A reader says, “I don’t know what to do. My mom’s best friend keeps telling me Paganism and witchcraft is evil. She says I’m a devil worshiper. I’m not, but I haven’t said anything to her because don’t know how to change her mind.”
Another reader says, “I got a message on Facebook from someone who saw that I had liked your page, and they said they hoped I wasn’t into “all that evil stuff.” What should I say?”
Still another reader writes, “There’s a church that some of my friends go to and the pastor was talking this week about how evil Wicca is. I’m a Wiccan and I’m not evil. What do I tell my friends?”
Okay, there’s a common theme here, and believe it or not, it’s not simply the question of people mistakenly thinking that Paganism is evil. It’s also the issue of people who can’t mind their own business.
All kidding aside, there are going to be people in your life who think your religious beliefs are wrong. It happens – and not just to Pagans. What you have to decide is how you’re going to deal with these people. You have a number of options, and all of them involve you speaking up for yourself, rather than sitting and listening as they rant on about stuff that they don’t understand.
Also, keep in mind that some people just can’t be educated, because of their own unwillingness to learn. Someone who refuses to believe that a Pagan could possibly NOT be evil is someone you can’t really have a conversation with anyway. The good news is that there are some people who may admit that they reason they think Paganism is wrong is because they’ve never actually met a Pagan, or because no one has ever educated them. These are the people you hope you run into.
So, what are some things you can say?
- “You’re actually wrong, Paganism is not evil. But thank you for your concern.”
- “I don’t know where you got your information, but you’re mistaken, because my particular flavor of Paganism emphasizes positive things like X and Y and Z. Would you like me to explain more about Paganism, so you can understand my beliefs better?”
- “I’m sorry you disagree with my choices, but I make it a point never to discuss religion with people who are not part of my family.”
- “Well, (random acquaintance who doesn’t live in my home and did not give birth to me), I don’t know why my religious beliefs are any of your concern. This isn’t a conversation we even need to have.”
- “My gods are as important to me as yours is to you. You and I actually believe similar things; we just go about showing them differently. I’d love to talk some more and see what common ground we have.”
These are all things that it’s perfectly okay to say to people who have decided that your spiritual beliefs are fair game for conversation. Don’t worry about being rude or offensive in your response – keep calm, use a pleasant tone of voice, and let the individual know that it’s not something they get to pass judgment on. Do you really care if your mom’s veterinarian’s sister’s husband’s cousin approves of you and your beliefs?
When Family and Friends Object
Okay, now on to the serious part. What happens when it’s a close family member, like a parent or a spouse, who thinks your belief is evil?
In that case, you can still speak out on your own behalf, you just have to be slightly more diplomatic about it.
If you’re a minor, or someone who still lives in your parents’ home, and they’ve got objections, there may be some compromising required. This doesn’t mean you need to compromise your beliefs, but you may have to scale back on actual practice. A key factor here is actually talking to your parents. Find out what their concerns are, why they have those concerns, and then counter them with rational and logical argument.
Focus on the positive aspects of your belief system, rather than talking about what it’s not. If you start the conversation with, "Now, it's not devil worship…" then all anyone will hear is the "devil" part, and they'll start worrying. You may even want to recommend a book for your parents to read so they can understand Wicca and Paganism a little better. One book aimed specifically for Christian parents of teens is When Someone You Love is Wiccan. It does include a few sweeping generalizations, but on the whole it provides a useful, positive Q&A format for people who are concerned about your new spiritual path. You might even want to print out this article and have it handy for them: For Concerned Parents.
Keep in mind that your parents may never have met an Actual Pagan, and they may be basing their judgments on what other people have told them. It's also important to realize that for someone who has been raised all their life to believe there is One True Way, for them to accept that your beliefs are different may involve them rejecting everything they've always been told... and that's a pretty big deal.
Likewise, if you’re dealing with close friends who disapprove of your beliefs, it’s a slippery slope indeed. Can you lose a friend because of religious differences? Sure, you can, but that doesn’t mean you have to. Again, compromise is key. You may find that your friend is confused by this choice you've made, or she may even be angry.
She may feel hurt that you haven't talked to her about it before, particularly if you’re now Pagan but used to be part of the same faith that your friend is. Reassure her that you've not made this decision lightly -- and that despite the differences in your beliefs, you still love her as you always have. The most important thing is to be sure you answer her questions honestly.
The Biblical Argument
Often, objections to someone’s practice of Paganism come down to “The Bible says it’s wrong.” There’s actually not much you can do about this, because technically, yes, that’s exactly what the Bible does say. There’s a line that says “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” although there are some varying interpretations that say it’s actually a mistranslation that references poisoners, and not witches, but that’s neither here nor there.
At any rate, when someone is using the Bible as their only justification for the “what you’re doing is evil” argument, there are a not a lot of things you can say, because they’ve got their mind made up already. You may choose to point out that the Bible also forbids wearing mixed fibers and warns women not to braid their hair, but really, there’s not much you can do that doesn’t involve asking them to question everything they’ve been taught. Not many people are willing to do this.
Keep in mind that not all non-Pagans think that a Pagan belief system is evil or wrong. There are many people, Christian and otherwise, who understand that spiritual paths are individual and unique choices. For more on this, be sure to read How Do Non Pagans View Pagan Belief Systems?
The bottom line is that your spiritual belief system is something you chose for YOU, not to please other people. Stand up for yourself, be assertive and tactful, and make it clear that you have chosen the path that is the right one for you. The people who question it will just have to learn to live with that decision.