The other day, I posted about Prof. Magliocco’s comments on the rise of pagan fundamentalism, as this was a topic posted about recently on The Wild Hunt. I’m very happy with the conversation that was generated here in the comments on my post, so thanks everyone for chiming in there!
Since that time, Prof. Magliocco has posted some corrections and clarifications of her viewpoints, which she did not feel Patrick Wolff correctly or accurately portrayed in his post on The Wild Hunt. Among her further statements are these:
I think there may have been an unintentional misrepresentation of what I actually said. My argument was that constructing a shared identity around belief is problematic, because belief is based on experience. If the gods choose to reveal themselves differently to different people, and if belief is changeable and emergent, as belief scholarship shows it to be, then shared identity needs to be based on something other than belief.
Let me also clarify that belief in and of itself is not “fundamentalist” ( a word I adopted polemically and with some reservations). It is the insistence that only one sort of belief is correct, and the demonization of those who disagree or whose experience is different, that can lead to a dogmatic rigidity that we might want to avoid.
Belief on its own can’t be fundamentalist, unless that belief is something like “Anyone who doesn’t believe like us is evil and trying to destroy us.” It’s *attitudes* around belief that can become rigid and dogmatic. To be very clear, my talk NEVER labeled particular historical or theological beliefs as “fundamentalist.”
So, there you have it. And–thank all the gods!–there is no indication in Prof. Magliocco’s clarified remarks of the easy assumption (which has been too common in a lot of pagan contexts in the aftermath of recent discussions) of assuming that “any belief = fundamentalism.”
I apologize for being too quick to assume the worst in my earlier post, along the lines of what I’ve been hearing for the past few weeks (including the accusation that I’m a “Nazi fundamentalist”)…it’s not uncommon for those who have been repeatedly hurt in certain ways to become hyper-vigilant, even when it is not necessary to be so.
Again, thank you everyone for commenting here–as always!–and for keeping the discussion at the present blog pretty respectful and non-abusive.
And, while I’m thinking of it: there’s another issue that I’ve heard come up around some of the fundamentalist accusations over the past few weeks, which could use some more nuance. While I can’t remember everywhere that I’ve seen this, nor who said it, I’ve heard it stated that syncretism and syncretists can’t be fundamentalists. Some have said this in my direction to indicate that they’d never consider me a fundamentalist since I am such an avowed, avid, and advocate of the syncretist theological position. I appreciate the effort of clearing me of such charges! ;)
But, I’d like to argue, conversely, that syncretists CAN be fundamentalists, and I’ve seen it happen on many occasions. I think this is a failure of what syncretism is, or could be under the best of circumstances, but it does occur. Let me give you a few examples.
There are many people who say that Thoth, Mercury, and Hermes are “the same,” and that’s the end of the story, because they’re all gods associated with words and magic. Rather than syncretism being used in a translational sense, it’s being used in an equative sense, and an absolutist one at that. One can never convince people of this viewpoint that there is actually a difference between these individual deities, despite their varying cultures, manifestations, characteristics, and associations–and, no matter how many of them are shared, there are still differences.
Rather than understanding the implied “is” in all statements of theological syncretism as metaphorical rather than literal–”Zeus-Ammon” thus being “Zeus is Ammon,” meaning that “Zeus is similar to Ammon” instead of “Zeus and Ammon are one being”–is taking syncretism literally, and thus it is a fundamentalist approach to the phenomenon. (And let’s ignore the cultic and theological reality for the moment that Zeus-Ammon was a specific cultic manifestation of syncretism, but that Zeus and Ammon individually were still worshipped and acknowledged as different elsewhere, and they only merged or were subsumed in one another at very particular sites and contexts…)
Those who push syncretism to reinforce a monistic viewpoint are often far more fundamentalist in their approach, with all the implications of being unwavering and utterly closed off and derisive of any other viewpoints going along with that term. I have encountered them before, and I suspect I will again.
So, in any case, just some further food for thought on these matters.