Browsed by
Tag: Patheos

Going Atheist: When Belief in the Gods Fails

Going Atheist: When Belief in the Gods Fails

I decided to write this piece about when belief in the gods fails because Tyson Chase, a fellow blogger has gone from pagan to atheist. It’s a shame, because I enjoyed reading his posts, but I understand where he is coming from.

I read a number of blogs from pagan and atheist authors off Patheos, (and if I want to get pissed off, I read the Christian blogs, too), but it always intrigued me that someone living in the heart of Mormon country would be pagan. I found it daring, to say the least. But his belief in the gods failed because it’s tough to reconcile gods and magic with science. So, he has become an agnostic atheist.

Writng as a Former Agnostic Atheist

It’s kind of funny that I had the exact opposite experience. I went from Catholic to Agnostic (with heavy emphasis on Atheist) to Heathen. The gods had to figuratively whack me upside the head to get my attention, but they did get my attention. I had to accept that there were gods, and that their existence coincided with the science I knew and understood. Not gods of the gaps, but actual gods who existed in a pantheistic way, and who could take forms.

Not everyone will have that kind of experience. In fact, some people will claim I am delusional. So be it. I make no apologies for it. If you’re one of those who believes this, you are not my audience, and I recommend that you simply move along and don’t waste your time.

Sometimes I’m still agnostic, especially when it comes to things like magic and wights. I’ve had some odd encounters that I can’t rationally explain without jumping through a bunch of hoops to make reality fit the model, so I’ll just claim I’m agnostic and let it go at that.

But when asking for an obvious sign and getting one? Well, that’s where the gods have stepped in and slapped me upside the head. Hel, they even spelled out their names.

When You’re Tempted to go Atheist

I’m not one to tell you to not go atheist. I can only tell you my own experience. I’ve known Heathens who were basically atheist who just liked keeping the Heathen ways alive. Like the people in our society who don’t really believe in the Christian god, but still celebrate Christmas, they like the holiday and the practices, but don’t believe the gods exist. That’s fine. Our gods don’t require our belief.

The Heathen (and also many other pagan) gods aren’t easily measurable. They aren’t part of the physical world, (but they do have the ability to take on physical forms.) They don’t insist that people worship them, although they show up to those they want to work for them in this world.

Yeah, I don’t think I’m so important to Tyr that he couldn’t get anyone else to do what I do, but he and Thor chose me for some damn reason. An atheist-leaning agnostic, at that. Go figure.

What About Science?

Paganism/Heathenism and science aren’t mutually exclusive. Scientists discover new things about our world all the time. Some of their discoveries and theories strengthen our beliefs as Heathens. Some of the information discounts what we believed in the past. That’s okay, really. If we cannot change with the new discoveries and facts, then our religion has no relevance to our current society. This is why Christianity is having such a tough time keeping and attracting new followers. Most Christian denominations fail to change with society, and thus become irrelevant to most people.

Look at their bible. Many still believe that the world was made in six days. They believe that man sinned from eating from the tree of knowledge, and that sin stays with everyone until they are baptised. Furthermore, if you don’t believe the bible and in Jesus, you get punished for eternity.

Heathens don’t believe that. In fact we look at our books as inspirational texts and more like guidelines than actual rules. We accept science and look at it as one more key to understanding our universe.

As Heathens, we know our books were written by people from an oral tradition. No matter how hard you try to get the information right, like the game of telephone or operator, the stories are going to change from one generation to the next. Add multiple generations and a change to Christianity, and the stories not only become Christianized but also very different from the original story. And be aware that the original story was told through the viewpoint of a Heathen who lived over a thousand years ago.

So, What to Do if You Lose Faith in the Gods

First, understand that Heathenism and science (or paganism and science) are not mutually exclusive. In fact, the two complement each other. You can read about quantum theory and still believe in Odin. You can look up at the night’s sky and feel Tyr beside you. You can understand the mechanism behind weather and still hear Thor’s voice in the thunder. Science does not negate this.

But let’s say you’ve been Heathen a while and never heard a god. Never seen a wight. Never felt anything close to divine. Okay, so you haven’t. So what? Lots of people don’t hear from the gods. And the gods are not your bitches. That means you can’t summon them up like a lab experiment.

Maybe you’re looking for proof and are disheartened that the gods don’t speak to you. Look, the gods sometimes speak to me. Not always. Even when I’m searching for an answer, sometimes all I get are crickets. Be patient. Wait and see. Use your runes and talk to others who are Heathens for their opinions.

If this truly bothers you, then perhaps you’re not in the right form of paganism, or maybe not in the right religion at all. Maybe you should be an atheist or agnostic. But, I would encourage you to be open to the gods, even if you decide Heathenism isn’t for you. You never know when one of the gods will look you up. Or bitch-slap you upside the head like they did with me.

The Point to All This

I suppose the point to this rambling post is that if you really want to leave paganism/Heathenism, no one will stop you. Sure, we’ll be sad to see you go, but everyone must follow their own path. Just as Tyson Chase must follow his own path. I enjoyed Tyson’s posts, and maybe he might pick up blogging on the nonreligious channel, but I kind of doubt it by the finality of his tone. Still, the pagan/Heathen door is always open for those who wish to honor our gods. I wish you good luck, Tyson, and I look forward to whatever you choose to write in the future.

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

Five Bad Reasons for Becoming a Heathen

I ran into an interesting post on Patheos entitled 5 Bad Reasons to Become a Pagan.  It’s an interesting post, but it seems to cover more Wiccan than Heathen issues.  So, like any good Viking, I’ve raided the subject and decided to talk about the five bad reasons for becoming a Heathen.  Maybe you agree with me; maybe you don’t.  Whatever.  But here is my list.

Bad Reason #1: You Want to Join a Whites-Only (Neo-Nazi) Religion

If you’ve hung out on my blog for any length of time, you knew this would be one of the bad reasons. We don’t want white supremacists or Neo-Nazis for the simple fact that they are a foul pollutant to our religion and we do not believe what they believe.  The history of Heathen belief bears this out.

Our ancestors belief in “race” was much different than identifying with the color of one’s skin.  Instead, they discriminated on religious beliefs, class, and political alliances.  So if you were a Viking from Scandinavia who believed in the Heathen gods, you were considered a vastly different person than the Anglo-Saxon who believed in Christ, rightly or wrongly. Now, if you were from Nubia (an African country) and had dark skin, you were considered the same race as Christians who had white skin because you believed in Christ.   If you were another color, Heathens didn’t care as long as you worshiped the Heathen gods and allied yourself with the kindreds they were in. So, your allies were considered the same as you.

As Heathens, we accept that the gods call people who are of a different ethnicity than those whose ancestors have come from the Northern European lands.  We are not here to judge our gods’ choices as to whom they wish as followers. Although skin color may be an issue today, Heathens should be inclusive when it comes to following our gods.

Bad Reason #2: You Want to Worship Our Gods Because You’re a Marvel Fan

You know, it’s okay to be introduced to the Heathen gods through Marvel, but if you’re becoming a Heathen because you find Tom Hiddleston or Chris Hemsworth sexy, maybe what you’re looking for isn’t a religion but a fan club.  You shouldn’t worship Loki because you’re enamored with Hiddleston.  Believe me, you aren’t the only one coming into the Northern religions because of the movies. The rest of us who are serious are going to sigh in disgust.  We’re not a place for you to live out your fantasies when it comes to actors, so you might as well go someplace else.

The other issue is that the Marvel Thor universe is only loosely based on our mythology.  There are plenty of differences, so don’t think you’re coming into a religion that is like the movies or the comics.

Bad Reason #3: You Have a Drinking Problem and You Want to Hide It

Heathens drink mead.  A lot.  We have rites that use mead quite often.  Both the blot and the sumbel use mead, and drinking often accompanies our holidays (which are many).  That being said, Odin states the following in the Havamal (11 – 14):

A better burden can no man bear
on the way than his mother wit:
and no worse provision can he carry with him
than too deep a draught of ale.

Less good than they say for the sons of men
is the drinking oft of ale:
for the more they drink, the less can they think
and keep a watch o’er their wits.

A bird of Unmindfulness flutters o’er ale feasts,
wiling away men’s wits:
with the feathers of that fowl I was fettered once
in the garths of Gunnlos below.

Drunk was I then, I was over drunk
in that crafty Jötun’s court.
But best is an ale feast when man is able
to call back his wits at once.

 [Translation Source]

You can argue whether these are really Odin’s words transcribed, but most Heathens accept it as wisdom.  So, if you’re an alcoholic, or a borderline alcoholic, who wants to use Heathenry as an excuse to drink, go to rehab.  Seriously.  We need people who have their wits about them and not people who use Heathenry as an excuse to drink.

Bad Reason #4: You Want to Use Heathenry as an Extended Version of Cosplay

I’m probably going to step on toes here, but if you’re using Heathenry just to dress up in cool clothing and armor, swing swords and carry medieval weapons, maybe you need to either be in an reenactment group or the SCA and not a Heathen.  Certainly there are Heathens in reenactment groups and the SCA, and there’s no reason why they shouldn’t be there.  The problem is when those people don’t take their Heathen beliefs seriously.  Look, I get that there are atheist and agnostic Heathens out there, but they still take their lore seriously (maybe a little too seriously for my taste).  No, I’m not saying that you need to become a recon asshat who insists that everything be done according to their (or some Asa-pope’s) interpretation of what the ancestors did, but at least you’re interested in the archaeology, lore, Eddas, writing, and the past.

Bad Reason #5: You Want to Be a Powerful Magic User

Oh gods, here I am using the “M” word (magic) again.  (I’m fairly skeptical about magic, so bear with me on this.)  Heathenry has a limited amount of  magic — we have seidr, we have runes, we have gods and giants, we have wights and other supernatural critters, we have berserkers and ulfhednar and whatnot.  We have our own lore and magic that surrounds it.  That being said, if you’re really looking for playing with magic a lot, you need to check out other pagan beliefs, most notably, Wiccan. It’s not that most Heathens wouldn’t welcome you into the fold; it’s just that you’ll be disappointed with Heathenry because we really don’t have what you’re looking for.  Other pagan beliefs have more magical tendencies. The Heathen magic is usually communicating with wights and gods, being possessed by a supernatural entity, foretelling the future, wards, and making requests to entities in the form of blots.  I’m not saying you can’t become powerful in your own right, but in many cases, you’ll find the magic somewhat lacking.

There are other bad reasons that are valid when it comes to becoming a Heathen..  Maybe you have some thoughts on this as well?