My religion isn’t therapy, but I wouldn’t be surprised if other people thought it was.
I’ve heard that sentiment a lot – religion isn’t therapy, religion is about the gods, this isn’t about you, so on, so forth – and it’s been bugging me. My religion is about the gods, about serving them, praying, making offerings, living in a way that pleases them. But it also helps me. I have gained much from it, internally. That doesn’t make it any less a religion or my devotion any less real. And I’m tired of the divide of spirituality (as something that heals us) and religion (as something that helps the gods).
My gods and spirits have held me under drowning waters and lifted me when I had no strength, they’ve kicked me into gear when I’ve lazed about, and they’ve been silent when I’ve needed them. I’ve made offerings and prayers and knelt before their altar and written for them and kept the faith.
I could not serve the gods if I were not involved in mirror work, pulling myself apart and stitching myself together again, breaking my perceptions and forming new ones. I couldn’t serve the gods if I couldn’t get up in the morning or if I was so much of a wreck that all my human relationships fell apart because of my behavior (since part of my path is interacting with others and socialization).
This post is going to be a rant, so be aware of that.
But I am so sick, and so tired, and just all together done with this idea that you’re a bad religious person if you are actually concerned with your own well-being and how the gods and spirits can help you in that way. I really only see it in Paganism and polytheism. I think it probably stems from the grabby-hands behavior a lot of religious folk, like myself, have seen, where the gods are considered tools to be utilized and just archetypes to play around with in your mind. Which, yeah, that behavior bothers me, but I also know the only thing I can do about it is not engage in it and limit how much I interact with people who treat the gods like puppets. They have a different, entirely, completely, fundamentally different way of the viewing the world and the gods than I do, and there ain’t anything I can do about that other than share my piece.
For me, the gods and spirits are real, exist outside of me, and are deserving of the respect I give to humans, animals, and the physical world. They deserve to be fed and cared for regardless of how well I’m feeling or even how firmly I feel they exist or if I’m doubting – my path is one of doing, of action. We have a beneficial, reciprocal relationship. This isn’t a one way street. I pray to them, they support me; I learn from them constantly and give them all that I can, they give me their presence and advice.
The spirits have helped me learn to accept myself, and in doing so I am able to turn even more of myself over to them.
I think the sentiment that the gods aren’t pretty tools is useful, for those of us who are trying to find other like-minded folk, but I also think the ‘religion isn’t therapy’ has become damaging. To mystics, spirit workers, devotees, and lay-people. Are my experiences with my gods suddenly not religious because they have been, often, focused on self-development, change, honing me into a good tool for them? Or is that line drawn because I focus on being a tool for the gods rather than they as a tool for me?
Is that the difference?
My religion has helped me more than I can ever say, and so have the gods and spirits. I return to them as much as I can, in exchange for what they have given me. But I would not have the courage to reach out if I was convinced that serving the gods meant just offering them and approaching them as a perfect being, or one that was not aching for them and their healing, and my religion would be much weaker.
What I’m saying, what I’m rambling, is that my religion isn’t my therapy, but it helps me, and it helps me be more me, and by doing so helps my gods, and I’m sick of being told that religion shouldn’t…support people. I do push for a more god-centric practice, as most of the polytheism and Paganism is so focused on humans as to be ignorant to everything and anything else, but the gods and I are in a relationship. My religion helps that relationship grow, have rules and structure and mutual understands of behavior.
That’s what my religion is. A way to facilitate my relationship with my gods and spirits.
(And I guess what really bothers me is why is it so horrible if our religion helps us?)