Growing the Pagan Community
In a previous article I asked if Paganism was the fastest growing religion in the United States. While it is a very quickly growing spirituality – one of the quickest world-wide – our numbers are very small. About 0.3% of the American population considers themselves Pagan. This number also remains small in various other countries around the world (except if you want to include Hindu India and other Ethnic Traditions)
So the first question to ask is this:
Would it be good for Pagans if the Pagan Community was bigger?
My personal answer to this is YES.
More Religious Tolerance for our Community
Imagine a world where a church would be on one corner and a temple to Artemis on the other. Imagine trading Yule and Saturnalia cards at work along with Christmas cards as if it were no big deal. Imagine the idea that you could tell your friends, family and co-workers that you are teaching your child the Runes and the wisdom of your ancestors without anyone bating an eyelash.
Why is Hinduism an accepted religion while in many ways, a tradition like Asatru is not? Because Hinduism has millions of followers world-wide. Yet both traditions have multiple Gods.
If a community is small and elite, few people will know about it. There are still many people out there today who believe that Paganism is associated with Satanism as well as a whole host of other myths. There are also people out there who don’t believe we should ask for rights or recognition – or even have the right to exist for that matter. A wave of anger and annoyance rippled across the Pagan Community earlier this year when the Fox News “report” on Paganism ended up being a barf salad of stereotypes. Did they do their research on Yahoo answers?
I’m not saying I wish EVERYONE was Pagan. I just wish we lived in a world where more people knew what our community represented so that the people who do want to be Pagans can practice their religion openly and freely.
What Would Public Acceptance Look Like?
FOR ONE IT WOULD LOOK LIKE LESS OF THIS CRAP! Also…
The ability to take our holy days off from work.
The ability to wear our religious insignia without retaliation.
The ability of Pagans to follow their beliefs in the work, military, school or yes – even prison – environment without retaliation. (I mention prison because there is a large amount of pressure on prisoners to attend Christian themed recovery/rehabilitation programs.)
The ability for parents to pass their beliefs onto their children without fear of someone calling CPS. (Rare but sometimes happens).
Some Ideas For Growing the Community
Have more public awareness events! Check Meetup.com for Pagan Pride Days in your area.
Start a club at your university/college (if you are going to one).
Have an open booth/event where you discuss paganism at your university/college.
Start a blog!
Express your spirituality in art and music.
Get out of the broom closet! (Unless this action might put you in physical danger or get your kids taken away…then find a comfy broom to sit on).
Be more open about your beliefs with your friends and family. (I’m working on this.)
Don’t be afraid to teach your children about Paganism. Not saying you should “brainwash” them, just saying that it doesn’t hurt to explain your beliefs while giving them the freedom to explore other faiths as well. Patheos has a good article on this.
You don’t have to be a missionary or a Jupiter’s Witness throwing lightning bolts at non-believers…as cool as that sounds. But I think if we are more willing to share our beliefs with our local communities, we’ll help to spread tolerance for Paganism in a natural and organic way.