Several things have combined lately to prompt me to write this article. I want to see this article distributed wide and far. Heck, I’ll let anyone repost it for any reason if they want to.
The focus of this article is going to be Debating others and Hatred. You may have figured that out from the title, but I think it’s going to come as a surprise to you where I go as I explore this topic.
I am not going to talk about how we should tolerate everyone’s point of view. Far from it, some of the greatest improvements to life and to society have occurred when one person disagreed with another’s position on something, like Rosa Parks’ disagreement of where she should sit on the bus. (To explain this for those of you in other countries, our Civil Rights revolution started when Rosa Parks, then a young lady, was told that she had to sit in the back of the bus because she was black. The back of the bus was crowded with many people and there was no one sitting in the front of the bus, so she moved to the vacant areas. She was arrested and that started a chain of events leading to the Civil Rights Fight, Malcolm X, Martin Luther King Jr. and many other pivotal events of the mid 20th Century.)
I am going to talk about other people’s hatred of us, and by “us” I mean those with alternate lifestyles, be that religion or sexuality or living conditions or skin color.
One fact that you MUST understand is that every person on this planet is a minority of some sort. Pick the whitest white man out of the most insular and straight-laced community on the face of the Earth, and I will bet you that with enough knowledge of him I could find something that makes him a minority. There is always some aspect of his life that puts him outside the circle of the greater group and puts him smack into the little circle of “Minority”.
So people hating each other for not being in the same group as another is just stupid. Yes, it’s stupid. If everyone is a minority of some sort, then hating minorities is stupid because you wind up hating yourself. And it’s not what the major religions teach.
I watch some few television shows. Recently one of them to come on was called “Trading Spouses” in which the wives of two families swap places. The most recent show had a very Christian woman and a New Age Mother trading places. It was interesting to watch because the New Age lady was very calm, Zen and very little upset her. She took care of the family and did her best to relate to the various children and to help improve their lives overall. The Christian woman, instead of following the teachings of Christ and loving those around her, decided to take another road and hate the family she found herself with instead because they weren’t Christian. She caused contention and strife everywhere she went. The father was extremely accommodating to her, to the point of packing the whole family up and all of them going to Church to make her comfortable and happy.
And this is what I’m talking about when I speak of “hate”.
Why is this necessary? Why is it that we MUST have an enemy to destroy? What makes it worse is that I see it reflected in the eyes of my co-religionists, the Wiccans and other Pagans of the area I live in. It’s almost as though they have a license of “well, if THEY are going to hate ME, then I can hate THEM”. This makes me very sad to see.
What surprises me is when that same hatred is disguised in the best of motives, the advancement of humanity or the teaching of children. Let me give you a recent example.
As you have seen if you follow my site at all, I recently reviewed Richard Abanes’ book “Harry Potter, Narnia and the Lord of the Rings”. I did my best to be fair to him and his writing. I didn’t like it; I thought it was an unnecessary book. I say so, but I also grant him that taken on its own merits the book is a good one. I simply didn’t think it was for me or for Pagans, since it explores no new material; it simply covers the same tired chestnuts that have been around for some time.
Prominent in this book is an attack on Wicca. I had to question why it was there. That attack is a non-sequitor in the book and exists in this book (to my mind) to cloud the issue of how Harry Potter is bad for the children of the world. It is in there to link Wicca to Harry Potter as something that is dangerous. But the point of that book seems to be that Harry Potter is being used to recruit kids for paganism and Wicca.
One gentleman who recently wrote me asked the question “what’s wrong with that?”
Folks, I tell you, it was like a bolt of lightning from a clear sky. I was floored because that was the heart of the whole debate, everything else was just window dressing. Abanes tried to say that the occult is dangerous, or that witches themselves say the occult is dangerous, or that God says that it’s dangerous, and thus that Harry Potter is dangerous because it fosters an interest in the occult. But he never answered the question of why talking about it was bad.
See, the premise of the book is that good Christians should keep their children away from Harry Potter because it will recruit them into Wicca and Paganism, taking them away from Christianity. It will corrupt the children with thoughts of magic spells and flying on brooms and other such fantastic elements or that Cerberus and dragons really do exist and that they will hurt the psyches of the children.
But he still fails to address why this is bad.
What struck me in the email I received is that Christianity is allowed to recruit and to proselytize; they are commanded to do so in their holy writ. But that same courtesy is never extended to others. NEVER. I have yet to see a Christian sit down and listen, really listen, to another about their beliefs unless forced to do so. It is only when they have no choice but to listen that they do, and they do so with the contempt dripping off them and pooling on the floor. (Get the rag, we have to clean up all the pools of contempt all over. Wish they would stop dripping it all over my rugs. Watch out! Don’t step in the puddle of contempt.)
Hypocrisy like that makes me madder than anything else.
Yes, as a general rule Pagans and Wiccans don’t go out and start proselytizing to the masses about Wicca and other pagan faiths. We write books and those books spark an interest and those who are interested find us on their own. It keeps the numbers down and it allows Pagans in general to be selective of those they teach rather than teaching anyone who comes down the pike.
But even if that were not the case, there is the First Amendment to the Constitution of the United States. It says (for those of you who don’t know) “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”
Now, while most religious sites like mine focus on what’s called “The Establishment Clause” or “The Free Exercise Clause” which is the part about establishing a religion and the free exercise thereof, what I’m focusing on the Freedom of Speech.
In the United States and in most Western societies, people have a recognized right to freely speak their mind so long as that speech is not a danger to others. You can’t yell “Fire” in a theater because that could harm others. Likewise you cannot make speeches about killing someone specific since that is a terroristic threat. But so long as your speech generally conforms to those two guidelines, you are allowed to speak out and act out to a limited extent. (Let me state here, I am not a lawyer. To get specifics on this please talk to a lawyer if you have questions.)
Speaking about Wicca in books, on TV, in the various media, in public or door-to-door is allowed. You can go out and recruit people for Paganism; it’s protected speech. You can, as long as you are within the laws governing demonstrations and solicitation, go door to door and preach about the Church of Satan or Agnosticism and try your hardest to recruit for those faiths if you wanted to. In fact, Isaac Bonewits actually did preach in public about the Church of Satan for some time when he was younger. http://www.neopagan.net/SatanicAdventure.html
You will note that in his adventure, he was heckled by the Christians, but never arrested. Why? This kind of demonstration is perfectly legal.
So I fail to see where Pagans are evil for publishing books on Wicca and paganism. If Harry Potter is being used as a Pagan recruiting tool, as Mr. Abanes claims, where is the problem? I have to put up with the Mormon Missionaries showing up at my door and trying to recruit me, I have to put up with the God symbolism in Narnia and The Lord of the Rings and in The Matrix. I have to deal with the bigotry of students wearing crucifixes to school while my daughter is persecuted for wearing a pentagram. I have to tolerate the channels full of church services on Sundays (and four full channels on cable TV that are all Christianity all the time) even if I don’t watch them. I have to put up with Christian Ministers standing center stage on TV and saying that the September 11th attacks are my fault because I’m ungodly. I have to watch as a judge tells Wiccan parents that they cannot teach their child about Wicca since they are going through a divorce.
When did this country and this planet become so preferential toward one religion? Did everyone become a bigot all of a sudden?
I even support the rights of the Hindus and Islamics to go out and preach. I would be riveted to my TV if they broadcast a ceremony from a mosque. I had the best time of my life when I went to a Ganesha celebration at a local temple. Stuff like that fascinates me.
I’m sure there would be many who would love to see a channel dedicated to All Wicca All the Time. And I’m sure that there would be an outcry from every Christian out there.
This is the basic quandary; why is it acceptable for one religion to have all the privilege and rights to do something, while at the same time hypocritically denying that same right to everyone else?
One of the big debates is the “right” for those people in the government to display the Ten Commandments in various governmental places, like courthouses or other buildings where the business of the United States is conducted. People have been arrested for doing so.
I have no problem with them doing so really. I oppose it vigorously, not because it’s inherently wrong or that the Commandments are not my religion’s rules, I oppose it because if I tried to get the Wiccan Rede in the lobby of the Library the entire world would come crashing down on my head. And that is unfair.
Religion is in the business of giving hope to people. None of us really know what happens to the consciousness once we stop drawing a breath and our heart stops beating. We don’t know what becomes of the mind and thoughts of ourselves. We can’t know unless we die, and then it’s too late. So that is unknown and it is scary because it is unknown. Religion gives answers that comfort us while we live and gives us hope on what will happen so that is no longer scary.
It’s a terrifying thing to think that everything I have done and am may cease simply because I no longer breathe; that all that I am might be lost to the æthers of nothingness. Religion says that my fear is unfounded and that I will continue after that state, that I will continue to live with something that is greater than myself. At its core, all religions strive to give hope to others. That is all that they do.
How is my comfort a threat to another person? My hope is my hope and to say that what I find comforting is a threat to another is as stupid as saying that I cannot wear the flannel sleep pants because you find them scratchy. It is my comfort and my hope that my religion answers, how is that a threat to your comfort or your hope? Just because I have a different way does not mean that it is true for all.
Ah, but here’s the rub; according to the sacred texts of the Christians, my way IS a threat to them. Their deity has said that he is the only deity and that anyone who does not worship him is doomed. That still does not mean that my way is a threat to them, since my worship of another is not taking their comfort away at all.
But their mandates continue. They must actively see to it that they are the only faith in the world because all others are wrong. If one person is wrong then another must be right, for you cannot have a wrong without a right, correct?
But that is flawed at its basic level. My belief does not detract from their belief at all, unless you live in a world that has no room for many to be right or all opinions to exist. I’m comfortable allowing another to believe that the world is flat. It does not affect my belief that the world is round at all, but if it gives them comfort then so be it.
It’s the difference between verifiable fact, one that everyone can see and experience exactly the same, and opinion where many people all with differing points of view are right. Your ecstatic trance is not going to be the same as mine, no matter how hard we try, so you and I will have different opinions on that. However, both of us can say that the blade of grass is green.
“The legitimate powers of government extend to such acts only as are injurious to others. But it does me no injury for my neighbor to say there are twenty gods, or no God. It neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg.” — Thomas Jefferson
Where I start objecting is when religious dogma becomes action on the part of those who profess that dogma. Speak all you want, but when you start doing in the name of what you spoke, THEN I have a massive problem.
“The freedom to swing your fist ends where the other guy’s nose begins.” — Harry Truman
That action is in most cases illegal. So I can preach Wicca as much as I want to, and those that object cannot stop me. When I start trying to drag others to a Circle, then I can be arrested.
These Christian proselytizers who use underhanded tricks to get converts, coming into schools to preach and ridicule others, coming to the door of those in a neighborhood, terrorizing children have my undying ire since they are taking talking into action.
But I have the same right, and all the protest papers in the world, all the attempts at censorship cannot change that fact.
There are some other points I want to make. Most often when engaging in these kinds of debates, a “straw man” will be set up by the other side. You must learn to recognize this fallacy and avoid it at all costs.
You and I are talking about the Wiccan Rede. I am against the Rede and you are for it. I state that I do not follow the Rede and I don’t need it since I have many many other ways of being an ethical person without it. You state that the Rede applies to everyone because all other religions have a version of the Rede already. You further state that if my religion doesn’t have a statement like the Rede then I must not be a very ethical person.
What you just set up is a two-target Straw Man fallacy. The first is the “all other religions have a version of the Rede” and the second is that “your religion must not be ethical without it.” What makes them straw men fallacies is that neither of these statements have anything to do with the fact that the debate itself is discussing the Rede itself and whether or not I think it’s a good thing. That is the topic of the debate and straw men like this serve only to pull the discussion off track to force me to defending a statement that has nothing to do with anything. We will lose the original debate in defending either of these straw men.
Apologists for any religion use these all the time and it seems that the Christian Fundamentalists are notorious for this kind of diversion. (An apologist for a religion is one who is trained to defend their religion from perceived attacks and explain away concerns people have about their religion.)
But this kind of diversion is not limited to just Christians at all. I have seen it happen multiple times with debates in Wicca and paganism. I have seen spurious facts put into a debate solely to divert attention from the actual point of the debate. It’s most commonly done when the person who sets up the Straw Man is in a bad position and looks to be losing the debate entirely.
Another fallacy that is pulled out with frightening regularity is the “No true Scotsman” fallacy. This is the desperate attempt to divorce themselves from a member of their group who is seen as less than a shining example by claiming that they aren’t a “true” whatever. The fallacy here is that for every instance where someone pulls this out, I can probably find ten or twenty “true” whatevers that actually DO what they are objecting to. A perfect example is “no true member of the clergy would rape children” when there are multiple priests who have done so. I was told in one debate that no true Wiccan would cause as much harm to me and my family as was done to us, when everyone acknowledged that the people in question were really and truly Wiccans.
There are literally dozens of logical fallacies that will be trotted out in a debate, but I will only mention two more. Ad hominim and Ad Neausium.
Ad hominim is when the person who is stating something is attacked rather than the idea he presented. If I, as a Wiccan, present the idea that I believe the Rede to be antiquated and unnecessary, and someone else who is debating me starts calling me immoral and a bad person, without ever relating it to my position on the Rede, then that is an ad hominim attack. It is used most often by those who have a position that is only supported by belief and very little else in an attempt to bolster their argument.
The ad neausium attack is an insidious one. It makes the statement true simply because it is stated over and over and over again until others get disgusted with it and give up. Saying something four hundred times in the course of a debate does not make it true. Saying that Harry Potter is dangerous does not make it dangerous simply because you say so for pages and pages and pages of text. It simply means that you are trying to cloud the fact that what you say is unsupportable by the evidence.
A full list of debate fallacies is available here: http://www.csun.edu/~dgw61315/fallacies.html and I highly advise you to read them.
One thing that you must remember when debating others on matters of religion and dogma is DO NOT LOSE YOUR TEMPER. The minute you lose your temper and get angry, you have lost the debate. From then on you are arguing from an emotional standpoint rather than from a logical standpoint. All of your arguments will be tainted then simply because the person you are debating will say that you only feel that to be true rather than having facts to back you up. From there, everything can be countered.
The last thing I want to cover is that in any debate or argument about the evils of what is not Christianity the topic will eventually become covered up with a list of other “issues”. But the root of the argument is simply this, it is an attempt to remove all non-Christian influences from the culture.
While I am willing to concede that Christianity has a lot going for it, and the fact that most of what we have wouldn’t be possible without Christian men and women working to make it so, removing everything non-Christian will do as much damage as removing everything Native American would.
Understand that while men and women of faith may have built this nation, even men and women of Christian faith, the United States is not based on those principles, nor should it be. Any nation should reflect it’s highest ideals. There are countries that are based around a theocracy, and that is correct for them. There are others that have a state religion, enforced or not. But the United States is not one of those countries and changing that would destroy the foundation of this country, irrevocably.
I could make a lot of snarky comments at this point, but I will refrain from doing so.
But when you talk to a rabid fundamentalist, reason like that does not enter into the conversation. Most often they simply want to remove everything except their own definition of God, Religion, Marriage, Family, Faith, Kindness, Charity or whatever. That is why it appears to other countries that we are losing our national focus and identity.
I have to say at this point that I am having a lot of trouble with this article. I am working very hard to make it non-confrontational except to those who should be confronted with their hypocrisy. But allies are needed on all sides. The moderates need to start speaking out and using their reason to control their more insane brothers. I am not only speaking of Christianity but also of Islam AND Paganism. Those who have common sense and who actually can see consequences of the current trends need to speak out. You don’t have to get in their faces and actively debate them, but you DO have to go out and use the tools at your disposal to make a difference. Rallies, political action, voting, supporting those clerics and clergy members who work to make a difference, rather than sending the money to those who spread hate and fear. Calling these idiots on their bullshit when they speak it. Supporting those politicians who are working to make a difference.
That’s how the very extreme fundamental elements of Islam took over an entire country. They started small and suggested this change to the law, then that change to the law, then another over there. They worked to get very strict interpretations of the Koran in the homes, the schools, and the government. They got one of their own elected to one of the positions of power. Then the cancer spread. Any one change, taken on its own wasn’t enough to make anyone cry out and protest, but with them all taken together it became a chain of events. Then when it came time for the laws and rules that would really make people protest, there was no way to prevent them from going through for many of the mechanisms for that reform had been removed.
I see it happening now in the United States. I see the President being elected, going on a nuts-o campaign against people that never hurt him or us directly, all the while ignoring the real threats, and then I watched in dropped-jaw shock when he was elected again, along with multiple people who supported him and his plans. Even when this was publicized and more and more lies were exposed, people still supported him enough to elect his cronies. Now it’s too late and all that can be done is to mitigate the damage as much as possible.
This is the kind of slow insidious creeping that destroys nations. Allowing one change and then allowing another and another, none of them protested against because there isn’t anything that can be done, and it doesn’t affect ME, only THEM.
“They came for the communists, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a communist;
They came for the socialists, and I did not speak up because I was not a socialist;
They came for the union leaders, and I did not speak up because I wasn’t a union leader;
They came for the Jews, and I didn’t speak up because I wasn’t a Jew.
Then they came for me, and there was no one left to speak up for me.”
Martin Niemoller, 1892-1984
I watch this happening and I wonder if these insane policies are really what the United States wants because NO ONE is speaking out against them except those who have a vested interest in seeing that they don’t pass. No one speaks out against gay marriage except the gays or those who have sympathy for them. But slowly and little bit at a time, the rights of everyone are being taken away.
I wanted to address these concerns because there are things that can be done, by everyone. You stand up for what you believe is right. You talk to the fundamentalists and tell them they are wrong. You vote, you support causes that believe in the same things you believe in. You donate money and do charitable work. You go to your minister or clergy leader and you tell them you don’t appreciate them spreading hate and lies when they do so, and you vote with your feet when your beliefs are dismissed and go someplace that DOES support what you believe in. You talk to others about what you feel is right, and you attack stupidity where you see it. You don’t sit by and say “well, that’s how it is” and let it go. If you believe that it’s stupid for a government to tell someone they can’t get married because both people have vaginas, tell someone. Make one of the rabid proponents of it waste their time trying to convince you, and if your mother believes it’s right, find out why and try to convince her to your way of thought.
Because if we give up essential freedoms to obtain a bit of temporary safety, we deserve neither freedom nor safety, to paraphrase Benjamin Franklin. The only way out of this morass is to do and be and to work for what we feel is right.
Standing up to hatred and debating stupidity is the only way to bring about the world we want.
And that’s enough for now.
Originally posted 2014-05-17 20:04:07. Republished by Blog Post Promoter