I am a writer of witchery and am interested in all aspects of religious history and expression.
An Online Witch Hunt Against Pagans, Wiccans, and Witches
To those of you who read the title and are thinking, "Hey! Why are you picking on Christians?" the answer is rather simple (though "picking" on anyone certainly isn't my intention). Since coming out of the "broom closet" (and coming out of the closet as a bisexual woman long before that), I've noticed that the most vociferous attackers of Paganism online are Christians.
I don't have anything against the Christian faith, but the simple truth is, it's not people of the Jewish faith quoting off-topic passages of the Torah on our message boards, it's not atheists telling us to turn away from our "evil ways," and it's not Hindus who spam our websites en masse by proselytizing. The Christian call to evangelize combined with the rampant bigotry towards Paganism and witchcraft in general within the Christian Church has led to what often feels like a witch hunt online.
Unwanted Evangelism in Online Pagan Communities
When I first began researching Paganism, I wanted to reach out to others in the online Pagan community to ask questions and gain from their experience, but I was intimidated by the slew of Bible passages and all-caps rants about the "evils" of "devil worship" that seemed to plague every YouTube comments section, message board, and Tumblog on Paganism. It's one thing to share your beliefs in a respectful and intellectual manner on a website that is dedicated to the discussion of inter-faith topics. It is entirely another to go into someone else's "territory," which is what a niche website is, and force your beliefs down people's throats.
One recent example of this is a specifically Pagan blog I was reading recently. A relatively new witch was asking for advice, which she clearly solicited from other Pagans and witches. She was met with a barrage of Christians spamming the comments thread with lengthy and out-of-context Bible passages, e-shouting all myriad of ignorant and bigoted comments. She never asked for their opinion.
10 Things That Pagans Are Sick of Hearing
In light of what seems like an ever-increasing epidemic, and understanding that there are Christians who truly don't realize that their online behavior towards the Pagan community is both counterproductive and just plain rude, I want to put this list out there to illustrate some of the worst (and unfortunately common) things that many Christians say in an attempt to "convert" Pagans. These are personal pet peeves, and I don't pretend to speak for the whole Pagan community, however.
- "You Just Hate Christians/Christianity."
- "You Just Haven't Read the Holy Bible! Let Me Share This Verse With You . . . "
- "If You Were Open to God's Word, You'd Turn Away From Paganism/Witchcraft."
- "But Witchcraft Is Devil Worship!"
- "Your Gods Are Just the Devil/Demons/Evil Spirits in Disguise!"
- "You Pagan Satanist Wiccan Witches . . . "
- "Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism Is Just a Phase."
- "I Made a Witch Mad, and Now I'm Afraid He/She Is Going to Curse Me! Help!"
- "I Don't Believe in Witchcraft—Witchcraft Is Just Made Up/Imaginary/Silly."
- "You Don't Look/Act/Sound Like a Witch."
1. "You Just Hate Christians/Christianity."
I dislike some Christians, just as I dislike some Pagans, Deists, Atheists, etc. It has nothing to do with the fact that they are Christians, though, but rather who they are as people. In fact, I grew up as a Christian. Literally my entire family is composed of Evangelical, Charismatic Christians who belong either to non-denominational or Assemblies of God churches. I went to a Christian college, so a good majority of my friends are Christians. In fact, I'm ENGAGED to a Christian. Yes, I'm a Pagan engaged to a Christian, but that's an article for another day.
Admittedly, there are some of us in the Pagan community who have unfair animosity towards Christians. It's not an excuse, but it doesn't exactly come out of a vacuum. Most of us deal with attacks on our spirituality, morality, and sometimes our very physical safety on a daily basis, especially in the areas of the world that are very predominantly Christian. While most Pagans try to judge people on an individual basis, you have to understand that the moment a Christian inquires about that "star" hanging around our neck, there is going to be a moment of nervous pause while wondering if they're going to try to "witness" to us by randomly quoting Scripture, suddenly look at us like we're possessed, or worse.
2. "You Just Haven't Read the Holy Bible! Let Me Share This Verse With You . . . "
Well, actually, I have read the Bible, many times. The NIV, the KJV, the NLT, and the Message, to be precise. I've also studied the Bible in its original languages and cultural contexts. I've written papers on the Bible, debated with some of the foremost Christian scholars, and I even have a degree from a Christian university. I think I've given the Bible a fair shake and, unfortunately, I find that I know the Bible better than most of the Christians who quote it at me.
3. "If You Were Open to God's Word, You'd Turn Away From Paganism/Witchcraft."
No. I was open. In fact, I was so desperate to be a "good Christian" in my earlier years that I went so far as to perform self-hypnosis in an attempt to make myself "feel it." Assuming that you know a Pagan's spiritual and life journey and that just because they didn't come to the same conclusion as you, that Christianity is "the truth," is about as prideful as it gets and it's certainly not going to build any bridges.
4. "But Witchcraft Is Devil Worship!"
The irony with this common comment is that most of us do not even believe in the devil, at least not in the way that Christians think. Most sects of Satanism don't even worship an actual devil and the ones that do view him very differently than you do. Trust me when I say, worshiping the Christian construct of the devil is not a part of any typical Pagan belief system.
5. "Your Gods Are Just the Devil/Demons/Evil Spirits in Disguise!"
I think this one comes from the fact that many gods/goddesses in various pantheons seem at times to be amoral or, at the very least, capable of actions that would generally be perceived as immoral. The thing is, Paganism has a much more nuanced view of morality than the Abrahamic faiths. It's not that we don't have morals in our personal lives, but divinity is not linked intrinsically to "good" or "evil" in most schools of paganism. There are some deities that air more on the side of one than the other, but Paganism regards balance between light and dark as a good thing, not a band thing.
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By contrast, Christianity embraces only light, and many of us feel that such a belief system is limiting to both the human and divine experience. Our deities are complex. They have individual personalities, stories, and yes, sometimes flaws, but that complexity is why we are drawn to them. YOU may see them as demons and you may feel the need to make everything black or white, but in doing so, you negate one of the primary elements of pagan philosophy and prove that you really don't understand our faith at all. Don't be surprised when we don't respect your assessment of it.
6. "You Pagan Satanist Wiccan Witches . . . "
Yes, some of us are pagan Wiccan witches, but assuming that all pagans are this or that is an automatic giveaway that you haven't really researched what you're talking about. Some pagans are witches. Some pagans are Wiccans. Some Wiccans are Witches. Not all pagans are Wiccans or Witches, and not all Witches are Wiccan or pagan. It just doesn't work that way. Paganism is a philosophy and a spiritual path that encompasses many different religions, Wicca is a faith that is also pagan, and witchcraft is a practice. There are atheist and agnostic witches, Jewish, Hindu, and Buddhist witches, and even Christian witches. A witch is just someone who practices Witchcraft. That's all, really. Some of us identify as Mages, Sorcerors, Ceremonial Magicians and Alchemists, and each label comes with its own meaning.
Within paganism, there are a variety of pantheons which a pagan may ascribe to exclusively, or along with one or more other pantheons. Before you label someone, get to know them. Ask them questions if it's appropriate in the context of your relationship, and don't assume you know what they believe just because you watched a documentary on witchcraft.
7. "Wicca/Witchcraft/Paganism Is Just a Phase."
For some people it is. But those people are not truly Wiccans, pagans, or witches. True faith is not a phase, and it does not rely on a label. Sometimes people latch onto paganism because they believe it's trendy and, once they realize that true paganism requires in-depth soul searching, study, and spiritual devotion, they back out. Oftentimes they back out because they weren't expecting the amount of persecution that often comes with being open about one's pagan faith.
It's one thing to be persecuted for a faith that is an intrinsic part of you, but it's another thing to be persecuted for a fad that you only latched onto for social points in the first place! That doesn't mean that paganism is a fad any more than Christianity, and believe me, there are plenty of people who claim to be Christians because the vast majority of the population is, or simply to avoid being judged by Christians at work, school, or home.