, to be precise - that sees any non-Evangelical Christian as not only wrong, but also inferior. This makes a double-edged weapon of prejudice that is difficult to combat effectively.

A large part of the problem of mob mentality discrimination is the continual pressure upon their victim to conform - to convert. Without that life-changing, all important act, the victim will always be an outsider and this is continually made clear. Subscription to the group ideal is demanded. Without it that victim is faced with the blind belief s/he is not as good and can never be anything other than inferior. His or her unique, and different spirituality is seen as a one-way path to hellfire and damnation. Tied to this is the persecutor's belief that s/he has a God-given right and responsibility to reveal "The Truth" to the victim. That all social conventions and mores can and should be set aside in the effort to convert or run off.

For those new to their path, or less confident, such confrontations are frightening. It is easy to feel guilty, or less important, or even wrong in the face of such continual self-assurance. Vulnerability is never far away and there are those who do bow to the pressure, unable to resist any longer. Especially considering how solitary most of us are.

Once someone considers you to be inferior, your comments are immediately discounted and devalued. Trying to prove yourself equal becomes much harder as anything you say is less important or believable than what that person thinks. It becomes an infuriating exercise in futility. And very difficult to resist accepting the idea that you really are lessor.

Two choices: speak up and insist on being heard and creat further conflict with no resolution, or remain silent and try to ignore it and create the impression of subordination....

A subordinate position does alleviate some of the hostility, but opens the door for "friendly" attempts at conversion, and can increase the disrespect shown your beliefs. After all, you've shown acceptance of this lessor status, so what value your faith? Clearly, it's wrong and you should be grateful at the efforts made to correct the situation.


Or, stand up for yourself. Face the hostility. The attitude that you're deliberately evil, stupid, and intransient. And the conversion attempts become less coated with honey.

I don't like either choice. These people won't go away, and won't leave us "lessor beings" alone in peace. And I can't legally relocate them all to an island in the Arctic or something (can't afford it either), much as I may want to. I want a third option. One that lets me be a part of the majority. Accepted and valued for myself.

Well, I'm not happy sitting back and letting some arrogant discriminatory twerp dictate how I shoul live. And it seems I'm not the only one. The growing flood of Christians out there who are disgusted at the superiority complex rising up in Evangelical Christianity is heartening. I have always been puzzled at the attitude that Christians and Pagans can't live peacefully together.

I may not have a say in how the fundies treat me, but that doesn't mean I shouldn't act. Strength is in numbers and unity - why should those numbers be non-Christian only? Isn't that a form of discrimination? So I am reaching out and establishing ties with Christians, keeping on speaking out about Paganism, and working on building knowledge about who we are as opposed to who they say we are. Or aren't. I refuse to be defined by a definition of negatives, or considered of lessor value because of my faith. Only I get to define me.

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