I’m “anti-Christian” again (darn it!) — according to a few Catholic readers, anyway. I refer to the story in the 28 July 2002 issue about the fastest-growing religion in Australia:
Toil and Trouble
The fastest-growing religion in Australia is Witchcraft, census officials say, and the state of Victoria is considering repealing a 1966 law banning the practice of it and similar religions, such as Paganism. Census figures indicate that in the last six years, the number of witches has more than quadrupled to 9,000, and the number of pagans has more than doubled to 10,632, while most Christian denominations have seen decreases in followers. “I’d be appalled if [repealing the law] implies some sort of approval,” says Monsignor Peter J. Elliot of the local Catholic Archdiocese. “I think it reflects the collapse of values and sanity in our society that this mishmash of superstition and fraud is to be recognized.” (Melbourne Herald Sun) …Funny, that’s just what the witches say about Catholicism.
The replies came from three main types: Wiccans and Pagans who appreciated hearing something balanced about their beliefs, hypocrites who complained without seeing the irony behind their complaints, and readers who liked the story, but thought I’d get complaints about it.
There were only four complaints, though, which I think represents some good progress! My main reply to such complaints was summarized last year in my “antichrist” essay (and my main point is summarized in my “religious freedom” essay), so none of that will be repeated here.
Bambi in Manitoba, Canada, represents the first type:
Thank you for your comment. As a Wiccan, I have experienced prejudice and disrespect from friends, family, and strangers alike. I have been told that I’ll ‘burn in hell’ (unlikely since not only do Wiccans not believe in a hell, I own a set of your GOOHF cards!), it’s just a ‘phase’, and (my personal favourite) it’s a ‘cult’. By definition, a cult is a faddish devotion to a person, movement, object, or idea. As paganism predates all recognized organized religions, I’d say that safely omits Paganism/Wicca from the ‘fad’ list of religions. Although, if I were [Catholic], I’d take a good long look at that Pope. 🙂
An example of the second type, from Steve in Missouri:
I figure you’re going to get a lot of hate mail over this one, so I thought I should write a ‘praise mail’ for it — as a practicing Catholic. I recently dealt with a number of (for lack of a better word) uber-Catholics online who took the idea of sacramentals (physical objects, such as rosaries, holy water, and scapulars, which are supposed to serve as physical focuses to help remind us of God’s presence in the world) to a disturbing level. Suggestions to sneakily put ‘green scapulars’ and medals of various saints in non-Catholic’s homes to get them to convert (as one example) were commonplace, and reminded me a lot of some of the Wiccan (and other pagan) ‘occult spells’ I’ve seen — almost to the point of ‘voodoo’. So I can understand exactly where you’re coming from here, and applaud you for pointing out the hypocrisy that can often come about when matters of religious belief come up.
So Let’s See Some Contrast!
I really like Cathy in Texas’s letter. She writes:
I can’t BELIEVE you had the chutzpah to print that tagline. That was HILARIOUS!! I must simply grin and pay you homage, in realization that you are all too aware of the torrent of email, over-stuffed with religious self-righteous indignation, that it is going to generate. I can hardly wait for the edition in which you quote a few of the ‘gems’ you are going to receive. Most often, those emails of religious ire are even more entertaining than the original story!
OK, Cathy, you asked for it! Jerry in Georgia sputtered:
You have no respect for the Catholic religion. Therefore, you have no respect for me. Goodbye. Forever. Maybe you will have a bunch of godless goons to entertain. Maybe you will be popular when the Antichrist takes over. An offical [sic] unsubscribe to Randy for insensitivy [sic] to Catholics. 4 year subscriber, Jerry.
If Jerry can’t grasp the concept after reading my stories over a four-year span, he’s a lost cause. But like the rest of you, I’ll wear that “goon” badge proudly.
And Paul in Massachusetts complained (All “…”s and spellings from original):
Just read the article about paganism etc….I didn’t appreciate your anti-Catholic snide remark about Catholic belief being superstitious….I failed to see any reference …to say…Anglicans (same beliefs) …Episcopalians (same beleifs)[sic]….Orthodox ..(same beliegs)[sic] ….I’m just tired of people feeling that they can insult us and our beliefs without being called on it….
Well, Paul, one reaps what one sows, eh?
No Anglicans stepped up to call the Wiccans names, so they’re beside the point. Same for Episcopalians or Orthodox Anybodies. Only a Catholic was quoted being incredibly nasty to people who have done him no harm.
What I did was not make a “snide, anti-Catholic remark,” I rather held up a mirror. If you think the Monsignor’s words are vile when applied to Catholics, congratulations! You’re half-way to understanding the point I was making; those words are just as vile when used to express discriminatory intolerance of any other religion.
If what you saw in that mirror was ugly or challenges your faith, and yet you agree with the Monsignor’s words — that says a lot about you, and the Monsignor. Virtually everyone else’s eyes were open wide enough to “get” that point the first time around! Even, as Steve points out above, Catholics.
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