Reposted from Shivian’s blog, because I was happy with how I phrased my response.
“Until we set standards in neopaganism, we’ll continue to breed tons of ignorant neopagans that cause damage both in-and-out of the community” – Shivian
“I’m going to repost my response to this from Twitter for the sake of completeness, but first some background: I am a former garden-variety Wiccan, who honored the complementary opposites represented by the Sun/God and Moon/Goddess, and occasionally a number of their masks in the form of named deities, as the situation called for. I was a member of a loose coven of friends, and had (and still have) a lot of great times with them, both spiritual and not.
About ten years ago, after a lot of reading and difficult soul-searching, I came to the realization, in the absence of compelling evidence to the contrary, that there are almost certainly no such things as gods, existing as discrete, self-willed entities; that they are all human constructs with no external validity.
I am a confirmed atheist, and feel that religion in general (but specifically the ‘Big Three’ Abrahamic religions) has been, and continues to be, the source of most of the world’s ills. I long for the day religion is completely replaced by science and reason.
HOWEVER, that said, I still have a soft spot for paganism (and I use ‘paganism’ as an umbrella term). Pagans are some of the most tolerant, accepting, diverse, non-dogmatic, non-judgmental folks I have ever met, and if religious belief is going to persist (which it is), we could do far worse than having more pagans in the world.
One of the most distinctive traits of paganism is its intense individuality. As a strength, it means that there is no ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ way to practice, only the way that works for the individual or group involved. As a weakness, it means that pagans, as a group, can’t present a unified front to stand up to outside persecution. It also means that trying to get a group of pagans of different practices and belief systems to agree on anything is major cat-herding.
I think the good of that individuality outweighs the bad, so when you talk about setting standards I feel this potentially sets the stage for the kind of dogmatic hierarchy and sectarianism that plagues the Big Three.
Who would set these standards? Who would enforce them? Will non-adherents be punished for deviating from those standards? If you replace ‘non-adherents’ with ‘heretics’, you might see why I felt the need to respond about a subject I usually stay far away from. We’ve been down that road before, and the end result was the Inquisition and the Burning Times.
I know this was an offhand comment by you, and maybe I’m going on about it too much already, but calls like that can take on a life of their own, *especially* when it comes to religion, and you seem to have a fair amount of influence in pagan circles. It’s a slippery slope, so tread carefully, and think hard about possible unintended consequences down the road, if this is something you really want to organize and pursue.
On the other hand, I think the most likely result is that the cats will scatter. 🙂
As for the fear that ‘neopaganism will fade away’, that’s only possible if neopaganism were a single thing or system. Maybe you and I just define the term differently, but I see it as an umbrella term encompassing many belief systems and practices. There’s little chance that all of them will fade away, although constituent members may come and go, merge or split. As long as there are people whose spiritual needs are not fulfilled by the current dominant religions, alternative practices such as neopaganism will continue to exist.”