The Five Points of Pagan Calvinism

The Five Points of Pagan Calvinism

  • The Fluidity and/or Subjectivity of Ultimate Spiritual Reality
  • The Pagan Elect
  • Transcendence
  • Irresistible Enlightenment
  • Exclusive Pluralism

The Fluidity and/or Subjectivity of Ultimate Spiritual Reality

There is a mystical Oneness of All Things which permeates all of nature. No thing is ever separate from the One. Separateness is an illusion and an error. We perceive separateness by being unaware of or unwilling to recognize the logical elegance, fluidity and adaptability of the One. Any attempt to create firm distinctions, classifications or boundaries is a denial of the subjectivity of our experience of the One.

The Pagan Elect

By nature or education some persons (the elect) are able to comprehend, appreciate and experience the One easily. Those unable to comprehend, appreciate and experience the One may strive to be Pagans, and with effort become Pagan with proper education and guidance by the elect, but are likely best suited to other religious paths. Adopting another religious path is preferred for the non-elect, as their use of Pagan terms and the Pagan label is divisive, confusing and incorrect. The elect is generally well-educated, intelligent, and creative, and can be discerned from the non-elect by these qualities.

Transcendence

The elect transcend the material cares of this world to seek unity with the Oneness of All Things. Salvation is either unnecessary, for the next life, or eternal. Temporal salvation is petty and unworthy.

Irresistible Enlightenment

For the elect, the reason, logic, spiritual fineness and poetic beauty of the Oneness of All Things is irresistible and will overcome any temptation to stray from it. Those who resist this enlightenment are either not of the elect, or will embrace it eventually. Those who staunchly reject the Oneness of All Things are not Pagan, or are simply gone astray and will return due to irresistible enlightenment.

Exclusive Pluralism

There are many valid religions, but only One True Paganism. Those who identify as Pagan and do not adhere to the doctrine of the Oneness of All Things are either not of the elect or in error. If not of the elect they should be encouraged to practice a faith better suited to them. If in error, they must be corrected, and being of the elect they will then see their error and embrace the irresistible enlightenment.

The influential theological system of John Calvin is coming back in vogue among Evangelicals, particularly Reformed Baptists and Presbyterians. And possibly Pagans.

*****

I’ve written about the prevalent Pagan orthodoxy before, and mostly tried to ignore the latest round of asshattery by Humanistic/Naturalistic/Atheistic Pagans, but the phrase “Pagan Calvinism” came up in a conversation with Cara Schulz the other day and then last night this post went up. So I’m stealing Cara’s phrase and using it to provide some clarity to what I mean when I talk about Pagan orthodoxy.

The whole point of the post in question is that “hard polytheists” are merely in error, and if they were honest with themselves and open to reason, logic and poesy, they would see this error and adopt a different theology. There are a lot of problems with the post. For one, “hard” is just as derogatory  as “soft” if you look at it objectively, and those descriptors are not value judgements but an accurate way to phrase theological boundaries. A picket fence is a hard boundary (dog cannot go through it) while a line of rose bushes is a soft boundary (dog can push through). Also, I began describing the gods as an ecosystem awhile back, in that specific pantheons when worshiped and worked with in their entirety are harmonious and balancing. Using the concept of an ecosystem to suggest Apollo is really Helios is as absurd as saying in a swamp ecosystem a frog is really a cypress. Bad logic.

What really cheeses my grits over this, and over other Humanistic Pagans making asshat statements, is that what they are preaching is essentially Pagan Calvinism: there is one true Paganism that the intelligent elect understand and all others are either in error (to be eventually won over to the correct Paganism), or they are somehow usurping Pagan labels and language that they have no right to and taking up space they have no right to. Using emotive language worthy of any sappy Evangelical altar call, they dismiss those who disagree with them as ignorant, stupid, backward, barbaric and superstitious. They paint those who disagree with them as anti-logic and anti-science.And they do this in the name of tolerance and love, as all things ultimately exist within the pantheism/animism/psychological constructs/mysticality/Oneness of All Things, including the errors of those who disagree with them.

Humanistic Pagans aren’t the only ones who are practicing Pagan Calvinism. There are Wiccans, Druids and unaffiliated solitaries who are espousing the same ideals. Pagan Calvinism is the new Pagan orthodoxy, firmly aligned to far left politics and ideals, and those who do not embrace it are at best on the fringe of Paganism if not outright treated as outsiders.

Having boundaries is healthy. A fence does not necessarily indicate bad neighbors. Having theological boundaries does not indicate “bad Pagans.” Insisting that people with boundaries are merely in stubborn error is incredibly rude. This section alone is so incredibly rude and arrogant that I am amazed anyone could have the guts to publish it:

But natural polytheism doesn’t have to be “soft” at all. In fact, you can be a hard polytheist and a natural polytheist — it’s just a matter of deepening your relationship with your gods and learning to ask the tough questions.

My natural response to this quote isn’t fit to print.

Calvinistic Pagans tend to take on a tone of martyrdom. I have no sympathy. You cannot be a bully and play the victim. You cannot insist on steamrolling over other people’s boundaries, mansplaining their religion to them, and arrogantly insisting you know better than them the nature of their gods, and expect anyone to feel sorry for you.

The most common complaint about Calvinistic Pagans from “hard polytheists” is that they are disrespectful. It’s not hard to understand why when there is a whole chorus of them calling those who disagree with them ignorant, unenlightend,  superstitious, stupid, and just plain wrong.

I’m not a polytheist with firm theological boundaries simply because I have a shallow relationship with the gods and refuse to ask tough questions. That is ridiculous, arrogant, and extremely rude. I am tired of people thinking that another person’s spiritual boundaries are there for them to mow down. I’m tired of this idea that you either conform to the orthodoxy or you must subject yourself to the bad manners of the Calvinistic Pagans. One good example of this is what happened to M. Macha NightMare, and I’m glad she didn’t stick around to be hissed at. (And I have heard the apologetics but everyone knows hissing is a rude act of hostility.)

Establishing healthy boundaries is a good thing. Feeling compelled to knock them down and ridicule them isn’t.

If Pagan Calvinism is the future, and I suspect it might be, then I no longer have any desire or use in calling myself Pagan.

About Star Foster

Polytheistic Wiccan initiated into the Ravenwood tradition, she has many opinions. Some of them are actually useful.

  • http://twitter.com/Fernwise Fern Miller

    We can even re-name and re-structure it so it shares the TULIP acronym.

    Transcendence
    Ultimate Spiritual Reality is Fluid and/or Subjective
    Limited Pluralism
    Irresistible Enlightenment
    Pagan Elect

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       Weird… lol

    • Sincerelynight

       …and I used to like Tulips.

  • Lēoht Sceadusawol

     Calvin prompted a schism in the establish Church.

    Are you proposing the same thing, in Paganism?

    Perhaps, it is time to Foster (see what I did there) a new branch of Paganry, distinct from the main body of Pagan orthodoxy.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

       I’m not proposing, but it is already happening. Schisms happen in Paganism, on different levels, all the time. Polytheists are separating themselves from Paganism and forming their own separate communities, despite efforts to “correct” them on their Pagan status.

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

        In many ways, I think it is a good thing.

        ‘Paganism’ as a term is becoming too inclusive to have any real meaning. How can you self identify as something when the vast majority of definitions for the term are things you disagree with?

        For several years, now, many Heathen types in Britain have shunned the term ‘Pagan’ purely for its Latin etymology.

        Also, as numbers are steadily increasing, is it not about time that people moved away from the more generic umbrella term and started being more comfortable with their tradition designator?

        Then we can start looking at interfaith work between the various ‘Pagan’ paths, rather than some supposed intrafaith.

        Let’s face it, I probably have more in common with a hardcore Christian Pentecostal than I do with a Jungian-Archetypist-NeoPagan.

        I’m working on my own system, and am happy to self identify as that – I am an Ēalgodan Frumscēaftan. (Or Fruman, for short.) If I ever get round to making it workable, I might even publish it.

        • William Hood

          “For several years, now, many Heathen types in Britain have shunned the term ‘Pagan’ purely for its Latin etymology.”

          Not just in Britain. This has been a common trend in Heathenry here in the States for nearly 15 years. The way Paganism has been going in just the past few years seems to justify it. And Gods I hate people trying to “correct” me about being “Pagan.” Great post Leoht.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             I don’t live in the US, so I didn’t want to talk about it. In case I was wrong. No such thing as universalism, after all.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          You wrote: “Also, as numbers are steadily increasing, is it not about time that
          people moved away from the more generic umbrella term and started being
          more comfortable with their tradition designator?”

          I think a big problem in this discussion is that the “Pagan” label
          is used (1) by those (like myself) who identify primarily as
          Pagan and (2) by those who identify primarily as something else and/or
          see “Pagan” only as an umbrella term.  It seems to me that those who fall into the second category (like yourself) are more likely to make the argument in forums like these that the term is meaningless and should be abandoned.  Those who love the term “Pagan” and use it as a primarily identifier are naturally going to be more concerned about defining the boundaries of what is “Pagan” than are those for whom the term is merely an “umbrella”.  I’m not out to make *my* Paganism into *the* Paganism, but the term *does* have a meaning, albeit one with fuzzy boundaries which are constantly shifting. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             Actually, I am not suggesting that *everyone* moves away from it (bad writing on my part). Just those that feel better represented by other terms.

            If that happens then, almost organically, Paganism will have a lot less of a fuzzy definition.

            At the moment, ‘Paganism’ is essentially meaningless because it does not have a universal definition (which is what gives a word meaning).

            Every time I ask for/suggest a comprehension definition I get a different answer/told I am wrong.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            You wrote:  “At the moment, ‘Paganism’ is essentially meaningless because it does
            not have a universal definition (which is what gives a word meaning). Every time I ask for/suggest a comprehension definition I get a different answer/told I am wrong.”
            That is an inherent characteristic of the human language.  There is no “universal definition” for anything.  Even dictionaries disagree.  And even those religions that have creeds will have adherents who disagree as to what it means to belong to that religion.

            And yet, somehow we still manage to communicate and religious communities still exist, in spite of the ambiguity. 

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             At the moment, we are mostly communicating a lack of consensus on the definition of the term ‘Pagan’.

          • Aine

             “Those who love the term “Pagan” and use it as a primarily identifier are
            naturally going to be more concerned about defining the boundaries of
            what is “Pagan” than are those for whom the term is merely an
            “umbrella”. ”

            I love the term AND see it as an umbrella term. While I’ll always love the term, since I was raised with it and ID’d as it for 18 years, I’ve gotten sick of having to nod and make nice to people who just call me ignorant, stupid, or whatever else they can think of because I’m not toeing the Pagan party line.

  • Myownashram

    I see where the general comparison to Calvin is coming from, particularly in the idea of the elect, which is think is apt, but I’m not sure that Calvinism is quite right in this comparison. I get your point, but hope this phrase doesn’t stick. My academic theological background is twitching a little. But I get the point of what you’re saying. I’ve stopped reading Lily. I keep thinking ‘ooh, neat idea to think over!’ and then I read her actual words and the condescension leaves a bad taste in my mouth. And I’m not even the person her barbs are aiming for.

  • Philip Posehn

    I agree with most of what you say here, with the exception of your ascribing the phenomenon to the political”Far Left” which I find to be mostly erroneous  and  possibly indicative of your own bias. While the Atheist Pagan usually dwells among us Lefties, the “Only we ____ trad have the right to call ourselves “Wiccans” tend to be moderate or conservative…whatever those terms mean these days.

    • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

      I think your own bias is showing. 

  • Kilmrnock

    Well , i am a hard polytheist, pantheonist …….. i’m aslo a stubburn bastard , and feel strongly about my beliefs . For me at least , i refuse to allow an asshat to bully me or allow them to deny me the use of our main discriptor,pagan. But i also refuse to lower myself to a butt heads level ………..i am better than that , like you i do my best to ignore idiots , unless they get in my face .As Being in a recon faith[CR]  w/ strong ties to my gods and convictions i will stand my ground , forcibly if neccisary.I refuse to be bullied or controled.In my faith i live by a Honor/Conduct code this is the framework i deal with fools from.From my point of view as a Celt , we don’t suffer fools and or idiots .we just ignore them .     Donnacha aka Kilm

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       I thought the Celts killed the fools and idiots. Bloodythirsty savages that they were. (And I mean that in the most complimentary way!)

      • Kilmrnock

        Aye Lad we used to . And at times when i see alot the stuff that goes on ………wished i still could .

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           I know that feeling well.

          I threatened to blood eagle someone just the other day. (Mood I was in, wasn’t an idle threat, either.)

  • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

    I think the most important reform of Calvin’s was that he insisted that heretics be burned alive, rather than being throttled to death first.

    He was also a leading proponent of a wider Witch hunt that placed less emphasis on malefic magic, and that treated healers and other practitioners of beneficial magic just like maleficia.

    Calvin was pure evil (on par with Hilter, Andrew Jackson, and so forth). And the his malignant influence is still quite strong and definitely growing.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ian.corrigan.338 Ian Corrigan

    The tension between philosophical monism and cultic polytheism is intrinsic in Indo-European religion, I think. One can find it in the Vedas, it helps produce Zoroastrian monotheism, and certainly found expression in late Neoplatonism and theurgy. I don’t think it is a modern problem, but an intrinsically Pagan one. Thus it is one that will neither go away nor be resolved. It occurs because people perceive the divine differently, and tend to hang out with people with similar perceptions.

    The good news is that, as always, what a Pagan ‘believes’ about the nature of the gods and spirits isn’t really that important to the work of Pagan spirituality. When I come to the fire to honor some deity with a crowd I’m not concerned with how the fellow next to me imagines the beings, as long as they join me in sining, offering, etc. After ritual we can discuss it if we care.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       “…what a Pagan ‘believes’ about the nature of the gods and spirits isn’t really that important to the work of Pagan spirituality.”
      That is changing.

      • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=511017650 Paul Depraida

         Changing how exactly?

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

          There are more and more people that see ‘Paganism’ primarily as a form of theism. Which actually kind of makes sense, considering just how many gods are available to ‘Pagans’.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            “There are more and more people that see ‘Paganism’ primarily as a form of theism.”

            Precisely. 

            Any ideas where the growth of deity-centered or theistic Paganism originated?  The earliest discussion of it I can find is Janet Farrar and Gavin Bone’s 2003 book *Progressive Witchcraft*.  But I get the feeling from the book that Farrar and Bone were describing something that already existed.  Contrast when Margot Adler wrote her first edition of *Drawing Down the Moon* a quarter of century before and she intentionally left the hard polytheistic Heathens out of her description of Paganry.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

             My guess would be reconstructionism. People look back into history and attempt to ascertain what people believed before the rise of dominant Christianity.

            As people tend to prefer Latin as an ‘intellectual’ language, they sought out a Latin word to describe what they were doing, rather than the Englisc Hæðen (Heathen). Also, Heathen tends to be a tradition-specific designator – you wouldn’t get many Hellenic reconstructionists appreciating the term.

            Also, for a long time in history, pagan and heathen were used as interchangeable terms to mean one who didn’t follow Christianity or Judaism. The ‘modern’ usage as seen by some is just that, modern.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             I asked Margot. She didn’t know about them when the first edition came out, and included Heathens in the second and third editions.

          • Folcwald

             As I remember, the story she tells in the second edition doesn’t quite match the idea that she just “didn’t know about” heathens. It has been a long time since I read it, but I remember her writing that when she was writing the forst edition she knew of an Odinist but didn’t like him because of his politics (which, by her description, sounded pretty dodgy) and so she left out Odinists, Asatru, etc. Given that her only contact with Heathenry was someone like that, it probably was to the advantage of heathens like me that she did not include us, but still it has made me wonder who else she left out because she disapproved of their ideology, and whether this didn’t skew the over-all picture she gave of Paganism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             Knowing an Odinist, and knowing a Heathen community are two different things. Adler featured communities, not individuals.

          • Folcwald

            I suspect the way she became familiar with most of the communities she covered began with her meeting individuals and then following up. One does not generally meet or interview communities, one meets or interviews members of communities.  In this case she clearly made a decision that following up was not necessary because this individual did not fit the Pagan profile she was trying to get across.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             Right, always ascribe ill intent when there is a reasonable answer at hand.

          • Folcwald

             I wouldn’t call it ill intent so much as a kind of blindness.

          • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

            I don’t know about your conversation with her, but in the 1986 edition, she says she clearly that she left the community out because it was too different (in several ways) from what she identified as Neo-Pagan.  You’ll notice that many of the differences of Heathens from Neo-Pagans then correspond to the differences between deity-centered hard-polytheists and earth-centered pantheistic or non-theistic Pagans today.  I think the work of Diana Paxson may have helped Adler be more generous to Heathenry.  Paxson, who seems to bridge the Heathen and Neopagan communities, may also have been an influence on the growth of deity-centered Paganism.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             People evolve. Adler has stated her admiration of recon religions in recent years.

            And back in the day, neo-Pagan meant you cast a circle and called quarters. A lot of people still have that mindset. If we keep holding grudges based on the cultural climate of the 70′s we will never move forward.

    • Merri-Todd Webster

      I suddenly feel very Indo-European. *g* I guess philosophically I do think All Is One, but I’m not inclined to treat the gods as all the same one any more than I treat humans or other mortals as all the same one. The differences I experience are significant to me.

      I came out of the Episcopal Church with the idea of orthopraxy: What we have to agree on is not a creed or confession but simply the words of the liturgy, of Prayerbook and Hymnal. Anglicanism is fast losing that orientation; I’d be sorry to see Paganism lose it, too.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      There is no “tension between philosophical monism and cultic polytheism”. Nor is Zoroastrianism in any way polytheistic. These are modern, anachronistic misinterpretations that originate in the mistake of uncritically accepting certain ideas (or, more accurately, rhetorical tropes) that come directly from Christian apologetics.

    • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

      The late May Boyd (one of the greatest modern scholars of Zoroastrianism) convincingly (IMNSHO) traced the notion of “Zoroastrian monotheism” back to conviction of European Christians “conviction
      that polytheism belonged to the childlike past of the human race,
      having been superseded for all advanced peoples by monotheism.” Because of this prejudice, 19th century European scholars of Zoroastrianism refused to deal with Zoroastrianism either “as it was” (that is as an historically documented religious tradition), or as a “living tradition” (that is, with the contemporary Zoroastrian religion), and rather chose to impose on Zoroastrianism a monotheism that it never had historically and that it did not have in the 19th century. Unfortunately, the Zoroastrian community in India, which at the time was a British colony, was the target of intense missionary efforts by English and American Protestant groups, and they seized upon this modern notion of “Zoroastrian monotheism”, an idea that had never existed within Zoroastrianism up to that point, as a rhetorical defense against aggressive Christian proselytizing that portrayed Zoroastrians as “primitive fire worshippers”. For more, see Boyd’s monumental “A History of Zoroastrianism: The Early Period”, especially the Forward to the book where professor Boyd discussed in some detail the history of modern, Western notions regarding the Zoroastrian religion.

  • DonnaB

    I sure hope we don’t fully descend into the idea of a Pagan orthodoxy.  I don’t even know where I fit in the whole hard/soft polytheist category, I doubt I could muster enough conformity to line up with five whole points of belief.  Let me just ask here because I really don’t know, and I could use some clarity:  Can I believe that the Universe *is* divine without having to be a “soft” polytheist?  Likewise, can I believe that the Gods are individual beings we develop and maintain relationships with and not be a “hard” polytheist?  What does it make me if I believe both of the above statements?  Does it make me a kind of “gel” in Paganism terms?

    That’s just the first point, and I’m already confused and tired.  I think that I’ll continue to call myself Pagan so long as the religious community and religious culture I feel I belong to calls itself Pagan.  I wont ask anyone to conform to my beliefs, and if/when someone expects me to conform to their beliefs they will just have to be disappointed.  

    People are people, and will regularly make asses out of themselves; it’s kind of part of human nature.  Exercising that particular human talent doesn’t give someone authority over my relationships with my Gods, or my religious community, or what label I give my religious persuasion.  If we want to devolve into the kind of infighting that many other religious groups embrace, I guess we’ve got a lot of examples to turn to and model ourselves on.  Personally, I’d rather just shrug off differences in theology and embrace those things we have in common, like you do when you acknowledge that no human being can or will agree with you on everything all the time.  

    In fact, I’d like to invite any and all of my fellow Pagans to indulge in a communal shrug & hug, lest sometime in a distant future we end up with Pagan websites along this vein:  http://www.bible.ca/false.htm (if you click on the dove in the top left corner it takes you to the homepage where the “false doctrines” are called “Doctrines of Demons”; good stuff).

  • Todd Jackson

    Speaking as one who takes The One very seriously, I think tulips will do just fine. I’ll get the vase ready. 

    This much said, be a little suspicious of anyone who claims to  be ” able to comprehend, appreciate and experience the One easily.” If anyone can do that, they probably ARE “the Elect.” In fact, they’re probably a God.

    Congratulations! I’ll be sure to start offering the appropriate libations.

  • Crafters22001

    Makes me think of the Indian story of the blind men and the elephant, you remember, one feel the trunk and says the creature is like a snake, one feels a leg and says the creature is like a tree, etc. If the experience of God is for some  the experience of the immanent, some the transcendent, some a gendered being , some have a zen experience of oneness,  some  personal god/esswell maybe what we’re dealing with is too big to categorize.

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

      If I was a blind man, I’d ask my sighted friend what the elephant looked like.

      I’m not blind, but I am no elephant expert. What I do know, however is that elephants travel in herds.

    • Nick Ritter

      If what we’re talking about is “the Holy,” then, yes, it is too big to categorize. The problem comes in when people with one experience or interpretation of the Holy denigrate other experiences or interpretations as being invalid, primitive, etc. 

      Over the last, say 2,500 years, the trend has been away from polytheism and towards monism or monotheism, and the general argument has been that polytheism is primitive and unreflective, while monism or monotheism are intellectually and spiritually deeper. I call B.S. Polytheism is no less deep or meaningful than monism.

      • Todd Jackson

        The important difference between polytheism and monism, as I see it, has little to do with the relationship between the Gods, and a great deal to do with the relationship between the worshiper and the God.

        Typically, in a polytheist relationship, the worshiper is HERE, the God is THERE; they are other to each other, and the relationship is one in which the God extends her or his power over the worshiper.

        In a monism, in which there is only one entity present, The God is taken to be the worshiper’s ultimate identity, and the goal is union with the God.

        As in the Sufi prayer,

        “Let me sing till I am nothing but voice
        Let me pray till I am nothing but prayer.”It’s not my business to speculate upon the depth and meaningfulness of the polytheistic relationship, and will content myself to say, monism presents a pretty darn deep relationship.

        • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

          Certainly, as Nick writes, polytheism is no less deep or meaningful than monism.  Todd, I think your analysis is spot on.  The two Pagan perspectives coincide with the two poles in a debate that has been going on in Christian theology at least since in the 19th century, between “transcendence” and “immanence”.  A great book on this is *20th Century Theology” by Grenz & Olson (1992).  According to Grenz & Olson, the history of Christian theology is one
          of a pendulum swinging back and forth between these two poles trying to find the happy medium.  While polytheists may balk at being associated with the transcendence camp, transcendence here means perceiving divinity as somehow “other” than self.  I think there must be truth to both positions, which while logically exclusive are somehow both true.  Applying this to Paganism then, there must be truth to both the transcendent/pluralist/polytheist picture of divinity and the immanent/monist/pantheist picture of divinity.  Although I am more of a pantheist, I think it is critical to preserve the “otherness” of divinity, which is something I wrote about here: http://allergicpagan.wordpress.com/2012/03/08/the-gods-as-other-why-god-talk-is-important/

      • Lēoht Sceadusawol

         I’d say it was a trend towards atheism.

        First, there were lots of gods. Then there was one God. Now, there are no gods.

        Overly simplistic and not remotely accurate, but that is the trend, as I see it.

        • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

          Lēoht, as far as monotheism goes, I would say that it is not only a trend toward atheism, but that it already is, in essence, atheism. From a polytheistic standpoint, anyone who denies the Gods is an atheist, therefore Christians and Muslims are just as much atheists as Richard Dawkins, etc.

          • http://www.patheos.com/ Star Foster

             That is a really ancient viewpoint. Ancients pagans held that Christians were atheists.

          • Lēoht Sceadusawol

            I a person has even one god, then I cwouldn’t call them an atheist, since that means ‘no gods’.

      • http://egregores.blogspot.com Apuleius Platonicus

        I think it’s important to meticulously differentiate between monism and monotheism. Monism is a fairly nebulous term that covers many different concepts. For example, any world-view that is not dualistic could be said to be monistic, and it arguably is. But from a different angle, any world-view that does not explicitly claim that everything in the universe is made out of one and the same irreducible primordial “substance” is not truly monistic.

        Monotheism, on the other hand, is as simple as can be. Either you believe in one and only one God, or you don’t.

  • Ian Phanes

    Personally, there is one tenet I would like to see adopted as a positive pagan orthodoxy:
    “Diversity is good.”

    I have no time for anyone who attempts to impose a specific view of paganism on the rest of us.  And I’m quite happy to use my education in anthropology of religions to show those folks that their position isn’t more knowledgeable than the “unwashed masses”.

  • Simon Delott

    That isn’t the future of Paganism. Honestly, I think that pluralism within Paganism is one of its strengths. A few people trying to shy away from the theological elements of the faith are inevitable, in past, present, and future. Even Christianity has this element within it.

  • http://twitter.com/thelettuceman Marc

    You’re Doing It Wrong(TM) has been a major part of Paganism for as long as I’ve been aware.  It seems with all the different schismatic groups and traditions within the umbrella there are people who try to claim orthodoxy or orthopraxy as something wholly unique to their intellectual and theological process.  It is a big reason why I am a solitary – because I have unattractive views which I know to be true as they relate to myself.  I’m a Hard Polytheist.  Unrepentantly so.

    I can appreciate the desire to incorporate a greater understanding of the divine into one’s own personal practice.  I like the thought provoking aspects of the post, especially, the evolution of the deities in question and how they react to the natural world.  I generally like the No Unscared Place posts, because it helps to broaden my own interests.  I’m not under the assumption that I’m going to agree with anything, but I’d really like not to be made to feel that my disagreement with one thing/agreement with another automatically makes me an idiot.

    I think that the original post linked makes a few glaring errors.  Namely, I don’t consider “Soft Polytheists” to be “lazy”.  I don’t think someone is going to honestly take to worshiping All Gods as One God and All Goddesses as One Goddess  just because it’s easier.  If they do, they won’t be part of Paganism or their tradition for very long.  It’s the same thing with the people who go to university just to party.  They never last that long.  I think reading into a dichotomy of Hard Polytheistic superiority is, frankly, an attempt to stir up trouble.

    The language is confrontational.  There’s no doubt about it.  I think many of the questions that are raised as beneficiary of “Naturalistic Pagan” thinking are stripped from Hard Polytheistic understanding.  There’s an assumption that Hard Polytheism simply stops asking questions or seeking to understand when an experience is given.  I didn’t know that when one labels oneself a “Hard Polytheist” that they experience a ritual, experience the energy of one of the Divine, and then automatically stop trying to explore that experience.  Maybe I’m…Doing It Wrong(TM)? 

    I’m not sure what she means by posting: “Natural polytheism is polytheism beyond the pale: polytheism beyond the
    restrictions staked out by our grasp of human history alone, embracing
    instead the whole of natural history and the modern sciences that give
    us insights into our world in new and startling ways.”  I don’t see a division between the two, other than self-aggrandizement and self-importance, a further, unnecessary boundary drawn in order to differentiate one individual’s personal opinion at the expense of others.  Especially as an attempt to claim superiority or a greater truth.  That’s business as usual for Pagans, it seems. 

    I think the whole concept of “worshiping beyond the Pale” to be an edgy attempt at self-superiority.  Trying to classify oneself as “unacceptable behavior” smacks too much of a rebellious teenager.  I’ll make sure to further enforce my royal claims on naturalistic Pagans and occupy their physical space, attempting to convert their population to a more thoroughly English point of view. 

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       “I’ll make sure to further enforce my royal claims on naturalistic Pagans
      and occupy their physical space, attempting to convert their population
      to a more thoroughly English point of view. ”
      The Pax Anglorum!!!

    • Ryan

      Your response makes me think of something…
      Beyond the pale…
      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Pale
      She really means that natural polytheism exists only in Ireland!

      • Alison Leigh Lilly

        My phrase “beyond the pale” is meant to evoke the concept of boundaries and the distinction we often tend to draw between “civilized” places of human habitation and the wilds beyond them. (The phrase originally came from Latin, palus, meaning “stake,” as in a fence post.) Star actually makes my point in this very post, when she points out that some boundaries are “hard” (like a fence) and others are “soft” (like a shrub or hedge). This is exactly the point I was making in talking about natural polytheism as polytheism “beyond the pale,” ie “beyond the fence.” Natural polytheism is a theology that does not work within the “hard” fences constructed by hard polytheism, anymore than ecology stops functioning within the city limits.

        I also used the phrase because in my experience, as this post demonstrates, suggesting that natural polytheism might be a valuable and meaningful theology tends to provoke derision and attack — it’s treated as “beyond the pale” and totally unacceptable to think that someone might appreciate hard polytheism without being confined by it. But as I point out in my post, there is no reason why there has to be antipathy between natural polytheism and hard polytheism, anymore than there is hostility between the science of ecology and the science of biology — quite the opposite: they can and sometimes must work with each other.
        I hope that helps to clarify my use of the phrase. :)

        • Ryan

          I apologize that you had to do that. I was actually trying to make a joke and lighten the mood a bit, forgetting that etymology jokes don’t usually work for the same reason that etymologies don’t shed much light on definitions.
          That being said, I think that clarification is inherently helpful to understanding what you were talking about.

  • kenneth

    There is nothing so funny and yet so pathetic as watching pagans of any stripe attempt to define and enforce orthodoxy of belief and practice upon others. It’s like watching a kid trying to fight back the surf with a push broom or a dog trying to catch its tail….:) It’s the kind of entertainment you can’t buy and which never gets old!

  • Mishikitty

    Wow… you have so utterly missed the “whole point” of that article – maybe you should read it again and take it not as an attempt at defamation, but as a piece on the limitations in language and possible ways in which various modes of thinking can support and nurture each other?

  • Sophie Gale

    Well, thank you very much for this little essay!    After a decade of feeling like I am “not Pagan enough,”  I was thrilled by Brendan Myers’ post.  Might there be a name for me?  Myers certainly describes me!  http://brewingpermaculture.blogpeoria.com/2012/08/27/and-a-new-path-appears/

    But apparently I only get two weeks in my happy place.  Now I get to explain to haters that I am not a Natualistic Pagan, I’m a Humanistic Pagan.  Oh, joy!  No, B.T. Newberg does not speak for me.  Yes, Myers does.

  • Kilmrnock

    The way i look at it Pagan is a blanket term , there is no right or wrong kind of pagan. Just as Christian is a blanket term , there are many subdivisions , denominations in there ranks .We have Wiccans , eclectics…..which is not an insult btw, Recons , Heathens , just to name a few .Even within Wicca and Recon [reconstructionist]there are many different types or even ethnic types . We are a wide ranging and varied bunch , the whole concept of pagan calvinism is mindboggling , that there could even be a right or wrong kind of pagan is wrongheaded. Given how diverse a group we pagans are.     Kilm

    • Lēoht Sceadusawol

       Whilst ‘Christian’ is a blanket term, even someone who is not Christian can tell you that ‘Christian’ means someone who believes in (follows the teachings of) Christ/Jesus.

      We can’t even get a consensus on what ‘Pagan’ means by those who self designate.

      • http://www.facebook.com/people/John-H-Halstead/1170545330 John H Halstead

        Clearly you have not been exposed to many kinds of Christians.  I know some who would insist that belief in the existence or teachings of Jesus is not what defines one as Christian, but rather a salvific experience of the grace of God through Jesus.  Some others might use “Christian” to just mean a good person.  While some Protestants and Catholics in my community, near Chicago, use “Christian” to mean Protestant, as opposed to Catholic!  I could go on, but there is a fair amount of disagreement as to what a Christian is.  As a former Mormon, I can testify to that.

        • Lēoht Sceadusawol

           I’ve been exposed to plenty of different Christians, thanks.

          “A salvic experience of the grace of God through Jesus.” Which requires a belief in Jesus, first.

          “Some others might use “Christian” to just mean a good person.” Those people are clearly retarded.

          “”Christian” to mean Protestant, as opposed to Catholic!” They can deny all they want, but a Catholic still believes in Jesus and what is it that Protestants protest, if not Catholicism? I grew up in England, during the 80s and 90s. I’ve seen plenty of sectarian bullcrap from the Northern Irish mess.

          “I could go on, but there is a fair amount of disagreement as to what a Christian is. ”
          What a ‘True Christian’ (TM) is, perhaps, but it is pretty hard to refute that, at its most basic, Christianity places Jesus as a pretty important figure.

  • Alison Leigh Lilly

    Star, Thank you for your response to my article. On reading your post, I can see that there are a lot of places where I wasn’t clear enough in my writing or I left certain statements open to interpretation, which seems to have led you to attribute to me things that I never actually said.

    I do say in my post that I do not think natural polytheism is in conflict with hard polytheism, anymore than ecology is in conflict with hard sciences like biology or geology (in fact, in both cases, the one depends upon the others, though they concern themselves with very different kinds of questions about the world).I’m sorry if you somehow took the exact opposite meaning from my writing and felt that I was attacking or dismissing hard polytheism. I can see that I still have a lot of work to do in articulating and clarifying my ideas, and I’m glad for the opportunity to have these conversations.

  • http://humanisticpaganism.com/ B. T. Newberg

    One of the clearest and most consistent themes to emerge from this discussion is the idea that some other kinds of Pagans are either a) saying hard polytheists are not Pagans, or b) that they are doing Paganism wrong.  I would like to hear what specific parts of Lilly’s article or other people’s writings give this impression.

    Looking back at Lilly’s article, I see a person questioning her community.  I struggle to find where she says or implies that those who disagree with her are necessarily wrong, much less that they are not Pagans, or less of a Pagan, or not good enough as a Pagan, etc.

    So I would like to know how this impression is being created.

    Also, just as a point of clarification, it sounds like some here and there might be conflating Lilly’s “natural polytheism” with “Naturalistic Paganism.”  Both use “natural”, but they appear quite distinct.

  • http://www.gopagan.com/ GOPagan

    Bravo! Well said.


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