Thursday, December 2, 2010

Pagan Fundamentalism?

Warning: this blog entry will likely be offensive to some who read it.
Nonetheless, the subject matter is something I have deep feelings about and am eager to see how others feel about this.

When modern-day Pagan or neo-Pagan movements started forming some decades back, many of those involved were excited about creating a definite alternative to Christianity, which many European, Americans and others had come to feel was a seriously flawed religion that had had various negative impacts on western and indeed, world civilization. It was viewed as anti-natural, anti-female, anti-sexual, and intolerant and oppressive toward other forms of tradition and spirituality around the world. One form of Christianity that came in for particularly strong criticism was modern-day fundamentalist Christianity. There was a sense of optimism that we free-wheeling, open-minded, pluralistic, polytheistic worshippers of Pagan gods and goddesses would never succumb to the narrow-minded, closed-off, literalistic, authoritarian tendencies embraced by those we perceived as our Christian foes.

Well, after some decades of development, I detect signs that a kind of fundamentalism is creeping into Paganism. I see this happening at least in American Asatru/Heathenry, and I am wondering is this is an "only in America" phenomenon, or if it may be taking place in other regions too.

I see it in two areas above all. The first place I see it is in an aggressive conviction that the gods are REAL, that they are actual, eternal, living, supernatural beings who watch over us and may intervene in our world as they see fit. This point of view has no tolerance for other perspectives, such as the idea that the gods are psychic or psychological realities more than actual beings, or that they are archetypal symbols a la Jung, or that the gods of this or that tradition are but partial reflections of a larger spiritual reality, like the Brahman that transcends the various personal deities of polytheistic Hinduism, or the Buddha-Mind of certain schools of Buddhist philosophy. Having never met a god in person, nor seen any proof that the assertions by some Pagans that they REALLY have met their gods is anything more than a personal whim or fantasy or psychological quirk, I find myself uneasy with those who take the stance that Odin or Thor or whoever is REAL REAL REAL and if you deny it you are an idiot, a traitor, a loser or an apostate.

Another place I see this creeping fundamentalism is in the tendency to take old Pagan texts, such as Norse myths and sagas, as literal, perfect truth that can neither be questioned nor interpreted metaphorically. If the Eddas say that there are 640 doors in Valhalla, then by Gungnir, there are absolutely and only 640 doors. AND Valhalla is a real place, an actual physical place where warriors chop each other up every day and drink mead every night. AND every warrior who believes in Odin is really really going there. AND Ragnarok is really really going to happen. The world is going to end in a big battle, and so we must all prepare to fight to the death. Don't worry, it will be glorious!

Well, sorry folks, I ain't buying. The emphasis on the gods as literally physically REAL who are out there waiting for us is all too reminiscent of the fundie Christian belief that Jesus lord god is REAL and if you don't take JC as your personal savior, you are going to hell. I don't go for a Pagan equivalent of "I don't care if it rains or freezes, as long as I got my plasic Jesus" along the lines of "I don't care if I have to die in a war, as long as I got my hammer of Thor."

I'm sorry. I know this may be offensive to some who have a sincere desire to worship Freyja, Odin, Thor or others as personal gods. I accept that such an attitude and practice can be very fulfulling, just like a very emotional belief in the Virgin Mary or Saint Fill-in-the-blank may be very meaningful and satisying to many Catholics. I can't do it. I can't go down a road that I rejected long ago and pretend that the new road is different from the old road when it seems to me that it is really just the same road under a different name. Let me explain why.

I have a long history of spiritual exploration. In my teen years, reading books by such eminent thinkers as Carl Jung and Alan Watts opened my mind in ways that left me permanently unable to embrace any kind of narrow-minded creed that puts up road blocks and blinders for the sake of certainty and security. Rereading Alan Watts' autobiography "In My Own Way" recently stirred up renewed apprecation for what Watts and Jung gave me as a young man struggling to come to grips with the variety of religions that all seemed partially compelling to me and partially not. Thinking about the parallels between Christian and Hindu and Buddhist myths and beliefs as laid down by Watts, or the amazing proposition by Jung that we all share in a greater consciousness, unfortunately named with the somewhat pejorative term "collective UNconscious," my sense of religion was permanently altered. I became convinced that there can be no one true religion, only many versions of religious experience put into different words and symbols. I cannot say that one religious teaching or myth or holy man or mystic from one tradition is better than another any more than I can say that Bach is true and Beethoven is false. The reality is vast and words are limited. I accept readily the proposition that each religion has the capacity to carry us to a deeper view of reality beyond our narrow selves.

I see Odin, Thor, Freyr, Freyja as wonderful symbols of important, universal dimensions of reality. Odin on the tree like the Buddha under the tree or Christ on the cross: a symbol of mankind suffering through to wisdom and a glimpse of eternity. Thor with the hammer the eternal hero rising up again and again to quell disorder and injustice. Freyr the bountiful king and the lovesick suitor, with both roles well-known in world literature. Freyja like Aphrodite or Kali, a wild force of feminine nature. I love them all but I cannot see them as literal, real, actual beings who are going to be my personal savior.

I see something greater beyond, a greater spiritual reality that is the source and sum of all things, like the Tao or the Brahman or the interdependent ultimate reality of Buddhism, mirrored perhaps in the Wyrd or Orlog of Norse tradition. Think on this: the gods in Pagan myth are not supreme. There is always a greater order, a higher power of fate. We should be careful to not become the person who can't see the forest for the trees. Or the one who can't even see the tree because they are obsessed with one or two pretty leaves. I think religion should be something that impels us onward to the broadest possible vision of life, not a desperate search for security by clinging tightly to some new "ancient" dogma and shutting off the mind to larger issues of universal truth and meaning.

To lapse into narrow fundamentalism seems to me a terrible mistake, and I do see some of my American Pagan friends going down this road. I hope that in time something will move them to take a larger view. Otherwise, to be a Pagan would seem little different than being a fundamentalist Christian. You just change the names of the gods and the titles of the texts, but the attitude remains the same. After all, you don't even have to give up the fundie Christian belief in a future apocalypse; you just relabel it Ragnarok.

This can't be all that Paganism amounts to, trading in one narrow, literal belief-system for another.

What do you think?


Gaarik Daruth said...

First of all, I do not, for one, find you offensive. Taking a stand on what you believe is admirable, and is one reason I read this blog.

I personally don't see choosing a pantheon of "real" Gods and Goddesses over a stark monotheistic overlord who requires one to forsake all others as trading one fundamentalism for another. I know that's not quite what you're saying, but I mention this to be clear on the matter. I left Christianity not because I did not believe that YHVH and Jesus Christ didn't exist, but because I did not fit within their system of practice. I still work with Jesus as a personal deity, or Mighty Dead, in the parlance of Ar nDraiocht Fein (a druid group). However, as I see YHVH as another deity in a cast of thousands, I am not required to follow his way any more than I am required to follow Kali or Amaterasu or Gwydion (no matter how much they might clamor otherwise).

To a degree, I take the existences of the Gods and Goddesses literally, in that they are literally real on a spiritual level. In the same manner I experience these Gods and Goddesses on a spiritual level and in a spiritual manner, through ecstatic trance, journeying, prayer, and so forth. To me, the lore was written for a reason, and written in a specific way for a reason. To completely discount lore for personal gnosis is a dangerous mistake.

At the same time, I see nothing wrong with others who believe otherwise, and I have no problems with those whose experiences in spiritual reality do not match the lore completely. I feel that multiple conceptions of deity and spirit only add to the conversation, not detract from it. Others who see the Gods as I do, as multiple pantheons existing in multiple areas, might also believe the Gods are real beings, or they might see them as archetypes. Their concept of deity doesn't bother me one way or the other, unless they in turn try to push their views on me. I have met quite a few "archetypalists" that have done just that, just as I see Asatru that ram their beliefs in the "REAL" Odin down people's throats.

To me, spiritual reality is fluid, and flows into and through itself. The end result of such fluidity is that things that seem to conflict one another can still be literally true on that level of existence. I personally find it naive to think of Valholl, for example, as a physically real place, when it is populated by spiritual beings. Yet I've no doubt it exists, just as Heaven, the Elysian Fields, Tartarus, Hell, Helheim, and the Otherworlds exist. I believe in Gods as separate beings and I also hold to a nine-fold conception of deity which encompasses these deities. I believe also that physical reality is only one way in which energy can manifest.

Believing that the lore or the Gods are literally true on some level is not what I feel is the danger. I think the danger lies in the denial of one of our greatest heritages as Neopagans: the refusal to accept that other points of view might also be acceptable. The refusal to accept other pantheons or methods.

Maelstrom said...

Thank you Gaarik. I find your words very meaningful and thought-provoking. This is the kind of religious discussion that I think is truly profitable! Not to reach agreement but to stretch our boundaries of thought and thereby reach new understanding.

Literata said...

Personally, holding multiple deity concepts simultaneously is one of the joys of Paganism. Yes, I believe there is one deity, the divine. Yes, I believe that individual deities are aspects of the God and Goddess. Yes, I believe that they are archetypes or psychological constructs. Yes, I believe that they have a reality independent of my mind. Oh, and by the way, as Deborah Lipp said, I wouldn't want to be the one to tell Kali she's only an aspect.

If I'm working with a specific deity, it's respectful, and good magic, and good psychology, to treat that deity as extant. Otherwise...the reality is fluid, as Gaarik said.

And yes, I do think there's an element of the American tendency to take things to extremes showing up here.

Anonymous said...

I agree that dogmatism of any kind is undesirable for Paganism; I think the fluidity of Pagan theology is part of its wisdom.

On the other hand, I do support putting forward a strong theological stance that the Gods are real beings with whom one can have a relationship. This is not to say I think it is helpful to denigrate those who take a more psychological approach to theology, the way you describe, or to argue that that perspective has no merit. I have just found, for myself personally and for many of those in my circle, that having an openness to treating the Gods as real is a prerequisite for actually experiencing them that way. Theology that is too analytical -- not messy enough, not open to mystery -- can interfere with having ecstatic, life-changing spiritual experiences, the kind that don't fit neatly into boxes. The kind of polytheism that I advocate for is just that -- messy, open-ended. It's theology that is the result of experience and practice, not the result of logical reasoning from premises.

I didn't always experience the Gods this way, and I feel like my willingness to accept the possibility of their independent, objective existence was an essential step toward opening myself to relationship with them. I do feel like some of my fellow polytheists try to beat other Pagans over the head with this idea, somewhat out of a misguided sense of elitism, and also out of feeling offended that other "worshippers" of these Gods don't take them seriously. It's a bit like having someone else affirm your "imaginary friend," when as far as you're concerned, that person is standing right next to you.

I do think polytheists need to continue to speak up, because those voices open the way for other Pagans to have more mystery in their lives, and more satisfying practices. Hopefully they can learn to do so compassionately, rather than dogmatically.

Pitch313 said...

Maybe, when we as Pagans are looking for navigational aids, sometimes we ought to look to the stars and the heavens and the vast mysteries. And other times we ought to look at our communities, our homes, our hearts.

I think that you are correct--fundamentalism of some stripe may be developing within Paganism and Heathenry these days. But I also think that you are correct--Pagans are not obliged to hold fundamentalist outlooks and they may embrace other views.

S.M. Stirling said...

I think what's upsetting the writer is that paganism has become much broader and now includes people and cultural tendencies with which he isn't personally comfortable.

Well, chacun à son goût, as the saying goes. Let a thousand flowers bloom. There are many different flavors of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam and Judaism; why should anyone expect neopaganism to be any different?

I'm a materialist, myself, so I have no dog in the fight, though a lot of my friends are pagans of one sort or another and I've always been interested in the history of religion.

Thing is, to take an example he uses, Asatru Heathenry is a for the most part a reconstructionist religion. Many of the practitioners are trying to get back to the actual pre-Christian faith and practice.

It's therefore fundamentally different from the extremely ecclectic Gardnerian-derived Wiccan traditions, which as the writer notes have a profound theological influence from the 'high' traditions of Hinduism and Buddhism with which Gardner was very well acquainted.

You might say it's from an earlier, darker religious stratum.

Furthermore, the Aesir as presented in the sagas (which are the only sources we have) are not exactly a cuddly bunch.

Odin is the God of wolf and raven, the trickster-psychopomp to whom the warlords offered men hung on the ash tree.

This was the grim, pessimistic religion of aristocratic warriors in a savagely warlike and aggressive culture that accepted bloody conflict and confrontation as an inescapable part of life, and which was structured around bonds of kindred, tribe and lordship.

The Aesir are their worshippers writ large, and those worshippers most certainly did regard their deities as real personages.

They weren't gentle Unitarians, in other words.

Maelstrom said...

Great comments all, stretching the conversation in different directions, pointing out other important factors and perspectives. Thanks all! To S.M., however, a mild word of disagreement. The medieval worshippers of Norse gods in the Viking age and earlier were not all as violent and bloodthirsty as you picture. There is archaeological evidence of many in the Viking period living quite peaceful lives as farmers, fisherman, craftsmen, etc. Unless you are claiming that these people were not involved in the religion, I think you overstate the case about the gods being so associated with violence and death. Such an interpretation does seem to be popular nowadays, I'll grant you that, but it is an incomplete picture. It does correlate with modern militarism and violent video game addiction, I suppose.

Seeing Eye Chick said...

I always perceived it as converts from Fundamentalist corners who dropped everything but the fundie mindset. That being said, the debate over the reality of deities, spirits, spirit worlds etc., is always potentially fraught with danger. My best advice is to be understanding. If you don't buy into that sort of thing--I can understand that. If you absolutely perceived little green men riding a terrier over the rainbow--hey, if you pay the bills and don't chase me with kitchen knives, I can be understanding about that too. Your Belief should not affect mine. Or Vice Versa. And certain forms of legalism and literalism scare me more than others. It is on a case by case basis. Although I do question, if you don't believe in any of that stuff, why take on the stigma of being a Pagan, Asatru, Witch, or whatever? I don't understand what the payoff could be other than shock value at that point.

Anonymous said...

I can only say thank you, Michael, and thanks to all the commentators.

This kind of reasoning is really what is needed to reach a deeper understanding for people, religion, Gods & Goddesses, a broader sense of openness and connecing, rather than using religion to limit ourselves, to build borders and animosity between each other.

Great stuff!

Seeing Eye Chick said...

Perhaps Fundamentalism as you frame it, is also the fearful justification for practices that are barely or unacceptable by mainstream society. I see the pervasive glamorization of Ragnarok and the End Times as feeding off of each other. The people who seem most enamoured with, that want to end everything so they can start over completely and this fantasy always involves the dreamer as the creator of that new start from a position of power and purity. It's a control issue. Outsiders [the world} {whomever that is, be it apostates, infidels or rivals} will not comply with the desire of the fundamentalists. Women won't stop being independent, gay people won't stop being gay, children won't be respectful or industrious, politicians or business owners won't tell the truth, and religious leaders won't stop being imperfect mortals. IF all those individuals were to meet an untimely death that reflects their sins and inequities while you live and thrive, and make the world over in your image, well--how awesome would that be? What an amazing affirmation that yours was the true belief all along. I seriously doubt many of these individuals are so blessed with leadership qualities or resources, that rebuilding a world from the ground up and creating infrastructure would be a realistic expectation. But that won't stop them from joining that worm on the roots of our tree--civilization itself.

S.M. Stirling said...

"There is archaeological evidence of many in the Viking period living quite peaceful lives as farmers, fisherman, craftsmen, etc."

-- there's a classic scene in 'Brennu-Njáls saga' where a guy named Thorgrim climbs up on the roof a hay-barn belonging to one Gunnar to see if he's present.

Thorgrim comes staggering back clutching his stomach and his companions ask him:

"Is Gunnar at home?"

He replies: "That's for you to find out. But I know that his spear certainly is."

"And with that he fell dead."

Because Gunnar stabbed through the thatch and got him in the gut, you see: ancient Norse humor at its finest.

So, yeah, they were farmers and so forth. Also they fought a whole lot. There's no contradiction.

Most Vikings (which was a job description, not an ethnonym) were part-timers, who went on an occasional raiding voyage when they weren't farming or whatever.

Back home there were incessant blood feuds, duels (holmgangs) and wars. One notable thing you can see in the sagas is that nobody went anywhere -- even to the outhouse -- without taking a weapon along. It's mentioned as a special circumstance if people -aren't- armed.

One saga has a description of a harvest scene; the men and women are cutting the grain with sickles and binding it. As they move through the field, the men pick up their spears and move those along too, so they'll always be in reach.

All free men were warriors, whatever else they did.

"It does correlate with modern militarism and violent video game addiction, I suppose."

-- actually modern Westerners in their day-to-day lives are probably about the least violent large group of human beings who've ever existed.

Forensic archaeology (the study of skeletal remains) shows that for most of humanity's existence, the most common cause of death for adult human beings was violence by other human beings.(*)

The bones show that about 1/3 of males and a somewhat smaller percentage of females died by violence. This is certainly an underestimate since except in freak circumstances ancient remains don't show soft-tissue damage.

Like Otzi the Iceman, who turned out to have been shot in the back with an arrow and bashed over the head.

"Big" wars are a product of the State level of political organization.

That doesn't mean more primitive people didn't fight; they just did it on a smaller scale, but pretty well continuously.

(*) wolves and chimps also die very frequently from intraspecific violence, by the way.

AcidRainLady said...

Hi! I'm new to your blog but so far so good. You came up on my google machine from a furious search for the answer to the question Why are so many Heathens/Norse pagans so right wing?

Yes I agree, fundamentalism is a real buzz killer but I think people can be just as fundamentalist about their Jungian archetypes and Enlightenment ideas as the Real Real Real people can be... and there's a certain intellectual disdain from the worshippers of the mind toward the "believers" that I find a tad bit arrogant.

I'm not sure what I "believe", it seems to change frequently and for that I'm actually grateful if also a bit unnerved and awkward at "things". One fact I am sure of, the way I have lived my life has reflected the noble virtues and my primary devotion is to my children and their father, a feat not supported by other paths I've pursued. I do my paganism from the earth up - take care of myself, my family, my land all with equal vigor and then I am hospitable to our friends and we hail our gods and offer them food and drink.

I am not loyal to a god or a realm beyond objective reality until after objective reality has been affirmed. To do otherwise is to invite a mental disturbance called zealotry which I have found to be dangerous to the rights and wellbeing others.

Svehex said...

I don't find it offensive at all. I have problems accepting these views myself. I have no problem with people beleiving what they believe. It's trying to force their truth on others that I have a problem with. And of course those who take for example the Eddas litterally.

SkallePer said...

Perciveing ones own chosen faith, panteon or spiritual path as the only right one and all others to be wrong lies with in the complexeties of indvividuals and not within the religion or spiritual path. Fundamentalism and monoteistic mindset is foremost in the person or group and secondly within the confines of a specific religion.

That whis is found to be strange is often percived as wrong, it's the easiest standpoint.

I grew up within fundamentalistic chrisristianity, left the organisation and confetional faith and joined the ranks and organisation here in Sweden of "asatru". Perhaps this ´journey has been more to experience the 'multiverse' and monoteistic and mystic dynamic than finding the "right" path.

I find that my individual yourney often coincides with that of others and the larger collective of humanness.

The fundamentalistic need I find to be larger in individuals in the US(lived in Georgia fore five years) and the fundament and start point for the founding of the nation called the USA has a generall structure of docotomy and monoteistic mindset.

Tides Turner said...

Being surrounded in the vast diversity that is religion all my life ( had hippie seeker parents), I came to the conclusion that what I have experienced is True - for me. I have friends who swear by ghosts and UFOs, and that's fine with me, but I am neutral. I haven't experienced either so why should I even try to have an opinion? It's the same with what happens after we die? I have no idea so I don't argue about it.

However being a polytheist myself, I can tell you it is not easy. In the majority of the neopagan world there is ONE godded and ONE god and when I say that as far as I have experienced, there are many and they are not the same being, people look at me as if I am insane and now must be fought to the death. I had trouble with a lot of Wiccans who think that the universe HAD to be made by a male and female Goddess having hetrosex. When I threw out there that most of life on this planet doesn't work that way (study micrbobes) they looked freaked out. There is a fundamentalism in most people base don what they've been TOLD or TAUGHT. Those people cannot allow any other view in their world because it scares them. They want to be safe ie have the RIGHT WAY. A lot of fundamentlaism is fear based. The world is so chaotic and overwhelming right now with information and problems, when a church or kindred offers THE RIGHT WAY and people don't have to think about it, they feel safer. That is why Fundies in all relgions are getting so many sacred followers.

Being a polytheist is lonely. I feel sad for the Goddesses or Gods I work with when they are turned into nothing more than psychology or treated like a one size fits all Being. I know I wouldn't like that, to have my individuality and realness disregarded by others. I understand that many people do not have the experiences I have had personally and so don't really have any reason to think this way. But it makes me upset because some Deities are my friends and family. When my sacred beings are taken for interchangable constructs, it feels disrespectful to them and me and my experiences.

I am not sure how to deal with that. I feel a lot of the time people humor and tolerate each other at BEST, so it's like, "You can have your real Gods" with a condescending pat on my head.

The thing is, we have a lot of different theologies in neopaganism. Why should they all get along? The diverse groups in Christianity do not. There are many many branches of neopaganism and within those branches I haven't met anyone (who has thought for themselves) who totally agrees with any party line. I respect that - but I do not go to rituals where the Gods are not considered real because it goes against my experiences and would be disrepectful for me. In can be friends woth Wiccans and hang out and work together, but we don't worship together. Our cosmologies and theologies don't have any thing in common. If it was an interfaith ritual, then it would be different.

This is like how my Episcopalisn friend is not going to go to a fundy church. Her reality of Jesus is not theirs. Instead of fighting about it, she does her thing.

Tides Turner said...

The "lore" thing is annoying because it seems people forget it was all written by Christians if you are doing the Celt or Germanic thing. A lot of us are despperate to do it RIGHT, to be in our home tradition the way some indigenous people are also restructing. And yet we have to reply on so much vague information. Plus we cannot do the New Age thing of make it up as we go along shallowness, so the whole UVG thing gets tricky.
If you have ever hung out with Jewish friends who are arguing over the Torah's meaning, then you will understand that in such a board group as neopaganism, no one is really going to agree. But we don't have to hate each other. I think a lot of us are scared. When you are a polytheist you have to deal with with a society where even the "good liberals" are doing inclusive monotheism and your voice and reality are not included. So if we get aggressive about polytheism, I think it is because we feel so left out of the dialouge about the Divine in almost all communities.

My path is not the path of duotheism Wicca or monotheism, or treating the Gods like they do not really exist. Yet what other people do or think is their business. People who feel the Gods are real can worship together, those who do not can worship another way. Those who don't know can figure it out their own way. But if someone very much believes that the Gods are real, it will be offensive for their rituals if others there do not. Just like it would be offensive for me to go to a Catholic Mass or pray to Mecca. And I am not going to go to ritual where the Gods are merely archetypes because I'd ruin it for the people there. That doesn't mean that I am against their ritual and will picket outside and burn Thors Hammers in their yard! It just means that I do my thing and other people do their own. I don't even go to polythsest rituals for Deities I do not particularly like. I wouldn't go to the birthday party for someone I don't like! And any Gods I am afraid of, like He Who Won't Tell Us His Name or some Vodou lwas, I won't go to. The Gods are not as far as I know all warm and fuzzy, and since my experiences show they are real, I treat them like any other beings. When you believe that the Gods are real, you cannot be in rituals and pretend that they are not. It's like trying to pretend that you don't know that that you are allergic to bees or that water is wet. That doesn't mean that polytheism is right or true - but it is right and true for me and I cannot pretend it isn't.

I believe in open mindedness and diversity being strengths, and I also have seen how the whole commercialized cultural appropriation and spiritual tourism of the New Age has watered down the depth and power of religion. I am fine with people worshipping what they know to be real for them. I just care about if they are decent people outside of their religions dognmas. I am not going to tell someone what to believe, but I often question them as to why they believe it, because the answer is that some Llewewllyn told them to.

Neopagansims, like all religions, is not a monoculture. The term Pagan really means very little to me. I have no idea what anyone means when they say that, yet it is what I call myself becuase the other terms are all too dogmatic or too vague.
And about the whole Christian thing (or Islam thing or Jewish thing) - There are many paths within those traditions today, just like in neopaganism. When we lump them all together, it is as awful as when people lump us all together.

Anonymous said...

My concern has to do with this selection: "I became convinced that there can be no one true religion, only many versions of religious experience put into different words and symbols. I cannot say that one religious teaching or myth or holy man or mystic from one tradition is better than another any more than I can say that Bach is true and Beethoven is false."

This is philosophically problematic. Consider a religion that teaches this: "All gods and goddesses are all different perspectives that humans have on the Real-In-Itself (a la John Hick)." Let's call this hypothetical religion "X".

Now consider a religion that teaches this: "All the gods and goddesses are absolutely real, distinct, and individual beings that cannot be reduced to some king of 'One' (a la hard polytheism)." Let's call this religion "Y".

And a religion that teaches this: "There is only one supreme and perfect God (a la Christianity or Islam). All other gods and goddesses are pure figments of the imagination." Let's call this religion "Z".

I am assuming that you prefer the teaching of X, in which case, for you, Y and Z are both teaching something that is simply false. By teaching something that is false, Y and Z cannot qualify as "true religions" since they teach a manifest falsehood. X is therefore "more true" than Y and Z with relation to this issue. The teaching of X is a proposition that possesses either the truth-value of T or the truth-value of F. It is itself a position, and because it is logically incompatible with the teachings of Y and Z, its truth necessitates the falsity of those alternative teachings. He who accepts the teaching of X believes that his position is right and the others are wrong no less than someone who accepts the teaching of Y or Z believes that he is right and the others are wrong.

You also are too humble about evaluating holy men and mystics. Many of them are profound and serious thinkers. Many of them are fluffy morons who just believe whatever makes them feel good. I'm sure you can tell, within one minute, what kind of mystic you are talking to in any given case.

Also, Beethoven and Bach are not stating propositions with truth values, but mystics are, and many of the propositions that mystics state are either false or meaningless.

I think that the Jung- and Tao- and Brahman-type moves don't work with Asatru very well because one of the unique and distinctive characteristics about Asatru is its classical polytheism. Those moves work well in a Wiccan framework, which makes such a position that of Wiccatru. But Wicca is so fluffy wuffy that it doesn't fit in well with Asatru.

I gave up on the whole project myself (I tried to do exactly what you are doing) and decided to go with deism.

Anonymous said...

Great post. I think we need to keep history in mind when discussing this. When ancient pagans converted to X-tianity, they tended to enter into the new religion with their old mentalities. Some even refused to give up their old ways and forced the new religion to conform to their old practices to one degree or another. I think this dynamic plays itself out even today, as it seems to be an inherent human quality. We are creatures of habit.

So, today's modern pagans who came from Christian backgrounds (myself included), will to one degree or another, retain their 'old ways' in the same way the ancestors did (except the roles of the religions have been reversed in this case).

Anonymous said...

I just found this blog (and this post) by accident, but I am struck by the things you say.

Not because I do not agree with you or think you are agressive, but because I realise that I have left the 'pagan path' by word (I still believe, I just don't use the name) because of the fundamentalisme that is coming into Paganisme.

It's not the believe in the fact that the gods are real. Nor is it the interpretation of the myths. It is more the fact that they see their opinion as the one and only holy truth when it comes to religion. The people who do not agree with them are completly wrong if you ask them. Or that is what I experienced.

I believe that not a person in this world holds the truth. We cannot discuss about facts (like the sun is shining) and we cannot make people accept our truth/opinion.

To answer one of your questions: I live in Europe (and English is my second language, so I hope it is clear what I am writing) and I also notice these things. I think it is an disease of the human kind. We all want power to make people believe and do what we want. Not because of the power, but because of the control and the certainty. We love the last one. As long as we are safe and warm in our houses, we will still be fighting over moral questions and what is true about it. (When we are not safe and warm in our houses we will be fighting over food i guess)
I am still hoping that some of the people who believe that we do not hold the truth will take over. I mean, that they will be the biggest part of the worlds population. Maybe we can just live and let live on that day.

Maelstrom said...

Thank you for your comments, Sakura or Karin or whoever you may be! I am glad to have European voices join this discussion. I think there are many people who feel much the same as you do. I hope you find some encouragement in this discussion.

Imperator David Griffin said...

"Pagan Fundamentalism" is a value laden term with extreme negative connotations for common people. I have documented in the below linked article how results of existing Pagan scholarship are already being misrepresented on Christian blogs with a distinctively negative agenda towards Paganism. I am very concerned that the present discussions about Pagan Fundamentalism will be used against Pagans in the same manner. See my article on this important issue entitled:
"Pagan Scholarship and anti-Pagan Propaganda" at

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