The Consequences of Anti-Pagan Propaganda

That there is a thread of hostility and distortion against modern Pagan faiths within Catholicism is well documented. My own journey in exploring this murky territory started in 2006 when Catholic pilgrims attacked and threatened Pagans in Glastonbury, leading me to wonder what exactly is being taught to Catholic youth about our faiths.

“Maya Pinder, the owner of the shop, said: “We’ve had to hear comments such as ‘burn the witches’, we’ve had salt thrown in our faces and at our shop, people were openly saying they were ‘cleansing Glastonbury of paganism’.”

I truly thought this was just an isolated, ugly, incident. A few bad apples who took the whole “crusader” bit a tad too seriously and thought that cursing and throwing salt on innocent people was a laugh. However, over time I realized that this incident didn’t happen in a vacuum, and that the Catholic Church was becoming radicalized around the notion of “occult” practices through the process of reviving exorcisms. The idea of demonic possession, and that it can be caused by involvement with modern Pagan religions, has been re-mainstreamed within Catholic thought.

“The second level of demonic influence is obsession. At this level, there is still no sign of anything paranormal happening. The person starts to give in to the temptation. He may become reclusive and secretive as he becomes obsessed with the evil that he is entertaining. This evil may be in the form of occult activity, violent video games or movies, pornography, drug abuse, sexual perversion, sexual promiscuity, or obsession with power and violence.

That’s  Fr. Dwight Longenecker, and he wrote that for Patheos. Which, I am assured, is a rather mainstream and prominent site for religion coverage.

But perhaps I’m overstating my case? I don’t want to be accused of sensationalism, or raising a question over phantoms and rumor, so let’s turn to an article in today’s National Catholic Register,  the oldest national Catholic newspaper in the United States, owned by a popular Catholic television network.

“Evil has not fallen out of fashion. Exorcism is a rite developed — and promulgated — to meet a need that still exists, due to more people delving into New Age and occult practices. And, yes, satanic worshippers are a reality.”

That, folks, is the opening paragraph. This is a Catholic reporter writing for a Catholic audience, and we start with how “New Age and occult practices” are tied to evil, and by extension Satanic worship. Then, after a completely unsubstantiated aside about how Satanists are routinely stealing the host (blessed wafer) from churches to use in their diabolic rites, they trot out their expert witness.

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3dxj4RRi2ps

“The Rite was one of a handful of movies about exorcism released in the last two years, and a short-lived television series on the subject also launched. But that’s far from the point, says Father Thomas. “There is a greater need for exorcism because there is a greater frequency of the practices of the occult, New Age and Satanism, both on the part of Catholics and other people alike,” he said. Conference speakers explained that  people begin experimenting with other traditions and rituals, often simply out of curiosity. They don’t realize that they are, at the same time, losing their spiritual center and turning away from God.”

That’s Catholic exorcist Father Gary Thomas, a Catholic exorcist who was featured in the book “The Rite: The Making of a Modern Exorcist” (adapted into a feature film starring Anthony Hopkins). He’s probably the most famous Catholic exorcist currently making the rounds. Thomas is also believer in Ritual Satanic Abuse, despite the fact that the moral panic that held sway during the 1980s and 90s produced no credible proof of a underground network of Satanic abusers.

So what is the problem if some Catholics think we’re demon-haunted dupes who need a good old “power of Christ compels you” moment? Isn’t this just Catholics talking to other Catholics, using exorcism as a form of boundary maintenance of their own traditions? The problem is that rhetoric has consequences, and we don’t live in a world populated only by Catholics. When we are framed as evil and demonic, tensions can arise in the real world.

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn't be able to use public parks.

A Catholic parent who thinks Pagans shouldn’t be able to use public parks.

“Two very different cultures met on one large open field and it led to some tense moments Saturday afternoon. For the fourteenth year in a row, Broad Ripple Park was home to the annual Pagan Pride Day, an all-day event that started early this morning to commemorate the autumnal equinox. Saturday was also a cross country meet for the Catholic Youth Organization which involved hundreds of kids and parents. It turns out the festival rented the field for the day and the CYO participants had to run around the festival. “They can do it someplace else. It is inappropriate here. It is embarrassing. I was outraged by it,” said one parent.”

This was in Indiana, after a Catholic event ran long, overlapping with a scheduled Pagan Pride event. According to one source, it was the Catholics, not the Pagans, who called the local news to complain about the incident. The Pagans, on the other hand, went through all proper channels to hold their event, and worked with organizers of the Catholic youth event to accommodate their event running long. The about-to-be-launched Pagan Newswire Collective Indiana bureau is currently writing up the story (their first) and I’ll feature it here once it’s up. It’s hard to read about this story and not think about the National Catholic Register piece posted today. It seems increasingly improbable that these two events exist in universes entirely unconnected. You can’t have an ongoing stream of rhetoric and anti-Pagan propaganda emerging from the clergy, and not expect it influence the laity.

If people who hold spiritual and religious power say something is bad often enough, people will listen. It saddens me that no prominent Catholics (that I know of) will step forward and say “enough” to this propaganda masquerading as a spiritual technology. I can only hope that cooler heads will prevail as Pagans and Catholics increasingly cross paths in our secular world.  Otherwise, the risk of families being torn apart, and tensions rising to the levels of Glastonbury in 2006, will continue to increase to the detriment of all involved. This demonic possession narrative has got to stop.

ADDENDUM: Here’s the full report from PNC-Indiana.

 

About Jason Pitzl-Waters
  • http://dashifen.com/ dashifen

    As Jason says, this is something that actually does trickle down. As a Pagan married to a Catholic, I happen to attend Mass every once in a while especially recently as I’ve just moved to Massachusetts and my wife wanted some support as she ventured into various churches to try and find one that she likes the best. Attending Mass a few weeks ago, during the homily, the priest was fairly specific in his denigration of Pagan practices. He didn’t specifically link them (us) to evil or to Satan, but it was still an unsettling moment for myself and for her.

    • PurplePagan

      Occasionally, when listening to some of the more, shall we say excitable adherents of other faiths, I find myself thinking, “Hang on a minute, they’re talking about someone they think is me!”.

      Trying to ride out that uncomfortable moment is always problematic.

  • Oberon

    The Midwest Region Local Council of CoG (Covenant of the Goddess) was going to have a table there on Saturday, but due to last minute changes we did not get out there. We are watching the story with interest.

  • cigfran

    And these are the people that Leah Libresco (also a Patheos blogger) abandoned atheism to take up common cause with, because she found their moral system more sophisticated/complete/whatever. Lovely.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=590663568 Carl McColman

    Jason, props to you for highlighting a serious problem, not just within contemporary Catholicism, but contemporary Christianity as a whole. I first encountered the “Pagans worship the devil” narrative within evangelical Christianity, and it remains as entrenched in certain corners of the Protestant world as within the Catholic right. Meanwhile, please remember that many Catholics (and Protestants) seek to promote positive interfaith dialogue and psychologically healthy models of spirituality that eschew these kinds of narratives. Any religion is capable of demonizing outsiders (yes, even Neopaganism). It’s certainly more pernicious when Catholics or other Christians do it because of their social influence and privileged status within our society. But it’s a problem of the human condition that unfortunately can be found anywhere that people settle for ethnocentric rather than world-centric systems of ethics and morals.

  • OakenTruncheon

    What else can one expect from a zero sum belief system?

  • http://www.facebook.com/trclark81 Terence Clark

    I read the article in question regarding Indiana as well as the comments section. While I don’t deny that there are conflicts between Pagans and Catholics or that their roots are in the pews, several commenters who were at the events noted no major issues. One of the coaches of the track teams said as far as he was aware, nothing of note happened. One of the vendors on site stated that several of the athletes came and checked out the booth and had positive comment about it. Several people said they didn’t notice at all. And a handful of people said the issue was that there were vehicles crossing through the crowds and the track to set up the booths that had caused some logistical issues, as one might expect when one event spills over into the other event’s time. Indeed the individual in the interview appears to be pretty much the only person who felt it was in any way offensive. Even the article admits that everyone came to a civil agreement by the end, mediated by the local police. From my understanding that agreement was effectively “they paid to be here and it’s their right to be”.

    There are plenty of cases where religious conflict ends up getting ugly for us pagans. I’d say this wasn’t one of them.

    • http://www.wildhunt.org/blog/ Jason Pitzl-Waters

      Stay tuned for the PNC article on this…

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

    I’ll just point out that it is Christianity that is supposed to be tolerant. (Judge not… and all that.)

    Nothing in my philosophical system that says I have to be tolerant. Some stupid Catholic tries to throw salt in my face, they’ll find themselves realising just how those monks on Lindesfarne felt on 06/08/793.

    As I teach my boys – don’t start fights, but you bloody well finish them.

    • Moe

      One of the reasons why I no longer refer to myself as a Wiccan but as a Pagan is the Rede, which while good intentioned was too flower child peacenick to deal with reality. When a Wiccan author advised in her book that a teenager who has an abusive boyfriend basically foist said abuser onto someone else, that upset me for a number of reasons. If someone hits me, I shouldn’t be passive about it as if the Rede was holy. Passive leads you to be an easy victim, not to mention stupid and more likely dead.

      If the Christians want to fight, being passive isn’t going to stop them. And take it from me if they push ME, I fight back hard.

      Bear in mind some of them see nothing wrong with murdering people associated with women’s clinics. So they see no problem in murdering someone for being Pagan.

      When that happens–and it might– the Christians with blood on their hands better be arrested and prosecuted.

      • Brian Scott

        I had always thought of the Rede as permissive (“if it don’t hurt anyone, go ahead, it’s fine”) rather than prohibitive (“if it hurts someone, don’t do it”). I.e. it doesn’t say it’s bad to harm, just that it’s good if it doesn’t. But that’s just my interpretation.

        • NT

          You say tomayto I say tomahto

          • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

            Let’s call the whole thing off?

          • http://thewheeloftheyear.tumblr.com/ MsChievous

            Haha. I tip my hat to you, sir.

      • http://www.facebook.com/Jesi.Draco.Jones Jesi Owswald Jones

        The Rede does not prohibit you from protecting yourself. This is a common misconception I see among those especially new to Wicca. I see so many so afraid of karma and the threefold law that they are afraid to protect themselves. Karma is not simply “what goes around comes around”- that is a very watered down and appropriated take on it.

        At the same time the Rede is much more complex than it first appears. IT has Thelemic roots. Consider the true will of others and then do your true while. Harming none being a guiding precept. It’s important to understand the history there.

        I don’t often hex or curse. not because I’m afraid of karma but because it is often not the time nor place to do so. All things in relationship- not hard and fast moral categorizations.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          The rede may not prohibit you from protecting yourself, but it is generally interpreted as advocating pacifism and the ‘peace and love’ branch of Paganism is predominant enough that anyone disagreeing can be made to feel isolated and ‘doing it wrong’.

          Also, Karma and the ‘threefold law’ are not universal concepts. Plenty of paths don’t recognise them (especially those paths that predate the 20th century either directly or reconstructively.)

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

            The Wiccan Rede is in no way intrinsically pacifist. Gerald Gardner was a life-long weapons enthusiast and was an Armourer in the Home Guards during the War, and during that same period he also made a point of instructing his neighbors in how to make Molotov cocktails. His wife Donna also owned and knew how to use a revolver.

          • Jason Hatter

            Indeed. “An it harm none” also refers to yourself. Letting someone hurt you is, in effect, harming yourself. Sadly, in my experience, most Wiccans DO tend to treat the Rede as a pacifism manifesto.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Agreed!

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I didn’t say it was, I said it is often/usually interpreted that way. Big difference.
            Very few people actually practice Wicca the way Gardner ‘intended’ (a system of ceremonial magic, rather than a religion.)

      • Vision_From_Afar

        Reminds me of a fantastic quote (from a Star Wars book, no less):

        “Pacifism for the sake of Pacifism is the height of selfish arrogance when that believe prevents you from saving another from harm.”
        -Tycho Celchu, Rogue Squadron Book 4: The Bacta War

    • Llewellyn James

      Same here! Really wish I was in Glastonbury when all this was happening!

  • PurplePagan

    ” “If I don’t know them, I’ll say, ‘Excuse me, will you please finish consuming the body of Christ in my presence?’” he said. ” – It’s rather Monty Python-esque or the premise for the worst zombie movie ever.

    • Vision_From_Afar

      Okay, that actually got me to laugh audibly.

  • Sean Woods

    We at the newly formed bureau of the Indiana PNC have a story written up on the events of Pagan Pride Day in Indianapolis that we are looking forward to sharing with you. We hope to have our website ready and the story posted by the end of the day. All of us at the Indiana bureau would like to thank Jason for his help and everyone else involved with the PNC that has been patient with us while we put our ducks in a row.

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

      Gotta respect Hoosier Pagans!

      • Sean Woods

        Thanks! I really feel our community handled this with grace when it could have gotten way out of hand very quickly.

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

    Meet the new Christianity. Same as the old Christianity.

    • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

      We now return you to Catholicism, already in progress.

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

        But it’s not just Catholicism. One of the main reasons this is happening is that the Catholics are running hard to catch up with their main competition: the Pentecostalists.

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

    I posted this when the story originaly broke. A catholic parent calling Pagans “silly people”. I find this annoying coming from a person who symbolically drinks human blood to supposedly attain eternal life, that only comes after he dies. Tell me again who’s silly?

  • Emily

    Always saddens me when we can’t work together and simply coexist peacefully. I’m currently dating a Catholic who would never dream of claiming my religion was of the Devil, and very recently, he showed me how open-minded he was when he asked me a question about Satanism (I’m Wiccan myself, but I’ve read the Satanic Bible, and there are some interesting parts to LeVeyan philosophy, some of which I agree with), and patiently listened to the answer without getting upset or cutting me off. He still disagrees with Satanism (so do I for the most part), but he disagrees respectfully and peacefully. Why can’t more Catholics in leadership positions take that stance?

    • NT

      Because the scum always rises to the top :)
      Your boyfriend sounds awesome, though.

  • Ian Daniels

    Very sad but true. Sadly I have been at the receiving end on more than one occasion. California in 2004. Was outcast at school by one of my teachers who happened to be the local youth group leader for the girl my brother was dating. Flat told me that I was going to hell and taking anyone that I talked to or cared about with me for being an evil satan worshiper. A year later I lived in Montana. Towards the end of the year a group of christians gathered ON school property for a week and shoved information flyers condemning all other faiths using paraphrased quotes from the bible as well as Einstein. After day two I began writing flyers to give back to them preaching religious tolerance, using the full quotes they cut apart. The very next day they threw rocks at me and cursed my “evil slanderous hate”. The kicker I was almost expelled from high school for it. 2007 I was in the army. For two months a fellow soldier I had bonded with woke up early one morning and found me praying ioutside our camp at sunrise. Told me he could no longer trust me because I was a nature worshiping blasphemer, and then tried to get other soldiers together to help beat me. I have been quiet and solitary for years because of blind hatred like this wherever I went.

    • Charles Cosimano

      This is what lawyers and curses are for. One my not always work but combined…

      • BryonMorrigan

        “Mwa ha ha…” said the Pagan Currently Attending Law School…

  • Charles Cosimano

    Well, I’m not exactly a Pagan, but it will be interesting to see how my Catholic in-laws act at the next family gathering. For some reason I doubt anything will be said.

  • http://www.gopagan.com/ GOPagan

    It does seem as if the whole thing in Indiana was settled amicably, even if the one jackass they chose to interview (Mr. Dessauer) decided to play the stereotypical bigoted Catholic for the camera. One question I’d love to pose to him would be, “Why is it inappropriate for the Pagans to be in that particular park? Just because the Catholics were there, too? What gives the Catholics first crack at public space, even when the Pagans go through all the proper channels to be there?”

    On the whole, I found Tom Jones to be a wonderful spokesman (from the two clips on the website), and Dessauer to be his polar opposite, both in temperament and message.

    So I’m not really sure how the Indiana PPD is related to “consequences of anti-Pagan bias” since there weren’t any actual consequences (other than one crank getting a few seconds of air time on local TV).

    That said, the larger “Paganism is of the Devil, and any and all occultism is Bad Bad Bad” isn’t necessarily confined to the Catholics. It’s entirely pernicious, and can have actual consequences, as you noted in the reference to the Glastonbury incidents. Any sort of Christian Supremacy should be vigorously opposed, whether it comes in the form of physical confrontation and ugly words, or arrogant condescension couched in sweet words.

    Of course, the whole thing is somewhat ironic, given that many Protestants accuse the Catholic Church of Paganism, and the Muslims lay the same charge against all Christians because of their “polytheistic” Father/Son/Holy spirit construction…

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Those few seconds the twerp got on TV became the impression of most people in the viewing area as to what happened. That burdens Pagan/nonPagan relations, and it’s a product of anti-Pagan propaganda.

      • http://www.gopagan.com/ GOPagan

        I have to disagree. Based on both clips, and the vast majority of the comments on the story, it seems that the IPPD rep, Tom Jones, came off as the good guy, and Dessauer came off as a lone crank. His words became the impression not of what happened, but of what the ugly side of Catholic bigotry looked like. From the clip, Jones came off as telling the reasonable, balanced side of the story.

        • Nick Ritter

          The question to ask, though, and the one whose answer hinges on the more difficult parts of human psychology, is this: are folks going to side with Mr. Jones because he’s more reasonable, or are they going to side with Mr. Dessauer because he’s more like themselves?

          • http://www.gopagan.com/ GOPagan

            A fair question. Based on the comments over at the WTHR website, however, I have to go with the former. I didn’t see anyone actually siding with Dessauer, and many who actively disowned him and said he did not speak for them or Catholics as a whole. Lacking anything else on this particular case, I’ve got to go with evidence, however anecdotal, over pure speculation.

  • Strider

    I have to admit some cynicism with the media over topics like this. People fighting always makes good news, people getting along does not. It is offensive when someone trivializes/demonizes your belief system. However, I do think this highlights the importance of inter-faith dialogue. Lets just not paint Catholics with a broad brush on this one.

    • kenneth

      The Catholics are painting themselves with a broad brush on this one.

      • Strider

        Because pagans never do the same thing. There is not a single pagan out there who is intolerant of Christians.

        • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

          Why be tolerant of a religion whose top echelons still espouse that we are barely human, and most of their followers are permissive of this attitude by not demanding change?

          Pagans don’t need to paint Catholicism with a single thing; their words speak of themselves. Most of my family are Catholics, and you know what? I call them on this. If you do not vocally stand against your Church’s policies, or at the least stand against it in your personal lives and interactions, especially when it comes to painting us as evil, backwards, unholy, etc., then you are standing with them in your silence.

          • NT

            How many of us would have painted them with the broad brush of bigotry if they were respectful to Pagans and others that are different from them and left people in peace to get on with their business. Pagans and Catholics may both paint each other with a broad brush but only one of these mindsets and religions makes it a focus in their religion to disparage the other. I’ve never seen Pagans standing outside a Catholic church handing out flyers telling people to “come to Odin” or “Gaia loves you” and anti-christian sentiment doesn’t feature in Pagan circles and rites that I’ve ever seen. I reserve the right to judge people by their actions and that includes religions. Unfortunately, it seems tolerant Christians are the exception rather than the rule. While they’re not the only intolerant religion, they’re certainly one with the most power and that makes them dangerous to Pagans, women, gays and all sorts of people they single out for “spiritual warfare”.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “I’ve never seen Pagans standing outside a Catholic church handing out
            flyers telling people to “come to Odin” or “Gaia loves you””
            I would LOVE to see that! XD

            Get a load of people to stand outside Westboro with signs saying “Óðinn hates Christians!” (Svipdagsmol:13)

            “spiritual warfare”
            I do not welcome war but, if it is upon us, I will not hesitate from fighting and winning.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I daresay the biggest drawback of church leafleting is that the congregation would mostly have not get it.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            If I was serious about Pagan evangelism, I wouldn’t try and suck up people leaving church. I’d aim for the town centres.

          • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

            I wish that tolerant Christians were not the exception to the rule. I would rather not be in constant tension with some of my extended Christian family or potential neighbors. My family has come around to respecting my beliefs, while perhaps not openly accepting them. We can respectfully pray together at family meals, It has taken a great deal of patience and dialogue.

            It can be done, but most people on both sides do not have the patience or the inclination to invest that much time and energy to make it work. It takes open-mindedness and a willingness to listen on the both sides, as well as some humility. It requires not waving the ‘our way is the only right and true way’ flag on the Christians’ side and not denigrating the others’ beliefs. For our side, it requires us not to attack people for their personal faith in God, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, etc., while still being able to vocalize our pain and anger with the Church as an institution, and/or disagreements with their spiritual beliefs.

            We may not see eye-to-eye on most issues. We probably will not, and that is fine. I still see most of Christianity to be a very real threat to Pagans and indigenous peoples the world over by the very real belief that most Christians espouse in the Great Commission. They, I imagine, from my 18 years as a former Catholic, see me as a constant threat due to my existence as a Pagan. However, I have been surprised at how close we can be on other things, especially when it comes to the hierarchy of their Church(es), the care of the poor, and why having a secular society protects us both. Some of the best priests of the Catholic Church that i have had the pleasure to engage with in dialogue have told me outright that God cares about what you do, and what kind of person you are, rather than if you worship Him directly.

            Your mileage may vary, but I would rather try at getting along than be in constant conflict if there is a chance at peace, while recognizing that the times where this works are honestly few and far between.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            “Some of the best priests of the Catholic Church that i have had the
            pleasure to engage with in dialogue have told me outright that God cares
            about what you do, and what kind of person you are, rather than if you
            worship Him directly”
            Eclectic Christians – they pick and choose which bits of the Bible to follow. I distinctly remember a particular Commandment that does make it important to worship ‘Him’ directly.

          • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

            No doubt. I think they were taking the passage “Not all who say Lord, Lord enter the Kingdom of Heaven but those who do my Father’s work on Earth” to heart. Still, your point is well-made.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I know that phrase well. I have usually heard it to mean that ‘just being Christian does not guarantee salvation.’ For that, you’d need to be a good Christian.

          • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

            *nods* Yup, I’ve heard it worded both ways. Doctrine is still not universally agreed upon, even if the Church is incredibly hierarchical. My own folks are chomping at the bit with how much Ratzinger has reversed the policies of Vatican II. From what I gather from them, this is not an uncommon feeling among moderate Catholics, either.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I find it amusing to see how people claim their holy book is the written word of their god, and then disagree with parts of it and say it is okay not to follow those bits, because those bits are obviously written by men.

          • hotstreak12@

            I’m sorry for being the denigrater here, if they start condeming us and start in with the fire and brimbstone, I’m starting in with how there “word of god” is a ramshackle piece of literature put together by people with penises to satisfy a political agenda. What they use to back up there claims is a pile of near myths bolstered by misinformation.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            Don’t apologise… Well, apart from the bit about ‘people with penises’.

            Having a penis does not make a vast amount of difference to not having a penis (although it is easier to pee standing up when in possession of a penis.)

  • TheSeaHag

    I can’t say that I’m surprised. I’ve been told more than once by my (formerly Catholic, now Evangelical) mother that my gods are actually demons who are duping me into worshiping them. I’ve always found it odd how obsessed many of the more conservative Christians are with demons and Satan, and how much power they ascribe to these entities. They talk about them so much, it honestly creeps me out a bit.

    As to the “sexual perversion” accusation? Best see to your own house, Fr. Longenecker, before slinging that kind of mud at anyone else’s.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      You want to find a theistic Satanist? Look at Christians.

  • Nite_Owl

    There was a story in the news in Calgary a few years back about a nasty divorce and custody dispute where the wife accused her Wiccan husband of being a devil worshipper in court. The husband’s response was priceless. He said “How can I be a devil worshipper when I don’t even believe he exists?” The court found for the husband.

    • NT

      Religious bullshit? In my city? Gods forbid… I don’t remember it but I’m gonna have to look it up.

  • kenneth

    The demonic possession narrative is not going to stop. It is in fact accelerating at a pace not seen since the height of the Inquisition. You will see it continue to grow for the forseeable future. I’ll bet the rent money on that, such as it may be these days.

    The Catholic Church’s entire game plan these days is based on reinforcing tribalism, purifying the ranks ideologically and stoking a bunker/siege mentality. Stung by what they see as a colossal failure in the “big tent” approach to Catholicism in the decades after Vatican II, the leadership from the pope on down has taken a VERY reactionary tack in recent years. They know they’re not going to be a “universal church” anymore. Tens of millions have left in disgust over gay rights, contraception, the culture of corruption and abuse and simply because people realize they have other options.

    Most of those remaining are ultraconservative theologically (and often politically.) They see themselves as The Chosen Few who will shepherd the church through a period of literal martyrdom. This is not a phenomenon of Longenecker or this or that lone loony exorcist looking to sell a book. There is a true and widespread atmosphere of hysteria and fear within American Catholicism these days. Read their blogs from time to time and you’ll see what I mean. Many of them actually believe Obama is the Antichrist or his first lieutenant and that they will be rounded up en masse and deported to gulags, soon, over the HMS mandate or some other pretext.

    There is a feedback loop of wing-nut-ism that selects for extremist leaders who stoke the fears of extremists and drive out moderates etc. Having grown up Catholic through about the mid-80s and now sometimes attending for people’s funerals, taking older relatives etc., I can tell you the RCC today ain’t at all the same one I left. Each parish is different, but almost all I have seen recently have a much more militant, culty feel to them than I ever remember. They’re very big on loyalty oaths and warnings and recitations of rules and “spiritual warfare” talk.

    Another sure sign of extremism is that they’re starting to devour their own. Conservative Catholics go absolutely bonkers attacking each other when they sense the merest whiff of disloyalty or lack of zeal for a cause or the mildest criticism of whatever loon happens to be the hero of the day of the anti-abortion movement etc. They turn on their own bishops at times. They turn on guys like Mark Shea, accusing him of being a secret queer-loving Obama enabler. Shea is painfully Catholic and about as pagan-friendly as Theodosius I.

    They do this because fear sells and nothing welds a movement together (but ultimately consumes it), like a war, and even better, a war with supernatural and eternal implications. If they’re willing to put their own against a wall for the cause, do any of us think for a second they’re going to cut US some slack out of good old-fashioned decency or ecumenism?

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Might you not be attributing to Catholics stuff that’s common to conservative Christians generally? Yes, some of them gripe; isn’t the Internet the world’s best gripe locater and amplifier? Could the different “feel” of Catholicism now vs then arise from your increased alertness, over the years, to cultlike behavior?

      • http://www.gopagan.com/ GOPagan

        And might you not be attributing to *conservative* Christians attitudes that are common to Christians generally? Even the most liberal of them must still believe that their Christ is the son of their god, raised from the dead as the “savior” of humanity. I beg you to step back from your own political prejudices for a moment and realize that the problem is not this or that flavor of Christian. It’s all of them. Ultimately, even the friendliest-in-person, most liberal of them must “grieve the growth of modern Neo-Paganism”.

        • Ursyl

          Not necessarily.

          I have Christian friends who do not grieve my Paganism or our children being raised to make up her own mind.

          • Obsidia

            I concur. True Christians (Those who strive to follow Jesus’s teachings) DO exist, though they are few and far between. I have a lovely Christian friend and we talk and share our perspectives regularly. She is a loving person and finds my Pagan view interesting and non-threatening. I don’t believe in tarring whole groups of people with the same brush.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Your version of a realistic view requires me to ignore the kindness and generosity of my mother’s side of my family and all the Unitarian Universalist Christians I know. It’s a poor fit.

        • Sydney Louise

          I know plenty of Christians who are more than happy to respect my views, as I do their’s, and talk about how we see the world. There is no malice, dislike of views, or anything. Instead we state where we agree and disagree on subjects and then try to figure out why. They don’t try and convert me, and I don’t denounce them. GOPagan, you seem to be holding some of the same views, twisted on their head, that you are upset with “Christians” for holding. I honestly don’t understand where you are coming from with this, when you in turn are only carrying on the kind of hatred that burns you so. I’m very confused by this…

          “Holding on to hatred is like drinking poison and expecting the other man to die.”

    • Icarus

      This does not encourage me to come out as a Pagan.

      • http://www.gopagan.com/ GOPagan

        Then you’re letting them win.

        • Sunweaver

          One of the reasons I’m out as a Pagan and that I do interfaith work is so that fewer people will be afraid to say “I’m Pagan” down the line. That also means setting any bias I may have against the Abrahamic faiths aside.
          Dialogue is impossible when one or both sides is under the impression that they’re right and the other guy is dumb.

          • officialoldfart

            most people don’t know what ‘pagan’ MEANS

          • NT

            But they sure think they know.

          • Sunweaver

            That’s true. And they won’t know unless we tell them, will they?

        • Kristin Fowler

          Not necessarily. Sometimes it’s legitimately dangerous to come out as a pagan, and the “letting them win” advice is not always the answer.

          • kenneth

            The first thing I tell people is that you have to use good sense in making that decision. That said, if coming out doesn’t pose a real threat to safety or livelihood (or custody of one’s kids etc), you ought to consider doing it. It is true that bullies or oppressor of any kind only have as much power as we give them individually and collectively.

      • kittylu

        Hide as long as you have to but hopefully you can be a voice of reason.

  • Robert Mathiesen

    The whole Abrahamic thing about the Gods’ of other religions being really demons in disguise is older than Christianity. A couple of centuries before Jesus a bunch of Greek-speaking Jewish scholars in Alexandria translated the Bible from Hebrew into Greek. In one of the Psalms the Hebrew says something like “the Gods of the Gentiles are idols,” but these translators rendered it into Greek as “the Gods of the Gentiles are demons (daimonia).” The version with “demons” was more influential in early Christianity, as very few early Christians could read Hebrew. The rest, as they say, is history; but the problem is older than Christianity.

    • hotstreak12

      exactly, and what I was going to say. There is not one piece of the Abrahamic faiths that isn’t based off earlier pagan beliefs. Genesis and the flood of Noah ripped off Sumerian stories, Jesus is a may not have even existed and the one from the bible is based off of a dozen other gods with similar bios including his “birth” I have always wondered how they can hate us so much when we were here before them and they derived 95% of there dogma from us.

      • Nick Ritter

        “I have always wondered how they can hate us so much when we were here before them and they derived 95% of there dogma from us.”

        But there’s your answer right there: Pagan religions actually have a greater claim to validity than they do. This is the sort of thing that Emperor Julian wrote about in his essay “Against the Galileans”, and there were others writing similar things around the rise of Christianity. Those things are worth reading today, and I would recommend them highly.

  • Moe

    Why am I not surprised? Bear in mind that in Europe the Satanic Panic is not over like it was in America, that in fact te SRA and other hysteria popped up there only a few years ago. The same asinine rhetoric we have to deal with with Protestant Christians in America is being mouthed by Catholics now. Not surprisingly, there are fundamentalist Catholics who feed on fear. If you look at the claims, they are basically the same fear for the children type of claims where other religions are ” strange cults” luring the ” innocent” away. The same rhetoric and lies we’ve heard from the likes of Pat Robertson ( the 9-11 statement, among others) is being regurgitated by Catholics now.

    We know that people react to hat they’ve been told, that they go the quick route of ignorance and prejudice that confirms their own views, that they believe what their trusted minister ( in this case priests) tell them as if the ministers had a direct line to Deity and the truth. This is an emotional reaction based on fear and they need to understand that we Pagans are not as they’ve been told.

    Don’t forget that the Pagan sacred site on a military academy in America was vandalized some years back and the rampant Christian proselytizing that happened on the academy in Colorado. Its a mind set and emotional reaction based on ignorance that is the problem.

  • Sunweaver

    I’m not anti-Catholic in any sense. Many of my in-laws are Catholic, my husband was raised Catholic, one of the moms at the dance school my daughter attends is Catholic, a dear friend and colleague of mine is Catholic. They’re all very good people and have, at least in some point in their lives, connected with the divine through those rituals and garnered positive spiritual development from Catholicism.

    In and of itself, Catholicism isn’t the problem. The Church, on the other hand, is becoming problematic. This is why you’ll hear a lot of Catholics say “I’m Catholic, but I don’t like what the Church is doing with ____.” Fill in the blank with women’s issues, LGBT issues, you name it.

    Certainly there are adherents who cling to the party line and cause trouble for the likes of us and this absurdity with increasing exorcisms is definitely problematic for us. But the farther The Church goes against all sense and reason, the more members they will lose. They’ll be reduced to the whackadoos ranting about demons and throwing salt in people’s faces. And yeah, that’s dangerous, but I’m not going to hold any hostility or anger toward Catholicism because of the hard-line whackadoos.

    • Strider

      Waves arms in agreement . . .

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Mary-Sharratt/695382792 Mary Sharratt

      Exactly this. Just as there are cultural wars going on in America, there are cultural wars going in within the Catholic Church in America, which is very diverse and not some monolithic entity. The Catholics who read Commonweal and National Catholic Reporter are NOT going to condemn Pagans or obsess about demons. In fact they would probably be allies on a number of political issues and help foster interfaith dialogue. The Catholics who *do* condemn Pagans and harp on about demons are the same ones who condemn liberal Catholics for voting pro-choice and for supporting the “radical feminist” nuns and sisters of the LCWR. As Sunweaver said, many sincere Catholics are as horrified by the hardline whackadoos as any of the rest of us are.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000280444564 Judith Frances

        I like that term “whackadoos”, how appropriate!

  • Beth Winegarner

    In this same vein, did you see the “Yes, Wiccan” hag cartoon in last week’s New Yorker? I blogged about it today: http://wordpress.com/#!/my-stats/?unit=1&blog=18676369

    • Faoladh

      That’s not a good link.

  • http://www.paganawareness.net.au Gavin Andrew

    As I point out in my book, the Catholic Church’s accusations that ‘the occult’ poses a danger to young people is a staggering hypocrisy, given their record of child sexual abuse.

    And the extraordinary part of this is that it even needs to be said.

    ‘Paganism & Christianity – A Resource for Wiccans, Witches and Pagans’ can be found here: http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/114560

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

      I think it’s a very good (or perhaps it would be more correct to say very bad) example of what Jung called “projection”.

  • hotstreak12

    It seems to me that every pagan culture that we know of also had advanced thinking. Sumeria gave us the first epic and super hero in Gilgamesh as well as advanced mathematics and Astronomy, Egypt was the same along with advanced medicine and biology in the form of mummification, and the Mayans and Aztecs had a degree of mathematics we are just beginning to equal today and I don’t even need to talk about Greece and Room. Even the reviled cultures of the phillistines and cannanites of the bible are shown to leave remnants of art and culture. Am I wrong about this?

    • Rhoanna

      I think you’re confusing things that are “human” (art, culture, science), with things that are exclusively “pagan”.

      Also, while the Mayans had comparatively advanced mathematics (and astronomy), I’ve never seen anything to indicate that it even approaches modern mathematics.

      • Nick Ritter

        “I think you’re confusing things that are “human” (art, culture, science), with things that are exclusively “pagan”.”

        I think one could argue that the sorts of religions we call “pagan” are the more normal sorts of human religions, such that they go hand-in-hand with other typically human accomplishments. There are other religions that revile art, culture, and science, after all.

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

          In any genuinely Pagan society religion is seamlessly interwoven with all other aspects of culture, and religion is also pervasive throughout the inner workings of the individual Pagan psyche.

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

        Re: Mayan mathematics: the study of comparative and/or cross-cultural mathematics is quite tricky.

        Also, it is not necessarily the case that “modern mathematics”, whatever that might be, is necessarily the standard by which all mathematics should be judged. Some people have concluded that the ascendancy of analytic over synthetic geometry, thanks to Descartes, represents a genuine and objective decline in Western intellectual history.

  • BlackCat

    I saw something similar to this at a small scale a few years ago: a local pastor wrote an editorial in the newspaper about the increase in self-harm among our middle school students, and chalked it up to them “dabbling in the occult.” I contemplated sending in a rebuttal but I didn’t out of fear (they post editorials with your full name), and I think I made the right choice. Next issue a different local pastor responded with a long list of real reasons why our middle school students could be struggling with self-harm and depression… but in the end reaffirmed that “dabbling in the occult” is a factor.

    Kind of funny, in a sad way, that I’m glad these two men didn’t go with the flat-out “demon possession” narrative.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      In a way, they may be right, but stopped short.

      Many people in their teenaged years experiment with their spirituality, including looking into the less mainstream systems of theology and philosophy.

      Of course, many of these experimental teens will be living in ‘conventional’ cultures that see ‘occult practices’ as malevolent. This means that a highly impressionable young person can get extremely conflicted as they find that their curiosity and natural tendencies are at odds with what their society tells them is good and proper. This conflict can then lead to self harming and other self destructive behaviours.

      So, whilst ‘dabbling in the occult’ can be a factor, society disapproval is the more likely actual cause. (Although, I knew some who just liked the pain.)

      • kenneth

        There are kids and young adults (and some not so young), who crack up during their involvement with witchcraft or occult work of one sort or another. The cause and effect is never explored or deliberately glossed over by Christian spiritual warfare advocates, however. I’ve seen a number of people, usually in their early to mid 20s or younger, spin out during or soon after they join a coven etc.

        In every single case, these were people who also, every one of them, had issues with physical or sexual abuse in their families, substance abuse, and usually some sort of mental health issue of their own. Very often they were bi-polar and unwilling or unable to seek proper treatment. Sometimes their interest in Wicca or some other path is a last-ditch attempt to find family and gain some measure of control over their own “demons”, as it were. Some of them inevitably fall into evangelical Christianity down the line, and some pastor gets to crow about how “the occult” caused all these problems.

        • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

          “‘The devil made me do it’. I have never made one of them do anything.
          Never. They live their own tiny lives. I do not live their lives for
          them.”

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            That reads like Gaiman’s Lucifer.

          • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

            Season of Mists, aye.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I love the angle Gaiman took. Disagree with a lot of it, but love the angle.

    • Baruch Dreamstalker

      Perhaps you could have pointed out that occult involvement is likelier to be a symptom than a cause.

  • pixie

    Haha this makes me laugh! I am a proud non Satan believing WICCAN!!!! Satan is a Christian creation and they can keep him. Wiccans/Pagans don’t need a creature of supreme evil to scare us into doing the right thing, we do the right thing because its what should be done. I find it sad that people mainly Catholics find it necessary to judge when all of their holidays were taken from the pagans! Do your research people! BEFORE you judge!

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=566408651 J.c. Poulin

    I’m not surprised! As a matter of fact the only thing that surprises me is that it has re-become in vogue for the catholics to do this.My innocent childhood was poisoned by the evils of the catholic church and their insistance on lecturing us as children on this subject. Isn’t it always the way that the truly guilty one always tries to point the finger at another? My advice to all good Pagans is to never ever trust or turn your back to the Catholics because they will stab it. They are pure evil and are never to be trusted. There is NO bridge to be built with them.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Not when the Pope refuses to acknowledge any form of (European) Paganism as a ‘valid’ religion.

  • Obsidia

    I find that in prejudiced people (like the “concerned Catholic Parent” shown in the video, there is a kind of “cognitive dissonance.” He considers the Pagans “silly” (even laughing at them), and yet he is OUTRAGED by them. Why be outraged by silliness? It just doesn’t make sense. (I think HE finds them “silly,” but his Church teaches that they are something to be outraged by. Therefore, he must keep these 2 thoughts in his mind, and the dissonance of those 2 thoughts is what is disturbing him.)

  • Melia

    I want to become Catholic, but I also find other religions (especially Germanic paganism) fascinating since often there are elements of them in Christian texts (Beowulf, for example). The general view of the Catholic Church of other religions is that they share a common understanding in terms of basic ethics and views on human nature (this is known as ‘natural law.’) CS Lewis held similar views, seeing paganism foreshadowing the arrival of Christ.
    Therefore, the issue here is not so much about someone’s beliefs as whether their actions and intentions are intrinsically good or bad. And that applies to both Catholics and non-Catholics.

    • http://sarenth.wordpress.com/ Sarenth

      There was no monolithic Paganism that held all virtues to be the same. Just a cursory look at a Germanic versus Egyptian worldview was, will tell us this. The regions, and the cultures were different. The social taboos, the role of priests, how the land itself was worshiped was quite different between these cultures, and it also depends on what time periods you are talking about.

      Suffice it to say, the Church’s view of other religions is staggeringly poor, and belies a complexity of beliefs, ways, and means of reaching out to the Gods, understanding Them, and worshiping Them.

    • hotstreak12

      C.S. Lewis. good author and one of the worst apologists out there.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      Beowulf is NOT a Christian text. Nor is it a Pagan/Heathen text. It is a historic work of fiction.

      Most likely it existed in the oral tradition for several hundred years before being written down in a (mildly) Christianised format.

      The reason you find elements of ‘forerunner’ beliefs in Christianity is because Christianity had a tendency to absorb ideas and practices in order to make it easer to convert the ‘godless’.

      Much like when Augustine was told to remove the idols but keep the temples in tact when converting England. It was said that people will continue to attend the temples out of habit, regardless of which god was in residence.

      I disagree with the idea that belief isn’t an issue. Belief informs intent and action.

  • kittylu

    The Catholic church is a piece of work… What got me turning against my family religion was learning about the Spanish inquisition (which was genocide). Then theres what the early church did with the council of Nicea renaming reincarnation and mysticism the occult. Then in the 1200s they tried to eradicate religiously tolerant towns as they cosnolidated the crowns of Europe killing more Jews, Muslims, Cathars and probably pagans. At that same time there were many independent monastic orders preaching outside of the Church hierarchy. They wanted to kill Saint Francis but decided against it because he was too popular. Then the Church backed the nationalist military dictatorships of Franco and Mussolini. Then a few years ago Church officials threw pregnant Argentinian undesrirables out of planes into the Atlantic ocean. Now they’re covering up for priest molesters and making gay teens homeless. I will be celebrating Yule this year.

  • http://www.facebook.com/Jeni.Nagakane Jeni Nagakane

    It is always a case of the squeaky wheel gets the oil. Sadly there are too many squeaky wheels out there making a big deal and causing trouble for those of us in the pagan community. There are good people in all denominations. My husband is catholic and is very supportive of my pagan path. The CEO of our company mentioned this event because his boys were participating in the catholic school event. From what he observed it was a matter of Catholics and Pagans working together to make things go smoothly where there was an overlap.
    It saddens me that there are those out there that would be so full of hate as to say it is embarassing and wrong for Pagans, who are a nature loving people, to be allowed to use PUBLIC parks. That is absolutely absurd. That is like saying, “Sorry, Mr. Bass Fisherman, but you are not allowed to go out in your boat onto this very public body of water and fish because we don’t like what you have to say….” Crazy….

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=1557644814 Kimberlee Broeker

    Religious people are fearful of Spiritual people, always have been, always will be. Their thought is “How can you be happy and in-tuned to the earth, while I believe that the only way to show my God is loving and peaceful is to bully you into believing what I believe….if that doesn’t work, I will kill you, just to prove how loving my God is. I also must teach my child that this loving God hates them because I had sex and conceived them , there for I must teach them to hate, bully and pick on kids whose parents did not raise them in the same fear.”

    • Faoladh

      I’m sorry that someone hurt you so badly, but “religious” and “spiritual” don’t mean, to many people, what you seem to be wanting them to mean here.

      • Obsidia

        Indeed. “Religious” and “Spiritual” have wide-ranging definitions. For instance, I consider my religion Paganism. My Spiritual Path partakes of Paganism, and I also explore other Spiritual systems and relate them to my Spiritual practice when I can do so respectfully.
        There are many religious people (of all kinds) who are loving, kind, and respectful people. There are also religious people who are like you describe. And many in-between.


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