I came across a couple articles decrying the rise of intolerance in the Pagan community. Joseph Nichter discusses his own experiences with intolerance in the Pagan community, while Peter Dybing notes the rise of intolerance in the Pagan community in the last few years. The sad truth is though that this intolerance has been around a lot longer than the last few years. Perhaps, if anything, the internet with its continued evolution has just made it much easier to see the not so pleasant truth of the Pagan community: there is a fair amount of intolerance when it comes to a variety of topics including the practice of one's spirituality, experimentation in magical work, whether magic is even part of Paganism anymore, as well as cultural issues surrounding how Paganism is accepted by mainstream cultures. As someone who has been labeled a fluffy bunny from well before I began professionally writing in 2003, I can tell you that Pagans can be pretty opinionated. I write that tongue in cheek, because I must come off as pretty opinionated in this blog post.
But the reality is that this isn't any different from any other religious community. Christianity has its sects as well, which disagree on matters of doctrine and culture. At least we haven't, as of yet, started calling each other heretics and engaging in more violent activities. Instead it's just online flame wars, and people getting their @$$es handed to them for expressing opinions. I'll probably get some flak for this but I'm used to it. I wish I wasn't though. I wish the Pagan community really was better and not so intolerant. But I learned in the 90's that wasn't the case. I actually went on a hiatus from the community because I was disgusted with the amount of negativity and intolerance being expressed. And in the years since it hasn't changed...This is nothing new under the sun, nothing sudden that has just occurred.
That doesn't mean we just should sit back and not do something about it. However to change it we need to explore what that change would look like. I think a better appreciation for diversity would be a good start. Instead of labeling people as fluffy bunnies or decrying what they choose to do spirituality, we need to accept that even if we don't agree with someone's spiritual choices it doesn't make him/her a fluffy bunny or anything else. Agree to disagree and leave it at that. And if you feel the need to get in a debate ask yourself exactly what that debate is supposed to accomplish. Most like its just you venting hot air because you don't like what someone is saying or doing, but do you really want to invest your time and energy in that way?
And if there are issues to debate let us debate them civilly, with agreed on rules of interaction and dialogue that foster a space of collaboration and cooperation. There are any number of resources that can be explored and used to help accomplish this. The book Dialogue Gap by Peter Nixon, is one such resource. And perhaps most important. Don't let the people who are being intolerant win. Keep doing what you know is right and keep speaking up. I once was interviewed by the Pagan Centered Podcast. Everyone on there was hostile toward my work. It was a great example of Pagan intolerance, but after the interview was over I didn't let it stop me. They could call me names, tell me I was fluffy and hand my @$$ to me, but what they couldn't do was stop me. If anything their intolerance inspired me to continue speaking because I realized that if I did stop speaking up or writing, I'd just be letting them have the final word, and in the process glorify the intolerance that they advocated for. In any given community there will always be those people who are intolerant and have a loud bark. Ignore them and keep doing what you need to do. There will always be intolerance, always be people who will sit in judgement, arguing that they and they alone know best. They are wrong, but you can't change their mind, so focus on your work and make the world a better place. Speak out against the intolerance, as needed, but don't expect to change it, unless they are willing to actually accept that there can be other perspectives in the world that are as valid as their own.
Dark Sun Radio recently posted the interview they did with me late last year. You can listen to it here.