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Increase in Christian-Wiccan hatred

In recent years, there have been a growing number of verbal and physical attacks on Wiccans and other Neopagans by conservative Christians. The root cause of these attacks is religious intolerance, fueled by beliefs left over from the Burning Times when Witches and other heretics were exterminated by the Christian church. There are probably dozens of factors responsible for the current increase in conflict. Some are:

bulletBoth conservative Christians and Neopagans are experiencing a rapid growth in membership. Evangelical Christians are increasing about 5.4% per year. The growth rate of Wiccans is difficult to estimate, but appears to be much higher. 
bulletMany more Neopagans are coming out of the "closet" and going public with their faith, even though this decision carries strong personal dangers.
bulletDocumentaries by various media on Wicca are becoming more common. 
bulletSome politicians have found that attacking Wiccans is a useful method of gaining votes.  (U.S. Rep. Bob Barr of Georgia & Governor Mike Johanns of Nebraska are two examples).
bulletAlthough belief in widespread ritual abuse and Satanic ritual abuse has largely dissipated among the general public, it is still widely believed by conservative Christians, who often consider Wiccans and other Neopagans to be perpetrators of child abuse and murder.
bulletA perceived increase in school violence is increasing concern over gang-related clothing in schools. Many boards of education are adopting dress codes, some of which ban non-Christian religious jewelry. Wiccans are increasingly challenging this bigotry, both publicly and in the courts. These actions increase their visibility.

As time permits, we plan to listen to a variety of radio and television programs of a religious nature. We will document instances of religious hatred, ridicule, misrepresentation, misinformation etc. directed against Neopagans. This essay was written in 1999-SEP; we only have one example to date. 

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1999-SEP-18: Passages, an episode of "Adventures in Odyssey"

Focus on the Family 1 is one of the largest Fundamentalist Christian organizations in the world. They offer an enormous range of services, including Internet magazines, mailing lists, radio programs, radio PSAs, books, position papers, etc. One of their most popular services directed to children is a radio program called "Adventures in Odyssey." They broadcast one radio drama each weekday, with a separate series on the weekends. 2 They can be heard on many of the hundreds of conservative Christian radio stations throughout the U.S. 

Passages is a series of two Odyssey programs which were first broadcast on 1999-SEP-18/19 and and SEP-25/26. It is also available in printed form in many Evangelical Christian bookstores. The series is roughly patterned after a Biblical passage (Judges, chapters 6 to 8) which describes how Gideon fought some very successful battles against neighboring tribes. The episodes deal with two young teenagers, Alice and Timmy who were attending summer camp near Odyssey. Somehow, they were transported to another world or another dimension: a country called the "Northern Territory of Merus." This was a land similar to the American west circa 1880 CE. Merus was in the middle of a religious war between worshipers of "the unseen one" (later identified as God) and Pagans.  Some distressing messages taught by the first episode of Passages were:
Content of the first episode Positive and negative messages
Throughout the episode, the Adrians, who follow a Pagan religion, are portrayed as evil terrorists. They are portrayed as crude, barbaric, lawless, boorish, insensitive marauders and arsonists. They had invaded Merus, stolen farm animals, occupied the town and were trying to drive out the legitimate inhabitants. Meanwhile, the Theists are portrayed as gentle, honorable, soft-spoken, civilized, thoroughly decent, likeable individuals. Pagans are awful people: crude, immoral and unethical. Christians are nice people: gentle, moral and ethical.
Alice and Timmy meet an adult Theist called Fletcher. He relates that their God is angry at the original inhabitants of Merus because they allowed the Adrians to bring their Pagan gods into the country.  Pagans and other non-Christians should not be allowed equal freedom of religious worship, assembly or speech.
God creates a magnificent feast in Fletcher's cabin as a show of his power.  If you follow God, you will be amply rewarded.
Alice becomes a "messenger." Her eye color was brown but changed to blue and green. God speaks through her. She gives orders to Fletcher.  Channeling (once done only by New Agers, Shamans etc.), may be used by God.
God commands Fletcher to go into town and blow up the Pagan temple. Christians carry out God's will when they destroy Pagan property in terrorist acts. It is OK to destroy Pagan property and endanger the lives of Pagans.
Merus was once a great country, unified by a common faith in the "unseen one" -- (God) The presence of non-Christians in America creates religious diversity which is dangerous to the country's future greatness.
A Pagan arrests Timmy, without charging him with any crime, saying: "It's enough that I don't like the look of ya. Pagans have contempt for human rights and due process.
A group of Pagans appear. They are led by a priest who believes that Timmy is responsible for the destruction of the temple. They priest and the rest of the mob sound like vigilantes intent on lynching Timmy. Pagans have no respect for human life.


Content of the second episode Positive and negative messages
The Theists have a planning meeting. Alice produces a piece of paper that no knife or sword can cut. The message is that God will make them strong. If you have God on your side, you will have absolute protection and need not fear. Death tolls from natural disasters shows that such beliefs are naive.
Half of the potential soldiers go home. They select a small group from the rest If God is on your side, you do not need numbers. Again, a naive belief.
The Pagan army arrives nearby. Timmy & Fletcher creep into their camp and overhear some Pagans describing their troubling dreams about destruction. They abandon their post. Pagans are cowards.
The Theists attack and rout the Pagans   
The Theists want to crown Fletcher as king. He says that the unseen one (God) must be our ruler. A theocracy, rather than a democracy, is the optimal form of government.
Alice and Timmy return to the camp.  
Timmy later repented of his sins and trusted Jesus as Lord and Savior.  When Timmy died a year later, he went to heaven. Otherwise he would have been sent for eternal punishment in hell.

The messages being sent to children during the Passages series are profoundly disturbing. They teach:
bulletReligious hatred and misinformation of Pagans. 
bulletThat God's will is for Christians to destroy the property/lives of Pagans. 
bulletThat America will be strong only if Christianity has a complete monopoly. 
bulletReligious freedom should only be enjoyed by Christians.
bulletReligious diversity is evil.
bulletAs long as you feel that God is on your side, you can safely take great personal risks.
bulletA theocracy has a superior form of government than a monarchy or a democracy.
bulletGod so hates the vast majority of humanity that he will eternally punish people in hell if they follow the wrong religion.

The approximately 250,000 Neopagans in North America are the targets of this vicious propaganda. They are the only significant religious group identifying themselves as Pagans.  Some might view this type of hate radio as harmless. But past events have shown that when religious sources preach hatred against abortion providers, non-whites, religious minorities, etc., terrible things can happen. The group being targeted are often viewed by some members of a lunatic fringe as sub-human. Convinced that they are carrying out God's will, they may attack and sometimes kill the targeted group.

If the producers of Adventures in Odyssey had simply named the invaders as Adrians and not further identified them as Pagans, then the religious hatred generated by the program would at least have no identifiable group to home in on. But they elected to target Pagans specifically. Paganism is a significant religious group in North America -- larger than Buddhism, Unitarian Universalism, and a number of other religions.

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We were alarmed at the degree of religious hatred and intolerance exhibited by this radio program. We exchanged a few letters with Focus on the Family. We offered to give a talk on the topic of religious tolerance to their staff. They turned us down flat, saying (in part): "...thanks for your offer.  I trust you can understand that it would be counter-productive for us to forge a partnership at this point."

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Related essays

bulletAdventures in Odyssey program about fantasy role-playing games
bulletChristian anti-Wiccan hate sites on the Internet
bulletChristian radio programs exhibiting religious intolerance
bulletAnti-Wiccan hatred and misinformation
bulletChristian anti-Wiccan boycott of the Army

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bulletFocus on the Family has a web site at http://www.family.org/. Their Email address is mail@fotf.org 
bulletFocus on the Family's "Adventures in Odyssey" web site is at: http://www.broadcast.com/lightsource/ They have the current day's program available via RealPlayer. Programs that have been aired over the previous 30 days are also online in their archives.

Copyright 1997 to 2000, and 2002 Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
Latest essay update: 2002-MAY-16
Author: B.A. Robinson

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