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The Fallacy of Pagan Unity

Well, up until now I have not been one to comment on the various efforts to Unify Pagans into one big group, mainly because I had supported it.

Yeah, Daven, professional cynic, pagan, Druid and all manner of other things, supported unifying Pagans into a group to do many good works.

Please note what I did NOT say, I didn’t say that I supported the homogenization of Pagandom into something that is acceptable to the Fundamental Christians out there. I did not say that in the process of this unity that I expected to give up my core beliefs to join this group. I did not say that I support one overriding “statement of ethics” like has been proposed various times.

I think that a group of pagans getting together to support a political candidate and contribute to his campaign is a GOOD thing. I think that issuing a press release to the media stating why this group is supporting him could really help at various times, especially if the more moderate Pagans started speaking up. I think that using that influence to set up a Pagan run Mission who does work for the homeless is an exceedingly good idea.

Yep, radical that I am, I think that since most of the world goes by “Ye shall know them by their works”, or some variant of that statement, that it becomes important for us to do things in public to show others that we are charitable and kind, that we actually care about the Environment, that we want to help those in need.

I know that when I was living on the street with my family, I would have appreciated a community center that could have given me a hand in getting back on my feet. I would have loved to see a Pagan soup kitchen.

One of the most ironic things I have seen in recent times is a Druidic grove that decided to Adopt-a-Highway, right in front of Jerry Fallwell’s church. I mean 2 miles of roadway in front of his church and that the parking lot emptied onto. They are very obvious about going out and picking up the trash. It’s an event and they do it in ritual garb. Kinda sticks it in his eye, since as far as I know, Jerry’s organization has never adopted any road at all, despite taking in billions of dollars a year.

I would love to see a check presentation from WADL or The Witches Voice to Jerry’s Kids, nationally televised, while it’s going on. I would love to see Fritz and Wren walk out on the stage and hand whomever it is who MCs the telethon a novelty check with a lot of zeros on it, collected through many months of contributions on the Witches Voice, probably through the medium of PayPal or something similar. It would be fantastic.

Probably not going to happen though.

What I’m describing here is a limited group of Pagans, who may or may not necessarily agree with each other on all issues, who come together to accomplish a limited goal, be it to clean up a road, or to help cure MD. We could even use some of the umbrella organizations that already exist for these purposes, like the ADF, WADL, WARD, CAW, CoG and others to do this. Heck if the goal were important enough, I swear that I would stand shoulder to shoulder with people like Norm Vogel and Mark Ventimiglia to accomplish some of these.

But, what I see happening is the homogenization of Pagan beliefs. Let me take you through what I have seen as the life cycle of a Pagan Charity or Political Action Committee.

And all this is what I see happening EVERY SINGLE TIME someone comes up with a good idea that they want to include all Pagans in. It’s happened many times before, from groups to honor the victims of the Burning Times, to those who wish to educate the public on what it is to be a Pagan or Wiccan.

Someone on some list someplace trots out the “We need to create an organization” line and I get REALLY nervous, and I generally run the other way. It is not because the idea is wrong or bad, but because the execution of that idea gets so caught up in politics and grudge matches and infighting that the message and GOAL are lost, or they want to take my beliefs, run it through their “Borg-o-matic” and dictate to me what I believe, whether or not those actually reflect my beliefs or not.

This is what I expect happened to the “Principles of Belief”. It was written on the fly, quickly on the back of a napkin or something, it was revised and voted on, and it was not meant to become what it has become today, namely a statement of beliefs for all pagans everywhere (as many will have you believe).

So it is because of this reason that I feel that “Pagan Unity” is never going to happen. Those who start organizations, with the best of intentions, always try to dictate to those who join them what they will believe. There are literally too many Ways out there to allow for this “one size fits all” spirituality.

I believe that an organization can work that has limited goals and who is crystal clear on what they are trying to achieve. If they stay away from the “we must define Pagan” quagmire, it could be a good group, one that does a lot of good in the world.

This is a short list of some causes where a Pagan group can make a difference. They can raise public visibility on these issues, while simultaneously having a membership that is made up of all the different non-“big five” religions. I believe that with this set of goals, a Pagan Unity group could work.

In each of these cases the participants can be in ritual garb, clothed as outlandishly as they want, and one person can be in front of the camera to answer questions if it’s high profile enough. And each of these can easily be turned into a more permanent event, say, once a quarter.

These are also things that are desperately needed and routinely have a screaming need for volunteers. But they are also the kinds of things that don’t make national news unless there is a “hook”. We could be that hook and a way to raise interest in them. Just so long as the person speaking to the cameras is cognizant enough to not be trapped by the “what do Pagans believe” trap that some reporter or bystander will ask. It’s easy enough to deflect, but unfortunately it always gets answered with a laundry list of beliefs.

Do I think there should be an organization that is over all Pagans? No, I do not. Each group has their own leaders, their own support structure. For example, The ADF has their organization, the Asatru have their clans, and the Wiccans have their own tradition support structure and so on. There is no need for one “Pagan” organization since these support structures are already there. It becomes redundant. And no matter how carefully you craft things, there is NO way that any statement of beliefs or rules list is going to be able to encompass all the possible combinations of belief.

Should this belief stop local communities from trying to start some sort of charity or school or community center? No, this should not. It should encourage them to do so, just with the caveat that in the process of creation of the organization, they understand that there is no need to have a statement of belief or that if they do, it will exclude some and cause as many problems as it solves.

And for the sake of all the Gods, if you do have a group like this, DO NOT assume that because someone is attending and helping with project X that means that they have bought the whole package of belief. I had this bite me once where a HPS assumed that because I supported ONE ideal that I was fully supportive of her and all her works. And that came back to haunt me.

I have seen groups work, and I have seen groups melt down. But beware of falling into the “no TRUE Scotsman would… [1]” fallacy. It’s one of those things where no matter what you say you are going to be wrong. It applies to Paganism too, for every pagan you say would not ever do (whatever), I will guarantee that I can find one who would.


Originally posted 2009-11-11 21:51:19. Republished by Blog Post Promoter [3]