Is attacking another’s faith ever an acceptable thing to do?

Over the past couple of days I’ve been exchanging comments and thoughts with another blogger, but one whose author and focus are decidedly Christian. This all started as I was browsing the posts tagged Wicca in my WordPress Reader and came across an article with a couple of old videos about a minister’s views on Wicca. I’d seen the videos before, and they didn’t sit any easier on me than they had the first time I watched years ago. Couple that with some of the blogger’s comments, and I had to leave a reply of my own.

Now as far as Wicca – Christian conversations go, this one wasn’t that bad. The blogger was respectful, very detail-oriented and seemed to know his stuff, which is more than I can say for other Christians I’ve had this argument out with. I attempted to debunk the connection to Satanism, clarified that Wicca and witchcraft are two different things and several other inaccuracies in his argument, and he responded with his own understanding of things with passages from the bible.

In response to his bible verses specifically, I posted this:

. . . I cannot argue your quotes from your scripture without attacking your faith, so I won’t. I recognize and respect that you believe the bible to be holy. I, on the other hand, do not, and so here is an impasse, for you will use those words as a shield and I refuse to be baited. . .

Because of my own experiences years ago, when I became Wiccan I decided I would try my best to avoid attacking others’ tenants of faith, and in this case because he chose bible verses, this was a line I wasn’t willing to cross. It was a personal choice, and I know other Pagans who would not hesitate to jump in were they in my shoes.

His answer to my comments got me thinking though. He said:

. . . I respect your wish to not attack my religion, Ayslyn, but truth be told, you will have to in order to prove your case. I say this with much respect to you (please believe me), I sincerely pray that you do, because that is how I found the truth myself. . .

Is it ever an acceptable method, attacking someone else’s religion to prove or justify your own, even in a context such as this? Do you lower yourself and that which you represent if you do attack? If you don’t continue on though, the conversation stops right there, and so does any chance of reaching common understandings.

This is an interesting question for Wiccans. We are not a people given to converting others. We are not given to the notion that our faith is the one and only true way to the All. When we converse with others about religion, it is usually to defend ourselves and what we practice, to explain how we reached that point and why we are satisfied. We don’t need to prove other religions false because Wicca is not about the truth contained in a book; it’s about each individual’s truth.

So what do you think—is attacking another’s faith ever an acceptable thing to do?

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About Ayslyn'sCorner

I am an eclectic Pagan bordering on atheist who has made her way through a number of different spiritual spaces. You might wonder what a person self-identifying as an atheist has to discuss in a religion/spiritual context – and, well, so do I. That’s one of the things I aim to explore on Ayslyn's Corner. Check out Ayslyn's Corner at http://www.ayslynscorner.wordpress.com Check out Invisible Ink Blog at http://www.whitneycarter.wordpress.com Check out wombs in rebellion at http://wombsinrebellion.wordpress.com/
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32 Responses to Is attacking another’s faith ever an acceptable thing to do?

  1. As a Christian, I would be clear that I do not think that one should ever attack someone else. I don’t like using the word “attack” when referring to discussing faith, either.

    I would, however, suggest that debating/arguing in a constructive manner can take place. It is difficult, though, because it is very easy for a person to feel attacked when someone else disagrees with them. For example, I could say “Wicca is untenable as a religion because it is a conglomeration of ancient pagan religions designed to fit a niche in 20th century western civilization.” Many followers of the Wiccan religion might take that as a personal offense. You might say “Christianity is bogus because the ‘miracles’ of the New Testament are scientifically impossible.” Many Christians can and do get very upset by this, because although you are simply making a statement, they take it personally.

    Neither of these statements are an “attack” on each other’s faith, but simply a debate. The problem is when one or both parties perceive an attack and take the defensive. Instead, if both parties are willing to engage in fruitful debate, growth is possible for everyone involved.

    • Thanks for your comments, I always appreciate input from different perspectives. I don’t like the idea of attacking another’s faith either–that’s way too personal to be running roughshod over, and “attack” is a really strong choice of words. If each person came to the table with the intent to respect others and have a legitimate conversation though…that would be completely different and might indeed, as you pointed out, allow for growth.

  2. I’m with you; it is not right to attack another’s religion, even for the sake of debating. It never really clarifies anything except that you each disagree with the other. Bantering back and forth is liable to end in an angry exchange, and what good is that?

  3. Carlette says:

    “We are not a people given to converting others.” – I love that comment because it is so very true. First let me say that I have tried to “explain” my lifestyle to Christians before and have been hit with bible verses and it’s usually because they cannot think outside the box and answer for themselves. The MUST rely on what is written for them because that is what they believe and they are brainwashed into believing that those words are the only way they can live their lives. That’s why they ALL fall short of their own glory because what human CAN live that rigidly?

    As far as “attacking” perhaps this will clear this up. Do not fall into their trap of believing you are attacking their religion. Like the minister said – you are not attacking. You are simply challenging what they believe. There’s a huge difference between challenging and attacking but what I find is that those who canNOT defend in an intelligent manner, cannon think outside the box, or have absolutely no idea how to answer the question posed to them – then and only then to THEY shout “attack”.

    You have every right in the world to question what is said to you, stated as fact, if you do not believe it and that is not attacking anyone. They will, of course, say you are attacking them to make you look bad or to substantiate their bringing a knife to a gun fight.

    Please stand proud of your spiritual practices and challenge anyone who would speak ill of them. The minister was right! You cannot “defend” yourself without speaking out against the hypocrisy of the Bible and the Christian faith. However, do it respectfully or let it go. Trust me, I’ve been burned on the internet stake and it’s ugly and VICIOUS. I wrote a blog about it myself. Some Christians have mastered the ability to hide their hate, racism, fear, intolerance and lack of intelligence behind their faith and by throwing out scriptures, twisted to back them up. Don’t fall for it, but feel free to use your own methods to speak out against them.

    I’m a witch and I’m proud. Bright Blessings, sister )O(

    • Carlette, thanks so much for your comments and for sharing your own experiences. You make some good–and assertive–points, many of which occurred to me as I was talking with this blogger, and when I’ve talked to other Christians about religion and faith. Most of the figurative burning that I have experienced has been at the hands of my family, so I have learned to be a little more subtle than others would have been, and I know that. I feel that it’s unfortunate that we Wiccans and Pagans seem to speak a language that Christians (for the most part) seem to have a hard time understanding, and perhaps this does come from a practice that teaches them to rely on a book instead of thinking outside the box. But it is true by the same token that those who are likely to engage in these conversations/arguments/debates are the ones who are not going to shy away from conflict, and going to be on the offense regardless of what is said or done. Blessed Be and hugs! Stay off that internet stake, and if you find yourself on it again, call for help. 🙂

    • Andrew says:

      I would like to know what “hypocrisy of the Bible and Christian faith” you speak of? In one breath you say that attacking another’s religion is wrong, so then you follow that statement by attacking Christianity. Isn’t this the textbook definition of hypocrisy?

      • Carlette says:

        Ayslyn, thank you for that. Next time I certainly will come calling. Andrew, saying there is hypocrisy Christianity is FAR from an attack. If your toes are that tender, you obviously think everyone should think as you do. I stand by my comment, there IS hypocrisy in the Christian church and the main reason for it, in my opinion, is that the demands (i.e., 10 commandments and other such restrictions) are humanly impossible to adhere to. If they weren’t you all wouldn’t have anything to go to church for. *shrugs* So please don’t call foul when I make a statement – that’s a far cry from an “attack”

    • Andrew says:

      Carlette,

      Oh, my toes aren’t “tender” in the least…are yours? And if so, they have ointment for that. ;0)

      This is what you said:

      “As far as “attacking” perhaps this will clear this up. Do not fall into their trap of believing you are attacking their religion. Like the minister said – you are not attacking. You are simply challenging what they believe.”

      Well, likewise.So don’t whine when people return the favor. I still have yet to hear ANY definitive defense for what you believe other than vitriol and ad hominem insults.

      I really liked these gems from your comment…They’re SO tolerant!

      “The MUST rely on what is written for them because that is what they believe and they are brainwashed into believing that those words are the only way they can live their lives. That’s why they ALL fall short of their own glory because what human CAN live that rigidly?”

      “Some Christians have mastered the ability to hide their hate, racism, fear, intolerance and lack of intelligence behind their faith and by throwing out scriptures, twisted to back them up”

      Judging by what you are saying here, am I to understand that you have a background in “Christianity”? Because if you do, and you are so knowledgeable, what Scriptures are being “twisted”? Didn’t YOU just twist Romans 3:23 to say something that it doesn’t say when you opine:

      ” That’s why they ALL fall short of their own glory…”

      This is what it REALLY says:

      For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus:
      (Romans 3:23-24 KJV)

      I have no glory of my own and yes, I am a sinner. But I am redeemed by the blood of Christ, NOT by my own works of righteousness. That is the Gospel, NOT living up to some rigid system of rules and regulations. That’s grace.

      I have actually addressed some of the things you raised in your above comment and although I definitely don’t think you will like what I said judging by your comments I’ve read so far, I do think it may clear up the muddied waters of some of those less spiteful commentors I have read on this post regarding my blog postings. Take care!

      Here’s the link: http://standtoministry.com/2012/10/14/whats-true-for-you-is-true-for-all-of-us/

      P.S. Thanks for the post, Ayslyn! :0)

      • Ayslyn'sCorner says:

        Andrew, I’ve approved your latest comment, but at this point I feel this conversation has deteriorated into squabbling. Flame wars don’t accomplish anything. Carlette’s feelings toward organized religion and Christianity in specific are obviously very strong, and a person does not reach that level of antagonism without reason, and really your last comments only enforce a negative contention with your religion.

        You can post what you want on your own blog, but please be more careful and respectful on mine.

  4. elfkat says:

    I feel quite comfortable defending myself if they quote the verse thou shalt not suffer a witch to live because the verse doesn’t say that in Hebrew. It says “thou shalt not suffer a poisoner to live.” Which has a completely different meaning and was used in the KJV simply because King James VI or I, was terrified of witches.

    • I had heard that before, that the word witch was not in the original text. I think a poisoner makes more sense within the context of the sentence in a lot of ways–a poisoner could bring about death without any chance to defend oneself, or in the Christian mind, chance to denounce one’s sins before dying. Thanks for the comment, Elf. 🙂

    • Technically that is not quite correct. The Hebrew word in question is כשף, which appears to have a meaning similar to “sorceress.”

      The particular verse you are referencing is Exodus 22:18, but it is used five other times in the Hebrew Bible as well.

      In Exodus 7:11, the Pharaoh summoned wise men and מכשף (a participle, essentially meaning “the ones practicing sorcery”).

      Deuteronomy 18:10 uses the word to refer to a person “who practices divination or tells fortunes or interprets omens.”

      Malachi 3:5, Daniel 2:2, and 2 Chronicles 33:6 also use the word in a similar fashion.

      My point here is not to say that this verse speaks out agains those who practice Wicca; the Christians who quote this verse to you take it drastically out of context and fail to understand what the verse meant in its original socio-historical context. It has absolutely nothing at all to do with modern-day Wiccans.

      • In the context you’ve described though, it could refer to anyone not adhering strictly to Christianity because sorcery and divination are dirty words applied to those who fall outside the norm, much like the term savage is applied to a people deemed less civilized.

  5. byronycoffin says:

    Good for you my fine Wiccan friend. I am glad as a former Catholic that I found my true path in the Craft. Now I say My Path being My Path not someone else’s path. People are welcome to believe in what ever they want to but I refuse to be brought down by others who attack my faith without a clever comeback. I just came across a book I bought a long time ago with bad bad curses in it and things that would surly come back to haunt me because I would deserve it. Would I use it? No. Will I read it? Yes because I am curious and want to read it anyway. I should be able to have this choice. I do have this choice. Now I am greatful you argued our side in such a manner and pray to a Goddess who’s name I shall not mention because it is mine alone to keep for myself, that whoever attacks me shall feel the Karma they are due for us standing down and them coming back with their shield the bible. Brightest Blessings.

    • Thank you for sharing your thoughts Byrony. I agree that it is important for each of us to identify that what we say, do and believe is our own path, and not necessarily the same as someone else’s, especially in a faith like Wicca that is defined by each individual. I don’t think the blogger meant any ill will in truth, he was just utilizing incorrect information, though in his eyes what he was saying was completely justified. I tried to correct him, and though I know I was not successful, sometimes all that matters is you stood up and said something. Thanks for stopping by and reading!

  6. mamaraby says:

    I’m not sure if “attacking” is the right word for the situation. When the blogger says “I sincerely pray that you do, because that is how I found the truth myself. . .” this makes his intention plain. He’s not participating in a discussion or debate with you, he’s “witnessing” to you. Being an “I’m right and I know the only way type” he’s not listening in the way that one would if they believed you to be equals. He’s listening only as much as he needs to convert and I think that’s a powerful difference.

    This may seem cynical, but as open minded as many one-wayers may sound, I think it’s wise to keep their perspective/motivation in mind. I’m not saying that one shouldn’t stand up for their beliefs or be critical of others where they are wrong, do wrong, seek to misrepresent, or try to maintain a monopoly on the religious discussion at-large. But I do think that the response you gave him acknowledging an impasse and refusing to be baited is probably the best tactic even if it’s not the most satisfying.

    • You make an interesting point, Mama Raby, and one I did not see until reading your comment. It rarely occurs to me to be guarded enough to see people’s ulterior motive, and realistically, I didn’t pay his prayers much mind. I’m so used to Christians using their prayers in such a fashion that the comment washed right over me. I think he probably realizes though that he’s not going to be converting me as he hasn’t answered my comment or made an appearance here after I gave him the link to the article. He was respectful enough compared to others; let him witness if it makes him feel better. He’s not hurting me or mine. When he or others become aggressive or disrespectful is when we must draw the line.

  7. Morrighan says:

    you did the right thing,and i thought the same as Carlette about the bible verses. you know why? cause i would pull them out and tell myself those bible verses when i wanted to get back on this path. quoting the bible was about all i could do with the christian religion in trying to justify my belief. now i know i never really believed i was just trying to convince MYSELF. a person can’t debate with another person that has had to convince themselves.. never mind what their heart feels or don’t feel.
    Blessed Be

    • Morrighan, I’m glad for your sake that you’ve found a place where you do not need to go through the exercise of trying to convince yourself you believe in something when you really do not. That is a sad situation to be in, and if truth be told I think that’s where a lot of people are finding themselves these days, and why more and more are falling from religion and finding self-defined faith.

  8. Cassandra says:

    Merry meet Ayslyn,
    if I were you, I would try to kindly explain the blogger what I think is right. I don’t think that is a true “attack” upon a religion. For example, if I say: “In the Middle Ages, a lot of people died because of Christianity,” I’m not implying that the religion itself is bad. Christianity isn’t a bad religion, but the people, in this case the clergy in the medieval period, who manipulated and used this religion as a tool to scare people, most certainly are. So, I think that you should tell what you want to. And remember this is only my view on this subject. 🙂
    And could you give us the link of the blog, I would really want to read this article. Thanks.

    Blessed be,
    Cassandra.

    • Here is the link to his article response to my comment. The original article that got my attention is at the link he provides in the first paragraph. http://standtoministry.com/2012/10/03/is-wicca-satanic/

      I did want to try and clarify that I was speaking for myself and not for Wicca, and if the conversation had gone on longer I would have. The issues I was trying to debunk though were so broad and so typical that most Wiccans would have agreed, like Wicca being Satanic in nature. If you get a chance to read the article, let me know what you think, I’d be curious to hear another Wiccan’s take on it. Blessed Be, my sister.

  9. I guess what I don’t understand is why explaining what you believe would be an attack on what someone else’s beliefs? Religion is a very personal matter and no one believes exactly the same way, even with in the same religion. I don’t think either side should have to or feel the need to debunk the other religion. Obviously, I have encountered prejudice and cruelty when discussing my beliefs with others who believe differently but the track I intend to take is “that is what you believe and it’s great that it works for you. I believe this and it works for me” I explain how Bible verses hold no meaning for me and try to correct any misconceptions about my religion. Unless you are trying to say their religion is wrong, I don’t see how any justification of any points could be seen as an attack. Unless people are getting hurt, I don’t see any religion as wrong. Maybe because I don’t have the full context, I’m confused but I am just having a hard time seeing how a point about Wicca could be an attack on Christianity,

    • Ayslyn'sCorner says:

      I had the same thought initially because my comment to the blogger was that I respected his use of bible verses because they are an important part of what he believes, so I really couldn’t argue against them, and his comment was that I would have to attack his religion to prove him wrong. Which was completely not what I was originally attempting to do. A lot of what religious discussions come down to is the need for respect and the understanding that truth IS relevant. It depends on each person and changes depending on the person. The idea that my truth does not make your truth any less valid is a threat to organized religions like Christianity though, so it’s hard to have any kind of discussion just based on that. Thanks for reading and sharing your thoughts; yours is a perspective that hadn’t been expressed in the comments so far.

  10. The problem with religions is that they all have beliefs, and it’s difficult, if not impossible, to get someone to change their beliefs, especially if they’ve been through decades of religious brainwashing.

    • Ayslyn'sCorner says:

      I wouldn’t want to change someone else’s beliefs though. That lack of need to make everyone just like me is something that a lot of the mainstream religions can’t live without though.

  11. Hi Ayslyn,

    Interesting angle! I can misrepresent your faith to others and though I claim to respect your pacifism, I will not engage with you unless you attack me? I think you can rest your case there, at least in the eyes of all intelligent, open minded people. Don’t be tempted into losing your virtue. There is greater honour in disengagement here.

    Personally, I’d never be critical of another’s religious beliefs. I prefer to remain content in the contemplation of my own path than risk losing my balance tilting with dogmatists, because it’ll never change anything and it just gets everyone upset. I understand you taking issue when you see others spreading misinformation about neopaganism, but they tend to be preaching to the converted anyway and I’m thinking they’re unlikely to fool anyone who’s destined for the neopagan path. At one time good information about things like Wicca was hard to come by, but now all we have to do is start looking online and we can quickly reach a more balanced opinion.

    Bible quotes are infuriating. You can prove/disprove/justify anything with scripture. I quote Carl Jung back – “all true things must change, and anything which does not change cannot be true”. That’s what interests me about the neopagan route – it recognises the validity of an individual path, and is very eclectic and flexible in its sources. Some would argue that’s a critical flaw, but I see it as a strength.

    Michael

    • Ayslyn'sCorner says:

      Michael, you make excellent points about not changing anyone’s mind, and false information not misleading those who might already be finding their way into a Pagan path. The place where I’m at right now is that I’m okay with whatever religion or faith others choose, as long as they respect mine and don’t spread misinformation. That’s what this blogger was doing, so I felt a need to correct it. Though he was polite, he was firm in sticking with his beliefs even after I told him they were not true (like Wicca being Satanic in nature). I posted one last comment and left it at that; there’s not a lot more to be said.

      Brilliant Jung quote, BTW. One that I often employ is, “believe the man who says he’s looking for the truth, distrust the one who says he’s found it” though I don’t know how said it.

  12. William says:

    I hope you don’t mind if I wade into the discussion here. It seems to me that the process of debating a subject is in itself contentious for to debate an issue is, by definition, to take sides, essentially stating that ‘I believe I am correct, you are not and this is my reason for believing what I do’. To engage in any debate is to attempt to change another’s position – I maintain that we Pagans need to avoid debate altogether and focus on discussing our differences with the ultimate goal to engage in constructive interfaith dialog leading to mutual respect.

    In discussing this issue I think we need to analyze the fundamental difference between the basic Pagan and Abrahamic philosophical positions, respectively. For the Abrahamic traditions of Christianity, Islam, Judaism and all of their permutations, such traditions advocate an exclusivist mentality which often leads to extremely heated arguments even among themselves. Those of us who follow the Pagan traditions exemplified in Wicca, Hinduism, Sikhism, Buddhism, etc. are near universal proponents of inclusivism which is why we avoid conversion practices in the first place.

    I do not believe it is even necessary to defend your theological position. You have the right to adhere to whatever tradition you personally find spiritually fulfilling and no one can dictate otherwise. Those individuals who choose to target other traditions in a negative manner really only hurt themselves, in the long run. Our responsibility, if we feel so inclined, is to clarify any misconceptions about our faith so that others understand our true position.

    Arguing about who is theologically correct is an exercise in futility, in my opinion. We each understand Deity in our own fashion. As long as we accept this fact and avoid the demonization of others who do not share our beliefs, we can coexist in a respectful environment despite our differences. This applies to proponents of both exclusivism and inclusivism for we Pagans have been just as guilty of negative attacks against the so called ‘organized religions’, Christianity in particular. The burning times are long over – this is the twenty first century. Acknowledge the past, certainly, but work toward a better future by advocating peaceful understanding. Hate filled speech benefits no one.

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