Post Modernist Poison, Polytheism, and the Enemy at the Gates

This is going to be short and sweet. Really, there’s not a lot to say when a ham-handed attempt at rhetorical manipulation comes flying across one’s computer screen. It looks nice, has lovely pieces, is relatively well-crafted, says everything so many people want to hear. It draws one in…and is rather like sitting down to dine on a beautifully plated pile of shit. Yes, dear readers, light a match. I’ve taken a look at Halstead’s latest post. I guess I can skip my daily dose of BeneFiber tonight.

In this tour de force, Halstead (obviously a product of the American school system) is attacking not polytheism directly, but the dictionary. Now, one may ask, what did the poor dictionary ever do to him? Well, apparently words having clearly defined meanings rains on his post-modernist parade; [and yes, I realize I’m probably taking his bait here – and I almost didn’t bother reading his article, it was so obvious what he was going to say–but this precise issue has arisen before and I think it’s worth addressing in and of itself. I’ve seen it even from those who call themselves allies. In fact, I think the prevalence of post modernism within our communities – whether we consciously recognize it as that or not—is one of the biggest problems we face in establishing sustainable traditions).

Now, I am not a post-modernist. I’m not even a modernist truth be told. I’m a staunch traditionalist. The only reason my ideas seem at times radical is that we’re dealing with a community influenced (I would say infected) with postmodern ideas. What does that mean? It means a Weltanschauung based on deconstruction of meaning, on relativism, and an absence of clearly defined boundaries. What does that mean for Halstead’s article?

I’ll be very explicit: he’s attacking the dictionary because for any educated or sensible person it is the first place one goes to lay out the parameters of a discussion, when terminology and language are in dispute. His “problem” with the dictionary is that it establishes clear parameters of debate, wherein both parties have a working operational understanding of the language involved. This is foundational for meaningful dialogue. Words actually do mean things and to ignore that is the worst sort of postmodernist sophistry.

The real question is why Halstead is so invested in relativizing our religious terminology.

That’s really what’s going on. He’s complaining about polytheists clearly and carefully defining our sacred vocabulary (including the word ‘polytheism’). In doing so, we are establishing a clear boundary and we keep having to do this. Perhaps that’s what we should really be looking at: why is this constant and adamant defining of terms so necessary ad nauseum?

The answer: because people like Halstead insist on repeatedly attempting to tear down the walls of our tradition, to insert their own ideas, their own secularism, their own atheism into the heart of our traditions. It’s an attempt to co-opt, to poison, and to stop any meaningful restoration in its tracks. He, as his past attacks on polytheism and polytheists have shown, wants to redefine polytheism, gods, paganism, etc. in a way that allows him access and control, so he’s attacking the very structure of our language: its common meaning, and he’s doing it by using buzz words guaranteed to get people’s panties in a twist. He’s talking the dangers of shutting down differing points of view, of oppression, and framing his narrative as one of resistance. Bullshit. Clearly defined linguistic parameters are only oppressive to people with an agenda of manipulation, desecration, and harm. The only reason to attack meaning is to insert oneself and one’s agenda into the thing or space or idea being discussed and twist it out of true.

A colleague of mine and I discussed this briefly and he offered the following, with which I completely concur and with which I shall close:

“Despite his claim about power, it is frequently people who possess some sort of power who encourage relativism, because it strips people who have only the power of their voice and their ideas from gaining any purchase, from having any access to power, because nothing means anything. And that’s what we see here. It’s the people with the power who are claiming that the essentially powerless are engaged in a power play. Words are used to *do* things, if you don’t have other means, and relativism is a way of preventing that, and consolidating entrenched power.”




Posted on March 5, 2016, in Polytheism, Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. The answer: because people like Halstead insist on repeatedly attempting to tear down the walls of our tradition, to insert their own ideas, their own secularism, their own atheism into the heart of our traditions. It’s an attempt to co-opt, to poison, and to stop any meaningful restoration in its tracks.

    It never ceases to amaze me that Atheists act like the Christians they profess to hate. They both use the same tactics.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Is that his ham-fisted way of shutting down discussion and any resistance to his ideas? Words have power, and precise words communicate much meaning. Dictionaries, though imperfect, are the only means that humans have to understanding. Language changes not by fiat but through usage.

    For some strange reason that fails me, why are these folks not only wanting inclusion into the Pagan religion but also domination? What are they are afraid of? What has gotten under Halstead’s craw? What is it that he wants to banish so he can be safe?

    Religion is not for sissies. Polytheism is not for the faint of heart.

    Liked by 3 people

  3. Linguistics, and a good definition of what words mean, really is at the heart of being to communicate with each other. If we re-define at whim, what really do we have left?

    I know words change meanings over time. I’ll just speak here from my food-blog perspective (I’m retiring some time this year, so when I get fully settled into retirement, there’ll be a Pagan blog showing up in 2017, too). I’ve recognized the word “organic” now also means something more and somewhat different than what we meant when we took Organic Chemistry at college — believe me, most of the stuff that we studied in Organic Chemistry you’d never want to ingest! This bothered me for more than a couple of decades. But now it is a term of legal recognition.

    But word changes/dictionary changes — still continuing the food metaphor — people don’t want “chemicals” in their food. They’d better specify, or just stop eating. Don’t re-define the word, “chemical”, to be a substance you just don’t like. And now I’m getting perturbed over “plant-based” diets. Just say “vegan”, or say, “plant-only” diets. If something is BASED around something else, it is not definitionally exclusive to things outside that realm. It simply means, not the main focus. Linguistically-speaking.

    Whatever our topic of discussion, we do need clear linguistic understanding of where we are coming from. Thank you for a great post to think about.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. thetinfoilhatsociety

    Two things: first, I believe Halstead is a lawyer. He took classes in how to twist words to your own advantage and how to use logical fallacies to entrench his position in other, not so agile at defense, minds. Second, he is an atheist, so any religious expression that has at its heart the actual GODS is a threat to him. It’s the form he likes, not the substance.

    To me it’s kind of the same as saying gluten free, sugar free, fat free, egg free carob cake is EXACTLY the same as a chocolate cake made with real organic ingredients, including butter. And that said carob cake is BETTER than the real thing. Never mind that it’s missing all the things that make that real cake delicious, the pretend version doesn’t ask anything of you. Actual polytheism = REAL chocolate cake; Halstead’s = the everything free version.


  5. ganglerisgrove

    as self evident as it may be, I do not think polytheism should be inclusive of people who are not polytheist. traditions have boundaries for a reason and those who are elders, teachers, clergy, etc are gatekeepers, with an obligation to protect and nurture the tradition by keeping that which would destroy it or water it down OUT. This is apparently difficult for some people to grok and eventually i’ll probably do a whole post on it, but for now, I will just leave this here, a little non sequitur that indeed follows nicely nonetheless.


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