My blood pressure has been steadily rising.

I swore up and down that I would not engage over this topic for many reasons that I’m sure will come spilling out in this blog entry. I skimmed the seething, foaming blog entries written about and, mostly, against this topic and rolled my eyes enough to give me a headache. Then it seemed to die for the most part and it was safe for me to resume my blog-reading.

However, this was not true. Yesterday, I was ambushed by a a blog entry that made me see all sorts of lovely shades of red. I couldn’t read the whole thing because the first two sentences were so effing ridiculous and snide and bitchy. I came back to it today and, after doing some deep breathing [seriously, it made me so fucking mad], read the whole thing. Now, the whole entry was not about the topic at hand [thank the gods] but the prevailing attitude of this particular blogger still makes me want to punch things. Right now, though, I am going to become part of the problem.

This ridiculous debate over what is a deity and what is not a deity and what can be worshiped and what cannot be worshiped and who has got it right and comic book characters and inferior practice and who is ‘winning’ and whatever else is being thrown into the pot is just that, ridiculous.

Every time I see yet another blog post squeezing more poison out of this topic, my immediate reaction is to start screaming ‘shut up, shut up, SHUT UP.’ Do you not have anything better to do than poke people with your words via the internet? Do you believe it is your divine right to be the arbiter of someone else’s spiritual life or experiences? Do you understand that, by labeling someone’s practices or experiences as wrong or inaccurate, you are potentially damaging them and driving them away from the/their Gods? If you answer any of these questions with a ‘yes’, then, in my estimation, perhaps you need to do some self-examination.

What astounds me, beyond the sheer hubris [yes, I went there] of presuming one is in the right and others are in the wrong, is that these bloggers have the time for this kind of shit-slinging. I mean, I do not count myself as a particularly ‘busy’ spirit-worker or devotee, but I’ll be damned if I have the mental energy or time or give-a-fuck to pound out blog entries about how this group of people are fucked in the head and wouldn’t know a God if one came down and beat them with a cricket bat or that they are Doing It Wrong or that the ‘true’ Gods hate them for it. In fact, creating the time/mental energy/give-a-fuck would take away time from the Gods I honor. Funny that.

There are many pagans and other religious folk who do things that I think are silly, misguided, eye-rollingly ridiculous, or just plain wrong. More often than not, I say nothing because it a) has not effect on my life or how I interact with my Gods, b) it’s not my business what you do in your religious/spiritual life, and c) me telling you that you are silly/misguided/ridiculous/wrong does nothing to improve the state of your religious/spiritual life. In fact, it might drive you to a place where you no longer want to interact with me and, perhaps the worst possible outcome from my point of view, leave you with a foul taste in your mouth about my Gods. I will admit, the last part is directly from my own experience and opinions. When bloggers start rallying the troops to the causes of ‘people are doing it wrong and we must tell them so!’, my immediate reaction is something along the lines of ‘this is what you do for your Gods? Is this what Deity X wants? Remind me never to interact with Deity X.’ And that’s sad as hell. I mean, I have enough experience and self-differentiation to be able to check myself and realize that it is very likely that Deity X is not standing there with pom-poms cheering on Their devotee while said devotee goes on a blogging rampage. In fact, in a lot of cases, my experience has been that Deity X just sighs and rolls Their eyes and tries to pretend Their devotee is not being a complete and utter tool. However, not a lot of polytheists, particularly new polytheists, can do that and that is where the damage comes from.

In my profession, we have a maxim that we attempt to guide our interactions with our consumers with–‘if you can’t help them, don’t harm them’. If someone has a close devotional relationship with Exxonia, patron of oil spills, and I think they are delusional and full of shit, how does telling them that I believe that they are delusional and full of shit help them? Does it further their spiritual practice? Does it give them a deeper sense of understanding of their relationship with Exxonia? If I cannot, after deep thought and reflection, answer yes to either of those questions, my actions/words are going to hurt them and that is not what I believe the purpose of spiritual/religious folks interacting with each other is.

Does it really and truly matter if Exxonia is ‘real’ Deity? In my worldview, not really. Spirituality is a personal journey, not an academic adventure or an experience that has to be shared by more than one person. I mean, as far as I know, I am the only person Mr. Mister has picked up and said ‘Mine’ about. He has no lore, no pantheon, and I have no historical proof that anyone else has ever thought He exists. The only information I have about Him is what has been told directly to me via Him in my head or via the mouths of others. It isn’t a hard stretch to include me under the umbrella of people who are worshiping Deities that aren’t ‘real’ Deities in the eyes of others.

There’s also something else we say at my job that has bearing on this particular conversation. My own version of it says that spiritual practice and communities should be based on the principles of attraction versus recruitment or proselytizing. If I believe people should be doing things the way I do them [and I don’t necessarily believe that at all], then I should be doing me level best to live in accordance to my beliefs and practices. I should be creating the atmosphere where someone WANTS to talk to me about what I do because they see something about what I do spiritually as attractive. The flip side of that is that the principle of attraction leaves room for the seeker, period. Recruitment and proselytizing about what is right and wrong leaves no room for personal freedom and experience of the Divine, in all Their guises. In my world, my opinion has no place in your practice and, goddammit, your opinion has no place in mine.

Before I wrap this up, since I have to go earn a paycheck, I will say that there has been one particular thing that has disturbed me more than most of this epic display of bad behavior. I have seen and heard more than once either someone outright say or write or heavily infer that people who engage with pop culture Deities or archetypes are delusional. I find that particularly noxious because it imitates and perpetuates the common cultural attitude that anyone spiritual or religious is a delusional crazy person and doubly so if you actually believe that the Gods are real and vibrant individuals. If you are engaging in this behavior, shame on you.

All that being said, I’ve adopted a particular attitude towards spiritual beliefs and experiences of other people that has served me fairly well. To paraphrase the Ghostbusters [yeah, I also went there, too], I am ready to believe you. That doesn’t mean I won’t use my deductive reasoning skills and logic, but I am usually happy to entertain what you tell me as your personal truth. There is all manner of shit in this universe that I can’t explain, don’t understand, and will never fully grasp. It has been shown to me that, in my experience, it is a far less painful endeavor to stare something odd in the face, shake your head, and say/think something to the effect of ‘alright, if you say so’ than to spend hours and hours of time and brain energy debating back and forth as to whether the experience is real, fake, or a product of brain weasels. If it’s not actively hurting me, then I am willing to entertain that it is in fact based in a reality, even if I do not share that reality.

In essence, I really do not care what you do spiritually. I don’t care if you worship Yahweh or Zuul or the goddamn Batman. What I am interested in hearing is your experiences because I can possibly learn from them or find a new path in my own spirituality, but I do not have a deep and abiding investment about what you do or Who you worship. I don’t care. Does it make you happy on some level? Is your life in a better place because of it? Do you do good things because of your beliefs? Do you do your best to live in accordance with the rules/expectations that your faith/your interactions with your Powers dictate?  THAT is what I care about and, in my particular world-view, that is what the Powers That Be care about or, at least, that’s what my interactions with Them have said.

And that’s that, at least for now.


~ by Alex on June 8, 2013.

11 Responses to “My blood pressure has been steadily rising.”

  1. *claps because YES*

  2. Thank you, I’ve been sitting on my hands not to reply to this, but you summed up my opinions perfectly and I agree with what you wrote

  3. Yes. Thank you for posting this. My sentiments as well.

  4. This was perfect in every way.

  5. I have been struggling to fully articulate how I feel about all of this. You did the job perfectly *applause*

    Linked at my blog

  6. I find that in the online Vodou community there are some people who spend way too much time finding flaw in other people’s practices. Sometimes they have valid points, sometimes not, but the fact that they spend so much time debating with others (or gossiping and backstabbing) makes me wonder about the validity of their calling. It’s interesting to note that none of these people that I am referring to are Haitian, which makes me think that they should also spend more time following the examples set by their initiators.

  7. Perfection. Utter perfection.

  8. I think what you’re saying here is very reasonable – *if* one does not think it really matters if the gods are real, and only is concerned about the personal effect of spiritual practice on the worshipper, which seems to be your perspective. I can see how, from that perspective, it would seem almost bewildering why people would be so upset about this. The problem is that not all people share that perspective. Some of us think it does matter if the gods are real, and that worship has a purpose beyond our personal improvement or happiness, a purpose that has more to do about the gods than us. From that perspective, failing to distinguish between independently real gods and human-created thoughtforms is actually an issue, and rallying people to give the gods Their due is actually something we are doing for our gods. I assure you that in my case at least, the few blog posts I wrote on this topic did not detract from my time worshipping, and were – as much as anything done on the internet can be – something I felt was important to do for polytheism as a whole. I do understand that the strident tone in some of this brouhaha has been off-putting, but hoping my re-statement of it here is a little more relatable.

    • Perhaps I didn’t communicate clearly enough. The point that I was trying to make is that a) I do not, and should not, have any say or input into someone else’s spiritual practice. My only concern about someone else is what I said above–that they feel fulfilled, are doing good works, and are living according to their beliefs. B) I do not have any corner or any right to say whether a God is a God or a spirit is a God or something that SOMEONE ELSE might class as a human thought-form is a God. Something that might tell me it is ‘only’ a lesser spirit may present and prove itself as a God to another..and there is no way that either party can prove the other wrong. They just can’t. There is no encyclopedia that says this is a God and this isn’t and it sounds so damn dismissive when people put on their argument pants and insist that what someone else is experiencing couldn’t possibly be real because they can’t possibly grasp the idea that something that was communicated via the hands of a human may well in fact be real and vibrant and individual beyond that human’s communication.

      With regards to giving the Gods Their due, the problem with the conversation that is/was happening is that a loud group of people are saying implicitly that there is a very small amount of ways to do that and, if you don’t do it those ways, you are not doing it in ways they deem acceptable, you are either impious or stupid or an affront to the Gods. I mean, if I actually wrote out what I do for my God [if people believe that He is real because, you know, there is no lore or historical record concerning Him], the people that are the loudest would be horrified. There is more than one way to love and revere a God/Power and that’s getting lost in translation.

      • I do think that sometimes the noise level gets bad enough that the subtleties of arguments – on both sides – are being lost. For instance, I think the primary concern is that *there is a difference* between gods and thoughtforms and characters that aren’t even thoughtforms, and that it’s important in a polytheistic context to discern the difference. Each person for themselves. It isn’t so much that I’m unwilling to believe that such-and-such entity could be a god, or a spirit, or whatever, as much as I’m unwilling to accept a situation where it doesn’t really matter because it’s all about how we feel inside, and people aren’t really comfortable with believing in the independent reality of *anything* spiritual, so they equate all of it in a big semi-fictional lump.

        I also think that most of us who have stressed the piety/devotion angle, and the gods-are-real angle, are actually rather open to a number of different ways to worship, although with traditional deities we might also point out that a reasonable place to start is with what the deity has expressed They want over the millennia. While I pour libations and recite hymns and make offerings to my gods, I also do a ton of things that are less traditional, many of which wouldn’t register as worship when seen from the outside. I have no problem with that, and I think perhaps some of that impression you have that we are so rigid is being read into our words, rather than ever directly stated. At least, I personally have never stated there are only a few ways to worship a god. There are certain basic technologies that have worked for all of human history – sacrifice, prayer, etc. – but that doesn’t mean there aren’t other methods as well, and one doesn’t have to preclude the other. What I’m most concerned with is that people *do* things, and that they do them for the gods and not just for themselves. The details are far less important.

  9. […] My BP has steadily been rising. […]

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