The Beantown Bailout

Last week I had a FB discussion with a former Heathen, who has since left Heathenry to become agnostic. We were arguing over the death of that missionary who tried to pollute the Sentinalese. I considered his death well deserved and my interlocutor disagreed. I had assumed that I was arguing with a co-religionist but it was almost immediately apparent that our worldviews were drastically different and finally it came out that he was agnostic. He had left Heathenry because the community was mean (whine whine), and there were white supremacists, and blah blah SJW talk blah. Dealing with Heathens of all different approaches and opinions apparently proved too much of a challenge to his “progressive” values. Ok fine. Bye and don’t let the door hit you on the way out. I wish you well. But I also said that our disagreement, in light of this, made perfect sense. At which point, he first starts trying to explain why he’s become agnostic (I do not care. In fact, I could not possibly care less why you chose to abandon your Gods and I certainly don’t want to hear your life story unless you’re paying me to provide pastoral counseling and probably not even then) (1) and when that wasn’t well received, opined “don’t you think my path is as valid as yours?” um, no, I don’t.

Firstly, it’s a mistake to fetishize community. Yes, we all want it. Yes, it’s important. It is not, however, equal to the Gods. Religion is all about being in right relationship with the Gods. That a community is not, should not impact the faith of the individual. That’s a hard thing, I know that but I don’t think anyone should belong to a particular religion solely because of the community. People are fallible and it’s inevitable that at times they will disappoint, sometimes deeply. One’s faith should not rest on the infallibility of any human creation.  One’s faith should instead rest on experience of the Gods and ancestors, devotion to Them, and a commitment to veneration.

Secondly, why on earth would I consider an agnostic (or atheist, or anything else, including other religious positions) point of view as valid as that of polytheism? From the perspective of devotion, it’s simply not. One either believes in one’s tradition and Gods and values those things as the highest good or one doesn’t. If one does, then that is obviously the healthiest and best position one might hold; and while I may not condemn someone for making a different choice, neither do I have space for them in my emotional or spiritual world (and we’re not even talking potential miasma).  From the perspective of faith, all religions and choices are not actually equal and what’s more, they don’t have to be. We are not, after all, attempting to build one overarching religion. Everyone does not have to agree. I think we’ve all been brain washed by a society that elevates “tolerance” over everything, including moral courage. I prefer “respect.” I respect your right to follow a different tradition. I will even fight for your right to do so. I do not, however, have any need of your company and I may think you are very misguided, foolish, and possibly deluded in my heart of hearts.  

Finally, as a person of faith – at least on my good days ;)—I don’t see the point of allowing those who do not share my worldview to take up cognitive space. I’d rather expend my rather limited energies on building up a devout community, on engaging with co-religionists, and on doing what I can to honor my Gods and ancestors.  I remain astounded that someone would think that I would consider any other faith or lack thereof to be equal to polytheism. Our traditions are not interchangeable after all. Our Gods actually matter.

 

Notes:

 

  1. Inevitably those who have chosen lack of devotion and impiety insist on explaining themselves, but this is usually merely a means of gaining our support and approbation. There’s really no reason to care. I’m not in the business of proselytizing. Nor am I in the business of encouraging atheists and agnostics to proselytize in my presence. I kind of side with the Sentinalese on this one.

About ganglerisgrove

Galina Krasskova has been a Heathen priest since 1995. She holds a Masters in Religious Studies (2009), a Masters in Medieval Studies (2019), has done extensive graduate work in Classics including teaching Latin, Roman History, and Greek and Roman Literature for the better part of a decade, and is currently pursuing a PhD in Theology. She is the managing editor of Walking the Worlds journal and has written over thirty books on Heathenry and Polytheism including "A Modern Guide to Heathenry" and "He is Frenzy: Collected Writings about Odin." In addition to her religious work, she is an accomplished artist who has shown all over the world and she currently runs a prayer card project available at wyrdcuriosities.etsy.com.

Posted on December 6, 2018, in community, Lived Polytheism, theology, Uncategorized and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 9 Comments.

  1. I can understand being repulsed by white supremacists. My own journey to becoming a Heathen took longer because I was actively avoiding the Heathen religions because the only folks I had interacted with or knew in the Heathen communities were white supremacists. It took me time to find solid information and good books.

    I think the mistake of your interlocutor is the same mistake made when folks talk about interfaith dialogue. Unless both parties come from a place of mutual respect there’s no dialogue to be had. If your religion’s default position towards other religions is proselytization and conversion, that other religions are lesser, their followers deluded or possessed, there’s no useful dialogue to be had. In the case of agnostics tends to be “I don’t know and so you can’t either” and atheists are solidly “There are no Gods, your Ancestors are all in the ground and can’t talk to you, and there are no spirits.” There’s no ground on which to have a discussion, let alone something productive.

    So no, we cannot have productive dialogue between some religion and non-religious people, and we cannot have productive dialogue between some religious communities because our understanding of the Holy Powers are simply at odds with each other. If we can come at a place of mutual respect I think dialogue could be held, but it would have to be without the aim of evangelizing, proselytizing, or conversion. I think we can have productive conversations like these as individuals at times, but between religious communities given my experiences I am very doubtful.

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    • It drives me up the wall that some “academics” (who think of themselves as experts despite not knowing these things, studying them, or even knowing anyone who is a member of the religious communities concerned) have this idea that “Asatru is the White Supremacist pagan denomination.” I said “No, they’re not” to an academic saying this in 2010 repeatedly, and he kept replying with the same statement again…ugh.

      You know, your other comments have prompted the realization in me of something that is rather counter-intuitive, but perhaps noteworthy and maybe even useful. On several occasions, I’ve tried to host/initiate an interfaith dialogue, often in the context of a collegiate/university setting between different religiously-affiliated student groups. We’ve had no luck getting the Christians to come to the table with the Pagan/Polytheist Student Union at my current college’s branch on several occasions (though that group is pretty inactive currently, but we’re not!), and rather than seeing it as a kind of defeat, a failure at attempting to communicate respectfully, and so forth, perhaps it is its own kind of blessing in terms of “not wasting time” with a group of people who clearly don’t believe that we’re even worth acknowledging (including not e-mailing us back in a courteous fashion) because we are so clearly wrong, damned, and not worth even attempting to proselytize…in its own way, that reaction has more integrity and is more truthful than those who show up and make it seem as if they’ll be respectful and such when in reality they aren’t and won’t be. Or, something like that…?!? Anyway, I hope that makes sense…

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  2. I agree with most of what you’re saying here; some of my disagreements are merely over the choice of words, and the others aren’t of especially great substance…but anyway…!?!

    The point you’ve made here about the fetishization of community is really important. Yes, I get that is a desirable thing, and in actuality most of the religiously-practicing public across the world and time periods have probably had communal engagement more on their minds than devotion, the Deities involved, and so forth. Many ancient Mediterranean polytheists probably wanted to eat some roasted meat rather than worship Zeus; and it is clear that many of the evangelical Christians these days have attracted followers to their megachurches because of coffee stands, football-watching groups, and knitting circles rather than deep religiosity or meaningful theological engagement in a lot of cases. In the last few centuries in the U.S., involvement in one’s Christian denomination was not just a social opportunity, it was one’s expected dating pool/relationship-choices assemblage of candidates, lest one’s family disown one and so forth…in other words, so much that has little to do with religion (beyond certain ceremonies/sacramentalizations that don’t have much to do with the ethos promoted by the Deities concerned, etc., but that’s another issue entirely!).

    When I left the second group that I co-founded a few years ago, it was because I realized that the main Deity to Whom I was devoted was foremost in my concerns whereas the “community’s” focus was not on the Deity but on communal issues, communal and inter-communal perceptions, and so forth, it did nothing to undermine my own devotion…in fact, I could argue it strengthened it, just as the first time I left a group I co-founded did the same.

    But sadly, we’re in the minority where these things are concerned, and likely always will be; and the same would be true in no matter what religious context we might have found ourselves in.

    This is a bit of a hard reality, but also something of an obvious one, though despite its apparent status is something that is safely ignored, downplayed, and minimized in a lot of the discussions around these matters recently…and it is probably at the root of many of the problems that occur in the pagan communities especially. The failure to create a cohesive set of pagan communities stems from many causes, but the valuing of community over the valuing of anything that could be called properly religious or spiritual (in the strictest senses of those terms), and which should make these ostensibly religious communities have their juice, their passion, their energy, and their focus, is the elephant in the room that will always be ignored and talked around, even as it turns over all the tables and leaves huge piles of shit all over the carpet. It seems things aren’t that different to my biggest critiques of paganism way back in the summer of ’95 after I’d been trying to explore the different pagan communities for a few years: this is less of a religion and more of a hobby for most of the people who are involved in it.

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  3. As a card-carrying introvert (and a Pagan for nearly 35 years), I’m always astonished when people allow the vagaries of community to damage their religious practice. The idea that I could have let the implosion of my first coven drive me away from the gods is, frankly, incomprehensible. I seem to remember Benedict warning monks against getting caught up in conflict and personalities; he would have understood those as “things of the world” that shouldn’t be allowed to affect what was truly important, the monks’ prayer life.

    My only religious community is online, as my Druid order is so small (there may be one other student in my metropolitan area, but we’ve never met), and if the order was dissolved, I’d still have my shrine and my prayers and my rituals. Community is great when it’s healthy and functional, but if we have to choose which to create first, we should create solid devotional practices, and allow community to grow naturally out of that. It might be helpful to remember that the Desert Fathers and Mothers retreated to the wilderness to practice their faith, others were drawn to their piety, and the earliest communities of monks and nuns grew up around them.

    PSVL, I feel you about the whole “Asatru is the White Supremacist pagan denomination” thing. I have an atheist friend whose heritage is Icelandic, and she’s very upset about white supremacists making use of that heritage…as she tells me nearly every time we meet. I have had to explain repeatedly that only a small proportion of Heathens are racist and that the largest organization is universalist, but I’m pretty sure she still doesn’t believe me. She also buys into the “Loki is evil” nonsense, so I’ve got my work cut out for me (I’m going to lend her my copy of “Feeding the Flame,” but my hopes aren’t high).

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    • That’s very unfortunate, Sister Crow, but I hope better information under your guidance will prevail in the end! 😉

      (Ah, Benedict…while I certainly can’t agree 100% with his Rule, nonetheless, there’s some things there which bear further contemplation and potential re-contextualization into a polytheist context, if we ever get to the point of having monastic/temple-based communities, which I hope we do at some point!)

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    • I’m a Hellenist of Scandinavian/French ancestry, and I also rant about white supremacy and my cultural heritage a lot. TBH, there’s a lot to vent about. I would ideally like to pass down some of my cultural practices to kids if I had them, and I have some worries that teaching them about their heritage would be caught up in either the trendiness of Nordic cultures today or an assumption that one is sympathetic to white nationalism.

      There’s the added complication that as a Scandi American, my great-grandparents were pressured so hard to assimilate and abandon their traditions to generic white American culture, and now everything Nordic countries do is in vogue and commercially packaged for American consumption across the board. And then there was the literal appropriation of our stuff by Nazis nearly a century ago. So one can see how that may be very emotionally charged for many of us of Nordic heritage (regardless of our religion) even when we are aware of the actual demographics of Heathenry. I imagine the public education aspect is very exhausting.

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      • Kaye–Oh, I know; I’m part German and part Norwegian myself, so I’m fully aware of the issues. The problem is, my friend is convinced ALL of Heathenry is white-supremacist, and I’m trying very hard to convince her that there are people in Heathenry/Asatru for good and valid reasons. Because she doesn’t think gods exist, she can’t grok that people might practice religion for anything but political/sociological/psychological reasons.

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  4. I wonder why India does not protect its home territory as well as that island. They allow missionaries to do as they wish with their own people. Some evangelicals are already using this to condemn India, something they do often anyway. Even from leftists you can hear a lot about how awful Hindus(and sometimes Buddhists) are, oppressing the poor Christian missionaries, and the Muslims too.

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