I am not ashamed to be Pagan. I am not embarrassed by my religion. If I were, then I would have left it a long time ago.
I am not ashamed by my belief in the gods, or spirits, or magic. I have worked healing and house blessings for non-Pagan friends who may or may not believe in what I do, but graciously allow me to do so because it is what I believe. I do this without any sense of shame or embarrassment, because why the hell would I participate in something I found shameful or embarrassing? Do I think these things encompass everything important there is to know or learn about Paganism, or any of the traditions that fall under that term? No.
But they are important to quite a few of us, myself included.
Annika Mongan writes on Patheos about why she is still a born-again Pagan, and I found real connection with what she says here:
We’re such a weird bunch that for once in my life I don’t feel like I’m the freak. In Pagan culture, I’m practically normal, and that’s to say something. I enjoy the freedom of expression and diversity within Witchcraft.
This is why it’s important to remain open to all aspects of Paganism. To not only not be ashamed or embarrassed by certain aspects of the religion you might not find as important as others, but to not be a jerk about the people who do find them important. Because everyone deserves to feel like they belong, and when someone has found that place, it is completely the work of a terrible person to try and destroy that sense of belonging. Especially if one does so for no other reason than they believe that other person to be wrong about their experiences.
Step back. It is not your place to tell others how they should feel or think about their experiences. As long as no one is hurt, it isn’t your business. Ever. Period. I will not argue this point anymore because I do not see it as negotiable. You either respect people’s beliefs and practices, or you’re an asshole.
It’s a “tolerance doesn’t mean tolerating intolerance” thing for me, you see.
I don’t care what someone believes. I don’t care if someone doesn’t believe. What matters to me is respectful discourse that honors everyone’s right to believe and practice in the way they see fit, that doesn’t purposefully harm another person. That includes not telling people what labels they can and can’t use for themselves. Don’t tell me I can’t be Pagan because I’m allergic to everything outside and can’t have a relationship with Nature. I’ll call myself Pagan if I feel the term fits, right up until I feel it doesn’t anymore.
That also includes being openly disrespectful to beliefs and practices that many Pagans and Polytheists find important and meaningful. Just don’t do it. It’s not nice, it’s not respectful, and it’s not helpful. If you have problems figuring out how to have a conversation with someone who believes something you don’t without trying to humiliate or embarrass them about their beliefs, convince them that they’re wrong about their beliefs, or otherwise try to take their beliefs from them, then you should politely extricate yourself from the conversation. This is the only respectful, helpful course of action.
What I’m saying here is I’m not ashamed of or embarrassed by who I am, what I believe, or how I express those beliefs, and I won’t let anyone try to convince me to be, and neither should anyone.