Last week I gave you the four best posts you didn’t read. Now here are the top ten you did read.
These are the top ten posts of this year, as measured by page views. Only 2015 posts are listed. The Purpose of Religion from 2011 was the #3 post overall, but it wasn’t eligible. Also, I disqualified the solitary ritual series. Five of them were in the top ten, and that would make this post rather boring.
10. Worshipping Fearsome Gods (November 2015). Many of you don’t like the word “sermon,” but that’s what you call the talky bit in a church service, and that’s what this was. I even have a video of it. Anyway, my sermons tend to do very poorly as blog posts. They’re far longer than a typical post, and they’re written for an audience of UUs and visitors, not Pagans and polytheists. But this one did very well. I think that’s because while it was intended for a general audience, it was unapologetically polytheist.
9. The Lore vs. UPG – A False Dichotomy (March 2015). There are some Pagans who privilege the written word over personal experience, insisting that unless something has a basis in literature and scholarship, it isn’t proper. I see this as a false dichotomy. Lore is a valuable treasure, but unless we have vibrant religious experiences of our own, our traditions will stagnate into irrelevance.
8. Until There Are No More Missionaries (September 2015). As I left the DFW Pagan Unity Fest, I encountered a man preaching a fringe-Christian message of fear and doom. When it became clear he was beyond the reach of reason, I walked away. But I worried about others who would hear his lies and be reminded of an old religion that still had its hooks in them. I wanted to banish him, but I couldn’t. All I can do is to keep telling my story of leaving fundamentalist Christianity and finding Paganism, and keep doing it until there are no more false preachers of doom.
7. The Limits of Personal Power and The Dangers of Ignoring Them (February 2015). We’ve all seen the posts and memes saying things like “you create your own reality” “anything is possible if you just believe” and “you have unlimited power.” While even the weakest among us is an incredibly powerful being, the memes are only half true. Our power is not unlimited, and pretending it is causes us to act ineffectively with ourselves and unethically with others. Stop looking for simple answers to complicated problems and start seeing things as they truly are.
6. You Can’t Practice Paganism While You Look Down Your Nose At It (August 2015). Our mainstream society thinks belief in magic and in many Gods is delusion or foolishness or both. While Paganism does not insist we hold any specific beliefs, if we are more interested in impressing the mainstream and in being “respectable” than in actually being Pagans, our Paganism will be weak and ineffective.
5. Religion and Smart People – A Reasonable Response to Unreasonable Smugness (January 2015). This is another rebuttal to an atheist making insulting claims, in this case not just about Paganism but about theism in general. A writer for Salon called religious belief “a strange aberration among otherwise intelligent people.” The writer’s false and unstated assumptions are huge: he assumes religion is all about belief, he makes scientistic materialism the ultimate arbiter of what is true, and most importantly, he completely ignores religious experiences. Don’t try to tell me I need to abandon a path that’s proved meaningful and helpful just because some people believe some dumb things and some smart people don’t believe anything at all.
4. 5 Reasons You Can’t Find the Right Spiritual Path (July 2015). Religion used to be simple. You learned the religion of your family growing up and that was that. That’s still the case in some parts of the world. Here, more options bring more freedom but also more complexity. Finding the right spiritual path is possible, but it requires dedicated, consistent, mindful work. This post looks at the five most common reasons seekers can’t find what they’re looking for, and what to do instead.
3. Responding to the Religiously Obnoxious (April 2015). It seems like at least once a week I see a post in one of my social media groups saying “people keep attacking me because I’m Pagan – what can I do about it?” Many of them are young, stuck in schools and even families that are unsupportive, with few outside resources available to them. The usual clichés of “just ignore them” and “don’t let it bother you” aren’t helpful. There are things we can do to make things better, starting with being who you are and who you’re called to be.
2. Our Gods Are Not Safe (October 2015). In order to fully restore the Way of the Gods, polytheism must be accessible for those who simply want to honor the Gods and live virtuous but ordinary lives. It must be as accessible for the accountant and the plumber as for the priest and the scholar. This means expressing polytheist concepts in ways that ordinary people who live in our monotheist-dominated culture can understand.
But it can never mean dumbing things down. In particular, it can never mean downplaying the power of the Gods who are the focus of our polytheism. Our Gods are not safe… but safety is not the greatest good.
1. Letter To My Christian Friends (June 2015). I’m pretty open about who I am and what I do. My Christian friends and family mostly ignore my Paganism, but while they often nod in agreement with my reverence for Nature and smile politely with my esoteric practices, this year I had several get upset with my worship of many Gods. This was my attempt to tell them what I believe and why.
This was far and away the most popular post of 2015 – it had almost as many page views as #2, #3, and #4 combined. The comments show this post spoke both to and for a lot of people who’ve struggled with reactions to their Paganism.
My own Christian friends and family pretty much ignored this post, though I’m sure many of them read it. I’m fine with that. I hope it cleared up some of their misunderstandings. But I closed with a line from the Christian reformer Martin Luther: here I stand – I can do no other.
Thank you all for your support in 2015. Here’s to another great year of Paganism, polytheism, and Druidry (and some Unitarian Universalism) in 2016.