Broad Generalizations Do Not Belong in Religion.

Or, Stop Stereotyping, Asshats!

I have noticed a very serious trend in pagan circles in which people tend to broadly generalize in all manner to encompass every strain of pagan religion that the term “pagan” may touch. To be sure, this is a trend that starts us all off in regular day-to-day life with our stereotyping in race, gender, sexual orientation, victimization, etc. et al. So, really, it isn’t so shocking that stereotyping and generalizing has a home in pagandom. We’re practically fed at the breast of bad stereotypes in some form or another, so we naturally bring it with us when we start exploring ourselves in various ways, such as in a religious sense. I can tell you, however, that when it comes to stereotypes you’re pretty much assuming. And we’ve talked about that here, but I’ll reiterate. By assuming, you are making an ass out of you and you’ll get a whole helluva lot of hellfire from various arenas, chapping your hide in ways you never thought possible, for being such an unenlightened d-bag. I highly recommend actually endeavoring to learn about what your generalizing about, but I’m one of those weird people who actually enjoy learning instead of giving a general wave of my hand to encompass all manner of Christians, Muslims, Jews, pagans, polytheists, monotheists, etc.

I’m just a weird person, I guess.

The thing is that I don’t believe any type of stereotypes should be trotted out against any religion. As I said, I’m pretty strange.

There are a lot of people who talk very negative about Islam all the time. We see news reports and pages about people being cruelly treated for being Muslim, or even being suspected of it. We hear about the 700 Club, specifically, Pat Robertson spewing out filth regarding Muslims, Islam, and Muhammad. These things are force fed to us and have been since the 9/11 attacks. The thing is that more often than not, the things that we, as Americans are led to believe, are entirely wrong in some context or another. Since some extremists have gone off and taken out the Twin Towers, we now are led to believe that all Muslims are power-hungry jihadists, bent on total annihilation of Christianity. If that was the case, then how come the world continued to turn on its access after the Crusades?

The thing is that, too often, we are led to believe too many different stereotypes that ferreting out the actuality of something becomes so difficult as to be either impossible or too time-consuming. I’ll use a non-religious example here. I was watching that History Channel special, Mankind: The Story of All of Us and I was pretty miffed that it was continuing to perpetuate the myth that it was sheer hard work and American ingenuity and greater weapons that made it possible for Europeans to invade America and take it over almost in its entirety. No, no, no. This is the same riff-raff generalizations they teach you in school, but it’s incorrect. While the numbers are completely unknown, there was a very serious disease epidemic going on prior to our colonization efforts. Those various plagues, some of which were of European descent and others may not have been, wiped out something like 90% of the native populations before the Pilgrims came on over. How the hell is a nation supposed to rise up and fight back against interlopers if most of them are busy dying or are already dead? And honestly, I think that if we hadn’t brought diseases over here, the natives would have kicked out asses.

But that’s something else for another day or another blog or never to be mentioned again. I don’t know. Whatever.

While I can understand the need for the propaganda specials regarding how “hard work” and “ingenuity” was the reason we Americans prospered, I don’t think we should outright lie to our up and coming youth just because. While I can understand the wholesale terror Americans were feeling after the 9/11 attack, there was absolutely no need to force fiend a propaganda program that has led to things like the Sikh Temple shooting in August, women being side-eyed and accosted for wearing hijab, and any other random things I cannot even begin to comment on. We’re passed the Cold War era where we believed hiding under desks would keep us alive if an A-bomb were sent over. But, for some reason, broadly generalizing about everything is inherently necessary.

And stupid.

And wrong.

And did I mention fucking stupid?

When I see kids bad-mouthing Christianity, I get very uncomfortable. I do understand a lot of its darker aspects and have gone through a lot of darkness because of those days when I did practice it, but I don’t think that broadly generalizing about all Christians is a good idea. For example, when the Christian friend told me she was heading that route, I reserved all right to comment about it. I had some things to say – like, please don’t – but I didn’t. I had no clue what sect she was falling in line with. I had no idea if this would be a good experience or a bad experience for her. I resolved to see how it would turn out and left any snarky, nit-picking commentary to the back burner. Or, maybe in the darkest recesses of my mind in the late of night when I’m not nearly at my best and so, maybe possibly, generalize a bit myself.

And in the end, I’m glad I reserved judgement on just what type of Christian path she was following down because, you know, I was able to make a correct deduction in regards to it when things started going on between the two of us. Before getting truly and mercifully angry, I did my research regarding her branch of Baptist and that’s when I began to truly lament whatever tattered friendship we would probably never mend. I will admit that I tend to view a lot of southern Baptists in a very conservative light, which unfortunately tends to be the case with a lot of southern Baptists, however not all Baptists are Pat Robertson converts, initiates, or followers. However, there is a very large conservative movement in the Baptist sect, but it’s not the be all, end all of every southern Baptist. And while a lot of people will think, “close minded, conservative, anti-choice, anti-gay marriage” when they hear “Southern Baptist” in any context, there are some who are a little more liberal with what they preach.

As my mom used to say when I was a kid, “stereotypes have got to come from somewhere.” Yes, I agree. However, that doesn’t mean that everyone who falls under X umbrella term shouldn’t be afforded some form of respect before you go hog-wild and piss everyone off.

The thing with broad, sweeping generalizations in paganism is that, more often than not, the very pagans that we’re supposed to “bond” with or whatever are the very ones guilty of the crime. Again, I will have to admit that it seems to be integral to human nature, at least American human nature, to assume shit about everybody. By having been breastfed on stereotypes and generalizations, we take these practices with us wherever we go, which includes into our religious lives. In particular, paganism is completely rife with this kind of bullshit and in some of the oddest instances, the types of assumptions are completely beyond all measure. “All pagans worship nature.” “All pagans are Wiccans.” “All pagans use the pentacle or pentagram.” “All pagans are this. All pagans are that.” C’mon on, people. What the hell is the matter with you? We have so many outside assumptions going on – from the Catholic church, from the governments, and from other arenas – you would think we’d shut the fuck up with this.

Wrong.

Just go into the ‘pagan’ tags on Tumblr and you’ll see all of this bullshit manifest right before your eyes. (You may have to check the tag a few times in an hour, but eventually, some idiot will get it into their noggin to define “pagan” and pretty much either completely ignore whole branches of different pagans and their beliefs or worse.)

This whole thing has just got to stop.

We have got to stop doing this to ourselves.

A lot of the pagan religions are very new and very young. In this, we have growing pains. We’re pretty positive that the Catholic church went through this after it got big and bad in the ancient Roman world. There were so many sects running around that they had to have Ecumenical Councils to establish itself at the beginning. Unfortunately for paganism, it is such a diverse term that there can be no such thing for us. There are hard polytheists, soft polytheists, Wiccans, witches, pagans in various forms that we can’t all get together and make broad, sweeping decisions regarding each varying sect. But what we could do, and don’t, is stop being assholes. We can stop claiming what paganism is and what it isn’t, for starters. We could stop ignoring that polytheists are, in fact, a part of the pagan umbrella term. We can, in fact, stop claiming that all polytheists follow X, Y, and Z in their belief systems and promulgation of beliefs. We could be a bit better about presenting a better face forward to all of the other established religious beliefs out there because, otherwise, we’re going to flame out before we get our start.

And honestly, the one thing we should all be worrying about isn’t what we are or what we aren’t, what we practice and what we don’t, but unifying enough to get some fucking respect from our governments, officials, and the other branches of religion out there.

But, no. We’re all too busy fucking around and stereotyping one another.

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13 thoughts on “Broad Generalizations Do Not Belong in Religion.

  1. I can relate to this. I’ve been working very hard over the past few years to *stop* perpetuating stereotypes of other sects. I can tell you a lot about my own tradition of Druidism, for example, but I always make a point to say, “Generally, we believe this,” or “most Druids seem to agree on this…” I can’t even pin down all Druids! And when it comes to other Pagan traditions, I try very hard to be respectful. I feel like, in my local Pagan group, I’m often the person who stands up and reminds everyone that not all Pagans are Wiccan. It can make me seem antagonistic towards Wiccans, which is never my intent… But there are so many around here, and so often new to Paganism in general, that they haven’t been exposed to the other types of Paganism yet. A lot of Pagan authors, unfortunately, perpetuate these stereotypes. They mean well, with their unifying, “we are all connected and share more than we realize” language, but it really does a disservice to our very real and beautiful diversity!

    • This is why I really want to open a store that doesn’t cater to the specified type you tend to see in pagan stores. There are crystals, how-to books, and candles everywhere. Sure, I want to add those into the shop, but I’d prefer to cater to a BROAD range of peoples. I want there to be a botanica section, a polytheist section, and a minor Wiccan/eclectic pagan section. If people are going to be entering this path, then they need to be aware that it IS varied.

      What really gets to me is that, while I will associate myself with “paganism” in generalized discussions for the simplicity of it all, I really don’t subscribe to this concept in my practice. I’m a polytheist. That’s where I work and that’s what I call myself, to myself, and to others. It’s actually due to these broad generalizations that has made me realize that “polytheist” is just as valid, if not more so, when I’m describing what I do. And I think, in fact I know, that I’m not the only person who has done this in recent months.

      And I think that’s sad.

  2. Pingback: How do you define yourself? | Done This Before

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