I am an atheist when the wind is north-northwest.

I am an atheist north by northwest.

But when the wind is southerly, I know a deity from a deist.

If you were to tell me your god is a person like you, I would tell you I am an atheist.

But if you tell me you believe in no god, I will testify the world is full of them.

If you were to tell me there is only one true god, I would tell you I contain multitudes.

But if you tell me your gods are many, I will tell you I have faith in an unseen unity.

If you were to tell me my gods are just in my head, I would point to the earth and say, “Praise!”

But if you tell me your gods are real, I will point to your head and say, “Behold!”

If you were to tell me your god is good, I would offer to sell you some more.

But if you tell me your gods are dark, I will remind you of the words of the oracle: “Know thyself.”

If you were to tell me you don’t know about the gods, I would call you wise.

But if you tell me you don’t care about the gods, I will not call you at all.

What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy

American Gods is a novel by Neil Gaiman, which has now been made into a (really good) TV series on Starz.  The premise of American Gods is that the people who came to the American continent–including conquerors, slaves, and immigrants–brought with them their gods … literally.  The gods now walk around disguised as human beings.  But the old gods have weakened as belief in them disappeared, and they now battle with new gods, gods of the internet and credit cards and super highways. Continue reading “What American Gods Tells Us About the Need for Religious Ecstasy”

Literal Minded Atheism

Yeah, we do it too.

Yesterday, I posted an essay about literal-minded polytheism.  It’s likely to upset some polytheists (especially those who don’t read beyond the title), because they will read it as an attack on their belief.  Actually, what I had intended in the article was to bracket the question of whether or not the gods are “real” and talk about the criteria we use to call something “real.”  My thesis was that some polytheists (not all, by any means) have a very “disenchanted” way of talking about reality.  By “disenchanted,” I mean they define what is real in terms of it’s level of disconnection from everything else.

But of course, the same could–and should–be said about many atheists as well.  Disenchanted discourse is not limited to theists.  In the same way that theists insist that their gods are “really, really real,” atheists insist that the gods are “really, really not real.”  And what both sides seem to have in mind is a very objective–and hence, disenchanted–definition of reality.  The assumption that both theists and atheists make in these arguments is that objective reality–reality in which the observer is separated from the observed–is somehow more real than subjective reality.

Continue reading “Literal Minded Atheism”

Literal Gods Are for the Literal Minded: Re-Enchanting the Gods

“Really, really real”

Here and there in the tiny echo chamber that is the Pagan blog-o-sphere, I am once again hearing repeated the false dichotomy of archetypes vs. “real gods.”  As in, “My gods aren’t just archetypes. They are real…literal, distinct, independent gods.”

With the recent premiere of the series American Gods (which is awesome, by the way), I anticipate we’re going to be hearing a lot more talk like this–especially considering the influence the publication of the book American Gods had on the growth of Pagan polytheism.

Continue reading “Literal Gods Are for the Literal Minded: Re-Enchanting the Gods”

The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism

This post is part 2 of a 3-part series.  In the first part, I discussed how I had come to realize the ego-centrism of my earlier view of the Pagan community.

Celebrating Nature, Working Magic, and Honoring Deities

Imagine that the Pagan community has not one, but multiple “centers”.  Imagine each of these “centers” defines Pagan identity and authenticity differently.  To begin with there is what I will call “earth-centered Paganism”.  I realize this is a problematic term, because “earth” is a cultural construct and means different things to different people, but it remains a useful category, I think.  Earth-centered Paganism would include those Paganisms concerned primarily with ecology, those more local forms of Paganism that I would call “backyard Paganism” or are sometimes called “dirt worship”, and many forms of (neo-)animism which view humans as non-privileged part of an interconnected more-than-human community of beings.  The Pagan identity of earth-centered Pagans is defined by their relationship to their natural environment.  Authenticity for these Pagans is defined by one’s ability to connect with the more-than-human world.  Of course, there are many whose spirituality might be called “earth-centered” by this definition, but who reject the label “Pagan”.  Some of the rejection of the Pagan label by those who might otherwise be called Pagan is due to the association of the label with the other two groups (with whom they do not identify). Continue reading “The Three (or more?) “Centers” of Paganism”

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