Perhaps the most difficult issue we Pagans face on a daily basis is the popular fundamentalist misconception that our religion is nothing more than a satanic cult intent on destroying the Christian religion and supplanting it with one syncretic world religion under the auspices of a singular world government. While this erroneous belief ties neatly into the apocalyptic prophecy of the Book of Revelations it is, of course, patently ridiculous. Most Pagans do indeed support the cause of absolute religious freedom but we in no way espouse the validity of one spiritual tradition over another.
I have recently engaged in several intense debates on conservative forums with the goal of, at the very least, providing their readership with a more accurate understanding of basic Pagan beliefs. Followers of my blog know that I make every attempt at gracious rebuttal even when dealing with individuals committed to vilifying our faith at all costs. I sincerely extend the olive branch of respect and tolerance to all religions for the sake of continued interfaith dialog and most progressive Christians respond in a positive manner. This makes sense as their religion demands they offer love and forgiveness while forgoing judgment.
I haven’t yet discovered a way of effectively reaching the fundamentalist evangelical zealots and I admit it may not be possible to establish a working relationship with such individuals. They cannot seem to move beyond their rabid hatred toward all things Pagan and many seem to believe that we are somehow intent on taking over the world by erasing Christian morals and perverting the government by injecting radical socialist ideas into the political consciousness. To the fundamentalist, Pagans represent the ultimate enemy of the neocon movement.
As I had not succeeded in my efforts thus far, it occurred to me that perhaps it would be beneficial to explore another tactic, an experiment, if you will. What would happen if I confronted an evangelical directly with their most paranoid fears? How would they, as a group, respond to the confirmation of their wildest conspiracies? This idea intrigued me deeply and I decided to go ahead with my devious plan to gain further insight into the crazed worldview of an evangelical bigot.
As many of you are aware, I challenged the ideas of a minor but popular neocon columnist who seemed intent on blaming Pagans for every bad turn American society has faced for the last hundred years or so. His brief response entailed emailing me directly to extend an invitation to be a guest on his AM radio talk show (an invitation I will gladly accept once the Solstice celebrations are over). An interesting result, certainly, but receiving his personal reply was not my ultimate goal. His most devoted followers were the subject of my experiment, after all.
Needless to say, the invasion of my alien commentary into the isolated and fanciful world of the far right was not well received. One gentleman in particular resented my attempt to correct his idol, his paragon of neocon virtue, and decided to take me to task. This individual identifies as Catholic and he seems to think my ‘fight’ is with all Catholics and more broadly, with all Christians. He accused me of promoting Agenda 21 (which has nothing to do with my first post), of supporting the religious philosophy of ancient Rome and of intending to renew the atrocious behavior the Romans exhibited toward Christianity in the first century, C.E. Not that I expect any self-respecting lion would look twice at this gentleman, but I digress.
Here was my opportunity to put phase one of the plan into motion. I responded, mildly at first, with a basic rebuttal of his assumptions designed to provide an education in true contemporary Pagan beliefs. I explained the difference between immanence and transcendence vis-à-vis God. At the end of my brief comment I pasted in the following paragraph from a previous blog entry of mine, hoping his evangelistic instincts would force him he would take the bait (which he did).
“I don’t disagree with the New Testament on every issue, however. Christ rather specifically instructed his followers to love their enemies, forgive any transgressions against them, whether real or perceived, and avoid rendering judgment at all costs for only God may fully discern the truth that lies within. I consider these to be wise words for anyone to follow, whatever their spiritual path.”
Now it is important to remember that while this statement is factual on my part, it is an example of my respect for Christianity and indicative of my belief that the New Testament does provide an excellent moral compass when its more aggressive dogma is tempered with tolerance. It does not however indicate that I am somehow open to conversion as I dedicated myself to the Goddess decades ago and I have never looked back, although my verbal sparring partner could not know this of course. My plan was proceeding nicely.
His next response, however, was extremely disjointed. He compared me to a lost sheep being pursued by wolves, made an initial statement against the concept of syncretism but never followed up and made several inferences to alternative viewpoints toward scripture, suggesting that the Christian gospel be looked at as a how-to manual for how to be saved. He threatened my immortal soul (naturally) and then just when I expected a push toward conversion he degenerated into senseless accusations, calling me a ‘liberal, progressive communist’, of all things.
Phase two. Although I had not received the anticipated response, it was certainly close enough for the purposes of this experiment. It was time to take my foot off the brake and dive head first into the depths of the neocon conspiracy. I posted the following reply:
“Your logic escapes me, Sir. You claim to not stand right of center politically yet your words clearly brand you as a tea party sympathizer advocating extreme conservative values. Your ideological position mimics the absurd theories of extreme media personalities like Glenn Beck and Rush Limbaugh, dangerous sycophants who hemorrhage meaningless vitriol across the airwaves in the name of truth.
I have taken the liberty of conducting a bit of research into Agenda 21 and I fail to see how its subject matter is even remotely pertinent to a meaningful discussion on the nature of God, which was my original goal in posting to this forum. As a fiscally moderate independent I follow a personal policy of avoiding political debate with neocons as I have discovered any such endeavor to be non-productive, at best.
If we return to the subject of religious philosophy, your last comment was correct in one respect, Sir. Belief in the immanent nature of God is in fact extremely old, predating the bible by tens of thousands of years, although given your other opinions I would not be surprised to learn that you also believe the young earth theory to be accurate. I despise intentional ignorance, Sir, which I think is the worst intellectual crime one can possibly commit. I should like to note that the ancient Romans did not believe in an immanent Deity, nor did the architects of Babel – once again your assumptions are incorrect.
Thankfully, I actually agree with Mr. O’Connell in that interest in contemporary Paganism seems to be increasing exponentially, particularly among the educated youth of America, whose membership overwhelmingly supports the acceptance of equal rights for all Americans while simultaneously discarding the outdated political and religious ideology to which you cling so desperately. This phenomenon occurs without any effort on our part, which is terribly humorous from our perspective. We Pagans no longer need to fear torture and mass murder at the hands of your “morally righteous” associates. You are impotent in the face of our ultimate philosophical ascension, Sir, and frankly, I pity your predicament; within two generations, possibly less, your intolerant brand of Christianity will be entirely extinct, thank the Goddess. Until then, I wish you bright blessings and do try to avoid allowing your blood pressure to get the better of you. It’s definitely not healthy.”
Yes yes, I know. It’s not the nicest thing I have ever said and it certainly doesn’t reflect my actual philosophy of respect toward opposite viewpoints, as you who know me best will agree. You have to admit that the statement does feed into the prevalent theory that Pagans are somehow ‘taking over’, which was the ultimate goal of this foray in the first place. Sadly, I may never know the answer for the moderator of that particular forum has yet to approve my comment. If they do allow it to go live, I will share the responses with you immediately, dear readers. How will the zealots respond to having their worst fears confirmed by the ‘enemy’? I am buzzing with anticipation.