Highway to Hel
Interview with P. Sufenas Virius Lupus, Founder of Ekklesia Antinoou
Some of their most important and respected church fathers have said horrible things about one of my own most beloved gods, and they are not likely to reverse their opinions on the idea, nor do they need to; but they do need to respect me and my practices and those practices' own integrity by law in the U.S. and in the wider world. So, let's define ourselves by our own terms, rather than trying to correct other people on their own deficient theologies. If they wish to accept us as respectable human partners in dialogue, all the better; if they do not, let it not stop us from practicing and supporting our own communities and wider human justice and dignity.
And, I think full legal recognition of Paganism also should happen for these same reasons in actual deed far more than in word only. Thomas Jefferson and many of the founding fathers of the U.S. would not have had a problem with polytheism, and their attributable and attested words on the matter indicate this plainly. Any attempted legal argument in the context of the U.S. judicial system against granting Paganism and its practitioners equal rights under the law should be challenged for what it is: plain old fashioned religious intolerance that would make the founding fathers turn in their graves. A great deal of work has been done in this regard, but much more remains to be done.
And, further, in the midst of all this, the multiplicity of expressions in modern Paganism needs to be recognized and respected, and that goes even within the ranks of modern Paganism. There has never been, and never should be, a "one size fits all" (or even "one size fits most"!) approach to any religion, much less a set of religions as dynamic and divergent as any modern polytheism is or should be. There remains a great deal of intrafaith work to be done within modern Paganism, so that even where we all don't agree on theology or practice (and there are many places where we don't and shouldn't!), we can at least understand and respect each other.
The Communalia ritual that the Ekklesía Antínoou innovated in 2009 at PantheaCon is one small way in which such efforts can begin to occur, I think. In my opinion, it is no use presenting a united front to non-Pagan religions when such a front doesn't really exist. It would be nice if the larger groups within Paganism actually took some of us who are more on the fringe a bit more seriously, and perhaps spent the time to find out what it is we're doing and what makes us different from them, rather than simply assuming we're all on the same team and will support the same causes.
Bravo. You bring up some very, very good points though. I think what many people don't realize is that monotheism is a newcomer in the scope of religious theology. It's an aberration when looked at in the broad spectrum of human history and experience, not an evolutionary pinnacle. I think there's an unfortunate twinning of monotheism, ethnocentrism, and colonialism that has led not only to polytheism, but to the marginalization and, at worse, destruction of any non-monotheist indigenous religions.
I completely agree with you. Even the Judaism of late antiquity was nowhere near as exclusively monotheistic as many people think; henotheism seems to be more the reality there, since Leviticus and Deuteronomy don't say that YHWH (or Iao, as the Greeks called him) is the only god (as the Qu'ran says about Allah, who was just another important local god in Arabia before Islam came along), but instead is the god which the Israelites should worship. (It's amazing that people will today not tolerate a jealous or possessive spouse or significant other, but they're perfectly willing to put up with their deity admitting it unashamedly!) There were other Jewish temples in Hellenistic and Roman Egypt, including in Alexandria and Leontopolis; and there were forms of Judaic practice that were far more polytheistic in their focus than many modern Jews and Christians are comfortable admitting, and possibly don't even recognize themselves. Even some types of Christianity in the far-flung provinces—Roman Britain for example—were more syncretistic than what people often think is the case today, with solar monotheism blending pretty easily with the Christian notion of God and Jesus. It is only through the form of special pleading known as "trinitarian theology" that Christianity—particularly Roman Catholic and Orthodox Christianities—can continue to maintain the pretense of monotheism, with their three persons of one god, and their profusions of angels, saints, and so forth.
The author of several books on the Northern Tradition, Galina Krasskova is a Heathen priest, shaman, and devotee of Odin. She blogs at Gangleri's Grove.