Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Being a pagan in Plattsburgh

Any variation of the phrase “you’re going to go to hell” is unfortunately a familiar one to me, and it always seems to come from a complete stranger. It seems as though wearing a five-pointed star in public is an invitation for any who oppose my pagan beliefs to let me know exactly how much they disapprove of my lifestyle.

Mundane tasks, such as going grocery shopping or stopping at a bookstore, are sometimes punctuated by the odd person taking the time out of his or her day to condemn my immortal soul, which is kind of hilarious.

College students, even those who have a strong opposing faith, are more open to other’s lifestyles. Christians are most often the ones to call me a devil-worshipper, but one Christian girl on campus shrugged when we were discussing faith.

“I was taught ‘love thy neighbor’,” she said. “Not everyone is going to be on the same path in life. What’s right for me isn’t always right for you.”

This is such an important sentiment to have throughout life. Empathy, or at least sympathy for others, has been lacking, and people end up saying and doing terrible things to others.

Even if my beliefs contradict someone else’s, why would it matter to them or me so long as neither of us is causing harm to anyone?

Atheists also have the same issue on calling out those who believe in any kind of god. I’ve seen an Atheist tell a friend she was an idiot because she believed in a so-called magical, invisible entity that nobody could prove exists.

A lot of people seem to hate what they fear or don’t understand, leading to intolerance toward others like this.

A common misconception about pagans, or more specifically in my case, Wiccans, is that we openly defy the Catholic Church and worship the devil. As it turns out, the only people who worship Satan are, in fact, Satanists, who aren’t “evil” either. Their commandments include not harming little children, consensual sex and self-preservation.

Wiccans, however, worship a god and a goddess, as well as nature in general. Anything with a life force deserves respect, and it is similar to Daoism in that way.

All religions have a moral code, and even those with a bad reputation, still have good aspects to them. Just because one religion says God and another calls it Allah doesn’t mean one is right and the other is wrong.

In Plattsburgh, this problem seems to be a little worse than at home on Long Island. I’ve had more negative experiences around town while wearing my pentacle than I’ve ever had at home. College students aren’t the problem. It has mainly been locals who have felt the need to reprimand me for my path in life.

Maybe it’s just the area we’re in. The cultural diversity off campus is limited. In larger areas with more diverse types of people, it is less likely for someone to comment. Here, it is a bit more prevalent, and while I find change unlikely, I think with time more people will be open to others and not feel the need to tell them their afterlife will be full of sulfur and brimstone.

Email Amanda Little at amanda.little@cardinalpointsonline.com

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