The Paradox of Tolerance provides, well… a paradox for inclusive heathens. First identified by Popper, the Paradox of Tolerance assumes a sliding scale of values with extremes, say ultra inclusive heathenry through the moderate middle to far right or exclusionary heathenry, with individual heathens sitting anywhere on the scale and potentially moving around it in either direction as their practice evolves and develops. Inclusive implies ‘to include’ as in, to include everyone, and that may be the argument that the far right stance uses to not only request equal consideration and space to express their own stance, but also to dismantle and devalue those who claim the word inclusive but refute the exclusionary heathen stance. ‘Ah, well, if you reject my stance and I’m a heathen’ they may respond ‘you’re not actually inclusive, are you?’
An inclusive heathen is more likely to claim the word inclusive than an exclusionary heathen is to claim exclusivity for themselves. There’s a range of exclusionary phrases and argument openers that can be identified, from ‘The faith is geography specific and so logically someone from outside that geography cannot truly follow it”, following the well-worn pattern of gatekeeping in ‘no true heathen’, to the more aggressively overt ‘Heathenism needs to be kept pure/ traditional/ true’. And that’s before we get to the sealioning ‘what about ism’ which begins and continues as ultra polite and logical seeming, but is designed to wear down through ‘reasonable’ well-practiced discourse until the exasperated inclusive party walks away and the questioner finds themselves validated in their approach. No-one is going to claim the word Nazi for themselves, not even a Nazi. Not even the original National Socialist Party of Germany from which the Neo-Nazi iedology springs.
I don’t want my faith to be tolerated. That implies long-suffering resignation. British Values speak of respect and tolerance, and putting the ‘these are hallmarks of a decent human being rather than British specific’ aside, I feel that faiths could be celebrated openly. I don’t want anyone to feel that I’m tolerating them, and not showing I value the whole of that human being, regardless of faith, culture, background or otherwise. And there lies the subtlety: I don’t tolerate those who express abhorrent exclusionary views. I’m intolerant of total blanket tolerance, I have shades of what views I will allow in my online spaces and in my personal practice. As a queer heathen it goes without saying that I have shade.
Add into the mix that some far-right groups choose to use heathen symbology without adhering to the faith and it all becomes a bit of a muddle. Discussions that one party can take as being based around faith, may quickly develop into being based in ideology or lifestyle, and become deliberately confusing with the extremist party using false logic and obfuscation to confuse, contradict and deny space to the inclusive party. I have no desire to go into exclusive heathen spaces, and I have no desire to engage with exclusive heathens in my own spaces, that takes emotional energy and time that I choose to dedicate elsewhere in practice of my faith. There is a point of argument that inclusive heathens have a duty to engage in dialogue with exclusive practitioners and help them see that inclusivity is a healthier, accepting way of celebrating all those who come to the faith. I have thought about this, and it does depend on whether that exclusive practitioner is wanting to make a change in their own practice. If so, they may be ready to open discourse into exploring inclusivity, if not, then any attempts at discourse and persuasion will ultimately result in their own stance being confirmed and validated. Some exclusive practitioners understand this, and are using the line of ‘wanting to make a change’ to open discourse with inclusive heathens when ultimately the aim is to validate their own path and reasoning, leaving the inclusive heathens emotionally tired from yet another unproductive exchange and warier of the next heathen that comes along wanting a conversation about ethics and inclusivity.
If we as inclusive heathens want exclusive heathens to see a new way of practicing the faith, one that we see as mindful and inclusive, the responsibility is on those exclusive heathens to do their own work around shifting their stance before we engage. Otherwise, the exclusive heathen will present at our door, request an explaination of why inclusivity is the better stance, and we end up worn out, wary of dialogue and defending our own stance automatically, even with each other. No-one has the right to demand an explaination of me, or to ask me to defend my own approach to faith, just as I don’t go into exclusionary heathen spaces and demand a point-by-point defence of their stance.
TL:DR? Nazis can get right in the sea.