Beliefnet shows anti-Pagan bias

They reported on the upcoming Celebration of the Divine Feminine and Religious Freedom, but managed to do so in a tone that presents Pagans as weird, fringy characters who probably just don’t like God, prayer, America, and apple pie. I commented there, and used the “send feedback” function, but I doubt either will ever see the light of day, so I’m reprinting it here:

This article was openly contemptuous with its anti-Pagan tone. It was an insult to Pagans and a discredit to Beliefnet’s pretense of being open to all religions.

The word Pagan should be capitalized, just like Christian, Hindu, Muslim, or any other tradition name. This and things like putting “Samhain eve” in quotes – as if you’d never heard of it before, when it’s explained elsewhere on your own website – subtly denigrate Paganism and make it seem like you don’t actually believe or understand what you’re writing.

The “prayer campaign” that we are reacting against is not simply “for America.” That statement is so disingenuous it’s not even funny. Would you write that the Occupy Together movement is demonstrating against people who are “for the economy?” The DC40 campaign is very, very specifically a prayer campaign aimed at recreating the US as a theocracy of conservative Christians. That’s not “for America,” it’s against the fundamental values enshrined in our Constitution.

Finally, the he-said, she-said style of reporting (“the pagans say is ‘preaching that all feminine forms of deity are demonic’”) makes you look lazy and stupid. If you want to report on this, do some research. Multiple sites have documented exactly what the New Apostolic Reformation preaches in great detail. It would take you about ten minutes to verify this statement.

The fact that you don’t bother to research it further adds to the impression that you find this Pagan event a rare oddity to be commented on from a distance but unworthy of real engagement.

I would be happy to help you revise this article so that it does credit to Beliefnet’s stated mission.

Yeah, I bet they’ll take me up on that last offer when the hell I don’t believe in freezes over. The real question, to me, is how the Pagan community ought to react to mistreatment like this from a supposedly interreligious site. I wonder how Gus DiZerega, for example, is feeling about this being on the same site as his blog.

At what point does continuing participation in interreligious projects that continue to misrepresent our religion start doing more harm than good? To me, it’s one thing when individual commenters at Patheos slam Paganism; this comes from a “senior editor,” which to me means that Beliefnet ought to take some responsibility for it, and if they don’t, it makes me seriously concerned about an institutional bias.

I know that participating in interreligious efforts is one of the ways we can work to counter this kind of bias, but I also think it’s fair that we demand a certain level of respect from projects we participate in – otherwise we risk giving a semblance of approval or support to those who are perpetuating the problem. (But some of my best friends/co-bloggers are Pagan!) I don’t have any answers, but it’s a question I’m going to continue to keep in mind.

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About Literata

Literata is a Wiccan priestess and writer. She edited Crossing the River: An Anthology in Honor of Sacred Journeys, and her poetry, rituals, and nonfiction have appeared in works such as Mandragora, Unto Herself, and Anointed as well as multiple periodicals. Literata has presented rituals and workshops at Sacred Space conference, Fertile Ground Gathering, and other mid-Atlantic venues. Literata offers healing and divination services as well as customized life-cycle rituals. She is currently completing her doctoral dissertation in history with the support of her husband and four cats.
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17 Responses to Beliefnet shows anti-Pagan bias

  1. Lady Moonstone Ocean says:

    Very well put, Lit. If only more people cared about what they believe. But back to this…you are cogent , concise, and clear! Would that more would be exposed to this article!! Thank you.

  2. You know… Having read this I suddenly feel like less of a jerk when I put in (in other works not on my blog… yet?) all these provisos and what not into my non-university work that all basically say the same thing: “Yeah, I know I’ve not put a reference in, but guess what: I’m a more than capable university student with more than a little bit of foreknowledge that has been previously verified. Please, call me out on it or ask me to write a proper document for perusal. I dare you.”

    I’ve always felt that putting those kinds of things into my recreational, essay style works was…w ell, rude but having looked at what you’ve brought attention to, I can certainly say it seems less rude now. I mean yes, I probably didn’t do my best work on those rec. essays, but that just comes down to a lack of practice with writing essays for fun rather than marks. I always came more than prepared to show/demonstrate/prove where my information came from. Which is certainly more than I think we can expect from the writer of this article (that is the one that Literata has brought attention to, not Literata’s article…).

    • Literata says:

      I certainly think that saying “citations available upon request” is a whole heck of a lot more respectful than the attitude of the post I’m critiquing here! Even if you are prepared to taunt the reader with it, engagement – even disapproving engagement – is more respectful than satire based on ignorance.

      On that basis, I argue that I’ve been a whole lot more respectful of DC40 and associated efforts and ideas than this supposedly neutral “editor” has been of me. Kinda sad, huh?

  3. inquisitiveraven says:

    Well, can pingbacks be deleted? If not, then writing responses to the articles with suitably explicit titles, and plenty of links might be the way to go. If the title of the post referencing the original is clear enough, then readers don’t need to actually click through to the response to get the idea that someone isn’t happy with the original, and if they do click through, well, they’ll find out exactly what the complaint is, with references. You can use the “rel=nofollow” tag in your links to cut down on the Google juice the posts you don’t like get.

  4. Sacred Son says:

    Capitalization is reserved for legitimate religions and religious organizations. Yours does not qualify. Get over it, or “cast a spell” to change it. You would be wise to remember the fate your kind has suffered in past history, and be thankful that is no longer the case, at least on earth. But Hell is still going to be hot for you, no matter what the secular world deems acceptable. Make no mistake.

    • And if what you say ends up being demonstrated when we die, you can rest assured that we shall face out fates with considerably more bravery than you have in leaving a comment with no link back to who you are. Cowardice is not befitting someone who would do what is tantamount to issuing a challenge via insult.

    • Jack Heron says:

      People have beliefs, Sacred Son, and if you want to qualify for their respect you’d better earn it. Get over it. You would be wise to remember the similar difficulties our own religion has faced in the past and be thankful it is no longer the case. We face judgement for how we treat others, no matter what social norms deem ‘legitimate’. Make no mistake.

  5. Sacred Son says:

    I have issued no challenge, and have certainly not asked for any “respect”. I care nothing about what you think of me. I simply repeated facts that the Bible clearly states.

    • Literata says:

      Saying that I should be “thankful” Witches are not burned at the stake in today’s world is an implicit threat. I advise you not to issue any more.

      Among non-Christians, the Bible is not regarded as a source of “facts,” so that approach is entirely irrelevant here.

  6. Sacred Son says:

    Referencing a period of history is an implicit threat? I named no specifics about that period of history, you did. God is the ultimate judge, not man. I wish no one any harm. I pray you people find Jesus one day. He is the Way, the Truth, and the Light. May God bless you all.

  7. Eli's Mom says:

    I do not believe that the christian god ever means for his followers to be vindictive, or beat non-believers about the head and face with their message. If you truly mean what you said in your last post, I would advise you to change tactics. Who would ever want to be part of a religion where people of different beliefs are treated so hatefully?

  8. Ann The Mad says:

    Sacred Son:
    Are you a Christian? From your posts, it’s hard to tell.

    Jesus had some pretty strong words about smug, hostile people who mock those outside their community of faith. The Bible “clearly states” His teachings on the matter.

    Did you skip those parts on your way to the proof-texts about how people-who-aren’t-you are going to Hell?

    (Lit — if you don’t want me feeding this troll, just moderate me into oblivion. I won’t be offended.)

  9. MadGastronomer says:

    I still disagree about paganism being capitalized. Paganism isn’t a religion, it’s a loose grouping of widely varied religions, many of which have widely varying theologies and thealogies with basically nothing in common. It’s not a tradition, it’s a great many of them, many of which completely conflict with one another, that are lumped together for purely historical reasons. It’s like saying “monotheism” should be capitalized. Wicca should be capitalized, and Witchcraft when referring to certain traditions, and Asatru, and Hellenic Reconstructionism, and Kemet, and Discordianism, and whatever else, as those are religions and/or traditions unto themselves. Paganism isn’t, and shouldn’t be. Even the word’s etymology refers, not to religion, but to the countryside, and meant, more or less, hick.

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