Recently I was looking for an SEO (search engine optimization) service to help promote a blog post I had written about Wiccan tools and supplies. I found a freelancer, who advertised the service I was looking for and submitted my article to him.
Shortly afterwards, I got a very polite message back from him explaining that he couldn’t help me, because he was a Christian and his faith did not allow him to recognize or promote anything to do with Wicca or the occult. Here is the message:
“My dear friend , i am really sorry …but i cannot market your site.
Please do not be offended. But my faith refuses for me to promote or recognize anything that is related or has to do with the occult, witchcraft or wicca.
I myself am a studying theologian and Christian Minister in training.
Please accept my apology and consider a submission to this link below link that offers the exact same service as mine.
I will request you a refund ASAP
(name removed – let’s just call him ‘B’)
Was I offended? Not really, the email was so polite and apologetic that it would have been hard for me to be offended. ‘B’ wasn’t censuring me as such, since he was even recommending someone else to help me, he was simply stating that he felt bound by his religion not to work with me.
So what did I feel? Saddened a bit, but not surprised at this Christian take on Wicca and the occult, but mainly thoughtful. His email raised several questions for me.
I found it an interesting concept that an SEO person would refuse to promote various sites on what could be called moral grounds – given the variety of subjects and products on the Internet, and this led me to my first question:
1. What other topics would ‘B’ refuse to promote and how far does he go to ensure that sites do not conflict with his beliefs or personal morals? Would he promote a Jewish website, or a Muslim one? What about a gay site, or even, say, a celebrity one that talked about sex before marriage and perhaps promoted behavior that goes against what the church proscribes. I posted a brief note about this on twitter and a Pagan tweeter told me that a friend of theirs worked for a Christian company and said that they regularly turned away the ‘wrong’ sort of people.
This line of questioning brought me to my second question:
2. What did ‘B’ mean by saying that his faith disallowed him from ‘recognizing anything that is related with the occult, Witchcraft or Wicca.’ By refusing to recognize Wicca – does this mean he is saying that he does not believe in it, and therefore won’t promote it because he believes it to be misleading? Would he feel the same about other religions – i.e. that they are simply misguided versions of the truth.
Or does he/Christianity in fact think (as many Christians do) that Wicca is related to devil worship? (We know, of course, that it isn’t – and the irony is that not only do we not we believe in the devil but in fact this figure actually comes from Christianity not Paganism) … And if B’s religion tells him that it is unethical to promote my site – either because in Christianity’s view it is ‘bad’ or simply because it is ‘incorrect’ – does he apply this same system of judgment to other sites?
I wondered if ‘B’ looked into sites that promote a certain product and if he looked to see if the product was ethical, something he believed in, and something that his faith allowed him to promote. What if someone was promoting a health cure that was in fact a scam? How would he know without researching it, and if he did research it, did he really have time to do this for all the sites he promoted? What if someone was promoting say, a book, that was not a scam but perhaps badly written and a waste of money?
And this made me ask…
3. If I were offering SEO services – what, if anything, would I refuse to promote? After thinking about it I decided that in his position I would refuse to promote any site that was designed to incite hatred or violence of any kind. I would promote a Christian site, as long as it didn’t fall under those categories. On the other hand I wouldn’t promote something like scientology. Why? Because it seems to me to be a cult, that uses pseudo science and other techniques to con people into handing over their money.
At this point I had to recognize that I too would make judgments on the validity of other’s beliefs, and link that into my business practices. I know there is a big difference between Wicca and scientology, but perhaps ‘B’ doesn’t. On the other hand I have had some personal experience with scientology and Christianity, but I suspect that ‘B’ does not have knowledge or experience of Paganism.
(Scientology – I got roped into watching a ridiculous video about ‘dianetics’ – the theory that science fiction writer L Ron Hubbard came up with before scientology. They then gave me a totally inaccurate personality test designed to ensnare the sad and lonely, telling me I was depressed, angry and violent when I actually felt really happy and am rarely angry and never ever violent – then tried to sell me books at £30 a go.)
(Christianity – I was brought up a Catholic, went to a Catholic School and felt devoutly Catholic till about the age of 12 when I began to question many of what I see as the hypocrisies of Christianity, becoming atheist until I discovered Paganism at 14.)
Furthermore, unlike ‘B’, my judgment about Scientology was made based on my personal moral code, rather than dictated to me by my religion and this led me to my final question:
4. Should we blindly follow a religious code, or any other code that doesn’t come from our own sense of right and wrong? This is an ethical and philosophical question that has baffled people throughout the ages. Many have felt that if we all obey our own moral codes then people will end up doing what they like, and that a religious code can keep us all on the same path. But thinkers like philosopher Jean Paul Sartre rebelled against this, proposing existentialism, part of which explains that since every situation and person is unique, there is no ‘one size fits all’ morality, and that we need to use our minds and hearts to make the best decision for each case.
For me, this is clearly the best answer, and the one that I live my life by, and I would say that the majority of Pagans would do the same. Being an unorthodox religion (i.e. there is no formal written doctrine) there aren’t really any rules, although I think that most if not all Pagans would agree that there is an implicit understanding that you should try to be a good person, expressed by one of few written down ethical codes in Paganism ‘an’ it harm none, do what ye will’.
Wikipedia paraphrases Judy Harrow nicely ‘This is usually interpreted as a declaration of the freedom to act, along with the necessity of taking responsibility for what follows from one’s actions and minimizing harm to oneself and others.’
While this lack of formal ethics may worry some non Pagans, I would respond that Pagans do not need a religious prescription of ethics to make them be a good person, nor do they need the fear of going to hell or the hanging carrot of heaven to make them act conscionably. We all know what is right and wrong (even if at times we have differing opinions) and it is our responsibility to live as good people, regardless of what our religion tells us. If we fail to think for ourselves, and simply do what we are told, there is a danger that a great many wrongs will be committed – a scenario has that has played itself out over millennia through the many wars started in ‘God’s’ name.
Sticking to principles or religious discrimination? – Conclusion: After consideration, I don’t feel that B’s act was religious discrimination, perhaps due to the polite and apologetic way that he expressed his inability to work with me. I think that he was sticking to his principles – i.e. that of following his religious code, but I do feel that acting in this way is a worrying and potentially dangerous thing – particularly for a religious minister, and that ethically whilst we can use the principles of our religions and beliefs for guiding us, ultimately we should all think for ourselves, and act in a way that satisfies our conscience.
This article was first published by me on Witchvox.com and I’ve had loads of you email me to tell me your thoughts and experiences with discrimination. Interestingly many people who mailed me practice a kind of syncretic religion including both Christianity and Paganism. I’ve also had some worrying stories of discrimination in NYC and will be posting another post shortly at the request of a fellow Pagan.
Was religious discrimination or not? Comment and let me know your thoughts, and please do share your experiences of discrimination, whatever the cause so that we can fight it by raising awareness and (by hopefully) helping to create solidarity!
- Freedom of Religion Means ANY Religion and Your Assistance is Required (gwendolynndedanaan.wordpress.com)