A Pagan responds…

Beliefnet’s own Gus diZerega, author of “A Pagan’s Blog,” has a very thoughtful (he’s nicer than I am, that is) response to my post below on Starhawk calling on Pope Benedict XVI to apologize for the church’s persecution of witches.

In his post, “Starhawk and the Pope,” diZerega sets out the historical and present-day landscape of (neo)paganism and related issues very well, and says:

“…I am not convinced that the African examples Gibson would have us denounce are properly criticized.  Maybe, maybe not.  All I know of them is what their detractors have said. When those describing them are also associated with an institution having a long history of distorting and maligning indigenous spirituality, I’ll reserve judgment as to whether we are getting accurate information on those African examples.”  


“Yet there are nasty practitioners and when they come to light within our own community Pagans have been pretty united in denouncing them.”

I appreciate his response, both spirit and in content. diZerega also notes that “the Pagan traditions are not bloodless either,” and in his wrap up I was put in mind of how all religions can get tarred by the actions of the few, especially leaders, or the misdeeds (or worse) of those fringe or even mainstream few who claim to be acting in the name of their tradition. Even though they are hardly doing so. I think this may be a particular affliction for Pagans, who have (re)emerged into a severely fragmented world, culutrally and religiously speaking, and so have all sorts of “sole practitioners” out there claiming to be something that they may–or may not–legitimately be.


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posted April 14, 2009 at 7:06 pm

Okay. I’m sorry. Also annoyed.
That was my post to the original thread, which seems to have gone up in place of the new one I’d typed.
I was trying to touch upon points that Mr. Gibson can hardly start playing, ‘Your religion is bad, too,’ while decrying the lack of the very kinds of absolute authorities that end up needing to apologize or be accountable for what they do.
Also that it’s not for him to judge who’s ‘legitimate’ in other religions, particularly not by his own authority’s standards:
The fact is, there are a lot of different African indigenous cultures under a lot of stress…. Missionaries bring their ‘spiritual warfare’ things to Africa from here, and don’t understand the African contexts.
Frankly, some of the folks *born* there who become preachers mix things up, too. The fear and hysteria are familiar to us, though.
Most of the accused are, of course, actually ‘innocent’ of any wrongdoing, even by Church standards, but that doesn’t stop what happens.
‘Witch-finders’ lose influence if they don’t *find ‘witches’* after all, and there’s a particular lot of confusion to exploit if someone’s actually fragmenting the cultures and subjecting them to severe stress and uprooting.
Don’t claim it’s got anything to *do* with Neopaganism while trying to absolve yourself of blame for history you should know better by now.

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