Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Religious Discrimination

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.

So expanding 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 board?

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!").

If the 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 hostility.

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.

No comments:

Post a Comment