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August 27, 2004

Scapegoating of Pagans Reveals Author’s Bias

As a neo-pagan, Wiccan and Druid for nearly 20 years, I feel compelled to respond to David Klinghoffer’s August 20 opinion column (“We Are All Pagans Now”).

Klinghoffer bemoans the loss of the undisputed dominance that monotheism, as personified in the Abrahamic faiths, has had over Western civilization for the last 1,500 years, citing the appearance of publicly worshipping pagans as a symptom of the general collapse of spiritual and moral values. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As cogent as his article was, he has made a common mistake when referring to the ethical and moral underpinnings of neo-paganism: that we are moral relativists who sail through life, changing our moral and ethical standards at our whim. Had he studied the matter more thoroughly, talked to some serious members of the neo-pagan community and investigated our beliefs even casually, he would have found this not to be the case. Pagans in general tend to have high ethical standards, as it is endemic to our beliefs and practices. While these standards are sometimes, if not often, at odds with the established Abrahamic faiths, they are not ideas foreign to Western civilization.

It is therefore somewhat galling that Klinghoffer uses Jerry Falwell’s infamous statement on neo-paganism’s spiritual responsibility for the current war against terrorism as a welcome word of caution about the dangers of our times. Considering that the parties involved are all monotheistic, it seems supremely ironic to scapegoat the neo-pagan community for the crimes committed on September 11, 2001, and since by all sides.

To my knowledge no polytheists were involved, directly or indirectly, in the fight — apart, that is, from a few brave and dedicated neo-pagans in America’s military forces who today have put themselves in harm’s way because their “moral relativism” made them patriotic and committed enough to American ideals to volunteer to do so.

If Klinghoffer is indeed that worried about us, I encourage him to look elsewhere for the cause of his complaint. We are not to blame. We are a minority religion immersed in a culture often unfriendly and ignorant of our true beliefs, leaving us open to frequent attack and persecution by the majority — a position I hope Klinghoffer can appreciate.

Terry Mancour

Arion the Blue, High Druid of Durham

Durham, N.C.

In the 10 years that I have interacted in the neo-pagan community, I have seen immoral behavior — no different than in any other community. But I also have seen wonderful acts of kindness, selflessness and justice, all based on moral codes that are very real to the people who live by them. I also have attended weeklong festivals with thousands of people in attendance, where nothing is ever stolen and where people are accepted in all colors, shapes and sizes.

Has opinion columnist David Klinghoffer ever spent time with neo-pagans? It’s a very harsh thing to accuse an entire suite of creeds to be devoid of morality when you seemingly base your opinion on a book of fiction and supposition about how people are living their lives. Intolerance and hate grow in the fertile soil of ignorance.

Klinghoffer seems to indicate that the only way we can defeat the rigid moral absolutism of Muslim fundamentalists is with an equally unbending moral absolutism based upon nebulous traditional norms. He might be interested to know that neo-pagans are disproportionately over-represented in the military.

So the person who may be preventing a fundamentalist Muslim victory, the person who is keeping you and me safe from this very real threat of Muslim fundamentalism, may be invoking his or her will to fight from Athena, or Thor, or any number of gods or goddesses, and not from Klinghoffer’s God.

Buck Shomo

Detroit, Mich.

Responding to Pearl’s Death a Public Issue

While the loss of a son is indeed a private grief, Daniel Pearl’s death is not only a private loss to his family (“Furor Grows Over Cheney Remarks on Pearl Murder,” August 20). To say that a particular party cannot mention Pearl’s death because such mention makes the death part of politics is disingenuous.

Pearl was killed, as were those who died in the September 11 terrorist attacks, in the war declared by Islamists on the West and on Jews. Pearl’s death already has become part of politics. The serious question before us is how to respond to those attacks, and that is a fair question for any party seeking to lead the United States.

Nancy Wallack

Toronto, Canada

Group Beyond Politics In Advocating for Israel

The August 13 Campaign Confidential column on Best for Israel obscured the essence of when it raised the issue of my board position with the pro-Republican Young Jewish Leadership political action committee (“‘Truth in Labeling?’ II”).

I explained quite clearly that Best for Israel is not anchored in partisan ideology. Best For Israel is proud to have in its midst, if not at its center, highly intelligent and diversely affiliated participants such as Democrat and university professor Steve Miller, as well as others.

Best for Israel presents a case for who we believe is best for Israel: President Bush. The president’s record and long-term commitment should speak for itself, but every candidate relies on his or her constituents for support and the free sharing of ideas.

It does not take a pundit or talking head to bring honor to the electoral process or facts to the people who wield the power, the voting public.

Often it does take committed, hard working, dynamic and educated people willing to put their name, affiliations and ideas on record for an honorable purpose: election of the strongest candidate to lead this nation.

Best for Israel is made up of hard working people who act not for personal gain but to accomplish a goal — people who still believe that voters, and not the media or multi-million dollar 527s like, should steer the future of this country. These committed people are not sidetracked by inflammatory reports that lack the substance of the real story: a new, educational Web site with far-reaching support and roots among free thinkers.

Regardless of the diverse leadership of Best for Israel, the information we present is not based on any partisan ideology; it is based on what we believe to be best for Israel.

Jeff Stier


Best for Israel

New York, N.Y.

Attacking Iran Won’t Bring Peace to Mideast

As an Iranian expatriate who doesn’t care much for the mullahs in Tehran, I say go for it and attack them, as opinion writer Alan Dershowitz believes should be permitted under international law (“Amend International Law To Allow Preemptive Strike on Iran,” August 20).

But does Dershowitz really believe that these actions ever will bring peace to Israel or to the Middle East?

Ten to 20 years from now, will Israel’s defenders advocate ever so loudly attacking Pakistan with tactical nuclear weapons, because Israel cannot sit idly by and wait for a nuclear holocaust to happen? This whole preemptive talk is nonsense.

Why can’t we just get rid of all these tired old leaders — on all sides — with views colored only by their warrior mentalities? Why can’t we have a real dialogue?

I know for a fact that we all want the same things in this world. I know for a fact that much of Islamic teachings and ideology have been borrowed from Judaism and Christianity. I can’t believe that we are really all that much different.

Ali Amiri

Via e-mail

Although I think, possibly unfairly, of opinion writer Alan Dershowitz as something of a showboat, I absolutely agree with his comments about Iran obtaining nuclear weapons.

This whole ominous situation would be much less dangerous if Europe weren’t in such a shameful posture of irresponsible appeasement toward both the religious and secular fascism of the Muslim world — and also, unfortunately, if President Bush hadn’t picked the wrong place, Iraq, to make a preemptive strike.

Just one question, though: How does Dershowitz suggest we go about amending international law?

Ron Thompson

Fairfax, Va.

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