Personal Truths

I am still quite uncomfortable with calling myself a theist, as I detailed in my last post. I think this is because declaring myself a theist feels a lot like making a conclusive statement about the universe that I honestly cannot prove. Why believe in gods at all?

It is my belief that religion is a tool to be used for improving oneself and enriching one’s life. It should not, as it is so often, be used to control the thoughts and actions of others, or to make conclusive, all-encompassing statements about the universe. I do not believe there are any divine or absolute truths to be found by exploring religion and spirituality. The diversity of religious experience is so vast that we can find only personal truths there.

I have no interest in convincing others that my gods exist, or persuading them to live by my rules. That is not my place. My beliefs are for me only, to enrich my life and fulfill my spiritual needs. I can share my experiences with others, but ultimately those others must come to their own conclusions, their own personal truths. Someone may find their peace in heathenry or another form of paganism, while someone else is drawn to Christianity. Or Hinduism. Or New Age spirituality. Some people may find that they do not need a religious or spiritual belief at all to feel fulfilled! It is completely valid to come to your own conclusions about these topics and find what works for you personally.

However, what isn’t acceptable is trying to force one’s personal truths on others, either by social norms or by way of the law. It is all right and good for someone to believe that, say, premarital sex is wrong. That is his personal truth, and he has chosen to live by it. But when he starts trying to prevent others from having premarital sex because of his beliefs, it’s an issue, and it’s not right. Everyone deserves the right to live their lives as they see fit, and to believe as they wish, provided they aren’t harming anyone or impeding the rights of others. This includes the right to education, which should be the foundation of one’s beliefs about the universe, regardless of the path one follows. Pseudoscience or just plain bad logic is prevalent in far too many religious circles.

Religious belief is better for self-improvement and personal fulfillment than uncovering the truths of the universe. That is something better left to science, because science is testable, changeable, and deals with the tangible. Religious beliefs are changeable, too, but nothing conclusive can be said about the universe based on them alone. Cheesy as it is to say so, religion is a matter of faith.


My Discomfort with Theism

I was an atheist for a decade, perhaps more if you consider how brittle and shallow my childhood “belief” in Christianity was. That was a religion that never set right with me, even in its more liberal forms. Our culture is built on a monotheist, mostly Christian framework, and even atheists are not free of it. When asked about God, most people (at least here in the US) envision a supreme male deity who created everything, even if they are a nonbeliever.

Because the concept of polytheism is rarely ever discussed outside polytheist communities, and, in my experience, is often discredited or considered more “primitive” in comparison to monotheism, I never really had a good grasp on it, or even considered it. To me, was a matter of there either being one god (the most common one in my life, the Christian one) or there being no god. And I never realized exactly how shallow that sort of thinking is. When atheists rail against religion, what they are really railing against are the monotheist religions – perhaps with good reason, because those faiths dominate the western world. But no one ever mentions polytheism, except perhaps to ask why Jesus instead of Zeus or Odin.

It is because of the popular conceptions of God, religion, and theism in general that it makes me uncomfortable to suddenly find myself edging back into the theist camp. For ten years I did not belong with the theists or the religious, because those things meant Christians, Muslims, or Jews. I realize now that the umbrella of theism is wider, and the ideas about divinity are endless, but it still makes me uncomfortable to call myself a theist, because of what the word has traditionally meant to me, and what it means to others. Also – and it feels so stupid to write it out like this – I suppose I just spent so long opposing what I believed to be theism in general, but was really just monotheism, that it is almost embarrassing.

Researching the concept of multiple gods, I feel, has opened my eyes to new possibilities and new ways of thinking that just weren’t possible within a monotheist or atheistic mindset. Because the gods that I am slowly coming to believe in are not supreme, omnipotent supermen, and there is no such thing as “original sin,” a lot of the questions and moral/ethical issues that arise within the major monotheistic religions, such as the classic problem of evil, do not really apply. Just with those two ideas gone I feel like thinking about “god,” whatever that may be, is made a lot less vexing.

There is still a lot I have to learn on my new path, but I’m making my way. In terms of spirituality, I feel freer than ever.

Finding the Gods

It was only when a guest asked me about my Mjolnir that I realized it had been 8 months since I first found myself entranced by the tales of the Norse gods and the culture of the people who followed them. I meant, late last year, to simply study the mythology of several ancient cultures for a broader understanding of the practices and gods of others. Somehow, when I got to the Norse, it was as though I couldn’t stop, and I developed an interest a whole lot deeper than I expected!

I’ve asked God (the Christian one) for a sign, for something, a handful of times in my life, typically in my most doubtful moments, only to be met with silence. I was a self-proclaimed atheist, but that didn’t mean that I did not at least wish that there was someone or something out there that was greater, beyond some generic, unknowable notion of a “higher power.” So when I made a small offering of drink to Freyr and lit a candle for him, I didn’t expect too much. I harbored but a drop of hope in a sea of skepticism.

But I believe that he answered me.

Now, I’m not one to put much faith in one-off occurrences, but Thor has since sent me signs as well. The most meaningful, to me, was just a couple nights ago, when I dreamt of carrying the Mjolnir symbol after spending the day pondering whether or not I should get a new, better-quality one to represent my budding belief in the old gods. And what should I wake to but thunder?

I’m not entirely concerned with strict reconstructionist practices, though I think that study of the lore and the culture absolutely has its place. I can’t really bring myself to care whether or not I’m “doing heathenry right” by the standards of other heathens. All I can seem to care about now is that someone heard my prayers.

Practicing Practicing

For me, actively practicing anything, whether it’s a language or journaling or Pokémon, is a chore. I’m the type who simply does what I please, when I please, with no regard for whether I ought to be doing something else. I’ve always been this way, and it suits me just fine, but what about when it comes to committing to a spiritual practice or a magickal art?

I was a Christian child, but only nominally, and only because I didn’t know there were other options. The closest I ever came to an active practice was a brief bout of religiosity when I was 11, in which I prayed nightly and wanted to “get right with God.” Well, that didn’t quite work out, as it lasted a couple months at best, and I was an atheist by 13. Atheism is simply a lack of belief, and so does not have any practices. The most (actual, fruitful) spiritual work I’ve ever done was as a teenager exploring New Age spirituality. I meditated each night and was able to have some interesting experiences with it. Even then, I was only doing it because I hoped to have more unusual experiences, not because I felt obligated to do so as part of a spiritual practice. The bottom line is I’m not used to devoting time to spiritual development or religious activities. It has just never come up.

My carefree kind of attitude is all well and good for my regular, daily life, but when it comes to learning the arts of tarot or runes or astrology, just “doing as I please” isn’t cutting it. Studying all the right books and reading every webpage on the subject means nothing if I do not pick up my tools and practice – often. For an undisciplined soul like me, that’s tough! But divination is my strongest interest aside from meditation, so there are no shortcuts if I really want to learn the arts. Drat!

Welcome to my blog!

Hello! I am Teagraves, a skeptic by nature but a pagan at heart. My skepticism keeps me grounded and contributes to rational thought, while exploration of paganism fills that common and natural need to feel connected to something, and puts a little magic into my world. I don’t feel that skepticism or even non-theism necessarily clashes with all of pagan thought (though some paths and ideologies are obviously incompatible). I understand that many paths are theistic in nature, which is fine. There are so many ways to experience life and the gods and the universe that I hardly feel out of place. It is the wide, wide umbrella of paganism and the potential for self-expression and personally fulfilling practice that so drew me in. Since I’ve moved beyond the idea that there could only be one god or no god, I feel liberated and much more comfortable exploring my spirituality.

Again, I welcome any readers passing through, and hope that you will enjoy reading my musings and sharing your thoughts, as well.