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Pagan or paganism? A petition to capitalize these words online.

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Should pagan have a capital letter P, when written by authors and journalists?

Authors and academics from the world of religious studies are circulating a new petition concerning this matter of online grammatical correctness. A small group of scholars are petitioning the Editors of the Associated Press Stylebook and the Chicago Manual of Style to start capitalizing the words pagan and paganism. These are the agencies responsible for grammatical style standardization for most of the online content written today.

The basic argument can be summed up in a quote that was sent as part of the petition itself.

"Pagan and Paganism are now the well-established chosen self-designations and internationally-recognized nominal identifiers of a defined religious community. The same terms are appropriately lower-case only when they refer to ancient “pagans” since, in that context, the term does not refer to a discrete movement or culture. In short, “Pagan” and “Paganism” now function much as “Jew,” “Judaism,” “Christian,” and “Christianity” do." —Graham Harvey, Contemporary Paganism, NYUP, 2nd edition 2011

A grammatical translation chart is even included, which compares how various religions are capitalized as proper names, nouns, and adjectives.

Religion: Christianity Judaism Islam Buddhism Hinduism Paganism

Adherent: Christian Jew Moslem Buddhist Hindu Pagan

Adjective: Christian Jewish Islamic Buddhist Hindu Pagan

This list could be expanded indefinitely for every religion in the world. As you can see, Paganism, like all faith traditions, should be capitalized.

The official petition can be viewed and signed currently at the change.org online webpage.

Originally organized by Oberon Zell from the Coalition of Scholars in Pagan Studies in Cotati, CA. The petition was sent via snail mail to the University of Chicago and the Associated Press, containing a total of 49 signatures from authors and academics, representing various belief systems. The signatory alumni includes esteemed scholars from modern paganism, such as Margot Adler, Selena Fox and Raymond Buckland.

Paganism is a collective representation of ideas, but perhaps not a religion itself. As one wise woman named Donna Bianca stated on the Pantheos website.

"Wicca is a religion; Thelema is a religion; Asatru is a religion; Druidry is a religion; etc. The term 'pagan' refers to any and all of those religions. Paganism is not a religion in and of itself; and I think that it's important for safeguarding the vibrant diversity of the pagan movement that we all keep in mind that paganism is not a religion."

This maybe a correct and justified argument, but probably not why the press agencies have failed to capitalize the words pagan and paganism. That is more likely to be, that most modern writers do not see paganism as a legitimate or accepted set of belief systems.

From the author's computer in Phoenix, AZ, this debate has brought up a new debate and something that will require greater time to ponder. Until then, perhaps the general public and online communities should start making up their own minds. Because very soon, it maybe time to put your caps lock on, whenever you type "Pagan" or "Paganism".

Blessed be.

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