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Virtually every pagan I know that has made their religion public (or had someone find out about it) has had to deal with some type of intolerance at one time or another. Of course, we arenít the only ones, many people who follow non-mainstream religions have to deal with it. So do Atheists and Agnostics.

Of course, the fact that itís common does not make it right. I personally feel that every single person on this planet has the right to believe whatever they like. It is no oneís business but their own. Hating someone because of their personal beliefs is like hating someone because of their race.

Hereís some ideas on what to do about intolerance:
Start with yourself: The best way for you to help fight intolerance is to make sure you arenít guilty of it yourself. I believe virtually everyone at one time or another is guilty of it. You get back what you give, and if you expect people to be tolerant of your beliefs, you need to be tolerant as well.
Education: I used to not really understand why anyone would be intolerant. I couldnít figure out why anyone would care what another person believes. It has no effect on them. Then, I realized that people hate others with religious beliefs that differ from their own for the same reason some people hate people of races other than their own. People fear what is different, and they fear the unknown. And what they fear, they hate. This is why I believe education is so important. I think a good amount of the people that hate people of other religions donít really know anything about them and are just going on things theyíve heard.
Someone might argue that this is not always true, as some religions actually teach that anyone not believing in a certain deity will be punished. Christianity for example. I know lots of Christians. Some of them will not even speak to me because of my beliefs. And some have no problem with it. It all depends on the person and how they choose to interpret the verses. If someone has a narrow focus and just looks at one part, it could be interpreted as saying it is okay to hate someone of other religions. In order to do this, they would have to ignore all the verses against hating other people. And if a person were bigoted by nature wanting an excuse to hate someone, this is what they could do.

I have many friends who are Christians. They respect my beliefs, as I respect theirs. I do not impose my morals, values, or beliefs on them and they do not impose theirs on me.
On the same note, I also know people that hate me because I do not believe the same way they do. I do not regard them as representing their beliefs. Instead, I consider them bigots. In my opinion, bigots are mentally ill, and therefore should be disregarded. It is illogical to hold an entire religious structure responsible for the actions of a few people that have psychological issues and use religion as a means for justifying them.


Harassment: If someone harasses you for your beliefs, do not tolerate it. Do not let one incident slide. You are doing nothing wrong and no one has any right to bother you. If they appear to have misconceptions about your beliefs and practices (such as animal sacrifice and other nonsense) , educate them. If they refuse to listen, or if after you clear these misconceptions, they continue to put down your beliefs, you have 2 choices. You can agree to stay off the subject, or you can stay away from them entirely. You may end up choosing the latter if they refuse to stay off the subject. It can be a difficult decision, particularly if the person is a relative, or worse, an inlaw.

Personally, I feel that if a person persistently makes insulting comments about my religious beliefs despite the fact that I am not forcing them on anyone or even discussing them, then relative or not, I do not need that type of negative association. It was not difficult for me because I am not really all that close to my family. Some people are and canít bring themselves to do something like that, so it is really an individual choice.


If someone refuses to leave you alone, depending on the nature of the problem, you may want to contact you local law enforcement agency. You should also report any act of violence or the threat of any.
If the harrassment is by phone, call the phone company and report it. If it is online or by email, contact the person's ISP


One final word: if you are being harassed in your school or workplace, report it immediately. You do not have to accept harassment. If nothing is done to resolve the problem, contact an attorney.


Discrimination: If you feel at any time that you have been discriminated against because of your religion, you should contact an attorney immediately. Do not be afraid to stand up for your own rights. You should also contact the Alternative Religions Education Network. They may be able to refer you to other organizations that can help.


By standing up for your rights, you will not only be doing yourself a favor. You could potentially stop it from happening to another person as well.


A word of caution: Please make absolutely certain that you were discriminated against specifically because of your religion before you take action to that effect. If you didnít get a job because you werenít qualified, if your spouse got custody of your children because you are a substance abuser, if you were fired from your job for poor performance, DO NOT attempt to use accusations of religious discrimination as means to correct the situation. If you have any of the above problems, then you need to concentrate on correcting them and possibly seek some type of rehabilitation. There are people that have real problems. Donít waste someoneís time when it could better spent helping someone that actually has been discriminated against.


Please take intolerance seriously. Through the centuries, religious intolerance has been responsible for the torture and death of innocent men, women and children. And it is still at work today. Please do your part to help end it.


Links
Religious Harrassment at Work
AREN
Coalition For Religious Freedom

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This page is dedicated to Damien Echols