Unfortunately, there is no getting around the current trend in the United States against Islam. This has been growing in spurts since 9/11; I remember a Pakistani friend of mine in Columbus, OH, having to replace the sign in front of his restaurant after 9/11 first occurred, because someone took it on him- or herself to break the sign in a show against Islam and Pakistan. Just recently, a bookstore I used to frequent, Isis Bookstore in Denver, CO, had its sign violated in a similar way after the attacks in France. In this latter case, the folks inside are Pagan, not Muslim, but the identification of ISIS for the Islamic State terrorists has culminated in a painful backlash for those following the Egyptian Goddess or associating with her. (I’ll probably say something about that tomorrow, though it’s not really PIE related.)
Every time I hear about someone trying to open a new mosque for the community, more of this problem shows up. On the one hand, I can understand the (albeit foolish) mindset these people have: there has been another attack by a “religious” terrorist group, and they cannot discern the religion from the terrorist. On the other hand, it is exactly this that is the problem: they do not educate themselves to know what Islam represents, where it comes from, and why these terrorists are considered evil within their own religion.
Christianity and Islam have one thing in common, if nothing else: they are both heavily influenced by both Judaism and Zoroastrianism. The world is not a series of bubbles keeping everything in their neat little place. Ideas and concepts, especially those of world-view, traveled with trade routes and refugees, were brought in with settlers, and brought back with armies. We can – with confidence – trace the similarities between Christianity and Zoroastrianism, and we can surmise where those similar traits entered into the modes of thought from which Christianity and Islam descended. Part of this is very important from a Proto-Indo-European perspective, because Zoroastrianism is largely an Indo-European religion.
Zoroastrianism was largely influenced by the Indo-Iranian system, essentially Persian polytheism, but had other influences: Atenism, Kemetic polytheism, even (to a very, very small degree) Greek systems. The religion emphasized peace and goodness through good works (“Good thoughts, good words, good deeds”). It was largely monotheistic (Ahura Mazda), and while it had a principle of evil (Angra Mainyu), it seems from my reading their devil, “Ahriman,” may have been a later addition or influence. We can easily see the similarities in this paragraph alone, but additional references include the purity of both water and fire, and the acknowledgement of a “Heaven” and a “Hell” (Judaism had “Sheol,” the hole, but it is fairly certain that this was an influence from either the Hellenic period or Zoroastrianism, and from various sources I have read didn’t really stick as a major part of the religion).
So, to a certain degree, Christianity and Islam owe much to the PIE umbrella, and we as Pagans owe one thing to these religions: the simple fact that they are currently showing us what could easily be our future as a religion. In fact, it has showed already some of our past, though not to the same degree. What do I mean by this?
Take, for example, the vitriol against a mosque being built, above, versus the media’s position on the Planned Parenthood shootings. I have heard plenty of counter-arguments that the shooter was robbing a bank, didn’t start at Planned Parenthood, whatever, doesn’t matter. The media took off with the story, and at the same time almost immediately agreed not to call him a “Christian Terrorist.” They refer to him as a lone gunman, someone who does not have a significant level of belief in his actions behind him. The fact is, neither the bombers in France nor this gunman are typical examples of the people of their religion. There are good people in any religion and there are, well, these idiots. Yet the narrative that the United States has seemed to latch on to is the idea that the terrorists in the Middle East represent Islam, but the terrorist right here at home is not indicative of Christianity.
Personally, I feel this is a failure in logic, but never mind that, for now. Imagine Islam being replaced in the previous paragraph, with Buddhism, with Shinto, or with Paganism. Couldn’t happen, you say? Already has. Crime is not endemic to one religion, because people are individuals, not numbers on a church membership roster. Those crimes can be blown out of proportion, and sometimes crimes can be inferred where there was no breaking of the law at all. All it takes is a few bad eggs, claiming to do their deeds in the name of the religion you follow, and if that religion isn’t held by the “majority,” you can expect that those who are of the primary religion will do the same thing they have done to others. In this case, treat the entire religion as evil, and use those crimes to back up their statements.
The entire point of this is, people have asked me why I am so outspoken against people ranting against Muslims, as I have nothing in common with that religion, am not a follower of that religion, and am not affected by the rants. The response to that is, I am affected. I am affected because these people are fellow human beings, and their religion does not dictate their behavior, only their world-view. I am affected because these people are being attacked because others who hold their world-view have been attacking targets and generally waging war on Western culture. I am affected because, if one idiot arises from among the many awesome Heathens, Celtic Reconstructionists, Druids, Hellenics, and Wiccans that I know, the person being attacked for his religion could be me.