Writing About Religion, Mine and Others
A few days ago, the following comment showed up on my being-retooled Wicca site:
One thing I find very interesting to observe about your postings is that you’re very much a defender of Christianity. And I’m uncertain why that religion gets so much face-time on a site dedicated to Wicca. I get the impression that you’re trying to send a message to Christians of, “Hey Wiccans aren’t all haters of your religion. See I defended you here.” It’s just…kinda weird and something I’ve noticed. Christians have their own champions and on a site dedicated to Wicca, I just find championing their beliefs out of place if not jarring.
Ironically, it’s on the page Why Bad History Matters.
The page isn’t about Christianity, much less championing it, although it links to a couple pages on this blog discussing Christian holidays such as Christmas and Eostre. It’s about why I am so passionate about debunking historical misinformation, regardless of topic. The examples I give are:
- In fact, examples.
- Unfortunately, fairly common in neopagan (including Wiccan) circles.
There’s no ulterior motive here, no attempt to suck up to people who are unlikely to be reading that website anyway. Bad history is bad. It misdirects, misinforms, and makes its champions (and sometimes the community in which they are members) look ignorant and hateful.
Conflict When No Conflict in Needed
Theologically, Wicca and Christianity are most certainly at odds, as previously discussed about Christian Wicca. But that doesn’t mean Wiccans and Christians have to be at odds. Nothing in either religion says members have to be awful to one another.
But a lot of Wiccans are former Christians, and Christianity is the majority religion in the US, so when a Wiccan is angry at a religion or religions in general, Christianity often bears the brunt of it.
Why? Partially because of bad history. The Christian Church gets blamed for all sorts of things that happened hundreds of years ago, didn’t happen at all, or happened in a context quite different from modern Western society.
Bad history matters.
The Curious Student
Last semester, one of my students looked me up online as she does with all her professors. She found my work at About.com, which included mention of my online Wiccan project. She was curious what I believed.
To remain professional and subdue an awkwardness in discussing this with a student, I rephrased the question in my head to “What do Wiccans believe?” and answered that.
She appreciated how I debunked various things in class but now wondered how I could do it. “Isn’t it hard, with your religion and all?”
Nope, not in the slightest. Debunking is easy. Facts are facts. And I stick to clearly arguable issues, not ones debated on problematic evidence. I don’t care if it’s about Wicca, Christianity, Islam, Scientology, Satanism or Pastafarianism. Bad info is bad, causes confusion, and often creates tension where no tension is necessary.
And there’s just no reason why my faith should bias me against Christianity.
The Weird Evaluation
My first semester as a teaching assistant at UW-Milwaukee generated two student evaluations of note. One was offended by my obviously militant atheism. The second objected to me forcing my evangelical Christian views on the class.
Slow clap, guys.
I wasn’t sure what to do with it, so I brought it to the attention of my supervising professor, who nonchalantly responded, “Sounds like you’re doing it right.”
I suspect she’s encountered this before.
I’m confident most students didn’t see my teaching as militant anything. Some probably made presumptions of my personal beliefs. People do that. The fact they can’t agree is the important bit, the bit that highlights such presumptions as highly subjective.
The Professional Devil’s Advocate
I wrote for the “alternative religion” section of About.com for five years. That means I got all the religions too small to get their own section, some of which you’ve never heard of and some of which you might feel very negatively about.
Oh, Scientology, what a delightful topic to cover.
People are interested in the controversies surrounding Scientology, so I did quite a bit of work on it, but I got tired of consistently unpleasant feedback, primarily about my “clear” bias in favor of Scientology. What proved this bias? I didn’t trash them. I stuck to facts: what Scientology teaches, what opposing sides say on certain topics, and so on. In short, because I was doing my job.
Religious discussion doesn’t have to be biased. Being unbiased is a basic part of what academics do.