Friday, 6 May 2011

Why am I a Polytheist?

In a monotheist society (in which even the Atheists don't believe in God, singular) how does anyone find themselves believing as a polytheist? I mean even supposedly polytheist Neo-Pagans often turn out to be soft polytheists (or inclusive monotheists) who believe the gods are facets of one ultimate deity. In fact one well known book by respected Wiccan authors informs its readers that all Pagans believe the gods are facets of Deity, yes even those pesky Asatruar with their insistence they're proper polytheists. 

For me belief tends to be firstly emotional and secondly a rational thing, backed up with religious experience, the latter of which I find flimsy in my head. I have wavering self confidence and when that is at low ebb I find believing in anything difficult, even such blatantly obvious things such as whether MrK really loves me, so the numinous disappears completely for me at those times. It's good for me to have a logical (to me anyway) reason to believe the way I do, as well as 'religious' reasons.

My immediate family as I grew up were non-religious with my wider family being either non-religious or not particularly enthusiastic Christians (with a couple of exceptions). Mum and Dad both take religion seriously, they just don't believe. Mum caused great offence by refusing to be a god parent (which would involve standing in a church and promising to help bring the child up as a Christian when she intended no such thing) and my Dad who, when he finds himself in church for any reason, doesn't bow his head in prayer but instead uses the opportunity to examine the architecture. For them the options seem to be belief (which automatically entails Christianity) or non-belief and it took me a long time to realise there were other options out there. The biggest thing I got from them I think is that I take other people's beliefs seriously (usually!) even when I don't share them, places of worship and other people's rituals are to be respected and not treated as sparkly things you stick to your life to make it pretty.

The other big influence my parents had over my religious life was their great love of nature. We went for a walk every day we could, we tromped up mountains on holiday, we identified flowers and birds and animals and trees, we got angry about littering, we planted trees with the local conservation society... you get the picture (yes it sounds pretty idyllic and in many respects it was). I never felt this wonderful outdoors place to be empty; I always wanted to believe in something. I felt it was out there. But clearly Christianity didn't cut it (for me, I know it works very well for a good many people). So there's me, up to about age 18 feeling there's 'something out there' but having no clue what the hell it might be.

For me the idea of a single, benevolent, omniscient, omnipotent creator God is simply impossible. If he is benevolent and omnipotent, why is the world the way it is? I feel (always, even in my most self-doubty times) that there IS deity and that is where faith comes in for me. I just know it to be true and I recognise that's completely inadequate as 'evidence'. But if there IS deity but it cannot be God/Allah/Jahweh then what? Then it is more than one, they are not all benevolent, certainly not omniscient/omnipotent and not all-creators either. That is my explanation anyway and it feels right to me, which is really the only test one can have for religion.

But then why worship these not-always friendly, not omnianything, not all-creator gods and goddesses? Not to mention the wights and ancestors I 'honour', as opposed to 'worship'. That, perhaps, is a question for another time. But maybe it will become clear as and when I talk about my gods and goddesses why (for me) they are worthy of my worship.

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