Society for the Anthropology of Religion
Volunteered - Oral Presentation Session
This paper presents a preliminary analysis of data collected from contemporary Neo-Pagans regarding risks of religious bias and discrimination as members of a religious minority in Texas. While Evangelical Christians hold significant sociopolitical power across the US, Texas is the focus of my investigation, because it is part of the US South, or Bible Belt, where conservative Christians continue to wield significant power and influence in both politics and everyday life. In such a climate, individuals with marked religious identities may face particularly strong social stigma and challenges as they struggle for social equity.
Most of my informants have largely employed the risk management strategy of “coming out of the broom closet” (revealing their Neo-Pagan identity), though a few participants were “out” to only a few individuals. My analysis reveals that Neo-Pagans in Texas have concerns and even intense anxieties about revealing their religious identities for fear of social stigma. Several informants described strong concerns and experiences of discrimination, including losing employment; and all of them reported concerns about and experiences with anti-Neo-Pagan bias, particularly regarding rejection by family or co-workers. Among the unexpected results are strong concerns about interactions with law enforcement, fears about stigma from mental health professionals, and (among the parents) anxieties about their children being bullied or harassed. Furthermore, many informants expressed that, while they tend to believe Neo-Pagans are on the road to social equity, the sociopolitical climate in the US after the election of President Trump has made revealing any non-Christian identity much riskier.