This one, as usual, is about identity politics and labels. Who’s pagan, who’s not; where and whether the line should be drawn. This shit was already old hat back when I found my way online around 1999 so you can imagine what I think of it today. I would let this pass without commenting as I have most controversies since Pantheacon Hullabaloo I & II (kind of hard to top this, really) except I think I may actually have something worthwhile to add to the debate. At least it’s a point I haven’t seen brought up much, if at all. Namely why or more precisely cui bono?
Some people have remarked that this is a necessary and even positive phase that paganism is going through, something that every other religious community has had to deal with at one point or another. And that’s true, but with a difference.
You see, none of those groups were just arguing over semantics and labels. Even the whole Christological dispute of the 4th century which hinged on a single letter was about a whole hell of a lot more than ideas. Specifically it was about the control of resources – spiritual and temporal. Everything from the administration of the sacraments (deemed necessary for a proper relationship with Christ and admittance to heaven) to who had control of church property and its assets depended on the question of who was and was not a real Christian. (And while I’m using Christianity as my example here the same holds for every other major and quite a few minor religions.) Seen in that light you can understand why this was such a hotly contested matter.
But paganism is different. With only a few very notable exceptions no one owns land or property. No resources are shared in common. There is no established hierarchy recognized by all pagans to be a part of or to tear down. No one controls access to the divinities. (While their sacraments may be another story, few would suggest that the divinities respond only to those sacraments.) And the internet has made it possible to find fellowship with kindred spirits even if such do not exist in one’s locality or one is barred from participating in certain events.
So I really don’t see the point. It’s fighting over empty air, just for the hell of it. And the worst part is that with nothing tangible to lose or gain this squabbling can go on indefinitely.
Except that’s not entirely true. There is something to be lost in all this. Good will, for one. The more acrimonious these debates become the more it’s going to drive apart folks who might otherwise get along. I don’t care about people or have much interest in working with them, so that’s not a huge concern to me. But what does concern me is that intellectual and creative energy that could be going towards honoring the divinities or making beautiful art or a dozen other laudatory ventures is instead being squandered on fruitless navel-gazing, politicking and ad hominem attacks. Every time someone carefully crafts a detailed post on this (and then three or four follow-ups) or goes around spending hours leaving comments on what everyone else has said … I can’t help but wonder what that person might have accomplished with some better focus.
“Hypocrite! You just wrote this! How can you condemn us while you’re guilty of the same thing?”
Yes, I did. But you see I am a very accomplished multi-tasker so while I was typing this out with one hand I was also jerking off to midget lesbian bondage fisting porn with the other. Granted, my full attention should have been on the video (who knew the vagina was so flexible?) but sometimes it is necessary to make minor sacrifices.