A group of prominent neopagans and pagan scholars have sent a petition urging the Chicago Manual of Style (the style guide of choice for most US editors) and the AP Style Guide (used by newspapers) to change their usage regarding capitalizing pagan (to insist on capitalizing). I find this petition very problematic. I’ve written before on the issue of capitalizing or not: http://finnchuillsmast.wordpress.com/2013/10/05/why-i-dont-capitalize-pagan/
Here’s an excerpt from the petition:
Pagans seek attunement with nature and view humanity as a functional organ within the greater organism of Mother Earth (Gaea). Contemporary Pagans hearken to traditional and ancient pagan cultures, myths, and customs for inspiration and wisdom….
The Pagan community is worldwide, with millions of adherents in many countries. Moreover, increasing numbers of contemporary Hindus, First Nations activists, European reconstructionists, indigenous peoples, and other polytheists are accepting the term “Pagan” as a wide umbrella under which they all can gather, distinct from the monotheists and secularists. They are using it positively, not to mean “godless” or “lacking (true) religion.”
The whole thing can be found here:
But what seems clear here is an attempt to hegemonize a Wicca-centric view of paganism, even though polytheists, reconstructionists and even Hindus are marshaled in at one point for what feels like a feeble attempt at diversity. And I wonder who are the First Nation activists who are calling for this? Humanity is a “functional organ”? Very odd language that. Perhaps dysfunctional organ at this point in time.:-)
One can argue for or against whether a broad grouping of religions and spiritual practices should have a common reference term that is capitalized; on one hand there are Dharmic religions, on the other ‘animist’ and ‘indigenous’ are not capitalized, nor the term ‘folk religions’. But most importantly, I suspect that this push for capitalization will result in pushing reconstructionists and polytheists further away and privilege eclectic Wiccanate neo-paganism even more so.
The promoters also make much of “Paganism” being a “Movement”, but again the use of the singular asserts an attempt at rhetorically imposing a false unified identity. Movement isn’t usually defined in this context, and it’s unclear to what it really refers. Are Odinists, Reclaiming witches and Kemetic Orthodoxy in a movement together?
The reality is that Self-centered and magic- focused paths have little in common with reconstructed religions based on sacrificial liturgies and reciprocities between humans and the Others, other than historical accident. While there are those I respect who have signed on, I feel a mistake has been made, one that will finally perhaps force some of us who have clung to the pagan label as an emotionally resonant word to have to relinquish it (though, I still hope I’m wrong).
I’m interested in others thoughts on this. Do you agree or do you think I am making too much of a capital letter?