Religion and the Broom Closet

When I came to Olin, I lost touch with a part of myself that used to be very important in my life, my religion. Practically from day one I heard people openly discriminating against religious people. My religion was not represented in the stand-up, diversity exercise in OIE. From then on, I never really got a chance to open up to people about that side of myself, because religion is something Olin students tend to shy away from talking about.

This has to change.

First of all, the discrimination against people who are religious has to stop. I have noticed this particularly with people of Christian or Catholic faiths. People see them as irrational, self-righteous, stupid, and ignorant for being part of their religion. And these ideas are all reactions to mainstream religions, not even to some of the more obscure religions. This itself is ignorance.

We have a relatively large population of Jewish people at Olin and I have noticed that everyone seems more accepting of Judaism. I think this stems from people viewing Judaism as secular, a culture more than a religion. This may be true for some or many Jews, but certainly not all. There are Jews at Olin who are religious, who believe in God, who practice Jewish traditions not just because they were brought up doing so, but because those traditions has deep spiritual meaning to them.

We as a community need to be able to have open, productive conversations about all aspects of life, including religion.

At Olin we try so hard to become great engineers, and great engineers can design for people of all religions, races, genders, sexualities, ages, etc. I feel like many people hold the belief that religious people can’t be scientists or engineers, but in fact there are some people who come to religion through science. Francis Collins was the leader of the Human Genome Project, and his book, The Language of God, describes how he became Christian because of the project. Pope Francis recently made a statement that the Big Bang Theory and Evolution are true and in line with the teachings of the Catholic church. He stated that “Evolution in nature is not inconsistent with the notion of creation, because evolution requires the creation of beings that evolve.” This belief may not be held by all Catholics, but it demonstrates how religion and science are not mutually exclusive.
We need to accept the fact that there are a number of people at Olin and in the greater tech community that believe in God, Goddess, many gods and goddesses, or in some higher power whether well-defined or not. I should not fear that people will think less of me if I am open about my religion, but that is how I have felt my entire time at Olin.

So here I am, writing to the whole school saying that I, Claire Barnes, am Pagan, more specifically, Wiccan. This article is about me, coming out of the proverbial broom closet.

Our culture and media perpetuate so many misconceptions of what Paganism and Wicca are; the words Pagan and Wiccan commonly evoke mental images of devil worshipping, curses, blood sacrifices, and flying around on broomsticks. I won’t go into the history of those stereotypes now, but I would be happy to discuss it with you if you want to hear my take on it.

Instead let me tell you what Paganism is to me – paganism is an umbrella term for any nature-centric religion. This is intentionally vague, because one of the main themes that Pagans believe is to practice what is right for you. There is no Bible, Torah, or Qur’ān of Paganism, no central book that defines the religion, and no figure of authority to preach it, so it is very different to each individual who identifies with it. I find great divinity in nature, which is the crux of Paganism; the rest is just details.
I won’t go into all the details here, but I just want to state that I do not sacrifice babies, virgins, or any animals. I do not worship any kind of devil, and I have never met a Pagan that even believes in any satanic figure. I cannot defy the laws of physics and trying to is not what my religion is about. I do not fly around on broomsticks or make love potions in cauldrons, though I can tell you a little about their symbolism as they relate to Paganism and Wicca.

A few other Oliners and I will be hosting a slightly belated Halloween/ Day of All Saints (or Samhain as it is referred to in some Pagan traditions) event at 8pm on November 4, so keep an eye on carpe if you are interested. I will try to host more events that showcase what Paganism is all about, and I encourage you to attend if only to create an open dialog about our beliefs.

Religion should not be a taboo topic. I challenge you to ask your friends about their spirituality and tell them about your personal beliefs. We should be open, understanding, and able to celebrate all of this diversity together as a community.

+ posts