Letters for the week of April 11-17, 2007 

Readers respond to our story on Pagan parenting.

"Raising Pagans," Feature, 3/28

A model father
Kudos to Chris Nettleson for his openness, acceptance, and support of his wife and her conversion to Paganism. Religious tolerance of our neighbor's beliefs is one thing. Needing to deal in a positive way with the difficult questions your own children raise about spirituality can be extremely difficult, but he is facing these hard questions with a sincere and loving heart. He is a model father and partner.
Shay Black, Berkeley

Such tolerance
Great article, interesting. I am always so astonished by the amount of tolerance that Pagans and Wiccans show toward Christianity — after all, their religion has been almost brutally wiped out by Christians. Mr. Nettleson deserves compliments, but surely Mrs. Nettleson deserves the same!
Daniel Schut, Amsterdam, Netherlands

Who is civilized?
My son was raised in Wiccan traditions and is now bringing up his son in the security of a circle of Pagan friends and family. One thing I have noticed, in my forty-plus years of Wicca practices, is that when we are threatened or slandered by someone's dogma, we in turn learn everything we can about their particular faith in order to defend ourselves. As a rule, Pagans are much better informed about other religions than the average Christian. The word "pagan" originated from "paganus," a Roman term meaning those who live outside the city, i.e., "uncivilized." Of course, when one considers that the Romans fed people to lions for entertainment, it sort of brings the term "civilized" into question. Excellent article!
Candy Taylor Tutt, Woodland

It's all good
What a great article! There are significant social impacts as a result of our spiritual/religious affiliations and preferences. Monotheistic approaches to spirituality have missed the mark in de-emphasizing nature-based spirituality. What is down beneath our feet is not only good — it is critical. Some Pagan and Buddhist practitioners are critical of monotheistic practices while many of my friends integrate monotheistic, Buddhist, and polytheistic approaches to spiritual practice — it-is-all-good, take-what-you-like approach.

Because of the pain caused by historic violence, everyone is at risk for saying "Hey, my covenant is the right one" and being limited and fascist in approaching spirituality. There is no perfect document for relating to the history of creation. There is no perfect document for our human suffering. There is always more to learn. Going down and integrating earth-based spirituality as well as the disowned shadows (personal negative character traits) of self, is critical, as is joy in spirit.

I am Jewish and love my cultural heritage, though I disagree with violence perpetuated by fundamentalist and selfish, limited approaches to problem-solving — notice the problems go unsolved. I am Buddhist and I believe in nature as religion. Polytheistic cultures offer creative opportunity for integration and are critical to all of humankind — we are varied. When the dove from Noah's ark found life, it was not for one people — it was not for humans — it was opportunity for all life. How do I find peace? Looking around at the earth, the good people of Berkeley, appreciating the people buried under the cement, their land and culture, the Earth, Moon, and the stars, and being grateful.
Scott Weber, Berkeley

A rare choice
I'd like to recommend the book The God Delusion, by Richard Dawkins, to Chris Nettleson, interviewed in your article. Dawkins has a very sympathetic discussion about the legacy of fear that Christianity often leaves in its practitioners in the chapter "Childhood, Abuse, and the Escape from Religion," that might make it of interest to Chris. I appreciate the fact that Tina and Chris are making it clear to their children that they can choose what religious beliefs they will adopt (if any) once they are grown. Most kids don't get that kind of consideration from their parents but are pressed into service, so to speak, before they are old enough to make those kinds of decisions.
Jean Rains, Oakland

Paganism is not transcendent
Wicca and Paganism arose in the '60s as a reaction to fundamentalist Christianity, or "Jesus freaking." And the Jesus freaks arose as a reaction to the success of the Hare Krsnas. I am a Hare Krsna who was formerly a Pagan. Many Pagans don't like that we Krsnas are monotheistic — they like many gods. We also have many demigods, but Krsna is Lord of them all, and we don't have to worship each of them individually. Their perspective is that Krsna is just another demigod — our perspective is that Krsna expands Himself as Allah, or Jehovah, and is the Source of all the demigods — "It is better to live in a cage full of fire than to live with a worshipper of many gods."

Paganism is not a transcendent religion — it is for getting things here. The original Pagans had a transcendent philosophy called Gnosis, which was the remnants of the impersonal philosophy of the brahm among the mlecchas (those people who were/are bereft of the Vedic wisdom). The modern pagans do not have this philosophy — they simply rely on various fallible gods and on animal magnetism to achieve their desires, which are also small.

The trouble with Christianity, on the other hand, is that nobody practices it.
Clayton O'Claerach, Oakland

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