Monday, May 6, 2013

The Power of Belief

There is a quote I heard years ago that I never fully understood until recently. It's by Richard Dawkins, of all people. While I don't agree with a lot he says and some of his views, I do find some truth in this quote he made:
"By all means let's be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out."
What could he mean by that? Well, I don't know what he meant, but let me tell you what it means to me in regards to paganism.

A very popular trend in paganism is accepting anyone's beliefs on face-value. If someone believes that everything has a spirit, that should be accepted. If someone believes nothing has a spirit, that should be accepted. If someone believes something in between, that should be accepted. This sort of trend applies to deity worship, witchcraft, and identities. And for the most part, I see nothing wrong with this. I approve and support anyone who believes in something that I cannot rightly disprove.

But here's where the quote comes into play: you get people who are so open minded to others they will ignore prejudices, critical thinking, and--most importantly--facts.

Let this use an example from last year. Back in 2012 at PantheaCon, Dianic Wicca founder Z Budapest held a ritual for con attendees that specified   that only "genetic women" were allowed. Most of the online community raged plenty over her intolerance and the blatant hate speech, which is a positive sign of thinking. But keep in mind that Dianic Wicca is founded as an exclusionary religion for born-women. I only had to look at the first comment of the first link to find someone who sympathizes and presents the pro-Z Budapest argument.
"It is my understanding that it is based upon the BLOOD MYSTERIES. It is also my understanding that the blood mysteries are generally not experienced by trans females. Are they by hermaphrodites? I don't know. However  I strongly believe that we Dianics have the right to have separate ritual, unattended by men because of this. What do they know (no, really, KNOW) about the blood mysteries? ... I don't think that it is too much to require that at least in Dianic ritual that we be able to have ritual without the presence of men." (First comment, Cynthia. Spelling corrections mine.)
Let me point out that Cynthia and other Dianic Wiccans who share the similar view are held to the gender binary that trans* people do not fall into. Because of this, Cynthia and Z Budapest truly do see trans*women as "male" because of the rigidity of the gender binary.

The point of bringing back up this issue is not to get angry about the past and relive the same arguments made before, but use it as an example for what is going on in the pagan community in multiple areas. That the accepted response issues like this is, "Stop fighting! We should all love each other!" or to just ignore Z Budapest.

I am here to say: No.

Let me take the example of Z Budapest. I will not tolerate her. I will not push her to the fringe of the pagan community peacefully with respect. I will not let followers of Z Budapest claim it is their right to discriminate because they believe they are right.

Here then comes the cries of, "But be accepting of everyone!" or "But don't be mean!" And again, to that, I say, No.

People like Z Budapest need to be called what they are: bigots. Sexists bigots, at that. And a pagan convention should not allow her to discriminate who can attend panels they paid for. And trying to defend her behind her right to pursue her own spirituality is just enabling bigotry to continue. Moreover, there needs to be more conversation and even debate about why Z Budapest acted in a discriminatory fashion and how to better educate others on issues such as gender. Discussions on how to be better as a community. There are not enough people in the pagan community who will engage in discussions if they can get heated, especially if it risks bringing attention to racism, sexism, and any other type of bigotry. Definitely if these discussions will shake the foundations of which most people practice. It will disrupt the comfortable form of being able to believe whatever without consequence or criticism.

Currently, I am exchanging emails with a local pagan shop about merchandise they sell. The crux of the three emails is that I presented evidence of why selling Native American items hurts and harms the real Native Americans, and he responded that people should be allowed the options to buy whatever they want even if the items are then devoid of spiritual significance. 

What he won't say, but I will, is that he thinks that people should be allowed those options because to challenge an interest in Native American culture may result in realizing that a person only has an interest due to the harmful ignorant stereotypes created, and not the actual spirituality.

So I'm curious, Reader: At what point does accepting another persons beliefs harm the pagan community?

Because my answer is: the point where a belief comes from ignorance and dismissal of fact, not understanding and knowledge.

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