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Author Topic: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?  (Read 2710 times)

Sage

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #15 on: November 03, 2012, 02:14:57 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79515
So even the word Hindu itself isn't used by them?


There was not an original term for "this religion all people in India practice." The very creation of a singular "-ism" is pretty much because some white, British Christians plopped themselves down and said, "Where are your churches? Your priests? Your Bibles?" Very much trying to incorporate a mass of multiple religions from multiple ethnic groups into one understandable lens (so better to be compared to Christianity).

At this point, yeah, "Hindu" is definitely a term that is used as a self-identifier. It's just had to happen over the centuries. But it's really important to understand Hindus aren't going to necessarily have as much in common with each other as might two Christians, two Jews, or two Muslims, even those of radically different denominations/whatever.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

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Sage

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #16 on: November 03, 2012, 02:19:05 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79516
It's not a question of knowing better, but of using words with their standard meanings in ones own language.

 
The problem is that "Pagan" doesn't have a standard meaning. Within "the modern Pagan community" - a motley association of faiths that may look to the past, but are all very much grounded in a modern, and often white/English-speaking culture - the term "Pagan" has been reclaimed. This word is a good word now. But as you can see, it doesn't have a set definition. It is, in fact, quite fluid an identity. Add the fact that there are very angry folks still calling nonbelievers "pagan" - and for far longer than modern Pagans have been reclaiming the term - and there's no monopoly on what it means.

This is actually more common than you'd think in religious studies. Even really strict by-the-Book religions get really wibbly wobbly when you get down to what the actual practitioners are doing. Cultures are really, really messy. Linguistics is messy, and changes all the time. Words are not always set and they are never unchanging for long.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

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Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
Join the Emboatening Crew over on Kiva! Emboatening the boatless since Opet 2013.

Maps

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #17 on: November 03, 2012, 02:25:53 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79516
It's not a question of knowing better, but of using words with their standard meanings in ones own language.

 
That's still the same thing. You're still dictating the terms of discussion based on what you know to be Right and True. You're trying to apply an objective rubric for things that aren't really helped by objectivity-- especially objectivity as determined by a small group of people without giving a hoot about how this may affect anyone else.

Your argument can also be construed as little more than an appeal to authority, which has no bearing in supposedly logical claims.

Maia

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #18 on: November 03, 2012, 02:30:00 pm »
Quote from: Maps;79523
That's still the same thing. You're still dictating the terms of discussion based on what you know to be Right and True. You're trying to apply an objective rubric for things that aren't really helped by objectivity-- especially objectivity as determined by a small group of people without giving a hoot about how this may affect anyone else.

Your argument can also be construed as little more than an appeal to authority, which has no bearing in supposedly logical claims.

 
It's just a question of language. You wouldn't apply the word chair to a table. Even if you sat on a table, it wouldn't be a chair. All words are arbitrary noises, but they are invested with meaning by our human abi8lity to use language. If they weren't, there would be no language.

Sage

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #19 on: November 03, 2012, 02:33:09 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79526
It's just a question of language. You wouldn't apply the word chair to a table. Even if you sat on a table, it wouldn't be a chair. All words are arbitrary noises, but they are invested with meaning by our human abi8lity to use language. If they weren't, there would be no language.

 
That's a bit of a generalization about language. I argue that for myself - and many others - "Pagan" can be and is full of meaning. Did you know there are also arguments, especially in religious studies/anthropology/sociology, over what words like "religion" and "culture" and "spiritual" mean? Words can be useful while still being hotly debated in meaning.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

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Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
Join the Emboatening Crew over on Kiva! Emboatening the boatless since Opet 2013.

Maia

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #20 on: November 03, 2012, 02:47:52 pm »
Quote from: Sage;79527
That's a bit of a generalization about language. I argue that for myself - and many others - "Pagan" can be and is full of meaning. Did you know there are also arguments, especially in religious studies/anthropology/sociology, over what words like "religion" and "culture" and "spiritual" mean? Words can be useful while still being hotly debated in meaning.

 
If it's wrong to call someone something that they themselves reject, how about the Heathen groups (not all of them) that claim not to be racist, but by any objective definition of the word, are in fact racist? Would it be wrong to call them racist?

BunnyMaz

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2012, 03:00:52 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79528
If it's wrong to call someone something that they themselves reject, how about the Heathen groups (not all of them) that claim not to be racist, but by any objective definition of the word, are in fact racist? Would it be wrong to call them racist?


...you're getting oddly specific about this.


There are people who believe racism means KKK, means people who hate and want to hurt people of other colours, and that this is the only thing it means.

Other people argue that a person is racist only if and when they intend to be racist so that, for example, if a person who had never heard of blackface or its history dressed as a minstrel for Halloween, their costume is "not racist" because they didn't intend for it to be.

Then there are people who argue that intent is not magic, and that what matters where racism is concerned is the effect that an action or thought has on the people targeted by racism.

There are people who believe that "reverse racism" is a thing, and those who believe that part of the definition of racism includes the historic societal power and influence, and institutionalised privilege, and that as a result reverse racism isn't a thing.

Just take one look at the rather heated debate surrounding the "we're a culture, not a costume" thing regarding halloween costumes, or the rather excellent Ill Doctrine on talking about racism.  There's a certain subsect of people who get really upset when people of colour ask them not to black their skin up when cosplaying a character of colour.  And there's a massive cultural argument going on right now about the difference between a racist act and a racist person.

***

So, you know, not a very easy comparison to make.  But if you take the Ill Doctrine definition, which I think is apt, then referring to a group as racist is about what they do, not what they are, and a group which actively discriminates based on race - denies some people access based on race - is engaging in a racist act, regardless of whether or not their intent is racist, or whether or not they have hate in their heart, if you see what I mean.

***

Regarding the actual issue we're discussing, which is defining other people on their behalf, I think the fact that those of us who self-identify as Pagans don't have an agreement on what the term means would suggest that, if we can't definitively decide for ourselves, maybe we shouldn't try to decide for others.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 03:05:13 pm by BunnyMaz »

Sage

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #22 on: November 03, 2012, 03:02:38 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79528
If it's wrong to call someone something that they themselves reject, how about the Heathen groups (not all of them) that claim not to be racist, but by any objective definition of the word, are in fact racist? Would it be wrong to call them racist?

 
The difference here is how the words are being used.

"Pagan" is, matter of fact, really really slippery in definition. (I personally am okay with that and have no problem with that slippery area. Some people hate it.)

"Racism" is not so slippery. We might argue over what does and does not qualify as racist - and there are different understandings of the term between academics, social justice activists, and the common TV viewer at home - but there is a very concrete sense of what racism, at least in general, is. (The sociological definition, just to state for the record of the thread, is something like "institutionalized discrimination and persecution by one racial/ethnic group in a position of power over another racial/ethnic group with less power." The lay definition is usually something like "racial discrimination," which isn't always incorrect, but loses a lot of nuance.)

So, we could point at an individual group and start parsing their activities for racism. What are we looking for? We're looking for ways that they, through mundane or spiritual words, writings, actions, or beliefs, in some way contribute to institutionalized racism. This can be tricky. For example, one group's prerogative may be to only accept members of certain ethnic backgrounds while politely turning away others. Or some people are quite strong in the belief that there is a "genetic" component to spirituality and are genuinely puzzled if, say, a black person were to show up at their blót. Are these racist, and if so, by what degree?

Sometimes it's really easy to tell, especially when the ideas go from "we think that people need to look to their own gods first and leave us to our own" to "our gods and our race is inherently more awesome than yours and that's why you can't play in our sandbox."
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

Sage and Starshine (my spiritual blog): last updated 2/25.
Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
Join the Emboatening Crew over on Kiva! Emboatening the boatless since Opet 2013.

Sage

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #23 on: November 03, 2012, 03:07:53 pm »
Quote from: BunnyMaz;79530
Other people argue that a person is racist only if and when they intend to be racist so that, for example, if a person who had never heard of blackface or its history dressed as a minstrel for Halloween, their costume is "not racist" because they didn't intend for it to be.

 
This happened once at a costume party I was at when I was 17. It was the first time either I or the offending party had ever heard about blackface. The theme was "black and white," and one black friend painted himself white and one white friend painted himself black. Having had no exposure to the history of blackface, it really was an innocent mistake, and I remember he and I both grumbling about those stupid teachers who made him wash it off and where was this world going to with the political correctness police.

Five years later and with more wisdom under my belt, I can definitely see the difference between intent and fallout. That kid didn't mean to be racist - and we can quibble all day over whether he actually was - but inadvertently, he was portraying a racist character which has been used to hurt and lampoon blacks in America for a long time. He may have not been upset and his black friend may not have been upset, but what about the other kids of color there? If he had been allowed to walk through the doors of the dance like that, the message being sent would have been "it is tolerable for a white person to engage in a racist portrayal of black people if it's all in good fun and he doesn't mean anything by it. If you're offended and hurt, fuck you for having toes."
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

Sage and Starshine (my spiritual blog): last updated 2/25.
Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
Join the Emboatening Crew over on Kiva! Emboatening the boatless since Opet 2013.

Maps

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #24 on: November 03, 2012, 03:09:59 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79526
It's just a question of language. You wouldn't apply the word chair to a table. Even if you sat on a table, it wouldn't be a chair. All words are arbitrary noises, but they are invested with meaning by our human abi8lity to use language. If they weren't, there would be no language.

I think you're approaching this from a vastly different ideological standpoint than the rest of us are. I'm not going to say that you're "wrong"? But you are beginning to border on offensive for all of the things that your standpoint is implying, since it does serve as the basis for the vast majority of intolerance and privilege out there. But I'm going to address you within the context of this discussion and do my best to avoid getting into other things that I see as relevant (like the Casta System).

Okay, 1. People are not tables and chairs. We do not have physical properties that lend to objective, outside categorization as you so posit. Moreover, this idea of grouping people to a purely utilitarian end (chairs are for sitting, tables are for eating, f'ex) ignores all the ways in which cultures and identities actually exist in the real world and instead places more clout on academic and theoretical models that exist independently of reality. (Not to mention that people don't exist to be used.)

2. There's no such thing as "just language". Language is everything. It determines how we think, how we structure the world, how we conceive of "other", which concepts are easier to explain and which ones require a greater investment of time, energy, and skill to accomplish the same. Language is cultural logic. And to claim that a single word in English has the right of way, has the power and authority to bulldoze and dominate the discussion on how we even conceptualize the autonomy of other people's identities and stories, even those who have no names in English, is colonialism and imperialism. And let's not even get into the fact that this perspective completely erases the multitude of English dialects and their validity.

3. You are attempting to make a logical argument even though you're trying to make it sound more subjective by claiming that it's "just language". If you're going to insist on objectivity, I can play that game. I can formulate a reasoned argument about why you're wrong. And if you're going to backpedal and insist on subjectivity, then I can bury you in anecdote too. Pick one, please.

tl;dr: Call people what they want to be called because an urge to do otherwise helps no one but yourself.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 03:13:52 pm by Maps »

BunnyMaz

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #25 on: November 03, 2012, 03:14:49 pm »
Quote from: Sage;79534
If you're offended and hurt, fuck you for having toes."

 
Ah, I love the stepped-on-foot analogy for this stuff.  It's a pretty clear way of explaining how, while we tend to reflexively treat accusations of racism/sexism/etc as a special case, it's really just a matter of basic good manners and treating others as fully human.

Sage

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #26 on: November 03, 2012, 03:18:06 pm »
Quote from: BunnyMaz;79538
Ah, I love the stepped-on-foot analogy for this stuff.  It's a pretty clear way of explaining how, while we tend to reflexively treat accusations of racism/sexism/etc as a special case, it's really just a matter of basic good manners and treating others as fully human.

 
It's a fabulous mantra for checking privilege. "Good allies don't say fuck you for having toes... good allies don't say fuck you for having toes.." Which, I like, kinda want to blast through the PA system? Or at least have as a ringtone.
Maker, though the darkness comes upon me,
I shall embrace the light. I shall weather the storm.
I shall endure.
What you have created, no one can tear asunder.

-Canticle of Trials 1:10

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Friday Otherfaith Blogging: last updated 2/27
Join the Emboatening Crew over on Kiva! Emboatening the boatless since Opet 2013.

SunflowerP

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #27 on: November 03, 2012, 03:43:52 pm »
Quote from: Maia;79516
It's not a question of knowing better, but of using words with their standard meanings in ones own language.

 
What, then, would you say this "standard meaning" of pagan is?

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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #28 on: November 03, 2012, 07:05:23 pm »
Quote from: SunflowerP;79542
What, then, would you say this "standard meaning" of pagan is?

The standard for this board is "a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and which self-identifies as Pagan". This is certainly not the only meaning, but having a defined meaning here makes communication easy. I'm sure that someone or some group finds this definition offensive in some manner, but to be blunt there comes a point where I don't care. I can't please everyone.
« Last Edit: November 03, 2012, 07:05:53 pm by RandallS »
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Re: Do you have to do anything to be a Pagan?
« Reply #29 on: November 03, 2012, 08:48:29 pm »
Quote from: RandallS;79560
The standard for this board is "a religion that is not Jewish, Christian, or Islamic and which self-identifies as Pagan". This is certainly not the only meaning, but having a defined meaning here makes communication easy. I'm sure that someone or some group finds this definition offensive in some manner, but to be blunt there comes a point where I don't care. I can't please everyone.

 
Yes.

I was specifically asking Maia about the "standard meaning" to which she'd alluded (since she's clearly not referring to the TC standard, at any rate not the "and which self-identifies" part).  I'm not aware of it having a single "standard" meaning in the English language in general.

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