Deviance

February 20, 2014 at 12:39 pm 1 comment

One of the most important concepts in sociology in relation to modern Paganism(s) is that of social deviance. There’s a lot of argument over what “pagan” means but one commonality is that we are all deviant. Deviance means not following social norms– rules- whether official or unwritten.  That’s one reason some people do not like the word pagan, is because of its emphasis on deviance – difference from the Judeo/Christian/Islamic dominant paradigm.   Efforts to distance paganism from particular kinds of deviance are a defensive attempt to manage the stigma of being a member of a non-standard and sometimes misunderstood religion. Guess what- it doesn’t work. We will never be respectable or normal enough for some people.  We can learn a lot from the gay rights movement about this. The feminist movement tried to distance itself from lesbians (calling them the “lavender menace”) The Mattachine Society, an early gay rights group was founded by Harry Hay, a Communist. Later gay rights activists tried to distance themselves from communism. The Stonewall Riots were led by drag queens/kings, transgender and bisexual folk, only to later be swept under the rug and marginalized by gays and lesbian leaders of the movement.

Now, am I saying let’s be tolerant of all types of deviance? No. But when we don’t really have a cohesive community, that leaves us vulnerable to “anything goes”.  The solution is, as individuals we need to clarify our values and principles, and then find others who share those principles.  I share some of my values with polytheists, with atheists, with Christians. Some people who have otherwise similar beliefs and practices to me, have values that conflict with my own. Those are the sort of people I’m not interested in being in community with. At minimum, I live and let live, at best I try to engage in open dialogue and try to get them to come to a compromise or change their views. If this fails, and they are actively furthering negative values/agendas, I oppose them.

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Entry filed under: Concepts & Definitions, Pagan Communities, Sociology. Tags: , , , .

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