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Interfaith dialogue

Page history last edited by Yvonne 14 years ago

Basic assumptions


In order to function effectively, interfaith dialogue must have certain basic assumptions.


  • The participants must be genuinely interested in each other's traditions
  • There cannot be any attempt at evangelism or proselytising
  • Participants must explain where they personally are coming from; not put words in other people's mouths, or assume that other participants in the dialogue subscribe to every tenet of their faith tradition
  • Never compare your ideals with someone else's practices
  • If one of the parties to the dialogue has a bigger power-base than the other (e.g. being the established religion of the state), or if there has historically been conflict between the two religions, it is a good idea to involve a third party


What is the difference between interfaith dialogue, evangelism and proselytising?


  • Interfaith dialogue: Hello, I am a Pagan. I honour both the masculine and feminine Divine, and a multiplicity of deities immanent in the world. I would be interested to hear about your religion.
  • Evangelism: Hi, I'm a Pagan, and I'm here to tell you that the Goddess really loves you and is yearning to connect with you. She can make your life so much more meaningful.
  • Proselytising: Hi, I'm a Pagan, and I'm here to tell you that if you don't honour my specific vision of the Divine, the consequences will be disastrous (both cosmically and personally).


(The last 2 styles of communication are unlikely to be heard from Pagans, though you might get "all religions are one" type statements from a few Pagans, or "Jesus was a Pagan really". No. He wasn't. Really.)


Why would a Pagan want to engage in interfaith dialogue?


I engage in interfaith dialogue for a variety of reasons: partly because I want to help others to realise that Wicca and other Pagan traditions are valid spiritual paths and inform them about what we do, so that they realise we're not scary; partly because I want to learn about other faiths and respect their insights into the spiritual journey; and partly because I think interfaith dialogue promotes tolerance, understanding and harmony, and is the only way to resolve conflicts between different religions.


I do think, however, that the basis for interfaith dialogue has to be mutual respect, with no hidden or overt agenda of proselytising or evangelising. In listening to the other points of view in the dialogue, I should be open to them to the point of willingness to change my own position, but they shouldn't be trying to convert me. It's rather a paradox, but it's the only way to make it work.


Sometimes interfaith dialogue can be slow, and one is sometimes rebuffed by people who don't consider Paganism a "proper religion" - but patience is a virtue. It's precisely the people who are hostile to the ideas of interfaith and religious pluralism that most need to engage in interfaith dialogue; there's no point in "preaching to the converted", otherwise it just becomes a cosy little club. The whole point is to try to build a world where religions can co-exist peacefully, and if a whole tranche of religions fail to engage in interfaith dialogue, then the goal won't be achieved.


My position is that I would always encourage people to follow the spiritual path that is right for them. For me, the goal of the spiritual path is to transform the world by raising the consciousness of everyone; and whatever symbolism best represents that process for you - whatever speaks to your soul - is good. Only connect, as E M Forster said.


But I don't think that all denominations or all practices of all religions are equally valid; there are some really unpleasant practices and beliefs with disastrous consequences in many religions; but there is also good in all religions. Our task is to discern what is good, and work towards it together - offering constructive criticism rather than blame, and accepting criticism from others.


We now live in a globalised world where every religion has to rub shoulders with the others; we have to get along and learn from each other. No single religion will ever appeal to everyone in the world; each has different strengths and weaknesses, focusses on different issues, works in a different philosophical paradigm, and has different blind-spots. That's not to say that their truth claims are entirely irreconcilable, because they're not; just that diversity is a good and natural way for the human race to be.


Interfaith UK


Currently Interfaith UK does not include Pagans at a national level.  This is a great pity, but there are many Pagans represented in local interfaith groups.


Interfaith resources



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