Saturday, May 26, 2007

Why the Numbers Agenda?

In the ADF and FoDLA thread, Gothicdruid said

FoDLA is built largely on face-to-face instruction and worship (though there is a distance learning component to its Druid clergy training program). This is intentional and is a response to the issue I've experienced over more than a decade in practice of the Internet serving as a vehicle for would-be leaders to inflate their abilities (and backgrounds) by being rather different people online than IRL. Consequently, my expectation is that FoDLA is going to be a long time in developing. One of my intentions, frankly, was to avoid the "numbers agenda" that plagues many organizations and focus on appeal to sincere polytheists.

Gothicdruid brings up something I have never understood in Paganism: the "Numbers Agenda" and I'd like to discuss it here.

Many of the Pagans I know seem almost obsessed with the numbers game: how many Pagans there are; which Pagan religion is biggest, which local group is largest, etc. I've never understood this, especially as many of the Pagans with this numbers obsession come from religions that don't actively proselytize. Some of the most numbers-obsessed Pagans I've met come from religions that simple do not allow proselytization.

In its extreme form the Numbers Agenda leads some Pagans to complain about the large number of Pagan religions and loudly wish that all the non-Wiccan Pagan religionss would just come to their senses and become part of Wicca so Wicca would be larger and Paganism would be united. (Note: one gets the impression that if Nose-Picking Paganism were currently the largest Pagan religion, these folks would be demanding that all other Pagans unify as Nose-Picking Pagans instead of Wiccans.)

We had one person come on our old Delphi Board (or maybe it was on The Thicket?) who wanted every Pagan to convert one person to "Paganism" every year so "Paganism" would double in size each year until it would become the largest religion in the US.

In less extreme forms, it the Numbers Agenda leads Numbers Agenda Pagans to judge the "success" of even local Pagan groups mainly (if not solely) by their size: Coven A with 10 members is better in their eyes than Coven B with 7 members even though coven B has been working together for 6 years and coven A formed 3 months ago and has that four changes of leadership in that time. I've known Pagans who were obviously drawn to a smaller non-Wiccan religion decide to become Wiccan instead because it was the biggest Pagan religion and all those people can't be wrong.

Why the Numbers Agenda? Biggest doesn't mean best. Even if all Pagans were members of nice cleaned up form of Wicca designed no to offend conservatives with things like nudity or any hint of sex and there were several million Wiccans, folks like Pat Robertson would still proclaim Pagans as evil followers of Satan. A larger group does not mean better -- the Southern Baptist Convention, for example, is the largest Protestant group in the US, but a few outside that group think that means it is the best.

So please clue me in on the Numbers Agenda and why it is stressed by so many Pagans.

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