A question I have pondered for a while and I can write personally about, since it has happened - and still continues to happen, largely through ignorance.
My story goes like this:
I was raised as a Roman Catholic, went through the motions of Communion and confirmation, confession, pasternoters and catechisms. When I was at school there was a distinction with the separate religions that I was aware of. If you weren't a Catholic you were looked down upon.
At 15, I began questioning the value of religion in my life. I was going out with a Scottish bloke who was a Protestant and he made it perfectly clear to me that Catholics and Protestants were enemies. I thought WTF, I didn't even know what the term Protestant meant, my life was sheltered in regards to what other religions were about.
At 19, I embarked on my spiritual path when I met a bloke who I now know to have been in the OTO, he certainly had a bent for Aleister Crowley. In the 26 years since, I have steadily moved towards the more traditional practises of my forebears. I have practised what would be referred to as Celtic Paganism for a number of years and I have since incorporated the more Norse Germanic practises - I am a dual traditions Heathen. Truth to tell, I have always had a fascination for the Faery (Fae or Sidhe) folk, myths, folklore and Polytheism.
About four years ago, I ran into a bit of trouble within a meditation group with whom I was working. A woman meditated about seeing a black bird, and another woman had coughed non-stop and needed to go to the bathroom. I psychically followed her with the intent of helping her. I received her permission to help her. I laid my hands on her and black smoke was coming out of her. When the meditation ended, I told her what I did to help her. Didn't that open a can of worms! I had no idea what was to come afterwards. I also told the woman who saw the blackbird that seeing one means to honour your shadow side, we're not all sweetness and light after all.
I got a phone call later that day from the woman who conducted the group, accusing me of being evil and in need of a priest! I was shattered at this, because it didn't occur to me that I had done any harm. I counted this woman as a friend! It was clear that these ladies spoke about me afterwards and formed this opinion. I confronted one of them the following day when I was out shopping. I apologised for the misunderstanding, to which she said it was okay. I said, well actually it isn't okay. I'd been accused of being something that I'm not and walked off. I realised soon after that I shouldn't be so worried about this, because I don't believe in God or the Devil, I don't adhere to the forces of good versus evil, I am simply a human who has the traits of positive and negative attributes.
In retrospect, this incident has been a blessing for me, because it reinforced for me the path that I'm now on. However, it has been one of the hardest lessons I've ever gone through. My family and I live in a small town and I feared the repercussions, because the community is largely Christian. I don't know of any other Pagans or Heathens like myself, and I wouldn't be at all surprised to find if they are around, they simply choose to keep their mouths shut.
In that time, the subject has been brought up in passing when I mention briefly what I am. All I ever seem to get from these ignorant people are "Isn't witchcraft evil?" or this one "Do you believe in the devil's mark 666, do you worship Satan?" blah blah blah. Then there is this kicker: "You're a White Witch, right?" Ye fucking Gods! I'm a Shaman, somebody who walks between this world and the otherworlds. I don't talk about this stuff in real life, except amongst those of us with whom I practise. One of my sisters tried to approach the matter recently and she asked in such a negative fashion (as I always get, regardless of who in the family) that I changed the subject. I couldn't be bothered explaining myself, and I don't.
This forum has been a great outlet for me to speak to those of like mind to myself. Personally, I don't give a shit as to what another person's religion is. What pisses me off is when someone comes along and preaches pages of sermons and bible passages (that I know back to front mind you!) as a way of suggesting that I'm a lost soul who needs to be steered back to the path of righteousness. A so-called friend of mine from years back tried this tactic with me, after she became a born again. I thought, okay that's fine for you but don't have a constant go at me for the path I choose. I don't speak to her any more. I'm not the type who goes around converting people to my religion. I'm actually secure enough in myself to know that it isn't necessary - you certainly don't make, let alone keep, any friends that way.
The one thing that annoys me about this forum right now is how some of the more hard line Christians think it's their god-given right to prattle on their nonsense about what they believe to be Heathenism - all the while throwing in the Christian diatribe - in the Heathen section! Honestly, what is your problem here? Do you see any of us converging on any of the Christian fora in an effort to spew out all the revisionist Heathen works like those few of you attempt to do in our fora? NO! You can ridicule our religion all you want, but you have no right to cross the bounds of hospitality when you approach our fora with such a negative attitude - along with an ignorant mindset - berating our beliefs and practises right under our bloody noses!
Now, since this is a religious persecution thread, I'm not worried in the least about the can of worms I'm about to open. This is the internet, and this forum has given me the springboard to allow myself - and others - the right to speak freely. I still am made to feel as if I have no real value to what I uphold in real life. By the way, those friends who I do have, they don't live around here. The two friends who I do have here that know, are of the Uniting Church and have no such qualms about what I do. This goes both ways, I am equally accepting of their faith. I know there are exceptions to the rule but they are few and far between. It's better for me to keep my mouth shut.
Comments are appreciated - badmouthing a person and firing personal insults aren't!