On a Facebook Group called Active Pagan Discussion, a fellow pagan posted something about how Pagans need to rally together to fight religious discrimination in our society. This was my reply to that post.
Technically, Pagans cannot
suffer from religious discrimination because Paganism is not a religion.
It is a type of spiritual belief, which then breaks down into many
types of Pagan religions. Atheists also face discrimination in
society and they have NO religious affiliation.
the religious discrimination laws seems inappropriate here. It would
seem more fruitful to expand upon the Freedom or Speech rights to
include Freedom of Thought.
However, exercising discrimination
and prejudice is very human nature. Making
sweeping statements about other religious people is the definition of
prejudice. If you found out that the guy who owns the local hardware
store is Pagan and (assuming he wasn't a jerk) you decide to buy all
your nails at his store to encourage a local Pagan, are you guilty of
committing spiritual discrimination yourself against the other Jewish,
Christian, and Buddhist hardware store owners ("I don't buy my nails
over there because they are not Pagan")?
People in our society are
being discriminated against for all sorts of ignorant reasons: they are
too fat, too old, too young, too male, too female, not gender-specific
enough, not religious enough, too religiously fervent, too pretty, too
plain, too many tattoos, too much pigmentation, etc. We make these
judgment calls all the time, and sometimes its justified and sometimes
it isn't. Do we really want to make this process a crime across the
Anti-Pagan sentiment is a
real problem that our communities face, to be sure. Hateful
discrimination of any kind is bad, but rallying Pagans together to fight
religious discrimination seems too big a mountain to take on as the
first target and makes the Pagan community an even bigger threat than it
should be ("OMG! The Pagans are becoming ORGANIZED!").
Pagan community has a PR problem (and we all know it does), then maybe
the Pagan community has to step out from its own closet and become more
socially active outside of its own borders. If there is an charitable
event in your neighborhood, make sure the Pagans show up to make a
contribution. Organize events that are not only pagan-centric, but that
are open to everyone, regardless of their religious affiliation. Be
ready to answer difficult questions about your Pagan faith, but do so
with charity and generosity of spirit rather than defensiveness and
If the Pagan community does enough good work in
mainstream society, when people see discriminatory talk against Pagans,
they will be able to say "Actually, the Pagans I've met are pretty good
people. They believe some outlandish things that I don't agree with, but
I know they are good people."
Education and positive
experiences is how you reduce discrimination in our society. Creating
stricter laws against discrimination does nothing to address the
discriminative attitude in the first place, it risks intensifying that
discrimination, and spreads more ignorance.