Public Service Announcement

My blogging philosophy, like most of my interactions in “real life,” is to not say anything about some one that I wouldn’t say to their face. Occasionally it’s necessary or prudent to say something to someone else, but even then I try to speak about my experience or my feelings about the person or situation. That is why I rarely weigh in on internet drama. Besides, by the time I get to it, the drama has usually died down.

In my mind, blogging is supposed to be personal, informative, or part of a discussion. Many people use it as a platform for ego-driven pontificating or power plays. This is particularly damaging in spiritual circles. Sometimes it’s important to write publicly about issues or people in a stronger tone, particularly if we’re doing so in a community setting, particularly if we need to discuss uncomfortable issues.

This doesn’t mean never read anything or anyone you disagree with. In fact, it’s a good thing to read stuff that is different and challenging. This is how our mental blades are sharpened, by being honed against the whet stone. I spent many, many years reading authors whose ideas were incredibly different from mine. It helped me find truth where I saw it. It helped me learn to argue. It helped me find my own beliefs. And then, yes, part of the way through my PhD program I decided I was tired of always reading the words of anti-feminist, monotheist men.

 

Fey Ilyas/photo on flickr/via foter

Fey Ilyas/photo on flickr/via foter

If someone is nasty on-line it doesn’t always mean they’ll be nasty in person. But why would you read stuff that is nasty, mean-spirited, or makes you doubt yourself, your practice, or your beliefs? STOP READING PEOPLE THAT DISRESPECT YOUR WORK.

If John Halstead and Mark Green make you want to throw your laptop across the room, stop following them. Stop reading them. They are not so important that you need to see what they’re up to. Really. There are several people whose ideas I respect, who may even be kind to me in person, but I don’t like the way they treat others online (and sometimes in person), so I don’t read or follow them. I don’t hang out with mean people in “real life,” why would I do so online?

For what it’s worth, I am personally fond of John Halstead. I’ve spent more time than I care to admit defending him “behind the scenes.” But I don’t read a lot of what he writes. His tone is often dismissive – and I’ve told him as such. I also tell him when I think he’s nailed his tone in a positive way – and when he does, I think his work is amazing, even if I don’t always agree!

I never read Mark Green. I think he’s mean, wants to be right, and doesn’t care about individual experience. I’ve never told that to his face, and I base this soley on what I’ve read of his writing in the past. I no longer read Christian writing that assumes my beliefs are demon-driven hallucinations; why would I read a Pagan writer who thinks I’m delusional?

Perhaps I’ll feel differently when some day someone writes about me personally. So far, no one has. (This is not an opportunity to do so! I have many flaws, but I’d rather talk about them one on one, before going public.)

There is a way to disagree with people and their work without being mean or nasty. I encourage writers to find that voice. I encourage everyone in the Pagan and Polytheist world to stop reading mean people. We all have our Good Work to do in the world. Let’s focus on that.

 

 

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About Niki Whiting
  • Laine Glaistig

    I’ve been saying this for a while now; since someone pointed out to me that reading comments section was a form of self-harm for me. If I know that someone is going to be hostile and dismissive and throw the same arguments at me that I’ve negotiated a thousand times before, I’m just not going to read their stuff. It’s better for everyone involved.

  • AshleyNiHunter

    This is an excellent point. As I grew increasingly frustrated by Halstead, I realized that nothing was compelling me to pay attention to him, and that the time I spent wanting to correct him could be better spent reading writers I find inspiring, doing some writing myself, and Doing the Work.

  • Mark Green

    Sorry you feel that way. We’re probably best suited not to read one another.

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

      We’re not. I don’t wish you any ill. But I feel dismissed and disrespected when I read your work, so….. not going to read! May you get on with your Work in the world – and I’ll do the same!

    • Mark Green

      My response, for what it’s worth. Though you will not read it, perhaps others will want to.

      https://atheopaganism.wordpress.com/2015/08/29/returning-to-a-space-of-our-own/

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

        I read it, as I felt this was offered in a spirit of discussion. For what it’s worth, I do think Humanistic Paganism is a “legit” Thing (in fact, I’d say most of Olympia falls in this category!) and I also think one can be a Pagan and an Atheist. But I think your desire to be right is what alienates you from everyone else.

        • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

          I believe that the desire bordering on need to be right can and does alienate people from that person, that community, that philosophy’s adherents. I like to be correct, to have a correct answer, but I try to rein myself in from trying to say I have THE correct answer, even if it is easily verifiable by another source. So not worth the hassle, and I can get ego-boo a different way.

          I believe that we each have encountered persons and institutions who claim to have The Right Answer, who do not respect us or our lives or our minds and opinions should we deny they are correct, or even suggest there are other ways of looking at the topic or deity.

          PS–I’m left-handed and tend not to use “right” where directionality is not involved. Hence, “correct” in my writing.

          I also tend to think that facts can be correct or wrong, but that “truth” is most often an opinion or a spin.

  • Heathen Chinese

    Well said. There are some things in the world that are better opposed by addressing them than ignoring them, obviously. But there are a lot more people, especially on the internet, that “are not so important that you need to see what they’re up to.” Their influence on you is negligible, unless you give them your time and attention.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/author/cdrysdale/ Christopher

    Yep. I went and read Mark’s response. I was definitely dismissed somewhere in there. Such is life. It would suck to be an atheist in a room full of theists. Yeah, I’d probably go hang out with the few people I see eye to eye with as well.

    Pagans are not one big, happy family. We’re not even all part of the same group. Often we share little more than a name, and no one can stop that.

    The thing is, I’m kind of fine with that. What I find frustrating is a lack of historical perspective on a lot of these arguments. We hear things that sound like “Wicca’s really common and simple” but we don’t hear “Wicca’s really common because it is the direct descendant of the Western Occult Tradition, and most of what it believes is already in line with Western conceptions of mysticism.”

    Or, to reference atheo-pagans specifically, we hear arguments of similar strident tone that the atheists use against the Christians. Except that the pagans have (mostly) not claimed hegemony over all experience.

    On the other hand, pagans are going to have to get over the “burden of inclusion.” I think that’s part of moving out of the tent and into the village. (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/agora/2015/08/the-ladys-quill-walls-and-doors/)

    • http://daoineile.com/ Aine

      Love this comment, so on point. There are a lot of times when I realize I’m not understanding something in the wider community because I lack historical context.

  • An Elder Apprentice

    Another question To ask is ‘do I need to comment?’ Even if I disagree with a writer, what is the value of my time of writing the argumentative comment, and to the potential reader of reading it. Will my reactivity enlarge to overall field of the discourse or not. Rarely it will, most often it won’t.

    • http://www.spokanepagans.com Woods Wizard

      I think that we do the readership a disservice if we do not comment, positively or negatively. The object of blogging (in my opinion at least) is to put subjects in electronic print where they can be discussed. It is educational sometimes and entertaining other times.

      I think Halstead deliberately takes on unpopular issues or gets into food fights in order to increase readership, or perhaps to fuel controversy. But I don’t think he lives under a bridge (troll reference for those who didn’t get it).

      • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

        must one comment on every issue one reads?

  • roberto quintas

    this is a good idea, IF… [there is always an if] there are a lot of persons who reads nasty persons and their nasty articles that CAN hurt us physically. I still read Longenecker, Halstead and Green because their presumptuous pose and tone gives reason and justification to prejudice, bigotry and psychologic/moral/physical attacs.

  • http://heartofbirch.blogspot.com/ CarysBirch

    Niki, this is a great post. There’s a difference between choosing only to hear what you agree with and closing out certain discussions that aren’t productive. Doing the former stunts us and prevents us from learning. Doing the latter is protective and a necessary part of self care.

  • lizzysimplymagic

    I’m honestly having a hard time with this one… I am a theist, but I love reading Halstead’s stuff. I don’t always agree, but sometimes disagreement is a powerful path to self-knowledge. Sussing out what bothers me about a particular viewpoint helps me understand where it is I’m coming from, and every now and then something really exciting happens – I change my mind! I love reading Beckett and Halstead, and even sometimes the comments section, because I get to learn so much about the Pagan community and my own place in it. I’m afraid I’ve gotten more of a dismissive vibe from hard-polytheists generally than from atheopagans, but maybe that’s just because there are fewer vocal atheopagans. But I’m troubled by the general angst I’m seeing on Patheos lately on having any sort of a self-critical eye towards our beliefs. I think critique is a sign of health, and if the criticism is way off base then there is nothing to worry about. I can’t help but think that we have our collective panties in a twist because a nerve has been struck, even if we haven’t fully articulated the problem yet. I don’t think that problem is atheistic pagans being open about the fact that they’re both atheists and pagan, though. If their existence and beliefs offend us, we really need to worry about what that says about us. I know the Deities I’ve met exist, and I’m not threatened by those who see reality differently than I do. My beliefs are neither fragile nor fixed. They are fluid and powerful, like a river. I don’t get much outside affirmation for my particular path, and I’ve learned not to expect any. I try to serve my Beloved anyways, and let go of being comfortable. The hard questions posed by atheopagans and hard polytheist pagans alike help challenge me to be better, even if neither approach makes sense to me, personally.

    In short, I’m not going to stop reading and debating. It’s worth a little discomfort!

    • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/awitchsashram/ A Witch’s Ashram

      If you enjoy Halstead (and I *do*) by all means – keep reading him! If you’ve read my post, you’ll know that I am NOT encouraging people not to read these writers, merely that they are examples. Nor am I saying don’t read stuff that you don’t agree with. Critique is important and so is reading challenging stuff. But if you feel offended or repeatedly under attack, then stop reading people you might find mean. Your mileage may vary.

      I am not threatened by either Halstead or Green. I just don’t enjoy Green’s tone, or Halstead’s a lot of the time. I certainly don’t expect them to change to please everyone, least of all me. The ball is in my court. So I took my toys and went home. 😉

  • http://saffronrose.livejournal.com/ A. Marina Fournier

    I certainly prefer not to read mean people, or be around those who are mean or have abused people: I do my best to avoid them.

    I don’t engage with trolls, and if I notice there’s 1-3 persons in a conversation engaging in ad hominem (ad feminem?) arguments, I avoid commenting to/about them/what they’ve said, and if they turn their specs on me, I leave the argument. Not interested in teaching pigs to sing–unless it’s Pigorian Chant.

    Good statement: don’t keep what negativity (as perceived by oneself) in your life which can be excluded. World’s hard enough, life is short enough.