I was fourteen when I realized my beliefs matched that of pagan religions. Like the sun emerging from a cloudy day, the realization left a profound and lifelong impact on me. I’m also a very open person, so telling my parents of my faith, or explaining to friends or coworkers my beliefs lent to various methods to ‘breaking the news’. Fortunately, I didn’t find myself the object of ridicule or harassment because of it. Well very little, anyway.
My family were supportive, though some maintained that I followed ‘superstitious nonsense’. Friends were intrigued. Co-workers were mixed with perceiving me as ‘odd’ or ‘freaky’. Most co-workers, I found, listened and accepted me.
This is not to say that some pagans haven’t faced persecution for their religion. I’ve heard horror stories of losing jobs, having to move from homes, and even losing kids because of it. Although we have ‘freedom of religion’, many places have judges, employers, and communities that will not accept anyone different.
So here are a few tips I found helped me when (and if) I wanted to tell someone what I was;
- Do not start out with announcing your label. Not everyone has the same idea to what the words ‘pagan’ or ‘witch’ even mean. They have no idea the history or origins of such words, so avoid using the words that might spur the walls of prejudice.
- Do not take the attitude you have to convert them into believing as you do. In fact, I strongly suggest be as accepting as their belief to assure them you have no intention of changing that about them.
- Explain the basics of your beliefs. By telling them your beliefs, rather than the actual label, allows them to listen to what your religious views are before they have a chance to put their own bias.
- Keep it simple. Don’t complicate or confuse with giving too much information. If they’re curious, they’ll ask questions.
- Invite questions. I’m very open to what I believe and do, and have no issue in telling someone who is interested on what I do.
- Do not assume they will agree. Some people won’t- ever. Just agree to disagree and leave it at that.
- Take in consideration the ‘need to know’. I don’t believe that everyone needs to know your religious beliefs. For instance, your place of employment shouldn’t ask and certainly shouldn’t hold it against you. Some work places do anyway, finding some other issue to fire you over. You’ll have to judge for yourself if you want to let the cat out of the bag.
- Do not let fear or anger guide your words. Some people decide to ridicule or insult others for their religious views. Take this in stride. I often use humor to defuse them, such as the guy who asked if I could turn him into a toad. I explained that someone already turned him into an ass, so such a spell would be pointless. ZING!
- Recognize that family might want to convert you. I often agree with the teachings of Christ, but I also point out that religion is between me and God, and would they please stay out of it?
Be patient with the ignorant, and flexible with the curious.