How Beliefnet Apologizes to Pagans

This past April I wrote a piece criticizing the religious portal site Beliefnet for a news item that conflated the recent Cornwall controversy over teaching Paganism in religious education classes with the troubling trend of witch-hunts and witch-killings in places like Africa and the Middle East. The article, written by Beliefnet Senior Editor Rob Kerby, not only drew criticism from me, but from Beliefnet’s only Pagan blogger, Gus diZerega, and several Pagans who commented on the original article at Beliefnet. It also inspired a response from Evangelical Christians Paul Louis Metzger and John W. Morehead.

“Those in Pagan circles have responded strongly to the piece, and with good reason. Kerby provides no solid substantiation for his claims, demonstrates a lack of familiarity with the spiritual practices and beliefs he critiques, and as a result, the piece creates fear and suspicion of witchcraft (and broader Paganism as well). While Christians have often accused Paganism of superstition, the irony is that the Christian community has often approached Paganism superstitiously. Kerby’s piece only adds to the superstition and suspicion, made worse by the stereotypes and fears that often underlie such representations.”

Now, two months later, Beliefnet seems to have finally reacted to the controversy their Senior Editor caused. In a thread on their forums, an official response was posted on June 7th in a thread started by Gorm Sionnach.

“We wanted to reach out to you to let you know how deeply sorry we are for the Beliefnet News blog post back in April titled “What can the third world teach the “civilized” world about witchcraft.”  Unfortunately this post was just recently brought to our attention; however it has been permanently removed from Beliefnet.com.

Please note that the views expressed in this piece are by no means representative of Beliefnet and our views toward Paganism.  Beliefnet is, and will always remain, a multi-faith website celebrating all beliefs.

Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  Your voices and discussions are a valuable and enjoyed asset to the site and we look to continue to provide you with a safe environment to express your own thoughts and feelings on religion, spirituality and more.”

A quick check shows that the story has indeed been removed (here’s a cached version of the article), but there is no outside acknowledgement of this anywhere. The apology has only been posted to this thread on the Beliefnet forums, and somewhat disturbingly, they have also removed Gus diZerega’s criticisms of the piece as well (here’s a cache of the post). Since I know Gus diZerega, I asked him about this, and he related to me that the deletion was done without his prior knowledge or approval. An apology was also directed to Gus from Rob Kerby, but not directly.

While I appreciate that Beliefnet was willing to apologize to Gus diZerega and Pagans on the Beliefnet forums, I’m disturbed by how they have decided to simply scrub this incident away and not publicly acknowledge that they had done something offensive.  I also think it is disingenuous at best to pretend they knew nothing of this controversy until “recently.” That would mean that no-one reads comments at the site, looks at trackbacks, traffic reports, or even pays attention to the content on their blogs. I think a comment from Beliefnet forum member ‘Ferretling’ sums the situation up rather well.

“What I find bothersome is that they took it down from its very prominent position, but did not write a news article apologizing. No, they tuck away the apology here, where only those bothering to read the Multifaith Board will see it. To me this says a couple things. The first is that they don’t actually care. The second is that they are not really sorry. The third is that they don’t worry themselves about the concerns or feelings of any of their non-Christian members. I am a former pagan (now Zen Buddhist), and I found the article highly offensive. But what I find even more offensive is that there is no public statement on the same page from the so-called writer who spewed the idiocy, nor from Beliefnet itself. Put the apology and retraction on the page where everyone can see it, not tucked away here in a seldom-visited forum.”

One has to wonder, is this how Beliefnet apologizes? By scrubbing critical posts, keeping apologies “in house,” and generally pretending the whole thing never happened? That seems counter-productive to me, and holds no one accountable for their actions. If Rob Kerby and Beliefnet are truly sorry for this article, they should make their apology visible and accessible, posted in the same sections the original piece was. The question of if Beliefnet actually values its Pagan readers and contributors is still very much an open one.

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

    I contacted Mr. Kerby directly after you originally reported on this Jason and still haven’t received a response.

  • http://www.facebook.com/dashifen David Dashifen Kees

    It least their apology included the fact that they actually were sorry for the post instead of “sorry if we offended” which always seems to my like the “apologizer” wasn’t the issue, but the offended “apologizee” was.

    That said, I’m sort of sorry when people remove things that they apologize for.  Sweeping mistakes under the rug doesn’t help others avoid them in the future. 

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      David, I’m glad you figured out how to post under your preferred name.

      We had a saying in the Sixties: “To err is human; to really screw things up takes a computer.” Ah, how little we knew…

  • http://stoneofdestiny.wordpress.com/ Shaun Paul

    I was posting on the Beliefnet forums for years and they were infamious for exactly this kind of arbitrary and unilateral action.  It’s one of the reasons I finally left that community behind.  It was a great community but the powers-that-be seemed intent on driving everyone away. 

  • Faerythewarriorprincess

    I think it’s rather telling that Beliefnet’s main Pangan and Earth-based page has not been updated in any significant way in at least four years.

    • Faerythewarriorprincess

      *Pagan

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    Thanks for helping to keep this issue alive, Jason! Keep stirring the pot!

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     Not really surprising, is it?

    At least most people I have spoken to about my beliefs say “What’s Paganism?” rather than “So, you worship the devil then?”

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    My political intuition whispers that Rob Kerby still doesn’t really grasp why his article was bullshit, and barely grasps that it was offensive; and that Beliefnet doesn’t corporately go further than Kerby in making amends.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Cosimano/613012064 Charles Cosimano

       Well, consider it from Kerby’s perspective.  Does he really need to care if Pagans, or anyone else, are offended?  In other words, who is paying the bills?

      It may be that he looked at his own people, saw them laughing their heads off at the offended Pagans, and saw dollar signs coming from them.  If that is the case, and my money is on it being the case, then he has a very strong incentive to not apologize.  To do so would not only put him in a serious position of weakness, having to worry about who the next person who gets offended might be, and at the same time appearing as a wimp to the very people who do like what he said.  So he has a couple of very strong disincentives to apology.  By refusing to even acknowledge that Pagans are offended he makes himself popular with his fan base and at the same time sends a strong message that he really does not care if folks are offended and in doing so declares his freedom to write what he wishes.

      It’s a winning situation for him.

      Remember, if your market does not like Pagans, then there is no downside to making them upset.

      • kenneth

        That’s true. Unfortunately for Beliefnet, it has nothing intelligent of any substance anymore for people of any faith. They’re gunning the engine for a cliff, and the best we can do is get out of the way, remove any fallen trees in their path, and spot them the cash for a fresh bottle of nitrous…:)

      • Baruch Dreamstalker

        Sad if true. There are plenty of Pagans ready to respond with anger and resentment, and Bnet’s attitude thus makes life more difficult for any Christian who sincerely wants a dialogue with non-monotheists.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/Charles-Cosimano/613012064 Charles Cosimano

           Follow the money.  I could be wrong but the impression that I get is that virtually all of the advertising revenue for Bnet comes from Christians whose product only appeals to Christians.  Pagans, to them, are a noisy irrelevancy.  From the point of view of that market, dialogue is not important.  On the contrary, dialogue with any ultimate end in view other than the conversion of the Pagans to Christianity is worse than a waste of time, it is pernicious in that it permits the Pagans to find themselves in Hell. 

          Of course that is as annoying as Hell to those of us who do not see the cosmos that way, but unless that is understood, the Evangelical Christians are impossible to deal with.  And that is increasingly the market Bnet is aiming for.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Well, perhaps if Pagan shops with online business put ads on Bnet their attitudes would change.

  • Thorbjorn Leifson

    Hey guy, allthegoodnamesweretaken here,  as per bnet nomenclature.  I really think this article and the subsequent non apology is the symptoms of greater problems over a bnet.  There are some good people over there, but in reality, we are not talking about a multifaith board anymore.  The multifaith part has all but been killed off. 

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       Why do you think that would be?

      • Thorbjorn Leifson

         Why? 
        They’ve made a lot of changes from the old days including getting rid of many of the mods and supervisors. 

        This happened around the time they got bought out by Fox news, so it is hard to think that the events are unrelated. 

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           Corporate manipulation of the public arena, basically?

          • Thorbjorn Leifson

             Yeah, pretty much sums it up. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Same old story.
            Divide and conquer.

          • Fvrnite

             Typical of FOX news, actually.

             The Fox Network really doesn’t strike me as friendly  to non-Christians, so its no surprise that Bnet, now owned by FoxNews, would do what they did to this article.  Their excuses are more CYA than actual misunderstanding, IMO

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             That’s what I was referring to.

            I’ve always thought of the Faux Network as inherently pro-Christian.

            It’s why I refuse to use any of their news services.

        • http://www.facebook.com/elissa.carey Elissa Rich

           More than likely it’s *not* unrelated. Fox Entertainment Group has repeatedly demonstrated that they, as a company, are not interested in having real dialogues or attempting to represent multiple viewpoints, just the appearance of such to hide behind in case people take offense at anything said or done.

          I looked up the press release of Fox’s acquisition of Beliefnet; you can read it here: http://www.beliefnet.com/About-Us/Press-Release-Fox-Entertainment-Group-Acquires-Beliefnet.aspx
          Being a naturally curious sort, and lately a lot more rigorous about researching (yay for the necessity of research in writing college papers), I did some more digging about this particular part of that press release: “The acquisition provides Beliefnet with vast resources to further build
          and enhance its already popular brand. It also offers an online platform
          for FEG to distribute content from its extensive media library and for
          News Corp. to expand its faith-based businesses, including
          HarperCollins’ Zondervan and HarperOne brands, and 20th Century Fox Home
          Entertainment’s faith-based programming initiative.”

          This is Zondervan:
          http://zondervan.com/about/mission

          This is HarperOne:
          http://www.harpercollins.com/imprints/index.aspx?imprintid=517991

          This is the so-called “faith-based programming initiative”:
          http://www.seekfirst.com/node/263

          Out of all those, only HarperOne has any kind of interfaith claim, and even that seems a bit weak when the emphasis, when you look at their category listings, seems heavy upon Christianity. Now, just to play devil’s advocate on that, that could merely be due to demographics – Pagans, in general, are still very much in a minority, and Christians in the majority. Even so, that demonstrates a clearer interest in going where the money is, not going where the dialogue is.

  • Fvrnite

    In the few times I actually looked at their web site, Beliefnet never impressed me as actually being for ALL beliefs or an open area for tolerance and inclusion. I do agree with some here that the deletion of not only the asinine article but also the sole Pagan contributor’s comments looks a lot like they are just sweeping it under the rug and hoping us Pagans would shut up about it instead of showing all their visitors the “apology” and why the article was offensive.

     IOW the usual crap from those who are ignorant of minority religions and who think only those beliefs they approve of are allowed the same freedoms they have.

    Heck, we Pagans and Wiccans used to get this slanted crap and shunning all the time some years ago. Even the fundie/evangelical Christians, who used to spew all sorts of lies about us, are now grudgingly saying SOME of the facts, but they still try to distort and lie, no surprise there.

    We’re making progress and its not by keeping silent when crud like this shows up.

  • http://wp.wiccanweb.ca/ Makarios

    It’s not just BNet. This happens on Patheos as well. A few weeks ago, an Evangelical blogger bashed Paganism in a post about the “triumph” of Christianity. When commenters called him on it, far from apologizing, he doubled down in his next post, accusing the commenters of being intolerant (typical wingnut tactic, by the way). And then there was Marc Whatsizname at “Bad Catholic,” who did that post about “Converting to Paganism,” on which you blogged awhile ago. When a commenter directed him to your critique, he said that he’d come over to The Wild Hunt to respod. AFIK, he never did.

    I occasionally get the impression that some of the bloggers at Patheos simply do not give a hoot in Hades about interreligious understanding.

  • Northern_Light_27

    Could someone remind me what happened with Bnet and their old forums? I remember about ten years ago Bnet did indeed have a forum for everything and the Pagan forums were lively and interesting.  Then something happened and weren’t all of the old forums and posts deleted? I know a lot of regular posters left at some point (long after most people had moved to LJ and elsewhere)  because of some kind of fracas with the forums, but I don’t remember details.

    My memory is like swiss cheese, but my impression has been that Bnet has been “basically Christianity but we want to be seen as welcoming and interfaith” for a while now.

    • Krystal H.

       I used to post there a long time ago. A bunch of people left when they switched forums and a lot of content was archived (not deleted entirely, I don’t think, because I remember one poster saying that he could still access some old threads). Still, a lot of people left because of it, and when they left, well, all the interesting discussions left with them.

    • Thorbjorn Leifson

       They switched formats about 5 years ago or something.  The old yellow boards are in archive over there somewhere.  The new version was very buggy, crashed a lot, and were full of ads, so a lot of people stopped coming by for a while, most eventually straggled back.

      After they got the bugs worked out, they switched again to the current version, which had a lot of bugs, too.  In addition to trying to get one to participate in the social networking thing. 

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    Out of curiosity, what is the purpose of  ‘interfaith’ dialogue?

    I get the party-line ‘trying to foster understanding between (people of) different religions, but what is the real aim?

    Is it to get other religions to accept opposing views? (Oops, I was wrong, there is only one God.)

    Or is it to get other religions to accept people have different beliefs? (Ignore Jesus, don’t evangelise.)

    Or am I missing something?

    • Harmonyfb

      Out of curiosity, what is the purpose of  ‘interfaith’ dialogue?

      1. It humanizes those who are not in one’s group. Instead of an amorphous, scary ‘other’, there are faces and names.

      2. It increases understanding and lessens the threat of misunderstandings that can be blown out of proportion. For example, while adherents do not mean ‘Washed in the blood’ to be threatening, for non-adherents it can have a decidedly sinister tone.

      3. It (generally) increases civil behavior between groups. It’s easy to be ugly to anonymous strangers (hello, internet) – harder to do that when you’re sitting next to the person in question (not impossible, mind, because I’ve met some jerkfaces who managed it handily – just more difficult.)

      4. It increases knowledge, and – imo – this is always a good thing.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         Those seem to be processes, rather than explicit aims.

        What are the ultimate goals of interfaith dialogue?

        I mean, I see it as setting all religions big and small onto a level playing field and promoting mutual respect. However, this is problematic when there are some pretty core issues standing in the way.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Well, of course, if one only wants dialogue when there are no core issues at stake, one will be in for some pretty tepid dialogue. When there are real distances between the parties, then the dialogue has something to sink its teeth into.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Just seems a touch futile to me.

            Asking a religion to fundamentally change is a pretty big undertaking, especially when the changes are going against (what is claimed) their deity said.

          • Fvrnite

             Futile to you,  not to most people. True, honest interfaith dialogue is about understanding,  seeing each other as people, not stereotypes, and in doing so the hatred/intolerance that comes from fear and ignorance might lessen and the danger to the religion the aggressor sees as “evil” is also lessened.

            Yes  there will be people who will never,ever wish to understand and show tolerance of other faiths. But their ranks drop off when actual understanding is expressed and they converse with those of other faiths.  Sure, even with all the efforts at interfaith dialogue there wil be those who refuse to understand and be tolerant, but there are many more people who are far less dogmatic and who can and do learn to understand other paths.

             I should note that you LS are not saying what YOU think of Pagans and so forth, but you seem to be “stirring the pot”  to put it kindly. I get the feeling from reading your post that you are feigning incomprehension of the subject.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Of course I’m stirring the pot. It is a good way to get to the heart of issues.

            My incomprehension on the subject is actually genuine, believe it or not.

            My main ‘interfaith’ conversations stem from me complaining that the local (Church of England) priest keeps trying to indoctrinate my two boys (5 and 7, respectively) as they are openly pagan (School has them recorded as Ásatrú.)

          • Harmonyfb

            My main ‘interfaith’ conversations stem from me complaining that the
            local (Church of England) priest keeps trying to indoctrinate my two
            boys (5 and 7, respectively) as they are openly pagan (School has them
            recorded as Ásatrú.)

            Ah, but that’s not interfaith dialogue, that’s evangelizing. 

            The benefit of sitting down with him/her for dialogue would be that it would make your family’s faith real – many Christians have never actually met a Pagan, and I find they have this odd fantasy view of such faith. Coming to know you as a person and learning about your family’s beliefs may make him see you all as something other than targets to be hit.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             We’ve done the ‘sit-down-and-talk’ routine with her (female priest). She bluntly rejects any form of Paganism as valid and continues to keep trying to indoctrinate the boys as it is ‘the Christian thing to do.’

          • Harmonyfb

            She bluntly rejects any form of Paganism as valid and continues to keep
            trying to indoctrinate the boys as it is ‘the Christian thing to do.’

            Have you written to her bishop? Unwanted proselytizing is not a mandate of the Episcopal church, in my experience. Maybe a sharply worded note would help put a curb on that particular behavior.

            My thoughts are with you on it – it would make me livid to see my children targeted in such a way (especially by someone who almost certainly knows better.)

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I didn’t feel like I had to go complain to another member of her faith about actions her faith demands she make.

            She has been warned to stay way from my kin, though. (Mine is not a pacifist path.)

          • Harmonyfb

            I didn’t feel like I had to go complain to another member of her faith about actions her faith demands she make.

            What if doing so solves the problem? That would have been my first action once she rejected my request to desist. After all, their denomination is hierarchical, and she is subject to the rule of her superiors.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             It wouldn’t solve the problem. I know how that denomination works, very well.

            My first port of call was direct conversation/confrontation (actually, it was my partner that spoke to her).

            Polite words were exchanged, nothing changed, so the second conversation was a little less polite.

            Recently, a third conversation was had. Let us just say that it was blunt and to the point.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      “ut of curiosity, what is the purpose of  ‘interfaith’ dialogue?”

      Christians cannot legitimately claim to genuinely recognize the validity of other religions unless they are willing to explicitly reject large parts of their Bible, the Nicene Creed, and two thousand years of theology shared by Protestant, Catholic and Orthodox alike.

      Of course there is nothing new in people wanting to have their cake and eat it, too. In this case we have Christians who want to keep their intolerant teachings intact and unchallenged, but who still want to be accepted as tolerant. It is very much like the scenario of the late middle-aged mobster who has decided to “go straight”. All of the wealth he has accumulated through murder, extortion, etc, he now invests in stip-clubs and dry-cleaners, and he wants the world to accept him as an honest business man.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         Conversely, can Pagans (read ‘polytheists’) genuinely recognise the validity of evangelical monotheisms without admitting that their own beliefs are lacking?

        It seems, to me, that there is a pretty fundamental split between the two stances that no amount of dialogue is really going to heal.

        • Thorbjorn Leifson

           Personally, I can’t. 

          I have taken the approach that I’m not trying to reconcile differences between monotheists and myself on a theological basis. 

          For me, multifaith discussion is more about learning to respect someone else in spite of their differences, not about reducing the irreducible. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Part of Christianity is seeking to convert others, though.

          • Thorbjorn Leifson

             When it comes to me, they’d have as much luck flapping their arms and trying to fly.  Might as well have them bothering me than other people.

          • Fvrnite

              And we know the history of Christians forcing conversion.  On that subject Christianity is bloody up to its  eyeballs.

          • Harmonyfb

            For me, multifaith discussion is more about learning to respect someone
            else in spite of their differences, not about reducing the irreducible. 

            Well said, Thorbjorn.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          I think that anyone deserving of the label “Pagan” must take a default position of recognizing the validity of religious traditions other than one’s own. I always find myself going back to the old (pre-Islamic) Arabic proverb: “When you enter a village, swear by its Gods.”

          Sadly, there must be exceptions to that default position, but only in the case of religions that go out of their way to denigrate and attack other religions. As the noted Egyptologist Jan Assmann put it so eloquently, “For these religions, and for these religions alone,the truth to be proclaimed comes with an enemy to be fought.”

          And everyone knows exactly who he is talking about.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             It’s a good proverb. Of course, I don’t think many adhere to the notion that deities are geographical, any more.

          • Northern_Light_27

             Geographical, not entirely, not with so many cultures in diaspora. Cultural, though…

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             That begs the question ‘do deities exist independently of cultures?’

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Whether it comes to geography or culture or what have you, I think it is best to assume that the Gods do as the Gods will, and to also understand that the vocabulary for “spiritual entities” is often unclear about distinctions between various “levels” of spiritual beings. I think most Pagans would agree that any good sized forest is inhabited by its very own small (or possibly not so small) army of discorporate beasties. The same thing goes for everything from streams and meadows to transcontintental mountain ranges and oceans.

            In other words, I do believe that any given village inhabited by polytheists is quite likely to have some “Gods” with whom I am not already familiar, but to whom I will most definitely show respect in whatever way local custom demands, or else I probably have no business in that village.

          • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

            Lēoht Sceadusawol: “That begs the question ‘do deities exist independently of cultures?’”

            Questions concerning the “existence” of the Gods have never been a major concern of polytheists. It is the monotheists who obsess over the existence of their one “god”. As well they should.

            Instead, polytheists have investigated the nature of the Gods while generally taking as given that the Gods “exist”.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I was not questioning the existence of gods, since that is already irrefutable, but the nature of them.

            Existing independently of culture means they are objective beings. Existing dependently of culture means they are subjective beings (or concepts.)

        • Fvrnite

          Our own beliefs are “lacking”?

           LS, I realize now your intent HERE is not to discuss but to do the Christian “stealth proselytizing” crap.

           Its not going to work. Most of us have encountered the “friendly Christian” with the hidden agendas act before.

          You might want  to consider why so many Pagans are antagonistic towards certain aspects of Christianity. Its because of how dishonest, deceptive, and outright evil certain Christians are.

           Simply put, if I see you distort information, omit information or outright lie about something I know about, how can you expect me to believe you when you talk about Jesus death, resurrection and salvation?

           If your purpose here is what I suspect it is, you are free to take your  smug superiority and go somewhere else. :-<

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             You really misunderstand me.

            Not only am I staunchly Pagan, but I am one of the strongest anti-Christians I know.

            Re-read what I said and you will see that, not only did I word it as a question but that I also said that for a polytheist to accept evangelical monotheism as valid means to admit that their own belief is invalid (or ‘lacking’).

            I did not, for one second mean that polytheism is inferior to monotheism.

            All of my challenges here have been to ascertain why Christianity is so antagonistic to most aspects of Paganism, as this is the biggest obstacle to interfaith dialogue.

            Think of me as an evangelical heathen.

          • Fvrnite

             Well then I apologize. I admit  that I have a very thin skin in regards to the stealth type Christians who go online and pretend to be friendly. From the way your posts looked to me, I suspected you were one of those having a little fun at our expense. I’ve seen it done before. Living in the Bible  Belt sometimes can make one highly suspicious.

              As to the subject, evangelical monotheism by its very nature seeks to make converts,  and in doing so they tend to put down competing faiths. As to why Christianity is so antagonistic to “most aspects of Paganism,” surely you know the simple answer to that as well as I do. In the case of Christianity, who claim to be the ” one true way”, anything that says in effect that you don’t have to follow the Bible with all its restrictions and all the “sins” that threaten to damn one’s soul, that there are other gods that are far less abusive, gods that see nothing wrong in one being gay or female or even eating shellfish, then the fear in Christianity is that given the choice, people will choose not to be Christians and become happy being of other faiths.

            That and the less converts, the less money in the coffers in churches.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             In which case, can there be any meaningful interfaith dialogue with them?

            If not, can there really be meaningful interfaith dialogue, considering that this obstructive mentality seems to be the norm within Christianity, which is the dominant religion in most areas.

      • Guest

        AP, people make their own interpretations, and your interpretation isn’t shared by all Christians.
        And thinking someone’s sometimes wrong in some of their interpretation doesn’t mean they’ll always hate the person or invalidate their Path – particularly if some understanding and humanizing of said other has happened and one’s understanding of them and their beliefs has widened. 
        Christianity has a history of killing and loathing each other over smallish differences in doctrine – “heresy” -  but a lot of Christians have grown, somewhat, beyond murdering in the name of someone who promoted loving one’s neighbours and his enemies. There’s more in common than there isn’t.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           

          Mark 16:15And he said unto them, Go ye into all the world, and preach the gospel to every creature.16 He that believeth and is baptized shall be saved; but he that believeth not shall be damned.

          Matthew 28:18And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. 19Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: 20Teaching
          them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I
          am with you always, even unto the end of the world. Amen.
          Matthew 7:21Not
          every one that saith unto me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom
          of heaven; but he that doeth the will of my Father which is in heaven. 22Many
          will say to me in that day, Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in thy
          name? and in thy name have cast out devils? and in thy name done many
          wonderful works? 23And then will I profess unto them, I never knew you: depart from me, ye that work iniquity.

          (KJV used because it has nicer poetry)

          I was raised Christian. The basic premise here is a repeated appeal to go forth and spread the word/convert the pagans. To not do this is to condemn yourself.

          To stray from this edict is to stray from Christianity.

          To not stray… well, that does kind of kill any meaningful dialogue with those of other religions, doesn’t it?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      “Out of curiosity, what is the purpose of  ‘interfaith’ dialogue?’”

      At the most basic level it helps keep diverse communities in touch about public events. I recall when I lived one county line east of here a Greek Orthodox priest was asked when the annual Greek Festival would be held. He replied that they would set the date once they found out when the Jewish High Holy Days would be celebrated at the synagogue with whom the church shares a parking lot, so they could work around it.

      Within Unitarian Universalism there are occasional inter-theology meetings to see how, eg, Humanists and Pagans are getting along under the same church roof. (Aside to Apuleius: UU Christians have indeed set aside the doctrine of evangelizing the world.)

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         The basic level sounds good.

        (I’d be interested to know how the UU Christians have gotten around the ‘evangelise or burn’ edict.)

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          UUs evolved away from Christian orthodoxy before they joined. Unitarians had the heresy that Jesus was Man, not God (“God is one”); Universalists, the heresy that everyone was irreversibly saved by the sacrifice of Jesus (“universal salvation”).

          They still had the evangalizing meme in the 19th Century but later turned to Social Gospel. Unitarians started picking up Humanists around the turn of the 20th Century and both learned to go to the same church without theological unanimity.

          By the Merger in 1961 they were into a kind of “Jesus is waiting for you at the barricades” activism linked with a kind of “Jesus taught that the Kingdom of God is already here if you can only see it” spirituality. The priority of making non-Christians Christians for the sake of the conversion kind of fell off the bottom.

          This is the account of a man who came to UUism shortly before it merged (the church of my Sunday School was doubly affililated) and took up first Humanism and then Paganism. This is my impression of my Christian co-religionists.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             So, to sum up, a bunch of heretics that’ll burn for corrupting the Word of God (pat.pend.), then?

            I heard, a while back, that the Pope refuses to meet with ‘non institutional’ (ie Pagan) faiths.
            (Link: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/wildhunt/2012/03/the-pope-doesnt-meet-with-non-institutional-ie-pagan-faiths.html )

            (I also heard something about Catholics threatening to withdraw from an interfaith council if Pagans were admitted, can’t find the article, though.)

            That kind of attitude is a bit more than a stumbling block, surely? (Let’s face it, there are more Catholics than UUs.)

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Oh, UUs are absolutely in the front seats of that Hell-bound train as far as traditional Christians are concerned.

            But your response baffles me. I show you the existence of a different kind of Christian, and you throw the traditional Christian response at me. As you doubtless do not follow the latter, I suspect that you are still more comfortable with them as part of your environment than with UU Christians.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I see the traditional form as more accurately Christian.

            However, that wasn’t really my point. You showed the existence of one kind of Christian that we don’t need to work on interfaith dialogue – it’s not like there is conflict with them, the dialogue is already there.

            I threw up the traditional/proper Christians as they are the issue to the acceptance of minority faiths as ‘equal’.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            “You showed the existence of one kind of Christian that we don’t need to work on interfaith dialogue”

            UUs of whatever flavor are often in the thick of interfaith dialoque.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Which is why we don’t need to work on interfaith dialogue with them – it is already there.

            If interfaith dialogue is to promote understanding and tolerance between disparate religions/beliefs, then we should be concerned with those who refuse to talk to other faiths, due to intolerance and ignorance, surely?

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Discus is not emailing me these replies so I must dive into the weeds to find them, and sometimes the rest of my life gets in the way.

            Interfaith dialogue begins with the recognition that, even if we do not agree with or even understand the Other, we coexist with them in a civil society and might as well know what they’re talking about when they speak. It by its nature cannot include people who are basically trying to eliminate the Other or deny their existence.

            Outcomes of interfaith dialogue are (at least) threefold. 1) We find out that part of what we thought about the Other wasn’t true. 2) We find out that the Other are regular folks, ie, not as Other as we thought. 3) We discover practical bases for cooperation, like the parking lot story I related above.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            So, no matter how willing we may be, if an Other decides not to communicate with (or recognise) us, we are at an impasse.

            (I still can’t find that news article I read about the Catholic Church recently threatening to withdraw from a UK interfaith council, if Pagans were represented on it.)

            This is the kind of thing I mean (old, but still valid):
            http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2006/nov/04/religion.world

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Correct, someone who refuses to talk cannot be part of interfaith dialogue, by their own Will.

            I don’t know about the Catholic Church but I’ve read more than once about Greek Orthodox priests or church reps who will walk out of an interfaith body they’ve been involved with, if Pagans are allowed in. One iirc concerned Akron OH and the other was at the big Parliament of Religions gathering. But those are vague recollections and could be brainfarts.

            I think I developed an understanding from this blog’s coverage of some issues with Hellenic Pagans in Greece. Greece was, after all, once a Pagan nation, and the Greek Orthodox Church describes itself as the church of Greece and Greeks. Evidently, because Hellenic Pagans have this kind of seniority, the Church regards them as radioactive, eg, vehemently opposes giving them permission to use original Pagan temple ruins to perform modern Pagan rituals. Despite the miniscule Pagan population in Greece, the Church is reacting as though they were actual potential rivals for the position of “religion of Greece.” I would regard that as absurd but I know how vehemently American Christians can react when the local Wiccan high priestess wants to give the blessing before the City Council meeting once a year.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             This presents a very real problem, when it is (major) mainstream sects/religions that block communication.

            Without the involvement of organisations such as the Catholic or Greek Orthodox churches, how seriously will interfaith communication be taken by the wider society?

            I imagine the churches wouldn’t do this unless they thought it somehow was beneficial to them.

            (It is my inability to see a practical, positive resolution that causes me to see interfaith as currently futile.)

    • Guest

      The party line of fostering is usually I think still the main goal. There’s some who get into it because it makes good self-publicity or group publicity and allows them to appear as expert or leader  and gives them perhaps a rebate on a conference and travel they’d enjoy.
      It’s not about forcing anybody to accept opposing views, and to try smacks of trying to convert them.  However, there’s massive amounts of harmonious viewpoints that other religions probably are unaware they share with Pagans. And perhaps eventually the view that Pagans are Pagans because they don’t understand Christianity will finally be set to rest.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         From what I have experienced of Christianity is that the Pagan lack of understanding is that Christianity is the truth (TM) and by not following Christ, they are condemning themselves to death and Hell.

        • Fvrnite

           LS, many of us Pagans CAME FROM Christianity or live in Christian-dominated areas,  so we know about the self-righteousness in Christianity and how they in their ignorance and smugness see us. They have no problem lying about us, blaspheming our deities and burning our books as part of conversion. Frankly I don’t give a crap anymore what Christians “think” of us. It’s the same old dogma of ” you’re damned”.

    • Deborah Bender

      Several of my Wiccan friends are active in national and international interfaith organizations. NAIN (North American Interfaith Network),  the recurring Parliament of the World Religions, and the United Religions Initiative.

      The URI is the youngest of these organizations. It is global and has members from all religions including some indigenous groups. URI’s objective is to foster cooperation among people of different religions to support activities and projects which are in agreement with their shared religious values. This of course assumes that there are some shared values across religions and they have some, such as peace and the welfare of the poor. The URI is intended to be a sort of religious NGO parallel to the United Nations.

      Forming coalitions among groups and pooling resources across institutional lines can sometimes make efforts toward peace, social justice, protecting the enviroment, etc. more effective. On the ground, it’s also a practical way to break down distrust between groups by working together on projects everyone finds value in.

      On the whole, people who are actively engaged in interfaith work (as
      opposed to covert evangelism with an interfaith wash) tend to be
      somewhat less dogmatic about their own religion and more appreciative of
      difference than their average co-religionist.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         But what of religions based on dogma and doctrine?

        If these people are not representative of the average adherent of their faith, how do they expect to represent their faith?

        I am not arguing for the sake of arguing, or being deliberately difficult. I genuinely do not see a viable common ground for certain religions to see each other as equals.

        • Obsidia

           >But what of religions based on dogma and doctrine?

          A wise Teacher once told me that all religions have both Conservative sides and Progressive sides.  After studying many religions (including the Abrahamic), I concur.

          For instance, one could say that the Christian religion was based on the writings of the New Testament.  While this may be true, some feel that the TRADITIONS are the most important (including stuff from the Old Testament).  Other Christians base their faith more on PRACTICE of the teachings of Jesus and treat it more as an experiential (and sometimes experimental) path. That path may be quite mystical, as in the Nature Mystic, St. Francis of Assisi.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I’d argue the difference between religion and faith.

            The Christian religion is one based on the Bible, notably the New Testament, but not ignoring the Old.
            This is then dogmatised.

            It seems that some professing Christian faith are inspired by Jesus, without following the sanctioned words of the Christ, as published in the Bible.

            I struggle to see how any of the Abrahamic faiths can be progressive without the arrival of a new (authorised) prophet. The Abrahamic religions are very much based on the teachings of the god of Abraham, as divinely revealed to men. So, without someone being acknowledged as a prophet of YHWH, how can the message progress?

    • Fvrnite

       LS ,to some, ” interfaith dialogue” has been twisted by them to mean “you listen and keep silent while we preach and proselytize to you to convert to OUR religion.” Its been my view that the Christians who claim to want to “build bridges” between themselves and us Pagans are not after actual honest dialogue but after conversion. They’ve done that  type of deceptive tactic many times before.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         Yeah, that’s the only kind I’ve seen. In my town, the interfaith discussion pretty much only serves to act as a discussion group between the various Christian churches. Not even the Muslims get a look in.

        • Thorbjorn Leifson

           I’ll admit, you paint a good picture of the difficulties of trying to have “interfaith discussions” and especially to remain civil when having them. 

          I’ll ask you though, what do you see as an alternative?  It’s not like the situation would get better, or less intrusive, by not having “interfaith discussions”? 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Honestly? Their faith preaches tolerance. Mine doesn’t.

          • Thorbjorn Leifson

             Mine neither, in fact, from what I’ve seen you write, we’re probably talking about similar things. 

            However, in my area, ignoring them and hoping they go away is not really an option.  So, the way I see it, you can either be nice and pleasant and project a good image, or be a mean asshole that fulfills their preconceived notions of what a polytheist is supposed to be. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I operate a ‘three strike rule’. I will be initially polite to any individual (I expect the same in return) but, if they consistently return my basic politeness with contempt/lack of politeness, I figure I am justified in putting them in their place, by whatever means I feel appropriate.

            (My favoured tactic is verbally shredding their stance – years of being raised in a strongly religious household gives me something of an edge in Bible discussions.)

          • Thorbjorn Leifson

             It doesn’t seem like you operate that different from me. 

            Pleasant doesn’t mean cowtowing. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             If only they’d learn that.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1006464595 Cathryn Bauer

    Jason, I followed Beliefnet for some time and never came to trust it, for lack of a better word.  My perception is that it has a heavily Christian bias overall and that what I consider to be one of the worst aspects of Christianity has come to the fore., what I call One Way Syndrome, e.g., we have the truth and the only truth. 

    I spent too many years trying to cram myself into a Christian mold that was wrong for me.  One dynamic I observed repeatedly during those years was a false confidence on the part of a few people, especially those who were given a bit of authority, in their own supreme rightness simply because they had God on their side, so to speak.  I think that’s what is going on here.  Very hard for them to admit they made a wrong, unfair decision with very negative consequences because after all, they’re powered by the One True God.  But they did.

    Truthfully, I don’t expect better from Beliefnet.

  • Kari Tompkins

    I am one of the pagan posters on Beliefnet. Have been for over 10 years. They sent several of us messages saying the reason it took so long to have it removed because none of us emailed them with complaints.
    Seriously, was that even necessary to see how offensive this was?
    And given the manner in how this was addressed, why do they think we would believe a complaint would even be taken seriously?
    I am done, and I am grieving. I genuinely loved that place for years. This is like a heart-breaking divorce. Fortunately, I still have the lovely friends I met there over the years.

    • Thorbjorn Leifson

       We still got your back Kari. 

    • Fvrnite

       Believe it or not, some people of certain faiths actually have blinders on as to what is offensive to other faiths. Their only concern is what is offensive to THEM, and really don’t care about the feelings or concerns of others not of their particular faith. Therefore, anything that would depict another faith, including one they don’t approve of, is acceptable to them.

      Like the anti-Halloween stuff certain sects of Christianity do as Samhain nears.

    • http://stoneofdestiny.wordpress.com/ Shaun Paul

      Kari, I popped back over there several months ago (before the current ruckus) and all I could see were inactive boards and names I didn’t recognize.  I have very fond memories b-nets “golden age”, I even occasionally wear the t-shirt with our screen-names spiraling around on the back.   Mostly I wish I could find some of the old archived conversations.  There was some good stuff in there that I’d love to get hard-copies of.

  • http://www.facebook.com/rapture.hoax2011 Roy Linford Adams

    I’m just hearing of this site now. Shows how much impact their site had on me, if that says anything.

  • kittylu

    Colossally crappy move by beliefnet.   Scrubbing the site of all controversy is no way to give an apology.

  • http://twitter.com/EvilFerret Pam Wolff

    Hi. I’m “Ferretling” over on Beliefnet. This is the apology message I was sent and that one of the other responders touched on briefly. It’s pretty pathetic.

    Hi, Ferretling -

    I’m writing to explain – as I will explain to all members who posted to
    the thread on the Multifaith Forum about the article – that management
    is addressing the article now because they only just began receiving
    complaints about it.  Unfortunately, no member – not even folks posting
    to the thread – complained to the community moderation team (Stardove,
    Rangerken, and I) or to MarySara, the host of the Multifaith Forum.  And
    no member sent any complaint to the Community Mailbox (community@beliefnetstaff.com) or to the Beliefnet_community profile.  So we had no way of knowing there was a problem :-(

    Yes, management should not have allowed the article in the first
    instance.  That was a mistake on their part for which they have
    apologized.  They’ve also read this thread, so they know they need to be
    more sensitive to Paganism, generally, and to the Pagan community on
    Beliefnet.

    I don’t know why they didn’t post an apology or retraction.  I think
    their goal was to remove content that was offensive to Pagans in a
    good-faith effort to thereby acknowledge their error.

    Please know that you and all members are welcome and encouraged to bring
    any complaints about the site to Rangerken, Stadove, me, or the
    Beliefnet_community profile.  We’ll forward them to management and get
    them resolved.

    Many thanks for your understanding,

    Merope Beliefnet Community Manager

  • Cheryl Hill

    No need to look at a cached version.   A cross-post is still available here:

    http://www.theblaze.com/stories/witchcraft-the-occult-are-seen-as-deadly-plagues-in-3rd-world-countries-heres-why/


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