Once again, this blog wasn’t originally written expressly for the Defining My Craft series but with a title of ‘Pagans Hate Christians…. Right?’ it certainly fit. The content should fit the title but if you feel it doesn’t apologies in advance.
People tend to think of paganism as being open and accepting of all religious and spiritual paths and ideals, regardless of their origin and without question. Wouldn’t the world be nice if we all did that? Accepted the differences between each other and lived our lives in blissful harmony?
The reality is so much harsher.
There is no Utopian Pagan attitude. If we aren’t sniping at each other for differing paths within our own community we’re bashing some other religion because they are “nasty to us Pagans” in some way. Monotheistic religions tend to come off worse at the hands of Pagans for a variety of reasons, none more so than Christianity.
There seems to be a wide spread hatred of Christianity and, by extension, all those who practice this faith. A broad brush approach is often taken, especially when “trigger” subjects come up in conversation. Just as we rail against Christian Groups making ill-informed and general attacks on an umbrella term a disturbingly large majority within Paganism are guilty of doing exactly the same.
Social Media and the “Keyboard Warrior” mentality explains away some of the behaviour that we see. People feel safe sat behind their computer screen, they don’t think anyone can see who they are or hold them accountable for their actions. We know this isn’t the case, in the UK for example aspects of existing law can be applied to cases of cyberbullying and online harassment and people have received jail time as a result of their actions, but still people persist in showing the worst of themselves from behind their little glass shield.
Common Reasons for “HATE”
Some people feel that they have a reasons to be negative towards Christianity. Sometimes these are hightly personal and are hard to pick apart but there are four key issues that I think are the most commonly seen out there on the web.
For example a person…
- Might have fallen for the “Myths of Paganism” and hold a belief in “the Burning Times”.
- Might have been rejected by a friend or loved one for their Pagan faith
- Might be attempting to distance themselves from a Christian past or upbringing
- Might have experienced real life issues that the Church is dealing with today
Do any of these justify hatred, or even mean that by identifying as Pagan you need to jump on the bandwagon of Hate along with the rest?
No More The Burning Times… (please)
This is one of the biggest myths of modern Paganism going, the idea that the Christian Church has a long history of persecuting paganism and that somehow directly affects all of us in modern times.
(note I am stepping away from the issues of “Witch Hunts” in Third World countries, whilst horrific and something to consider it is not directly linked to modern Paganism and new age practices, nor with the so-called “historical” burning times)
The Burning Times is a confabulated set of events, the origins of which are difficult to pinpoint. Gerald Gardener seems to have referred to historical persecution of Witches, and certainly it is a theme picked up by later New Age writers. The Burning Times as presented is a series of separate events conflated into one seemingly horrific slaughter of Witches and Cunningmen throughout Europe.
But why the Burning Times? The name itself comes from the historical events in Britain during the reign of Mary I, when Protestant were burned at the stake for refusing to convert to Catholicism. Burning was not actually a common feature of the various witch hunts and trials that occurred during history, rather hanging and drowning were the preferred methods of dealing with Witches. Even if you discard the name there needs to be careful consideration of the people who were affected themselves.
As with the reign of Mary I many Witch Trials hide within the hype a core of hatred held against one type of Christian against another. Take the Salem Witch Trials for example. Most of the men and women who were accused during the Salem hysteria had opposed Reverend Parris in some way during the months leading up to the outbreak of “fits” experienced by Elizabeth Parris and Abigail Williams. Many of the accused were not paid up members of his Church or had opposed his continued tenure. It is more likely that the Salem Witch Trials were born out of inter-Christian rivalries rather than ergot poisoning or any actual occurrence of witchcraft.
Social tensions also fuelled many witch trials, with the accused representing something counter to the societal norm. For example it might be an old woman (widow or spinster) who lived on the edge of the social network in some way. Equally it could be a young woman with an independent mind, or even a man who dabbled in subjects which may have been seen as a female preserve. There are any number of reasons, including the incorporation of traditional folk practices in daily life as well as social back biting, behind accusations of witchcraft and persecution of those perceived as ‘other’.
The reasons may be varied however the fact is that in most cases the victims were Christian, or at least nominally Christian. Folk practices had long since been Christianised and Paganism as we know it today would be a completely alien concept to both the victims and their accusers. Almost all confessions were obtained through levels of torture which would make Gitmo look like a holiday camp, and regardless of whether they confessed or not, victims were most likely to die in the end, either by drowning, the rope or by neglect.
Historically the Burning Times can be viewed as almost fictitious yet despite all this (and more) people still cling to these events as a reason for their hatred of Christianity. Some simply want to feel persecuted, estimates of tens of thousands have the power to make you feel special and some people need that level of justification in their lives. Numbers such as nine million, as appears in the song “The Burning Times”, are entirely imaginary yet people cling to is as a justification for spouting vitriol.
Personally I see that as flawed justification for an irrational hatered whilst indulging in a unhealthy dose of cultural misappropriation. Whilst I agree that the men and women who suffered inhumane treatment at the hands of their fellow man should be remembered it shouldn’t be done in order to prop up an unsupportable world view at the cost of fact and commonsense.
As for the very real conflicts that can occur through the misapprehension that Witches worship the Devil, a subject which was covered last week (link), it is important to use the tools imparted in that discussions. Ignorance is often the root cause of such accusations, as is fear, and there are better ways to confront it than hate.
I Lost My Friend to Christianity
This supposed reason for hate mirrors the oft repeated “I lost my friend to Paganism” line that many people of monotheistic faith will repeat when a member of the family or a circle of friends ‘comes out of the broom closet’. The idea that someone ceases to be your friend or a member of your family because of a difference in religious orientation has always felt wrong to me. In reality who is it that has the problem; the religion or the person?
My response to people who either wish to reject someone because they are Christian or have felt rejected because they are Pagan is often this; were they a true friend and what is true friendship?
Christianity has a strange relationship with people they consider as having opinions and lifestyles counter to what they perceive as being in line with Church teachings. Not only does it vary from denomination to denomination but also from church to church and person to person. What is acceptable in the eyes of one Christian could be total anathema to another.
In this instance I think it is better to judge the hateful person and potentially their denomination/sect rather than Christianity on a whole or every Christian you meet. The purest forms of Christs Teaches have always, to me at least, talked of love, acceptance, tolerance and kindness amongst other things. Conversion is part of that message, it is clearly an important part of monotheistic religion and one that the Church has pursued throughout time immemorial, however I have never seen that as detracting from the overall positivity of the message of Christ.
That is my interpretation of Christs message, based on my childhood within the CofE and Methodist churches with accepting Protestant parents and my own spirituality, however we only have to look to national media to see how some people interpret and implement the Old and New Testaments. I have never understood how people cannot see the hypocrisy of the statement ‘love the Sinner Hate the Sin’. It is oxymoronic. How can you love a person but hate something which is intrinsic to their very being?
But it is all based on interpretation, and the weight that is put on it. If ones faith is more important that their friendships then so be it but do not be bitter towards the Church and Christianity, be saddened that a so-called friend could not look beyond your differences and see not only the good but the benefit such diverse friendships bring. If someone is your true friend, who values their friendship with you, they will not only accept the differences between you but value them.
Issues of Church and Faith
I’ve touched upon the issues facing the modern church, and they are many and vast to the point where it is impossible to get into detail on them all. Child Abuse, LGBTQ+ issues/rights, Poverty and Antique Gold, Missionaries both modern and historical, tithing and financial abuse the list could go on and on. Each branch and denomination have their own issues and there are issues that are shared on a broader level. Those who had been affected by any of these issues may feel, and indeed be, entitled to harbour hatred of the Christian faith. Even those who are not directly affected who hold an opinion of these matters may hold incredibly strong feelings on the matter.
The fact is that these issues, which stir strong emotions, are hard ones to call. I can fully appreciate why hate might be the emotion felt on these issues, even though I have never experiences these myself. Hating a denomination/ sect/ church makes sense when they hide the abuse of children, exploit venerable members of the community sexually or financially, use hate to preach against anything that they consider ‘other’ makes a lot of sense to me. Hating an individual who has attacked, in whatever way, you or a loved one for whatever reason is a natural response but hating every member of a faith seems a step too far.
That hateful denomination/ sect/ church/ individual do not represent the whole. I know many Christians that openly denounce the behaviour and beliefs of the Westbro Baptist’s for example. Many professed Christians I know are open to the LGBT community and see this acceptance of love and same-sex marriage as being consistent with their beliefs. It can be hard to look past the hurt and fear that we have experienced to realise that what happened was not representative of the rest of the world however if we are able to do so it is possible for us to take a higher road and not only rise above these people but also set them an example.
Should I hate Christians because I am Pagan?
To sum up, just because you’ve come to identify yourself as Pagan doesn’t mean you should hate all Christians. Making blanket judgments about people based on their faith makes us no better than the “God Hates Fags” brigade at Westbro Baptist or any other Christian group professing unadulterated hatred.
Personally I have never had cause to hate someone because they were Christian, even at times where I have been rejected or verbally abused. In these cases pity is a far more appropriate emotion.
I pity them because they know nothing about how to treat other human beings with respect and dignity. They don’t truly understand what it is to preach a message of love and acceptance, of redemption and of peace. I judge the person, not their faith, and each Christian I meet is given the same opportunity to behave like a decent individual just as every Sikh, Muslim, Hindu (ad infinitum) is afforded that same opportunity.
I respect people of faith, particularly those who live their lives according to their faith without judgment or interference of others. However I cannot respect those who use their faith to preach hatred and harm but I will not meet hatred with hatred. I am better informed and I am also a better person. Hatred will not resolve anything in a positive manner, indeed it will only make things worse.
So, next time someone accuses you of worshiping the Devil and Satanic Rites rather than going all Human Torch on their ass (Flame On!) calmly engage with them. Given them facts, explain the inaccuracies in their understandings and give them points of reference and research. It’s not always easy and it’s not always going to work and it really does mean that you need to be up to speed on certain subjects and not just spouting the old fluff covered conflations and myths that haunt the modern pagan community but in the long term it is worth it.
Because you are the better person right? The one who can see past the hatred and differences and see not only common ground but the potential for shared learning and growth.
Perhaps you can help them be that person too…