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True Believer Rant

This is a page from the original version of Pagan Vigil. There are some formatting differences. Originally published at

My take on true believers of all stripes.

I wrote some earlier versions of this in January 2005 for a few lists I belong to.

Years ago, the Arizona Legislature put a proposal for Martin Luther King Day on the ballot. Almost everyone thought it was a good idea, but there was a real question of which other holiday would have to be removed to pay for it. The Legislature decided that Columbus Day would no longer be a state holiday. Of course, this made the Italian Americans upset, and they gathered enough signatures for a competing bill to add MLK day and keep Columbus Day. Still another ballot added MLK Day but did away with another holiday. No one bill got enough votes to put MLK Day on the calendar with all the contradictory proposals.

Arizona was promptly labeled a racist state. It lost quite a few major tourism events, including the chance to host the 1993 Superbowl.

Soon another proposal was made for MLK Day, and this time no competing proposals made it to the ballot. This time around, no one wanted to risk MLK Day not passing, so there was only one proposal on the ballot. It passed overwhelmingly.

To my knowledge, Arizona is the ONLY state to ever put MLK Day to a public vote.


And going by the raw numbers, MLK Day passed both times. 

Yet to hear many Americans, Arizona is STILL a racist state that doesn't care about minorities because it voted down MLK Day.

A few months back on a list I belong to, one member was pushing for gay and bisexual marriage. This was pretty much his only issue. Well I had no problems with his issue, so I said so. This happened several times. Some time in there, just for variety and because I believe in equal rights, I asked if he supported poly and group marriages.

In a heartbeat I went from ally to Apostate Enemy.  

How dare I question him? How dare I make the issue that he wasn't for freedom? How dare I propose something that was obviously indecent?

The conversation went nowhere from there, although it lasted for quite a long time.

In my time I have taken quite a bit of flak for not being a "green" pagan. You see, I agree that we should nurture and protect the planet, but I don't agree that massive government agencies are the way to do that. The EPA, National Park Service, National Forest Service, Bureau of Reclamation, the Army Corps of Engineers (responsible for waterways and wetlands) and a whole host of other government agencies supposedly responsible for "preserving and protecting" the environment are more interested in getting more money and regulations so they have more control.

When something is "protected" by government decree, people don't watch it closely because it becomes Somebody Else's Problem (I borrowed the idea from the late Douglas Adams).

And then when a government that you do not like is elected, regulations you do not agree with are put into place because the government agencies involved ALREADY are "responsible."

In other words, inflict government on someone today, and you shouldn't be surprised if someone inflicts government on you tomorrow.

All these are examples of what I call True Believer Syndrome. The idea is not original with me, heck, Isaac Bonewits spends most of his Cult Danger Evaluation Frame defining exactly what makes a True Believer, and in several of his other essays he details why they can be so dangerous.

But the one thing that I have found in all True Believers is an absolute belief that their particular book, method, faith, interpretation, or silly hat is The Only Acceptable Choice. They will ignore anything that anyone else does if it doesn't adhere totally to The True Way. Worse, they will overlook mistakes and abuses made by the people on the correct side, even as they violate the principles they hold central to their belief.

Or as the old Genesis song goes, "Do as I say, don't do as I do."

I often call True Believers fundies because it gets the point across.  At least, to most people.

Lately I've seen a disturbing trend. Both the "right" and "left" have their extremists, but it seems that the leadership on the left is made up mostly of extremists. Most moderates and conservatives seem to be willing to sit down and talk over differences, but that doesn't seem to be true on the "progressive" side. It's a lousy observation to make, but by golly, that is what I see. The "leadership" of the "left" wants to exclude any other possibilities.

The people making the loudest noises about "diversity" are the very ones who want to take it away.

Take Senator Kerry's recent MLK Day speech. Or worse yet, the treatment accorded to Condoleezza Rice. She's only the second African American to ever be appointed as Secretary of State and the first woman. Yet one ex-Klansman questioned her appointment with not one "liberal" so much as batting an eye. An ex-Klansman who got into some trouble a few years ago for using a racial epithet. An ex-Klansman just who happens to be a Democratic Senator.

Think back to Dr. King's most famous speech. Ask yourself who better exemplifies who he was dreaming about.

No, I am not saying that the Bush Administration is perfect, or even that they have done everything (or even most things) right. Nor am I saying that the Democrats couldn't do better with the right leadership.  And no, I don't mean Hillary.

But folks, this rabid partisanship is not democracy, but fundies to protecting the One True Way while preventing any true choice.

Are there voting problems? Definitely. They also predate the 2000 election. But it is too simple to blame Bush, especially if you would overlook any problems if the election had broken your way.

Should Bush be held accountable for what he said and did? Certainly, but then so should the Senators, including Kerry and Kennedy, who in 1998 proclaimed from the Senate floor that Saddam Hussein and his WMDs were a threat to world peace.

Should pagan groups and other minority faiths get a fair cut of the Faith Based Initiative? Well, personally I think the Initiative should be removed because it locks religion and government together at the hip.

Is Bush a threat to freedom? Was Clinton a threat when he signed the Brady Bill, increased the number of armed Federal officers to record levels, and sent them to Ruby Ridge, Waco, and Miami?

The answers are not as simple as we would like them to be.

The world is not black and white. It's up to us to reason out solutions that work.

Many years ago, a man named Napoleon Hill created a system of personal development. Part of his system was something called the Mastermind Principle. Since no one person possessed all the talents and experience to achieve more than the simplest things, you can borrow talents and experiences of other people to work towards a common cause. 

The idea goes back to mankind's earliest history. We're social animals, and we depend on those close to us to get us where we need to go. That is where tribal councils originated. When we don't listen to the people around us, even if we disagree with them, we've sacrificed whatever claim we had to wisdom.

Starhawk put it pretty well when she talked about "power with instead of power over."

That is democracy. That is freedom.

E pluribus unum. Or as I prefer, "united we stand, divided we fall."

Just as we don't want other ideals imposed on us, we shouldn't impose our ideals on others.  No matter how convinced we are that we are right.  It HAS to be a choice made freely, or it is worthless and doomed.

Posted: Mon - May 9, 2005 at 08:57 AM

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