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, forĀ 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.