Choose your words wisely, for they may grow up and change the world. On the marginalization of our religious traditions by Halstead and the dangers therein.

Ossia Sylva mentioned something in a recent post prompted by the insidious influence of John Halstead writer at Patheos, and now Gods and Radicals who isn’t a pagan, or a polytheist but insists he is, in flagrant denial of the definitions of those words in dictionaries.


To me, Halstead is doing the equivalent of walking into a Catholic church and saying, “Okay, so I’m here. I want to be a Catholic, and I want you to call me a Catholic. But since I personally believe that Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and the saints are archetypes, I want you to change the liturgy to reflect this ontology, and I want the theists to be totally on-board with this. Oh, and remember to call me a Catholic, because I am a Catholic.” -Ossia Sylva

Not only is this a brilliant analogy, it also can be taken a step further.

Catholics have to go through Catechism, they have an infrastructure in place to maintain religious definitions of their faith, and since their rise to power a millenia ago, they’ve maintained enough influence to continue to do so within their religious tradition without outsiders redefining things for them.

But when we look to the other religions usually the focus is on the monotheistic, Abrahamic faiths: Judaism, Islam, Christianity. Occasionally Buddhism and Hinduism might be thrown a bone, but beyond the so-called big 5 religions who have enough influence in certain areas of the world at least to maintain the definitions of their own traditions, most of the other ones are completely ignored by those religions, political bodies, and scholars alike. If not ignored, then they are a footnote lump-summed together into ever increasing definitions of marginalization.

Language matters. When US History books talk about the indigenous tribes they refer to them as “Native Americans” and rarely mention any of the tribe names, beyond maybe a handful or so. But the reality is there were hundreds of different peoples with their own cultures, beliefs, customs.

When you lump sum a group, you say they aren’t worthy of learning more about their individual uniqueness. You are saying, even unconsciously that they are less than.

The Salish are not Seminoles, Apache are not Cherokee. Catholics are not Mormons. Muslims are not Jews, Hindus are not Maori.

When you try to change time honored definitions, you are marginalizing other traditions and the result of that is never good, and has been used as a vehicle for genocide and holocaust to happen.

The Catholic Church didn’t care about the unique cultures of the hundreds, if not thousands of peoples they slaughtered, coerced and beat out of their traditional ways as they forced them to become part of their amalgam and religious identity. They changed the definition of what it meant to be a member of any given tribe. They stole their language, they took their words. (Research mission schools to learn more).

Halstead, and the actions of those like him, by trying to change the words, the definitions, and worm into our traditions are in effect committing cultural and religious genocide against us, and don’t think for a minute that it’s not important.

Polytheism, Paganism, and Interfaith discussions should not be about stripping religious identity by trying to make it all the same or by redefining it entirely, it should be about coming together for the betterment of the human condition while celebrating our uniqueness.

One of the best examples of this is something I watched back in the 90s that has stayed with me all these years.

Babylon 5 on Earth Religions

5 thoughts on “Choose your words wisely, for they may grow up and change the world. On the marginalization of our religious traditions by Halstead and the dangers therein.

  1. ganglerisgrove

    Reblogged this on Gangleri's Grove and commented:
    So I indulged in a rather brutal metaphor in my last post (I’m a bit uncomfortable with it myself, but I am going to let it stand for now. It highlights how this polytheist at least feels about having to constantly defend our traditions against people like Halstead. Halstead is one person, but the game he is playing at in showing such blatant disrespect for the boundaries of our traditions is a very old one, one that led once to the destruction of our ways. I’m tired.

    Here is another article, by someone far cooler headed than I talking about why words matter.


  2. c

    I LOVE that you used that Babylon 5 clip to illustrate your point. That show, written by an actually RESPECTFUL atheist, handled interfaith dialogue and the cooperation of diverse peoples/beliefs masterfully. Maybe Halstead should go watch the series then come back to the table…

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Well I do enjoy my sci-fi, and JMS really was masterful with his show. [Fun trivia, JMS wrote Marvel’s Thor movie.] But this is how it’s done, you recognize each tradition, and by introducing them as such, they then have agency should there be questions, and the practitioners can then answer and speak to their own traditions, versus someone else shoving words in their mouth. I didn’t realize JMS was an atheist, so as you pointed out, that’s even more appropriate. 🙂


  3. Pingback: Apparently Polytheists are Now Fascists… – Wyrd Designs

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