Do Pagans Proselytize?

Each entry in my Gateways to Paganism series generally begins with the line “Pagans don’t proselytize.” The most recent entry in that series drew the comment “‘Pagans don’t proselytize’..right, they just market.” That comment got me to thinking about Pagans, proselytizing, and marketing. Merriam-Webster defines the word proselytize as:

1. to induce someone to convert to one’s faith

2. to recruit someone to join one’s party, institution, or cause

In the most general sense Pagans don’t normally proselytize like Christians or Muslims. I’ve never seen a Pagan group set up a booth at the local farmer’s market in an effort to convert complete strangers. I don’t know any Pagans who go door to door handing out Books of Shadows or collections of Norse Mythology. I’m also unaware of any trips into South America to convert people to Wicca. We generally refrain from the loudest sense of the word proselytize, but I’m not sure that means we don’t do it.

While I don’t think I’ve ever actively attempted to convert someone to Wicca (Jason is Wiccan, it’ll be OK), I’m sure that I’ve done so in a more subconscious way. I love my belief system, I love my gods, and I love the people I do ritual with and have met as a Pagan. It would be hard for me to not talk up my faith when asked about it. I’d never tell someone that they weren’t going to be reincarnated if they refused the invitation of Pan, but I have an excitement for Paganism that might feel like proselytizing to some.

Thinking back on it I can even picture a few of those times. Periodically you just meet someone who seems Pagan on the outside even if they aren’t in the spiritual sense. I’ve met a lot of love the Earth and Led Zeppelin type folks who share my interests and many of my values. I’ve often wondered why they aren’t Pagan, and a few times I’ve wondered that out loud. That doesn’t mean I handed them a copy of the Farrar’s The Witches Bible and asked them to pray to The Lady with me, but sometimes you can’t help but be curious as to why our path is not the one they choose to walk.

I’ve participated in various interfaith things over the last fifteen years. In none of those situations did I ever seek to convert anyone. I was generally there to answer questions and convince everyone that we don’t eat babies. After those type of events there is sometimes an opportunity for fellowship and during some of those periods of inter-mingling I felt as if some of my Pagan brethren were actively proselytizing to the Christians. I remember being on a Christian/Pagan panel once where one of the Christian girls made a comment about how a vivid drop of dew on a plant led her to Christ. Her moment of experiencing the divine in nature led to some of the Pagans I was with prodding her towards our way of thinking. (These incidents were over a decade ago while I, and my peers, were in college. That doesn’t justify anything, but it does explain the exuberance.) In many ways it was a quiet form of proselytizing.

While Pagans don’t normally go around spreading the Gospel of the Horned God* to their neighbors, I often feel like we proselytize among ourselves. Certain groups are more likely to engage in this sort of behavior than others. Many of my friends who have been involved with the O.T.O. over the years have actively tried to get me to join, and at some Pagan events I’ve felt as if they were recruiting. This is not an indictment of the O.T.O., there are a lot of O.T.O. folks I love to pieces, but I’ve felt a little peer pressure at various times. When someone tells me that The Covenant of the Goddess is the most important Pagan organization in the country it also feels a bit like proselytizing. For all I know maybe it is the most important Pagan organization in the country, but I still feel like I’m being recruited to join someone’s party.

Again, my hands are probably dirty here too. I help run/organize a local open Pagan group out here near San Jose. One of the reasons I signed up for the job was to help grow the group. I view my efforts as “outreach” but I’m sure that’s how most Pagan groups view their interactions with others already under the umbrella. Of course we don’t have dues and if you’re broke you can get into our rituals for free, but it’s probably all essentially the same thing.

I do think we Pagans have begun proselytizing causes more and more often. I think this is always done with the best of intentions, but there’s a limit to how much money I want to throw at Kickstarter and Indiegogo. I dropped two hundred bucks on a local ritual just last week and it all adds up. When it comes to some of these causes I often feel like there’s a little peer-pressure involved, it’s probably unintentional, but I feel it none the less.

I’m thinking more and more I’m going to have change the opening line of my Gateways series to “Pagans don’t proselytize in the traditional sense.” While I’m revisiting the opening paragraph of this piece I’ll add that many Pagans certainly do market themselves, their products, and their services, and what’s wrong with that? Perhaps it’s a little hokey that Silver Ravenwolf is essentially a brand name like Coca-Cola, but people have to eat and support their families (not that Pagan writing generally allows for that, most Pagan authors have day jobs). We’ve been marketing since our earliest beginnings; Gerald Gardner was appearing in newspapers for a reason.

Marketing can be a bad thing. Advertising worthless junk or cigarettes to kids is certainly not good, but marketing in and of its self is not necessarily negative. When links to this blog are shared on Facebook or Twitter that’s a form of marketing and it’s what keeps RtH alive. If no one was reading I’d probably stop writing. If Paganism wasn’t marketed at least a little bit (getting you to pick up a book is a form of marketing) many of us wouldn’t be here right now. You can make your own judgements as to how much is too much.

So yes Pagans market, and sometimes proselytize (according to the dictionary definition) especially among ourselves. As long as no one is attempting to thwart another’s free will both things are generally positive. As for me, I promise to never make anyone feel guilty for not loving Led Zeppelin or worshipping the god Pan.

(Feel free to market Raise the Horns by sharing this article and others on whatever social media sites appeal to you. You can also add RtH to your RSS links, you can also Subscribe to Raise the Horns by Email.)

*I call all of my Pagan work Come to Pan Ministries, it amuses the two of us.

About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I think there should be more Pagan proselytism.

    How often have you been accosted by someone saying something along the lines of “Do you have a moment to talk about God?”

    Often times, I have had enough time to talk, but have lacked the inclination. (Not strictly true, I love trying to convert these guys!)

    How would you feel if you were walking through town and saw a street preacher shouting out stories from the Mabinogi or the Eddas? I don’t know about anyone else, but I would probably stop and listen a while.

    There is nothing wrong with reaching out to others and sharing your faith. It isn’t like we are forcing conversion at the end of a sword.

    I know of a man who is making it his life’s work to travel around (at least part of) the USA, building hofar (Heathen temples). Imagine if every major town had a Pagan temple of some variety that people could just drop in to. That is unlikely to happen, unless numbers explode.

    How many people are out there just waiting to hear about something they already kind of believe?

    If nothing else, I fiercely advocate the proselytising of polytheism. I don’t necessarily want to convert every Christian, but I would like them to accept that there are other gods out there, for people who don’t want to follow the son of YHWH.

  • Pingback: Do Pagans Proselytize? – Patheos – Patheos (blog) | Christian World News

  • David Crampton

    I’ve accidentally converted people in the past. I felt terrible about it at first, because if felt like proselytizing, but in the end, I realized that I was just showing them an available path. They were the ones to walk it.

  • KNicoll

    I think there’s a difference between proselytism and apologetics. (I actually first encountered the concept of “apologetics” in this context a while ago when a Catholic theologian explained to me that yes, some of the stuff I wrote *was* apologetics by standard definitions.)

    Where proselytism is rooted in the intent to convert, apologetics ranges from the (kind of standardly assumed) defense from criticism through to the straightforward presentation of “this is why I find this of value”. Pagans do a lot of apologetics, which may have people converting or being convinced as a consequence, but it’s not generally the goal. (I also think that some pagans do proselytism cloaked in apologetics because that’s more socially acceptable to the broader pagan community.)

    • kenofken

      I would say apologetics is in fact the concept we’re talking about where the vast majority of pagans are concerned. Most of us are happy to talk about what we believe and practice and why, especially when confronting absurd stereotypes or misinformation. I never do so with the intent or expectation of converting someone. I don’t think anyone much even “converts” in the usual sense of the word. Sometimes apologetics helps a person realize they’ve been pagan all along and that there is a word for it and a community of like-minded people and some traditions to tap into.

      It probably is fair to say that some open groups will recruit by making the pitch for the benefits of membership and the positive aspects of their community, but I don’t know if that should really be considered evangelizing if a CUUPS member talks up their local group to people who are probably already in that end of the faith spectrum.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      I am a Catholic who went through a pagan stage- and I’d agree with this. Apologetics is in keeping with the Rede. Proselytism isn’t. I ended up rejecting the Rede in my own life because of this, but as I wrote above, I don’t see how one can follow the Rede and be evangelical about one’s religion.

      • KNicoll

        I would say that basing an objection to proselytism on the Rede has a certain level of irony to it, since it roots that objection in an obligation to follow other people’s religions.

        (Since the Rede is no more a part of my religion than yours, I am moderately sensitive to this sort of thing.)

        • TheodoreSeeber

          Now I’m interested- a Rede Free neopagan?

          • KNicoll

            It’s not like Wicca is the only pagan religion that exists. It’s just the one that’s had the most popculturally acceptable books published.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            True. Hinduism has no Rede, though the pronouncements of Krishna in the Bagavad-Gita come close, while being more strict (and somewhat more misogynist than even the worst Christian or Islamic fundamentalist sect, tying the honor of a man to the honor of his wife and sister).

          • KNicoll

            None of the culturally-oriented polytheisms use(d) the Rede, since it’s foreign to their cultures, which means none of the reconstructions of those religions and related stuff don’t include it either (so Asatru/Vanatru/heathenism/Northern Tradition/Theodism, Hellenismos/Dodekatheism, Religio Romana, Celtic reconstruction/Gaelic traditionalism, Kemetic reconstruction, Canaanite reconstruction, Romuva (and its relatives whose names I don’t recall), Slavic reconstruction, and the other recon religions).

            Non-Wiccan religious witchcrafts tend not to care much about the precepts of Wicca except, in my experience, to be irritated when they’re expected to adhere to them. (1734, Feri, etc.)

            The druidic organisations in my experience don’t use the Rede, but neither do they tend to object to people who do, which tends to produce vagueness about it. (ADF, OBOD, etc.) I am pretty sure the Gwyddons don’t and may be as irked as others about people who want to wodge it into places it doesn’t belong.

            Then you get the Discordians and the (usually theistic) Satanists, some of whom consider themselves pagan and some of whom do not, and who are not always invited to the good parties regardless. Certainly the Rede makes no sense in those systems.

            There are others, too, of course. Church of All Worlds, variously organised neo-shamanistic practices, occultic religions, and obscure stuff.

            (And that’s *without* getting into religions the practitioners of which may be offended by being called “pagan”, since that appellation may be considered yet another artifact of European imperialism. They have even less reason to give two shakes about European constructs like paganism, let alone the often incoherently-interpreted tenets of one specific pagan religion among many.)

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

    Proselytizing is aggressive recruiting. What Pagans do (most of the time, anyway) is passive recruiting. There’s a huge difference in the two.

    It isn’t proselytizing to tell your stories to those who are interested in them. It isn’t proselytizing to be open about who and what you are. It isn’t proselytizing to say “this is a path that’s meaningful and helpful to me – you might like it, but hey, if you don’t that’s fine too.”

    One of my oaths as a priest was to “tell your stories, both ancient and new, to all who wish to hear; so that the Old Gods may be worshipped once again.” The gods call who they will, but it’s our job to make people ready to hear those calls.

    As an aside, you might want to provide some context for the Chick tract. I recognize it as one of the worst examples of Christian proselytizing (i.e. – use of lies, slander and fear) but some may not.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Sounds like the distinction I have heard some give between proselytism and evangelism. Personally, I always thought those two terms were synonymous.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

        I hadn’t thought of it that way (evangelism vs. proselytizing) but what you say makes sense. I see one as good business and service to your tradition; the other as an obnoxious intrusion into other people’s intimate affairs.

        Of course, I enjoy just about all religious discourse, so long as it’s respectful. I don’t care if you’re secretly or subconsciously trying to convert me – that’s a chance for me to learn about another religion from someone who’s passionate about it. I know what I believe and why and I know who my gods and goddesses are – proselytizers will fail.

        But I can see how someone who’s less confident about his or her religion or who just doesn’t like discussing religion might feel differently.

        Now, if you’re aggressive about it, if your personal story turns into a canned sales pitch, or if you slander my religion or the religion of others, we’re going to have issues.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I have mostly heard the distinction made by Christians who want to portray their brand of conversion tactics as nicer than their rival church’s.

          Kind of “We don’t proselytise, we evangelise.” Same goal, though.

    • JasonMankey

      I agree with you that proselytizing is mostly aggressing recruiting, but I’m following the dictionary definition of the word here. I don’t think we are usually aggressive (but I have certainly seen a few instances), but I doubt most Christians think of themselves as aggressive for that matter. In fact the most common missionaries, Mormons, are usually very well mannered and nice, almost never aggressive, but we’d certainly call that proselytizing.

      I hope I don’t need to provide context for the Chick tract, that thing was gut-bustingly funny.

      • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/johnbeckett/ John Beckett

        That’s fair – my personal definition of proselytizing may not match the general usage of the term.

      • Lisa H.

        I don’t think one need be aggressive in manner – rude, insulting, angry – to be aggressive in the sense of forward and active as opposed to passive recruiting (yang / yin, if you like).

      • aought

        I’ve found Jehovah Witness’s to be the worst, I’ve had them actually try to get their foot in the door as a way to push in. Thankfully, they stopped bothering me after I put up my “distelfink” sign. Must be they didn’t find my including runic elements in it as welcoming :)

        • Ywen DragonEye

          A pair of Jehovah’s Witness’s came to my door one time when I was out gardening in my back yard. My daughter had answered the door and I told her to tell them I was busy – this went back and forth for a while and it was apparent they were not going to leave. Finally I said “show them the cauldron” (as I have a large cauldron in the living room). They haven’t been back.

        • TheodoreSeeber

          As a Catholic, I put up a crucifix in my entryway. New JW and Mormon teams stop by just long enough for me to open the door, offer me a magazine, then leave. They don’t stick around any more.

      • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

        LDS has gotten way smarter about the way they’re training missionaries. The last one I talked to didn’t try to talk to me about religion at all — he was just friendly and engaged me in conversation (during which he revealed he was visiting Boston as a Mormon missionary). Best PR move ever.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Tao of Steve: People chase that which retreats from them.

    • TheodoreSeeber

      Ok, now I’ve found the common ground between Pagans and Catholics: Chick Tracts. Death Cookies and Bondage Spells (what exactly would a bondage spell look like and why wouldn’t a rope be sufficient?)

  • http://www.forgingthesampo.com/ Kauko

    *knock knock*

    “Excuse me, but have you accepted Dionysos as your Lord and Savior?”

    • JasonMankey

      I did spend an afternoon on my college campus once spreading the word of Pan. I’d make up fake Pan Bible versus and quote them while advocating public fornication.

      • Nicole Youngman

        Oh what fun, I may have to steal that assignment…except, well, I teach at a regional state university in Louisiana. Maybe not.

        I’m gonna agree with John on the definition of proselytizing though. I think it’s interesting that Paganism has gotten to the point as a movement that we’re starting to worry that we’re developing a fundamentalist strand and are starting to proselytize, but as far as I’m concerned, talking about what we’re interested in and saying “hey, we’re over here if you want to get more information or join us” just doesn’t count, however enthusiastic we may be. People who are truly seeking converts do NOT think it is ok for people to NOT join their religion, and so far that’s one problem we don’t have.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          Back in the early nineties, in Norway, there was a spate of church burnings (most notably Varg Vikernes burning of the 12th century Fantoft stave Church.)

          I’d call that Pagan religious extremism, considering the stated motive was retaliation for the building of a Christian church on pre-existing Pagan sacred ground. I’ll let others decide if that constitutes a problem.

          (I would be lying if I said I didn’t sympathise somewhat.)

          • Folcwald

            Vikernes and company were hardly actual pagans. His ideology seems to be a hodge podge of all the ideas that his society has rejected, including but not limited to some kind of nod to heathenry, satanism (and not the intelligent variety), fascism, and even Vidkun Quisling’s Universismen. This is not paganism so much as a bunch of mutually contradictory ideas thrown together to justify a kind of destructive nihilism. His ideology is not pagan extremism because it is not really pagan.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Just because I disagree with his particular path, I am not going to say he was not a real Pagan. To each, their own, after all.

          • Folcwald

            It’s not about simple disagreement, it is about these people not being Pagans except by a definition so wide open that everyone from the pope to the Dalai Lama would be a Pagan.

          • JasonMankey

            What they were practicing was a self-made Satanism under the guise of Odinism. Books like “Lords of Chaos” describe those mormons as the “Satanic Metal Underground,” I can also state that while reading LoC I never felt like any of the church-burning idiots felt or acted liked Pagans in any sense of the word.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Well, they were certainly ‘non Christian’, so they get that sense.

            Vikernes also went on to publish a book, “Sorcery and Religion in Ancient Scandinavia”.

            Just because we find their stances and actions somewhat reprehensible, doesn’t mean we get to say ‘they are not Pagan’.

            That is one of the things about Paganism, isn’t it?

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            The standard definition of Pagan seems to be ‘anyone who self defines as such’.

      • http://www.patheos.com/Pagan Christine Kraemer

        And there is no video of this?! So sad…

        • JasonMankey

          It did happen in the long long ago and far far away era before cellphones were miniature camcorders. I’ll see what I can do for you next time we hold a giant Pan Revival in my backyard.

  • http://www.facebook.com/eala.ban Éireann Lund Johnson

    Perhaps mainstream paganism could be said to carry some covert proselytizers, I don’t see it in the recon or ethnic traditions I spend more time with, maybe because the reasons many choose these traditions have to do with ancestral connections or a connection to the place the traditions originate from in some way, and one cannot assume other people, let along other pagan people, would have the same sorts of connections to foster a desire to follow such traditions. There is also more of the idea that these traditions will appeal to small sectors of the population and that there are many many other paths for folks with many many other connections and interests. There is less of a sense that our traditions are the best ones out there, more that they are the ones most well-suited to who we are and what we resonate with, and little assumption that what resonates with us is what will, or ought to, resonate with others too.

  • Joseph Bloch

    I see nothing wrong with Pagans and Heathens “proselytizing” (I prefer the word “outreach”), but I think the difference between us and the monotheists that engage in the same general type of behavior is one of approach.

    When we engage in such activities, we tend to avoid the “hard sell”. We make options known to people who might otherwise not be aware of them. We may encourage them to visit a ritual or group meeting, but only from the standpoint of seeing what we do. The choice itself is usually not made with any coercion.

    This differentiates us from the monotheists (and others) who present their faiths as the One True Way, and give potential converts a choice between conversion and damnation/oblivion/foolishness-for-refusing/etc.

    It’s the difference between “You might be happier doing what we do” and “If you don’t do what we do you’ll be miserable for eternity”. I see nothing wrong with spreading the word about the former, as long as it doesn’t devolve into the latter.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Agreed.

      Give options, don’t remove them.

  • http://www.facebook.com/reddwood68 Bryan Logsdon

    great article. I especially like the line ” As long as no one is attempting to thwart another’s free will both things are generally positive.”

  • http://www.facebook.com/krogersm Kenny Rogers

    Jason your interpretations and insights are amazing…I share almost everything as it helps me with my explanation when I get questions…please never stop…”horns”

  • Jeanne Anne Decosta

    pagans prolly do proselytize but they shouldnt .. my moms coven operates in the shadows & they dont advertise the fact that they are witches or seek out anyone to convert train or initiate .. in fact when ppl come to them they usually discourage them from going any further & only accept novices who have shown considerable determination in seeking them out

    a question for you Jason .. why do you have antlers in your banner that reads Raise the Horns ?? surely you know that horns =/= antlers & that Pan =/= Cernunnos ..

    • JasonMankey

      The quick and easy answer is that I didn’t come up with the banner, or even the name “Raise the Horns.” I guess I could have asked the artwork to be changed, but goat-horns aren’t really as impressive as antlers. Besides, when people think of the Horned God they often think of a Cernunnos-type figure with antlers.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Why shouldn’t they? It’s a big old umbrella, there’s room for everyone under it.

      • Jeanne Anne Decosta

        cuz when you do .. you end up w/ ppl calling themselves pagans who dont know antlers from horns

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          I have a feeling this subject has been done to death.

          Cernunnos is depicted with antlers. Yet the name (most likely) has an etymology from the proto-Celtic meaning ‘Horned God’.

          That aside, I was being serious. Why would proselytism be a bad thing for Paganism?

          • Jeanne Anne Decosta

            horns & antlers are histologically quite different .. & the former are characteristic of bovids & the latter of cervids .. guess i expect practitioners of Earth religion to know some basic biology

            proselytism is bad because it is a form of coercion which is a form of violence .. i’d rather not have pagans who hav2 be convinced to be pagans .. it trivializes my craft .. i agree w/ you about paganism being a big unbrella w/ room aplenty for groups who stoop to proselytism tho .. & i dont want to tell anyone what to do or not do .. but i dont want anything to do w/ those who proselytize

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I will ignore your stating the obvious about the difference between horn and antler, since it is entirely irrelevant to pretty much anything here.

            Proselytism is not necessarily coercion. It is more ‘advertising’. It certainly isn’t ‘convert or die’, which is what some seem to worry about.

            I see nothing wrong with people wanting to reach out and introduce other people to their faith. I may not want to convert the world to my belief system, but I would like a little more mainstream acceptance of (hard) polytheism. If only so certain zealous denominations learn to accept that there is more than just the one (true) god.

            Also, there is nothing wrong with violence, in itself. It is motive that is concerning.

        • Artor

          FFS! I remember getting into a long thread on this subject some time ago on a different site. It was explained clearly how the distinction between antlers & horns is pretty modern, but someone couldn’t get that through their head and dragged it into a really stupid argument. That wasn’t you, was it? Your name looks disturbingly familiar.

    • Folcwald

      The strict distinction between horns and antlers is relatively new linguistically, and not completely universal even today. In literature there are numerous references to deer horns (going all the way back to Beowulf), while references to antlers don’t start until the middle ages, the word itself being borrowed from Old French.

  • TheodoreSeeber

    Given the Rede, especially Crowley’s version, why would a Pagan WANT to market or proselytise? “Harm none and do what you will” kind of means whatever anybody wants to do, as long as they aren’t harming others, is ok. There can be no good or evil, and thus, no reason to proselytise.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Well, we can ignore the rede, anyway.

      Why should concepts of good and evil be the reason to proselytise? Perhaps people just want to share their beliefs with others? If only to increase understanding about those beliefs?

      “I’ll believe in the existence of your God, if you acknowledge the existence of my gods.”

      • TheodoreSeeber

        You share your beliefs because you’ve found something *good* and *worthwhile* to share. Can’t have good without evil, of course, the universe does have a balance.

        I am reminded of the argument of a theologian about other gods- would the First Commandment “I am the Lord Your God and you shall have no other gods before me” be written that way if there weren’t other gods in existence?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          That commandment does actually acknowledge other gods. Doesn’t even say that a Jew (that being who the commandments were written for) can’t follow more than one god, so long as YHWH is the primary one.

          As a moral relativist, good and evil are all about perspective.

          I share my beliefs because I enjoy talking about theology, and look for people I can discuss it with.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I reject moral relativism precisely *because* good and evil are all about perspective- that’s the same problem I have with the Protestant Christian Sola Scriptura. If everybody is following different rules, then we might as well have no rules.

            Instead, I want my rules to be well researched- which left me only Judaism, Buddhism, Confucism, and Catholicism.

            And of those, Catholicism is the best documented and least relativistic.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            You heard the one about the tiger that ate a lamb?

            Was the tiger evil, or was it a good tiger?

            I don’t see how your argument works. You reject moral relativism because it’s true?

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I reject moral relativism because it can’t possibly be true.

            The tiger who ate the lamb was being a good tiger- he was following, as the Buddhists would say, his tiger-nature.

            Human beings have a nature too that our morality is based on.

            To claim moral relativism, one has to reject nature and natural law; of course, rejecting nature and natural law is the whole point of moral relativism. The problem is that you can’t do that for very long- there are very good reasons why some things are immoral, and very real physical consequences for violating morality.

            Thus back to why the Rede does not work. Do what you wilt, and Do No Harm- the two parts are completely and forever contradictory. When you do what you will without reference to human nature, harm will always result.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I don’t follow the rede, it is a crock of crap.

            I also don’t follow the ten commandments, as they are a crock of crap.

            behaviour is adapted to environment. As such, morality likewise shifts.

            Humans are an aggressive, territorial predator. But they are also social animals. Which is why killing another human is not a simple black-and-white case of simple good/evil morality (as an obvious example). Killing one of your own pack/tribe/community is generally viewed as ‘a Bad Thing’, yet soldiers who kill many of another pack/tribe/community are lauded as heroes.

            Morality is relative. People just make compromises for the sake of a stable society.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            I am to the point that I can only support a universally applied objective morality. It has been a long time since we’ve learned to manipulate our environment enough to not need to let our environment dictate our morality anymore.

            I’m also with St. Augustine that no, killing the other community is still a bad thing (A Just War is only justified IF you fight on your own soil without invasion, you do not invade your enemy after repelling him from his land, you use the *minimum* force necessary to repel him for he is your brother too).

            In this day and age, we have MUCH better weapons than bullets and swords and bombs for that.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            You think it is moral to adapt the environment rather than adapt to the environment?

            I’d disagree.

            Also, Augustine didn’t have too much of a problem with the destruction of other cultures.

          • TheodoreSeeber

            Read City of God, which he wrote while the Vandals were busy destroying his culture. It contains the Just War theory that invasion, for any reason, is forever and always immoral.

            It is that sort of certainty that is the only thing we can possibly build civilization on.

            And thus, yes, as homo SAPIENS, it is our duty to build an environment that fits humanity.

            If you don’t agree, well, there are still a few places left where Cain hasn’t killed Abel, where one can live without civilization, letting one’s environment entirely control one’s life. But they are getting narrower and smaller all the time.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Again, I would disagree. But we should expect that, by now.

  • John W. Morehead

    It’s great to see you take up this topic. The issue of evangelism and/or proselytism has been a point of friction between Pagans and Christians, and it has come up as a difficulty in participation in the interfaith movement for Evangelicals who want to be a part of it (as recently addressed in a fine essay at Faith Line Protestants). I am sensitive to these issues, and in response to them, and charges of unethical evangelism or predatory proselytism by Hindus in regards to Christian missionary work in India, I put together the new edition of Sacred Tribes Journal that focuses on this topic. It includes a discussion of Elmer Thiessen’s book “The Ethics of Evangelism,” an essay critical of Christian evangelism as a human rights violation by Bart Abbott from a Hindu perspective, and responses by two Evangelicals, Elmer Thiessen and Bob Robinson. I review Thiessen’s book, and their is an excerpt of Myron Penner’s book “The End of Apologetics” that looks at Evangelical apologetics and its assumptions and problems associated with modernity, particularly the politics and violence of apologetics. It is available at Kindle at http://tinyurl.com/lpnn6gz. It is also being discussed at The World Table forum at http://www.theworldtable.org. Thanks again for raising the issue.

  • Matt Stone

    I appreciate you’re candidness Jason. As a Christian whom (1) views coercive Christ proselytizing with distaste, yet (2) has witnessed quite a bit of Pagan marketing over the years, I find declarations that “Christians proselytize, Pagans” don’t as overly simplistic, somewhat self-righteous and less than constructive. Sure, we’ve produced more than our fair share of ass hats, but reality is not nearly so black and white as the saying would imply and more generosity on both sides is necessary to move forward. I appreciate people like yourself who demonstrate self awareness and humility. May more of my mob come to share it as well.


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