Interfaith, intrafaith

Cities tend to be multicultural places. Pagans are one faith group amongst many, and as society becomes more open to people following different faiths, this creates all kinds of interesting issues.

Do we want to engage with other religions? Should we be talking to people of other faiths? Secrecy and wariness have been part of pagan life for a long time and there are still places where it’s not ok to be openly pagan. Should pagans receive the same attention (and money and tax breaks) from governments that other faith groups do?

If talking to other groups, and sharing public celebrations is something we want to do, who speaks for us? There are probably as many kinds of paganism as there are individual pagans. It’s very hard to represent paganism to anyone else. There are at least as many differences as there are similarities between practitioners. (The same can be said of Christianity though).

Moots and open gatherings bring pagans of all and no tradition together. Sometimes that means exploring common ground, but it can equally lead to confusion, and discomfort. Eclectic public ritual can lose focus, becoming an ineffective crowd pleaser rather than a meaningful expression. Frequently what happens is that wiccan forms dominate, because there are more wiccans.

There’s at least as much misunderstanding between pagans as there is between pagans and non-pagans. As new branches of paganism spring up, this increases. Is it ok for us all to go our different ways? Diversity is good, but do we seek it at the cost of making sense to outsiders? Do we need to be able to speak with one coherent voice when dealing with other faith groups and people in authority? Can Fairy Wicca and Revivalist Druidry be recognised easily as part of the same thing as Gardenerian witchcraft, modern Heathenry or Celtic Shamanism? That’s scraping the surface of types of pagan. Sometimes about the only things we all seem to have in common is that we like the word ’pagan’ and we think nature is a good thing.

My feeling is, we need to keep talking to each other, and keep listening. And I don’t mean that with reference to subsets of paganism, or the interfaith scene. As human beings, we need to hear each other’s truth and stories, respectfully. We can all learn from each other. We are all different. We all want to belong somewhere and we all tend to designate some other group as ‘not us’ as part of how we understand ourselves.

I’m not a huge fan of formal interfaith things – I’ve had good and bad experiences, but they tend to emphasises ‘leaders’ speaking on behalf of ‘communities’ and that’s fraught with difficulty. But opportunities for sharing, listening and learning come up all the time. If people come knocking on your door wanting to talk about God, hear them out. We represent paganism best when we express it honourably, respectfully, in dialogue with others. We can do that, all of us, every day, and we can make all kinds of differences.

3 thoughts on “Interfaith, intrafaith”

  1. I tell ya, I know Pagans everyday battle for the Government to recognize them, dream of opening or joining a public temple which receives tax breaks and so on—but the entire concept makes me weary. As far as recognition, to make it easier for people to maybe be accepted, I would be ok if Governments said, ok—they are here and that’s that. Maybe that would help people rid themselves of the so called rumors (fear factors/stereotypes) concerning Pagans and so forth. But having the rest—I think what has become of other Religions etc.
    Flat out, I am scared to death some person Pagan or non will see an opportunity to CASH IN. I know it happens now, we’ve done articles on it Pagans (The sex, sex & more sex) discussion, BUT I keeps seeing the nightmare of TV evangelists, people mailing in their prayers, and whatever other horror.
    That would be hard, yeah, with Paganism, since WE don’t believe we have to pay people for prayers, but can commune with our Goddess/God (or SOURCE) ourselves. But, there are always the new possibility of a ‘new’ group surfacing who may not embrace that???? And what about HEALERS, or those charging for spells, rituals, whatever? I am not saying they are bad but I am saying, there is an opportunity for someone to cash in and ruin it all for us. Tax breaks might make that easy….who knows.

    I am rambling—sorry…I just have to wonder. If we were so ‘on our own’ about our faith—would we be much different than the organized and very dominant religions out there? Could we rise above our own egos, and greed, and not let power go to our head?

    But yeah, I do think bringing different Pagans together and non-Pagans—ridding of the fears, keeping everyone talking is a good thing. But I am also prideful when it comes to our umbrella—hoping if we advance—we can keep a responsibility about it…and not ruin a good thing.

    Just rambling. Good article Bryn.


  2. This sort of comment scares me…..
    Pagans are not entitled to equal treatment as religious groups under the law? Why exactly, so we avoid the pitfalls of christians?

    I am the Rev. Mother of the Cybeline revival. We’ve been formally established just over a decade, incorporated around five years, dedicated ourselves to restoring an actual, accurate theology, reawakening of Goddess Consciousness and allied with that dedicated to charitable works. We have a brick and mortar location which has become the exception rather than the rule in the past 15 or so years. And we are engaged in a legal battle for the simple recognition as a legitimate religious group with our local government regarding property taxes. We are fighting this despite being IRS 501 c 3 recognized and New York State taxation dept. recongized!

    Now recently the battle of Patrick McCollum as a Pagan Chaplin with the California prison system that has raged in court for five years has hit the news. The Catholic Church has pretty much declared out and out warfare on it’s own women, specifically American Nuns. Fundie Christian groups have begun openly supporting Uganda’s “kill the gays” policy and American’s actually debate whether or not torture is a good idea, something I would have thought inconceivable just ten years ago.

    As a historian this scares the whatever out of me. I fought many of the Pagan recognition battles back in the seventies only to see the same things happening again. The broom closet means death, history shows us this clearly. The fundimental difference between almost all so called “mainstream” religious groups and most Pagan traditions is basic and simple, we hold that the Divine is accessible to all without a middleman, they don’t. It’s a basic difference, a fundamental one.

    We Cybelines are in this for the long haul, our plans are drawn up in terms of hundreds of years. We promote interfaith Pagan summits believing they are absolutely necessary in today’s world. We are planning one this summer in fact….open invitation, solo practicioners welcome.


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