Don’t Tell Me What to Think: My Beliefs are as Valid as Yours


A persistent problem I’ve noticed over my years being active in many online Pagan groups and in real life ones is that there exists a minority of condescending self-righteous blowhards who are eager to ‘splain to me why my perspective is inferior and wrong. Sometimes, I’ve engaged them, but mostly I just ignore their nonsense. I’ve reached the tipping point though, I’m done with the holier-than-thou crowd. I’m finished with taking the so-called high road of ignoring them. From now on, I’m calling them on their foolishness. My beliefs are just as valid as yours. Don’t tell me what to think.

I’m fully aware that my version of Modern Hekatean Witchcraft is far removed from mainstream Paganism, and even from Hellenismos. I’m cool with that. What’s not acceptable are the hurtful comments and hateful language being used by a small minority of people in the various groups in which I’m involved.

Central to my very personal practice is to live a virtuous life. Keeping Her Keys is all about my exploration of what this means to me. Now, I’m taking on how I’ve handled hurtful speech in the past.

I’m a Goddess Loving Warrior

Way back when I was trying out online dating, I had this brief interaction with a guy that pretty much captures my approach to dealing with these types. I remember the chat verbatim:

Him: “I’m a God fearing soldier.”
Me: “I’m more of a Goddess loving warrior.”

Then he starts to explain to me the foolishness of my opinion. I ended the conversation.

That pretty much sums up how I’ve dealt with people who have that mindset over the years. When I encounter that “let me explain the right things to believe” attitude, I usually walk away. I don’t engage. I tell myself that I am taking the high road. That there’s no way to change a proselytizing blowhard’s opinion, so there’s no point in wasting my time. This doesn’t sound like something a goddess loving warrior would do.

On occasion, I say something that one of these types feels merits correcting. Having this blog seems to have increased the likelihood of this happening. When this happens, I usually try to write an earnest response that isn’t overly critical of their views and certainly doesn’t insult them. Now that sounds more goddess loving warrior like.

Enough of That Nonsense

It’s early.  I haven’t had my coffee. And I’m done with the holier-than-thou trolls.

I have something that these people don’t have – a legitimate online platform. Almost invariably, these people emerge to preach their gospel, insult others, be generally disrespectful, etc. and then crawl back under their rock. They get away with it. I’ve seen lots of people hurt by it. Enough.

You’re probably curious as to what exactly has me so riled up on a wintry morning. I’m not going to get too much into specific details, but I’m going to talk about a few common themes that show up frequently in the many online Hekatean groups in which I take part. I’m guessing these themes are not limited to my little corner of the pagan universe.

My Beliefs and Ideas are Just as Valid Than Yours

First, there’s this idea that “my interpretation of Hekate is the only correct one.” It’s not.

Like I wrote in my recent article about the common themes of Modern Hekatean Witchcraft, there are many ways to honor Hekate and practice witchcraft. A lot of this focuses on the available historical documents concerning Hekate. Let me tell you this, those documents are someone’s opinion, too. Yes. It’s true. Those ancient texts are the expression of the writer’s beliefs and thoughts. You’re acting like a commentator on Fox News. I’m embarrassed for you.

I’m going to tell you something else that may be shocking – those historical texts are being interpreted by you. You are adding your own beliefs and thoughts to them as you spew them. And if you read others’ interpretations of those texts, then you’re mixing their perspective with yours. We can’t help it – it’s what humans do. We can be aware of it, though.

Now, I’m not trying to discredit people who are erstwhile scholars of the ancient texts. Quite the contrary. In my experience, these individuals engage in thoughtful and respectful discussions. I’m talking about the ones who possess a little knowledge and a lot of hubris.

I Won’t Apologize for My Beliefs

Meanwhile, very knowledgeable, sincere and respectful individuals take an apologetic stance on their opinions. They frame their discussions carefully. And they even use the expression “unverified personal gnosis.” I’m guilty of being one of these types. I’ve stopped doing it. Listen to me – it’s ALL “unverified personal gnosis.” There are no randomized controlled trials to evaluate the veracity of any theosophy or religious philosophy.  Your beliefs are just as valid as anyone’s. Scholars who study the ancient writings may have more knowledge about these works, but this doesn’t mean they have more wisdom.

Biases are Part of Being Human

An explanation for their behavior beyond their lack of basic interpersonal skills and pitiable narcissism is the ingroup-outgroup bias. It’s a natural thing for us to want to prove our own group is right and that the others are wrong. Moreover, people have the need to prove they are right. It validates them. I’m not immune to this. You could even say that I’m trying to assert my own superiority by calling out the blowhards. However, being aware that this is a risk is an important part of being able to engage in polite discussion. And just because I can understand where this comes from doesn’t mean I should put up with it.

The Patriarchy is Alive and Well

I’m taking a deep breath and going there for the third theme I’ve noticed. In my experience, the majority of these blowhards are men. Usually raining down on women, but not always. Women tend to be more of a helpful sort of condescending. Patriarchal behavior is alive and well within the Hekatean discussion world. How ironic is this that discussions about a goddess that transcends gender roles can take on the tone of “smart man, stupid woman?”

There’s also the pattern of the aggressive male and the female who backs down. I’ve done this myself many times by deciding to not engage these types. I’m wrong to do so. I should – respectfully – explain my own perspective. But, there’s limits. When someone starts insulting me or claiming that my perspective is wrong, there’s not a lot I can do through direct discussion. However, I can use my blog to make my own positions clear. I can use polite discussion to set an example.

Can’t We All Just Be Nice?

If there’s any place that should be able to foster respectful discussion, it’s within paganism. After all, many of us have rejected autocratic religions. You would think that we would learn from these experiences. I think most of us have. The vast majority of us – at least within the Hekatean corner of paganism – are conscientious when expressing ourselves. However, the self-righteous minority causes a lot of upset. For those of us who are self-aware, perhaps we can try a bit harder to be respectful and to be supportive of those who get hurt by the trolls. Maybe this is me being Canadian, but can’t we all just be a bit nicer to each other?

My Personal Approach

Like I wrote above, I try to write in a respectful way and be aware of my own biases. I write about my own experiences and my own take on Modern Hekatean Witchcraft, using words like “devotion”, “worship”, and “faith”.  Don’t tell me I’m wrong to use them. Over the past week, I’ve had at least three different examples of this happening. For example, I was told I was in the wrong to use the word “faith” because it was a Christian term. No. It’s not. None of the terms I use are Christian. They are words that describe my approach to Hekate, witchcraft, and life.

I was raised in a fundamentalist evangelical family so I know these words. I have reclaimed them for my own personal approach.No one is going to tell me what words I can use. Then there are the critics who deride my approach itself because I am heavy on the personal development and light on the ancient teachings. That’s who I am. I’m not insulting those people because they appear to lack the ability to self-reflect, but I reject their attempts to ridicule my perspective. I am happy to engage in respectful discussion and to hear the opinions of those who’s own interpretations and experiences are different than mine.

Don’t Tell Me What to Think

I feel like this blog is just a big old rant. I’m tempted to not post it because I like to avoid controversy, I don’t like to attack people, and I generally just want everyone to get along. One of my intentions for Keeping Her Keys is to use the platform to support others, not tear them down. I decided to publish it because it is vital that I hold myself accountable for putting up with the trolls rather than engaging them. I am shining a torch light on my own behavior. I’m making a commitment to myself that from now on, I will not be silent when someone attacks me or another. When someone tries to tell me – or someone else – what to think – I’ll stand up and call them out. I’ll let them know that they can’t tell me what to think.

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  • stevewhiteraven

    Any of us can only talk about our Gods from our personal perspective/experience and that is it , Even though my relationship to Hekate is not exactly the same as yours i have read and enjoyed your posts and learnt a few things about Hekate too . The Gods we approach are individuals and we are individuals If we all had the same approach and the Gods had the same response we would be christians 🙂

  • Exactly!

  • Spirit

    I dispise the ‘holier/smarter than thou’ battalion in these groups. Also there are those who get butt-hurt if you don’t agree with their beliefs. I’ve been kicked off groups by vindictive Admins who believed their word was the right thing and any varying viewpoints were blasphemy.

    We have a common enemy, and that is rigid conformity. We need diverse viewpoints and experiences because no one of us knows everything, and we benefit from collaberation. A friend posted your link in a group I frequent, and this viewpoint is sorely needed there.

    Thank you so much for all the work you put into this statement and guideline.

  • Gretchen Little

    Thank you! Somebody finally said it out loud.

  • Brianna LaPoint

    I consider myself a Buddhist and a Pagan. ive left both groups because of many reasons, and it boils down to this: everyone is an individual. you and another person can both be Nichiren Buddhists with NeoPaganism, but that doesnt mean anything, there might be enough differences to keep you and another person bickering. that is life.

  • Exactly…everyone is an individual. Namaste.

  • You are most welcome!

  • Well said! We do indeed have a common enemy in rigid dogma!

  • rtgmath

    “My beliefs are as valid as yours” only works when there is no empirical evidence for either belief set. It isn’t really a good argument. When someone tries to argue against your beliefs using their (unsubstantiated) dogma, they are being as logical or illogical as you are holding to your beliefs using your unsubstantiated dogma.

    But that is a problem in all religious belief, isn’t it? Christians do the same thing. Pagans do the same thing.

  • Cristina

    Your blog has been such a light to me. Ive spent many nights reading through posts. I’m new and learning. Someone coming from organized religion. We’ve got plenty of judgement there too. Hecate has been with me. I see it now, thanks to your torch.

    Keep keeping the keys.

  • Spirit

    Perhaps we should all say, “my beliefs are as invalid as yours.”

    BTW, even Atheists do the same thing.
    People don’t realize that by definition Atheism is still a religion: a belief system based on no emperical evidence.

  • Teresa Reitan

    “Don’t Tell Me What to Think…” It seems to me that in Neo-Paganism there is no room for what Isaac Bonewits called the “One-True and only Way” type of attitude. It’s ALL based on SOMEONE’S individual personal gnosis. Cyndi, I’m glad you came right out and gave those trolls what-for. Stick to your guns, girl!

  • rtgmath

    No. The definition of atheism does NOT say it is a religion. What sort of strange dictionary are you using?

    The dictionary used by Google defines atheism as “disbelief or lack of belief in the existence of God or gods.
    synonyms: nonbelief, disbelief, unbelief, irreligion, skepticism, doubt, agnosticism; nihilism”

    There is no “belief system” within atheism. All they ask is that you provide evidence for what you claim to believe.

    Please, get it right. This persistent lying by purveyors of religion about atheism simply testifies that religion spreads its doctrine by lies. You don’t really want that, do you?

  • Spirit

    What is the emperical evidence to believe in the disbelief of deity? Why don’t atheists just ignore theists? Why do you have to establish a cateory of people called ‘atheists?’ What are you trying to prove or disprove?

    What should atheists care what others believe, so long as it isn’t forced upon you? Why even bother asking for proof from those you consider engaging in fantasy? A futile course of action.

    Dictionary definitions chance with the social tides. Empericaly provable.

    “Lying?” That’s pretty strong. It seems you are claiming that everyone who believes differently from you is lying.
    BTW, I am not a “purveyors of religion,” I merely seek truth, and withold judgement until I am shown the truth. (Agnostic)

    I’m just using basic logic. Atheism is a disbelief in deity. ” Disbelief: inability or refusal to accept that something is true or real.” Means even disbelief is a belief system. NO emperical evidence to prove deity is not real. Same for flying saucers and mermaids. I don’t see any aufos or amermaids, what’s so special that theisim has to be singled out?

    Theists can also ask that you provide evidence for what you claim to believe. There is none.
    Stop hiding behind fake titles.

    Scientists ask for proof or evidence. Why not just call yourselves scientists?

  • JA Myer

    I really understand what your saying here for sure. When I was a baby Pagan there was even a term (maybe it is still used, I don’t know) “fluffy bunny” that was used to crush the spirit of people like me who wanted to ask questions and learn. But never ever were allowed an opinion right or wrong. we were just fluffy bunnies valueless, I wonder how many people just stopped searching all together? We do bring baggage from our personal experience’s, and while some of it is bad not all of it is. I was raised a Jehovah’s Witness most of my upbringing was pure crap, but I also was given a deep unshakable faith in the divine, god and I still have that. Just that I have come to the realization that God for me is a Goddess and She is everything, and I am Her son. thanks for your blog it is very important to me and many others I’m sure.

  • Paulette Egeli

    I’m gong to raise a small point but an important one I think. That is, the use of thinking and believing as interchangeable in this thought provoking article. I kept turning it around in my mind and thinking – this is what fundamentalist Christians (and other fundamentalists) think. That their beliefs are as valid as anyone’s. That concepts that might better be placed in the realm of thinking – the world in seven days? That believing in one god or goddess or nothing entitles one to trash people with different beliefs? That I think is a problem on this planet. Believe is a heart action. Think is a mind action. Sometimes they agree; sometimes not. If your beliefs endanger my liberty as a human being (and endanger the whole planet) then your beliefs are dangerous. “Be fruitful and multiply and have dominion over the earth…” Well, we humans have accomplished that. Kinda a dangerous thought, don’t you think? One I’m willing to challenge as basically insane.

    OK. I’ll rant on them. I believe in what touches my heart and takes me in a direction that is useful to me and others. I believe in the goddess/es and gods in all their forms as they arose in their own cultures. Sometimes I experience moments of connection with that energy. I think, after reading Sitchin and Gardner, that humans were bio-engineered and that their original goddesses with wrap-around black eyes (Isis in some carvings) probably actually looked just like that because the Visitors to this planet – who brought fire and then pottery kilns and bricks and money and community schooling – looked like that. I think they really were here. I’ve seen enough pictures of goddesses and flaming wheels etc. Most left. Some stayed because they liked the humans for all their rough ways and had offspring here.

    As for me and the Craft: I was an intuitive little witch, making circles of white pebbles before I attended school. Later I had formal training, was in a training coven, moved to Canada and practiced with a circle of women for twenty-five years. We never used “recipes”. Now there’s only a few of us – some have drifted away to be 24/7 grandmothers or were taken in by another religion/spiritual practice that does not allow practicing any other way. Overall I totally agree and am happy to see in print your article/blog.

  • H. Karena

    HEY! You know what I think? I think…
    YOU are AWESOME. 🙂 Hekate hasn’t called me, that I’m aware of, but I love your blogging & read it regularly, because hearing multiple Pagan insights is really important to me. I fully and totally love what you’re saying- we’ve all gotten hit by (what I like to call) the Dogmatics from time to time. We all need to be individuals, and everybody should be allowed to develop their own relationships with their deities- WITHOUT being judged, battered, or harassed.

  • HI! Well, thanks! I love the term “dogmatics”! I am always making up new words like this! One of my regular readers asked me if something was a typo or if I was just making up yet another new word. Thanks for the feedback. I love hearing from readers, especially those who read my blog even though they have a different approach.

  • Hi Cristina! It’s lovely to hear from you. Please feel free to contact me on Facebook if there’s anything I can do to help you along your path.

  • Thanks, Teresa! Great Bonewits reference!

  • Cristina

    Thank you! I’ve just followed you a message!

  • Hi Paulette,
    Thanks for raising the point about the important differences between thinking and believing. Thinking can be a very academic exercise, but I was discussing the thinking we do about our beliefs. This sort of thinking is very emotional and experiential if we let it be that way, or it can be very dogmatic. In my experience, a personal belief system is usually the result of serious inquiry and study rather than the blind acceptance of a religion. I thoroughly enjoyed reading your comments.

  • Hi JA,
    I think “fluffy bunny” is still being used out there, by someone! She is everything, indeed. Thank you for your comments.

  • Hello,
    Empiricism is based on the ability to observe a phenomenon and collect information about the phenomenon in a systematic way. It is inherently difficult to collect “evidence” about beliefs in a way that reflects positivist methods (which is what I think you’re referring to as empirical). But, it’s not impossible. At any rate, my beliefs are mine and I don’t need anything except my own empirical evidence to support them. Thanks for taking the time to comment.

  • Spirit, I tend to mostly agree with you that atheism can be a belief system, at least by some people who self-define as atheists. I think atheists come in many different types, just like everyone else. Now, can we stop being mean and have an adult conversation?

  • Satanic_Panic

    My beliefs are just as valid as yours

    No, they’re not. You believe in obvious nonsense, which is not as valid as a perspective grounded in reality. Try again, though.

  • Spirit

    Epic FAIL!

  • Satanic_Panic

    Typically silly answer. Try again, genius.

  • Shining Wolf

    I am sitting back, enjoying this (YOU), and FANNING YOUR FLAME !!! I think you and I would greatly get along, just because of how we think. And that is just it; WE THINK !!!! Blessed Be (No, Not a Wiccan in modern terms, but wiccan (old english witch) in the original term. Practice Witchcraft in and of my terms, and my worship of God and Goddess in the same.)

  • Shining Wolf

    Was not quite sure where your post was going, but it ended good. Bless You Paulette !

  • Shining Wolf

    You are wrong. I am friends with a few atheists, and even they realize that, by their own choosing of BELIEVING there is no
    god/goddess, after-life, soul that lives on, that is also A BELIEF. One can not have it both ways.

  • Shining Wolf

    Quick on the remarks, yet fails on any solid target. There are those in every group.

  • Shining Wolf

    Children will play. “But I’m NOT a child; I am an adult”.

  • Satanic_Panic

    Do you have anything actually useful to say or are you content to offer silly platitudes and nonsense?

  • Satanic_Panic

    Wrong. Not believing in things that have no evidence is called being a rational human being.

    But I wouldn’t expect you to understand that.

  • Spirit

    Do you have anything actually useful to say or are you just going to continue being a malignant narcissistic troll?

  • Spirit

    Wrong as usual.
    You are one of those narcissists who believes that only you are right, that other points of view are invalid, but you don’t have the knowledge to back up your misinformation.

    A “rational human being” believes that which has been adequately demonstrated, and suspends belief on things that have no evidence until such time as it is proven or illustrated to be in error.

    With an attitude like yours the Wright brothers would never have gotten off the ground, because “rational human beings” believed at that time that human flight was not possible.

    But I wouldn’t expect you to understand that.

  • Satanic_Panic

    Pagans are so lame. Make grandiose claims (I can cast magical spells! My gods are real!) yet they never have any evidence. Are you prepared to offer some up?

  • Satanic_Panic

    Yeah – I demand evidence stupid. Have any? Didn’t think so.

  • Spirit

    Not as lame as you.

  • Spirit

    Yes, I offer up your posts as evidence that you are a malignant narcissistic troll.

  • Satanic_Panic

    And your abject failure is complete. How sad you are, loser. Why don’t you put a hex witch curse on me?

  • Spirit

    Why would I do that? You are already your own worst enemy.

    Satanic? You are delusional. Satan is just a fairy story.

  • Spirit

    Don’t you realize how pathetic you are?

    I didn’t think so.

  • Satanic_Panic

    How dumb are you? You obviously don’t know what the satanic panic was – use google for 2 seconds and educate yourself, idiot. I, as an avowed atheist, don’t believe in anything supernatural, I’ve been saying satan was a fairy story since I was 11. So, if you are able to recognize “the devil” as a fairy story, why can’t you recognize your own nonsense?

  • Spirit

    Gee, I’m really pretty smart, actually. I don’t make assumptions like you do, which is one indicator. Tagging youself “Satanic_Panic” seems to indicate some sort of involvement in that craziness. Were you a victim? Poor kid. Or were you a perpetrator? Your tag is unclear as to which side of the fence you’re on.

    What nonsense you allege to be mine are you talking about? I’m an agnostic who realizes my limitations of knowledge instead of a know-it-all atheist who makes assumptions based on one’s LACK of knowledge.

    All I said was that any BELIEFS are equally valid – your BELIEF that there is no deity is as valid as those who believe their is a deity. Both are equally unprovable. Q.E.D.

    I’m so glad to get under your skin to the exent that you are resorting to ad-hominum attacks instead of addressing the issue. This further deteriorates your credibility in the eyes of everyone here, though I’m certain most have blocked you because of your troll behavior. You really are acting like an ass. You’re probably proud of it, too.

    You do know, don’t you, that using ad-hominum attacks (Google it) actually undermines your position and weakens your argument, because it shows you have no REAL argument. Teenagers often resort to that type of misbehavior. Insults make up for a lack of real knowedge.

    I’ll continue to play and embarass you and your intellectual shortcomings for as long as you like. I’m a retired college professor, I have the spare time and this amuses me.

  • Satanic_Panic

    This will be my last reply. You don’t even know the definition of agnostic – you probably don’t even realize that you can be a gnostic atheist or an agnostic atheist.

    I have addressed the “issue”. No one has given any actual evidence of their gods being real or their ability to weave magical spells.

    All I said was that any BELIEFS are equally valid…
    And if you think this is true, you’re an idiot – former college professor or not. It is trivially obvious that all beliefs are not equal.

    If there is no evidence for a proposition, the logical position to take is to not believe in it. Therefore, the logical position on gods is to not believe – unless you can actually conjure up some evidence.

    I’m a retired college professor…
    Nice attempt at an argument from authority.

  • Satanic_Panic

    Spirit previously said: “Satanic? You are delusional. Satan is just a fairy story.” How does this comport with what you said 1 message later: “your BELIEF that there is no deity is as valid as those who believe their is a deity.”

    Why is satan a fairy story? Isn’t someone’s belief in satan just as valid as your belief that it is “just a fairy story”? Please explain – you seem to hold two separate and incompatible beliefs.

    I thought a “retired college professor” would have clearer, internally consistent thoughts and beliefs. My mistake…

  • Spirit

    Gee, you are all over the board with your assumptions!
    You don’t know what I know or don’t know, but WITHOUT EVIDENCE you claim to know what I don’t know.
    REALLY logical (not!).
    Well I’m sure going to miss you making an abject fool of yourself.

    So, no one has produced “any actual evidence of their gods being real or their ability to weave magical spells.”
    Well, duh, that’s what a belief system is.
    Belief is based upon experience, observation, anecdotal evidence, or external programming.
    It has nothing to do with logic.
    Plus, logical deduction is only SOMETIMES right. It’s often as flawed as an ubsubstantiated belief.

    Logic has nothing to do with reality. Logic is merely a set of deductions made with observable evidence.
    Not everything you observe is real.
    Logic has nothing to do with belief, unless logical deductions are your sole belief system.

    You haven’t”addressed the issue” you have attempted to shove your personal opinions down the throats of others.
    You are no more credible than Joel Osteen or any other evangelical Christian.

    Your belief system is flawed, so flawed that it distorts your view of reality.

    Your mind is so closed that no worthwhile thought can get in, and only waste products can get out.

    Go ahead, you coward, run away. Go back to your mommy.
    Or, OK, come back with your excuses to cover why you are so afraid to be continually embarassed. Daddy issues, too?

    Any system of belief absent of observable, demonstrable evidence is equally invalid.

    Oh, and by the way, YOU were the one to call me dumb. It’s only logical that I provide background to counter your fallicious claim.

    Touché, and checkmate.

    Bye now, little Satanic_Panic… I have hopes for your recovery, but not much confidence.

    I also bet you can’t resist a retort. You’ll be back. You can’t help it. You’re programmed to make people believe you’re always right. You always have to attempt to prove yourself, and you’re always wrong.