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Randy Cassingham

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bullet  Spawn of Satan

I’m “anti-Christian” again (darn it!) — according to a few Catholic readers, anyway. I refer to the story in the 28 July 2002 issue about the fastest-growing religion in Australia:

Toil and Trouble

The fastest-growing religion in Australia is Witchcraft, census officials say, and the state of Victoria is considering repealing a 1966 law banning the practice of it and similar religions, such as Paganism. Census figures indicate that in the last six years, the number of witches has more than quadrupled to 9,000, and the number of pagans has more than doubled to 10,632, while most Christian denominations have seen decreases in followers. “I’d be appalled if [repealing the law] implies some sort of approval,” says Monsignor Peter J. Elliot of the local Catholic Archdiocese. “I think it reflects the collapse of values and sanity in our society that this mishmash of superstition and fraud is to be recognized.” (Melbourne Herald Sun) ...Funny, that’s just what the witches say about Catholicism.

The replies came from three main types: Wiccans and Pagans who appreciated hearing something balanced about their beliefs, hypocrites who complained without seeing the irony behind their complaints, and readers who liked the story, but thought I’d get complaints about it. There were only four complaints, though, which I think represents some good progress! My main reply to the complaints was summarized last year in my “antichrist” essay (and my main point is summarized in my “religious freedom” essay), so none of that will be repeated here.

Bambi in Manitoba, Canada, represents the first type: “Thank you for your comment. As a Wiccan, I have experienced prejudice and disrespect from friends, family, and strangers alike. I have been told that I'll 'burn in hell' (unlikely since not only do Wiccans not believe in a hell, I own a set of your GOOHF cards!), it's just a 'phase', and (my personal favourite) it's a 'cult'. By definition, a cult is a faddish devotion to a person, movement, object, or idea. As paganism predates all recognized organized religions, I'd say that safely omits Paganism/Wicca from the 'fad' list of religions. Although, if I were [Catholic], I'd take a good long look at that Pope. :-) ”

An example of the second type, from Steve in Missouri: “I figure you're going to get a lot of hate mail over this one, so I thought I should write a 'praise mail' for it -- as a practicing Catholic. I recently dealt with a number of (for lack of a better word) uber-Catholics online who took the idea of sacramentals (physical objects, such as rosaries, holy water, and scapulars, which are supposed to serve as physical focuses to help remind us of God's presence in the world) to a disturbing level. Suggestions to sneakily put 'green scapulars' and medals of various saints in non-Catholic's homes to get them to convert (as one example) were commonplace, and reminded me a lot of some of the Wiccan (and other pagan) 'occult spells' I've seen -- almost to the point of 'voodoo'. So I can understand exactly where you're coming from here, and applaud you for pointing out the hypocrisy that can often come about when matters of religious belief come up.”

Cathy in Texas writes: “I can't BELIEVE you had the chutzpah to print that tagline. That was HILARIOUS!! I must simply grin and pay you homage, in realization that you are all too aware of the torrent of email, over-stuffed with religious self-righteous indignation, that it is going to generate. I can hardly wait for the edition in which you quote a few of the 'gems' you are going to receive. Most often, those emails of religious ire are even more entertaining than the original story!”

OK, Cathy, you asked for it! Jerry in Georgia sputtered: “You have no respect for the Catholic religion. Therefore, you have no respect for me. Goodbye. Forever. Maybe you will have a bunch of godless goons to entertain. Maybe you will be popular when the Antichrist takes over. An offical [sic] unsubscribe to Randy for insensitivy [sic] to Catholics. 4 year subscriber, Jerry.”

If Jerry can’t grasp the concept after reading my stories over a four-year span, he’s a lost cause. But like the rest of you, I’ll wear that “goon” badge proudly.

And Paul in Massachusetts complained, “Just read the article about paganism etc....I didn't appreciate your anti-Catholic snide remark about Catholic belief being superstitious....I failed to see any reference ...to say...Anglicans (same beliefs) ...Episcopalians (same beleifs)....Orthodox ..(same beliegs)....I'm just tired of people feeling that they can insult us and our beliefs without being called on it...." (All “...”s and spellings from original.)

Well, Paul, one reaps what one sows, eh? No Anglicans stepped up to call the Wiccans names, so they’re beside the point. Same for Episcopalians or Orthodox Anybodies. Only a Catholic was quoted being incredibly nasty to people who have done him no harm. What I did was not make a “snide, anti-Catholic remark,” I rather held up a mirror. If you think the Monsignor’s words are vile when applied to Catholics, congratulations: you’re half-way to understanding the point I was making; those words are just as vile when used to express discriminatory intolerance of any other religion. If what you saw in that mirror was ugly or challenges your faith, and yet you agree with the Monsignor’s words — that says a lot about you, and the Monsignor. Virtually everyone else’s eyes were open wide enough to “get” that point the first time around! Even, as Steve points out above, Catholics.

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22 Comments on This Entry

All comments in this blog are reviewed prior to being published. Spammers: don't waste your time. The posting criteria are simple: if a comment is worth visitors' time to read, it's approved. If not, it's not.


Posted by Devin, Philadelphia on April 21, 2007:

Many of these people becoming Witches have done so after leaving Christianity. Why? Because people like the Monsignor drive them away. The act of "hating in Jesus' name" is the foremost reason why Paganism gains a million or so converts every year. I myself believe that most Christians love their neighbors and don't mind us Pagans being around, but I wish those good Christians would be a bit more vocal in denouncing the hypocrites among them.

Posted by Richard (Ontario, Canada) on April 22, 2007:

If your readers are suggesting you are anti-Christian, then I suggest you follow the bible and support the creationists in all their wisdom. Be more Christian than they are by not picking and choosing what verses of the bible to accept as truth, but demand total following of the Word. That includes teaching the earth is flat, the sky is a dome held up by 4 pillars at the 4 corners of the earth, life begins at first breath not conception, women are lesser creatures than men and that children under a year old are not worth anything.

Kind of destroys the old "women and children first" philosophy in a rescue. There are many more "facts" in the bible but these ought to get the bible thumpers stammering.

---

Yeah, I did a similar exercise in this section of my "anti-Christian" rant in response to such silliness. It was a lot of fun. -rc

Posted by Andy, Mission Viejo, CA on May 15, 2007:

I'm also proud to be a "godless goon"!

Posted by Mike from Dallas on May 20, 2007:

Here I am, driving on a highway with a 60 mph speed limit. (What does this have to do with the article? Read on...) Now, the speed limit is 60 but I'm doing 70. And I've got traffic passing ME! What do I do? Complain how this lawlessness has GOT to stop? (Notice I'm also speeding, just not as 'bad' as the others.) Why should I get upset that they might be getting away with something? The cops will issue tickets to them before me because they'll hit the speed traps faster.

I think that's why some vocal church groups are so upset about the actions of others. It deflects attention from their OWN deficiencies.

Posted by Zach, Portland OR on May 20, 2007:

Let me get this straight. Peter Elliot gets upset over what he sees as a "mishmash of superstition and fraud" while he adheres to a religion based on human sacrifice and ritualized cannibalism that's stolen it's most coveted holy days from, by Pete's own admission, a cult based on a "mishmash of superstition and fraud"?

Is there a doctor in the house? This man is suffering from a severe case of intellectual vertigo.

Posted by Art, Oregon on August 24, 2007:

The Monsignor is WAY out of line in calling the pot black, as he has apprenticed himself to a cult of the worst kind and one with one of the bloodiest histories on record. His faith is based on ignorance, guilt, denial, violence, and great wealth. It's no wonder there are so many apostates.

Why is it there is always enough religion to make people hate each other, but never enough to make them love one another?

A group of Catholic Priests has written a book: "No Child's Behind Will Be Left."

Posted by Frank - Albuquerque, NM on August 25, 2007:

I am a Christian and have been for most of my life. I did, however, "stray" for a while and got into Witchcraft for about a year. I had had a lot of misconceptions about it.

I decided it wasn't for me, but I did learn that Wicca is NOT devil worship. Actually, I felt it was very similar to Christianity. They cast spells and perform rituals to invoke the blessings of the god they choose to worship. It was actually very much like prayer. While I do not agree with Wicca, I also do not think they should be burned at the stake. As I recall, one of their catch phrases was 'Do as you will, but harm none'. I am glad I took the time to learn a little about Wicca. Everyone I met was "good people" and seeking the truth just like everyone else. While I am more at home with Christianity, I no longer fear Wiccans as being evil and worshiping Satan. I feel there is more common ground than most people realize.

Posted by Christi, Massachusetts on August 25, 2007:

Time for an Episcopalian to speak up, while I'm still considered to be an Anglican. I'm borrowing from Robin Williams "top ten list." We allow people to bring their brains to church and to use them there. We have all of the pageantry and none of the guilt. We indulge in pew aerobics and teach the fine art of book juggling. AND for good measure, we don't consider ourselves to have the same beliefs as Roman Catholics. I am delighted to be a goon who believes in God. Thanks Randy. Wish I'd read this saga a couple of months ago.

Posted by Peter in Florida on August 25, 2007:

In response to Randy's comments 'a Catholic was quoted being incredibly nasty to people who have done him no harm.' I don't think a fundamental disagreement with the tenants of Wiccan religion is 'incredibly nasty' or intolerant. Maybe he's right about the superstition and fraud. Perhaps he has a library of data and documentation to back up his claims. In any case he should be able to express his opinions all he wants without being labeled as intolerant or hypocritical. Perhaps he could have been a little more tactful in the way he expressed himself. However, reactionary arguments never seem to help the discussion, as 'True' has repeatedly argued for in the past.

Likewise, I don't think it's wrong to hold the Monsignor to his own standards by suggesting some practices of Catholicism are based on superstition or fraud as long as it can be backed up with some citation. BTW, I'd like to see Zach's reference for 'a religion based on human sacrifice and ritualized cannibalism.' That's stretching the scripture a little far.

---

"I think it reflects the collapse of values and sanity in our society that this mishmash of superstition and fraud is to be recognized." I find that pretty nasty -- as did several Christians when I suggested that's what Wiccans thought of them. Your opinion may differ. -rc

Posted by Paul - Bradenton, FL on August 25, 2007:

I am Christian (and a former Roman Catholic who went to parochial school). Yet I include among my friends a Wiccan, a Pagan couple, and more than a few Buddhists. They all have one thing in common. They are all "good people".

A word to Monsignor Elliot: Those who live in glass houses (especially stained glass houses) should not throw stones.

Posted by Colin in Jerusalem on August 25, 2007:

Peter in Florida wrote: "BTW, I'd like to see Zach's reference for 'a religion based on human sacrifice and ritualized cannibalism.' That's stretching the scripture a little far."

Even I know that he is referring to the Christian belief that Jesus was sacrificed for their sins and the Catholic belief that wafer and wine are transformed to the body and blood of Christ.

Thus, the basis of human sacrifice and ritualized cannibalism.

Posted by Vern, Gold Coast Australia on August 25, 2007:

I love my 1945 Websters Dictionary which differentiates between catholic and Catholic. The Catholic and all other religions prey on the inherent fear of death by promising an eternal life if the "correct" ideology is obeted. I sometimes wonder what percentage of priests, vicars, bishops, rabbis, mullahs etc. actually believe what they preach. A lot of them don't behave as their followers are asked to do.

Posted by Jennifer, China on August 26, 2007:

EVERYONE is going to have an opinion, especially where religion is involved. have no fear though, when the flying spaghetti monster shows itself, we'll all know where our meatballs belong!

---

For those who have no idea what Jennifer is talking about, there is of course a web site for the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. -rc

Posted by Tim, Eastern Canada on August 26, 2007:

What surprises me is that, as late as 1966, a state in a country like Australia saw fit to ban "witchcraft" and "paganism". In most of the western world at that time, legislatures were repealing such 16th century laws still on the books. What punishment does the law provide for offenders, anyway -- burning at the stake or stoning to death? Or is it milder and just requires a turn on the ducking stool?

Have there been many recent convictions?

Posted by Janice in Calgary, Canada on August 27, 2007:

As the mother of a Wiccan priest but also myself a Christian, the ignorance of the general population never ceases to amaze me! The whole point here is about tolerance - everyone is entitled to their own beliefs!!

Thank you for your eternal intent to make us all think!!

Posted by Jennifer, A small town in GA on August 27, 2007:

I am a chaos mage and a Discordian who was raised a Protestant and has Catholic relatives. I am also a history major at my local college.

I became pagan because I found it hard to hold faith in a belief system which is itself a "mishmash" of canon, some of which contradicts itself; in addition to the many versions of the Bible, you've also got the non-canonical books such as the Gnostic Gospels found at Nag Hamadi. My personal experience is that many preachers are dumbfounded when a parishioner approaches the text from a historiographic perspective and attempts to reconcile the inaccuracies by using logic and research. I have felt unwelcome at many a church because I've proposed that it's not that God's word is not necessarily infallible, but that it's imperfect humans with imperfect knowledge who misunderstood what their deity was trying to tell them. It was as though it didn't matter WHY I thought the text was wrong in places; it was the very fact that I was questioning it at all.

As far as the article is concerned, Monsignor Elliot needs to go back to seminary and focus on critical reading, etymology, and biblical history.

FTA: "I think it reflects the collapse of values and sanity in our society that this mishmash of superstition and fraud is to be recognized."

I have in front of me the Harper Collins Study Bible, in the New Revised Standard Version (ed. Wayne Meeks, c. 1993). Exodus 20:2-3 reads:

"I am the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery; you shall have no other gods before me."

Critical reading time: If there is, in fact, only one deity in the entire universe, why would this deity acknowledge the presence of others by instructing His chosen people to not worship them? Why not instead inform them that the reason Pharaoh's gods were ineffective was because they did not exist?

The footnote for Ex 20:2 refers one to another footnote for Ex 12:12 (emphasis mine):

"By causing so severe a catastrophe in Egypt [the death of the Firstborn], the Lord, who has sought acknowledgment among the Egyptians, defeats Egypt's gods, who, like Pharaoh's magicians, prove powerless. Deities other than the Lord are assumed to exist, even if they are ineffectual. . ."

If someone chooses to worship one of these "lesser" gods, that's their business. It doesn't make one any more superstitious than someone who worships the Abrahamic god, and according to the Abrahamic god's own words, nor does it constitute fraud to do so. For my own part, I acknowledge the presence of all deities (including the Flying Spaghetti Monster!) and while I worship none of them, I do invite them around for scones and tea every so often. If I had a time machine, one of the first people I'd visit would be Jesus of Nazareth; in addition to being a historically intriguing figure, I imagine it'd be a great time to sit and have a drink with him while shooting the breeze. Of course, I'd have to find a copy of "Aramaic for Morons" so we could communicate properly . . . *grin*

As for the "collapse of values", I live in a predominantly Christian town and I am the only one I know here who brings a loaf of bread and jars of peanut butter and jelly to work so as to distribute food to the homeless and hungry who come in begging for something to eat. When I go on holiday I hand out blankets and food to the homeless each time I stop along the interstate. When someone needs a friendly ear, I listen. I play with babies, I pet kittens, and I render first aid to injured people. My refusal to follow the tenets of Hypochristianity does not make me a bad person. It's too bad that some people like the Monsignor are so invested in the garnish instead of the meat & potatoes, because they're missing out on a lot of good stuff.

Posted by Tim, Georgia on August 28, 2007:

I love studying religions, and I love Wiccans. Their beliefs are peace-loving and they tend to be pretty fun to be around, but it's always a personal annoyance that so many Wiccans equate themselves with primeval paganism. Wicca is a baby religion invented in the same century as Scientology. Sure it may incorporate elements of ancient paganism, but it, like many religions, is a decidedly modern mish-mash of beliefs, not an ancient mystery. Churches are ridiculous for equating Wicca with witchcraft, but the occasional Wiccan can be just as ridiculous for equating themselves with witchcraft and even older pagan tradition.

Posted by Laurence, Sussex, England on August 28, 2007:

I am a practising Christian and former Catholic. I also have great respect for Wicca, which is not incompatible with Christianity in may ways.

I feel the Monsignor should look at his own house before criticising others. It was precisely intolerant attitudes like that that kept me away from faith in Jesus for thirty years.

Posted by John, Michigan on August 28, 2007:

I find that when it comes to religion (and many other things as well) there are two kinds of folks:

Folks who are strong in their faith, Will very likely enjoy the joke

Folks who are weak in the faith will be insulted.

It's all the mind of the reader. I've not seen anything you posted that I'd object to. Though I've sure had trouble staying in my chair a few times.

---

No objections to anything?! Huh. I'll have to try harder. -rc

Posted by Mike, Upstate New York on August 29, 2007:

Until I read Tim-from-Georgia's comment about Wicca, I thought it was just a New Age name for witchcraft. So I went looking: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wicca tells us that it is and it isn't. The name was apparently popularized in 1954 by a man who claimed spiritual ancestry in the ancient practice of witchcraft. I wonder how many who call themselves Wiccans know this history? I wonder if it matters to them, or to us?

"If Christ were here now there is one thing he would not be -- a Christian." (Mark Twain / 1835-1910 / Notebook)

Posted by Megan Luck, West Hills Ca. on August 30, 2007:

I am a Baptist Christian and I agree that there are those that are strong in their faith and can generally take a joke while those that are not strong in their faith feel attacked by such comments. Paganism has definitely been around for much longer then Christianity and has unfortunately been given a bad rap and mixed in with devil worship and the much feared "witchcraft". I do not know enough about the latter except to say that one can easily be drawn into far more dangerous territory if not careful.

Being of Welsh ancestry, I have studied the history of Paganism and it is hardly anything like voodoo or witchcraft which can bring out some bad consequences which easily get out of control. All I know is that I personally would never choose to practice witchcraft or voodoo because it conflicts with my beliefs but I do know that just because somebody doesn't believe in hell doesn't mean you won't end up there. It is not a mere state of mind but an actual place where God sent Satan and his fellow fallen angels.

The universe is huge and saying that something does not exist simply because you can't see it or believe it does not make it so.

Posted by Chris in McLean, VA on September 4, 2007:

The last time I checked, we're all made of mostly water, have the same salinity as the ocean, and occupy a space on this planet for a fraction of time. Maybe if we stopped arguing over whose heaven is better and whose hell is worse, we as HUMAN BEINGS could accomplish something worth remembering, like eradicating disease or exploring space. Oh wait, that might take time from daily prayers and holy wars! Geez, we so need to lighten up.

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