Paganistan: Notes from the Secret Commonwealth

In Which One Midwest Man-in-Black Confers, Converses & Otherwise Hob-Nobs with his Fellow Hob-Men (& -Women) Concerning the Sundry Ways of the Famed but Ill-Starred Tribe of Witches.

  • Home
    Home This is where you can find all the blog posts throughout the site.
  • Tags
    Tags Displays a list of tags that have been used in the blog.
  • Bloggers
    Bloggers Search for your favorite blogger from this site.
  • Login
    Login Login form

The Limits of Tolerance

Modern pagans pride ourselves on being a tolerant people.

In this we are wholly true to the ways of our ancestors, and it seems to me that we live up to this ideal often enough to claim it as one of the pagan virtues.

The dilemma arises when tolerance meets with intolerance, as the historic paganisms learned to their great disadvantage. Tolerance extended indefinitely must invariably end in ethnosuicide.

Tolerance may well be a virtue, but any virtue carried to extremes ceases to be virtuous. What, then, are the acceptable limits of tolerance? How much intolerance can we tolerate?

I puzzled the parameters of tolerance for years until I came across something that Isaac Bonewits wrote in 2006. Pagans, he says, "believe in freedom of worship and belief for all religious groups and individuals who are willing to grant us our freedoms in return" (Bonewits 175).

This seems to me both measured and reasonable, and I think that we can rightfully expand the thought.

We uphold the rights of others insofar—and only insofar—as they are willing to uphold our rights in return.

Tolerance, like respect, is a two-way street. As my father always says, everyone deserves respect until he (or she) proves otherwise.

Tolerant we may be, but our right to exist as pagans is simply not negotiable.

The alternative is suicide.


Isaac Bonewits, Bonewits's Essential Guide to Druidism (2006). Citadel Press.



Last modified on
Poet, scholar and storyteller Steven Posch was raised in the hardwood forests of western Pennsylvania by white-tailed deer. (That's the story, anyway.) He emigrated to Paganistan in 1979 and by sheer dint of personality has become one of Lake Country's foremost men-in-black. He is current keeper of the Minnesota Ooser.


  • Haley
    Haley Wednesday, 18 November 2015

    Thank you for this well put, thought provoking piece, Steven. You really have a way of getting the gears turning.

  • Please login first in order for you to submit comments

Additional information