One of the goals that Patchwork Interfaith has is to eradicate that fear. Yes, pagan faiths are different from the Abrahamic faiths. They're not horrible, however, anymore than all Christians are bombing clinics or all Jews are money pinching jewelers. Those are terrible, awful stereotypes that do nothing but cause harm, and they should be shed. The stereotype of the pagan or witch being evil or nasty or immoral should be lost, as well.
In the creation of the new Wiccan Tradition that I have brought about (White Winds, for those who would like to take a peek!), I have spent a lot of time thinking about what it means to be an Interfaith Minister and a Priestess. I've worked very long and hard to establish myself as a peaceable, open, and affirming minister in my community. Most people know I'm "different" in some way, but not everyone is fully aware that beneath my clerical robes, I'm a priestess as well. In fact, I've been a priestess for much, much longer than I've been a minister, and it's a large part of WHY I became a minister.
Interfaith, to me (and I hope to everyone) means all faiths, working together. What it doesn't mean is the intermingling of those faiths to create one big blob of spirituality that blends everything. There are times when it's appropriate to meld together two or more traditions and share a holiday or a celebration (Thanksgiving comes to mind as a time when I've seen some incredible interfaith work done!), but there are also distinct and unique celebrations within each separate religion. These need to be recognized. They need to be loved, cherished, and held up. As an Interfaith Minister, I don't want to see individual traditions and beliefs die; quite the opposite!
For me, God (Goddess, The All) is not a singular thing. I look at the Christian and Jewish holy writings and read, "So God created humankind in his own image; in the image of God he created him: male and female he created them." (Genesis 1:27) In some translations, it reads, "...in the image of them, they created them: male and female they created them." Translations are tricky things, and I think there's a world of difference between the first and the second, but both bring about an idea that God (at least in the Abrahamic traditions) is neither male nor female. If God had gender, then it would not have been likely for him (yes, it happens, I do use male gender pronouns when speaking of the Abrahamic God, because it is socially correct to do so and grammatically easier) to create male and female "in his likeness" or like him.
If we start from the premise that God (or Goddess, or The All, or the Many) is bigger than us, more complex, more intelligent even, then we can begin to think about how very large that is. God is BEFORE gender. Not neuter, because that is without gender, and is not what I'm talking about. God exists before gender becomes an issue. Everything else comes after that. God is, if you wish, the singularity, the thing from which all other things proceed.
Some religions like to see that essential beginning as female, because the idea of beginning life generally rests with the female. The pagan faiths are very much like that, They often refer to the Great Mother, or to the Mother Goddess who births the universe, in myth and poetry and liturgy. But the idea of The All being female is no more complete or correct than the idea that The All is male. Neither is a complete thought.
Interfaith worship, interfaith cooperation, and interfaith dialogue is the beginning of something exciting. When we open doors instead of closing them, when we are inclusive rather than exclusive, when we embrace people's differences and similarities alike, we make the world come alive. Statistics imply that organized religions are dying a slow death (there's a whole site dedicated to religious statistics, if you like that sort of thing), but that there is a general upsurge in "non-denominational churches" and "spirituality." Why would this be? It is happening because organized religion only provides spiritual sustenance for a small number of people, while groups like Patchwork Interfaith Ministries and Unitarian Universalism do so for much larger groups.
It's a fact that people crave social times. Church and synagogue have both been places of social interaction with a feel-good connection to them that includes what I call "moral fuzzies" (these are pseudo-religious or spiritual excuses that make something more palatable). There's nothing wrong with that, and churches and other religious groups provide a lot to both individuals and to larger groups. For instance, for a very long time, churches and synagogues were the two places you could go for money or food if you were destitute. This was (and is!) a wonderful community service that they are great at providing.
If you don't belong to a church or synagogue, though, how do you go about helping people in your community? There are a lot of places to do so, but none that are quite so good as a faith group. Why? Because of those "moral fuzzies" I mentioned before. When you go to church and donate, you generally know where the money is going. It's going to your parish or your community, perhaps not to a specific person you know but it's close to home. You know that when you take your kids to the park, you might have helped out some of the people there, and you feel great about it. As you should!
The pagan faiths don't have the organization (in most places; there are exceptions) or the larger community to do this kind of work. Groups like Patchwork, however, are cropping up all over the place. We're embracing everyone, and we're inviting people to donate resources and time. We don't judge you if you want to support a minority group of some kind. We don't judge you if you want to volunteer at a homeless shelter. We don't judge you if you would rather wrap toys for tots than ladle soup in a community kitchen. We just say thank you, and are glad of it.
So now that I've rambled across the muddied waters of faith and interfaith work and charity, I leave you to think about things on your own. As we go into the holiday season, with Hanukkah ongoing, Christmas and Yule still to come, and a dozen other holy days in between, spend some time contemplating religion and spirituality and community. If you belong to a spiritual community of some type, great! If not, why not, and how did you get where you are? Do you think you could benefit from a non-judgemental and accepting faith community?
Happy belated Thanksgiving, happy Hanukkah, and enjoy the Advent as we travel along!