27 January 2009

American Feelings About Wicca

John Morehead reports on a survey of American feelings about Wicca: Morehead's Musings: New Barna Survey on American Feelings About Wicca:
Among those who have heard of Wicca, nearly two-thirds (62%) described it as an organized form of witchcraft. Smaller proportions defined Wicca as a form of Satanism (7%) or as a religious cult (7%). About one-fifth (18%) said that although they were familiar with the name, they knew little or nothing about Wicca.

When asked to express their view of Wicca, 6% held a favorable view (2% very favorable and 4% somewhat favorable), and 52% held unfavorable views (7% somewhat unfavorable and 45% very unfavorable).

Perhaps the most intriguing response was from the remaining 43% who said they did not know what they thought of Wicca or had no particular opinion about it.

I'm a little puzzled about why the last point is so intriguing. If my opinion had been asked I would probably have answered that I had no particular opinion about it.

i would expect practitioners of a religion to have a favourable opinion about it, and I would expect militant atheists to have an unfavourable opinion about it, as they would have about any religion. But what more can one say?

I can see why sociological researchers might want to know, but it doesn't make it any easier to answer the question. Asking questions like that seems to imply that one must make moral judgements about everything, and assign it to categories of good or bad. Is that a peculiarly American thing, I wonder? In various conflicts around the world there seems to be a tendency, stronger in America than elsewhere, to know who the "good guys" and the "bad guys" are. In the recent conflict in South Ossetia, for example, some Americans, apparently following what they were told in American media, were absolutely convinced about the good guys and the bad guys, even though it was an area most knew very little about.

As a religion or worldview Wicca doesn't appeal to me, so I'm unlikely ever to become a practitioner. That means my view of it is not favourable, just as it is of any other religion I don't practise. But saying one's view of it is "unfavourable" seems to be heading into dangerous territory.


ThomasLB said...

I suppose if I were forced to have an opinion about Wicca that it would be favorable. At least they're trying to figure out the world, when so many people are happy to anesthetize themselves from it.

I think you are right about Americans and their compulsion to divide the world into good/bad. I did a short blog post about it here.

Yewtree said...

Although I am a Wiccan I can see that Wicca isn't perfect; there are things about it that I would change - but as it is non-creedal I am perfectly within my rights to change the way that I practise it; and I have made those changes in my practice.

I'm glad your position is neutral, Steve; but surely there must be religions that you approve of or disapprove of depending on how they affect their practitioners' lives?

For example, I disapprove of religions that proselytise, regard themselves as the One True Way, want to kill unbelievers, peddle penal substitution theology, condemn homosexuality, get worked up about pointless issues like reburial of ancient human remains, and generally give religion a bad name. If asked in a survey what I thought of any of these, I would have to say I disapproved.

@ Thomas LB: Thanks :)

Crushed said...

I'm not sure it's the sort of thing I think about too much. I guess I would define it as part of the modern neo-pagan revival and would generally opine that to describe it as witchcraft would not be incorrect.

As to a view on it, well I would say that I'm not sure in the Wicca form it does any harm, as most of those who follow it practice it.

Steve Hayes said...

Thomas LB and Yewtree

I disapprove of some practices of some adherents of some religions, but one can't blame a religion for the behaviour of its followers.

Where a practice is something I believe to be wrong or immoral and intimately bound up with the practice of the religion, that is something else, and probably deserves a separate discussion, and is not something that can easily be determined by a survey questionnaire.


Yes, some neopagans do describe themselves as witches (and some of those who do distinguish themselves from Wiccans). I too believe that it is not correct. But people are free to call themselves anything they like. They could start a religion and call its practitioners "serial killers" if they like -- but then they shouldn't be surprised if people misunderstand what they are about.


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