Imagine walking downtown and hearing a street-corner preacher shouting, “Have you heard the TRUTH about the GODDESS?” while wearing a sandwich board proclaiming “She is LIFE” and handing out a little pamphlet titled “God has Horns”.
Okay, I don’t want to imagine that. I don’t like proselytizing by any religion, but I think that the Pagan paths are especially unsuitable for it.
One of the biggest problem with singing the praises of the Pagan lifestyle to the uninitiated masses is, which flavor of Paganism do you promote? Interview thirteen Pagans about the word “Pagan”, and you’ll get thirteen different answers. If we can’t even agree on one definition, how can we try to convert anyone else?
Within the more mainstream religions, there tends to be more agreement on most issues dealing with conduct, faith basics, and accepted scripture, in spite of sectarian differences. Members of a single church are likely to hold very similar beliefs; thus they can speak about those beliefs to those whom they’re trying to convert and be reasonably sure that they’re speaking for the entire group.
In the Pagan community, there is a much greater emphasis placed on individual spirituality. Even among members of a single coven, there is often a diversity of ideas regarding what is sacred, what is acceptable, and what is profane. While a leader might be called upon to speak for the entire group on certain topics, only the most naïve (or conceited) would expect everyone to be walking an identical path.
I believe there are many spiritual paths, most very personal, all eventually leading to a common truth. None are more or less valid than any other. No single path is right for everyone, so why would I try to force anyone else to fit my mold? No other person has lived my life, experienced what I have. No one can ever walk in my footsteps for very long and remain true to their own spirituality.
Another argument against proselytizing is more societal than personal. The very definition of the word implies coercion; not only is the proselytizer telling me about his religion, he is actively trying to convert me. Consider the work of missionaries: convinced that their path is the only truth, they strive to subvert the culture of the people they live amongst, tearing down ancient traditions and replacing them with a “one-size-fits-all” religion that doesn’t quite fit anyone. As a Pagan, I’m very aware of the irreplaceable cultural wisdom that has been supplanted by missionary work worldwide. I want no part of it.
I won’t coerce – or induce – anyone to walk the same path that I do – it’s the right path for me, and only me. What I will do is share some of what I’ve learned along the way, with the goal of helping others find the path that’s right for them. Education provides an opportunity to dispel ignorance and help others find their own paths. Proselytizing is little more than religious bullying.