I agree with much, but perhaps not all of what Sarenth says here. In any case it’s a helpful
overview ofrebuttal to the most recent willful-misunderstanding-based polytheist bashing from John Halstead.
PSVL has a point in the comments that I want to emphasize. Halsted is not a polytheist and thus should not be expected to agree with our faith-based focus or values. He can argue ethics with us if he likes, but arguing theology when we don’t agree on the premise is useless.
Why DO we care so damned much what a man who doesn’t share our faith has to say about our faith not suiting him? It’s not his faith to critique, and in my opinion, the basis for his critique is both incredibly flawed, and willfully blind. I get his underlying point, and if it weren’t so wretchedly framed, I might even engage with it, but I’m not willing to have a dialogue or debate with someone who isn’t interested in trying to understand what the other people are trying to say.
But it doesn’t matter, because it’s obvious the reason for it is a chip on his shoulder that gets in his way in other areas too, and none of that is our problem. No matter what he thinks, he doesn’t speak for all Paganism, because nobody speaks for All Paganism. “All Paganism” is not a thing.
Mind, I actually DO think there’s room under that “Big Tent” for all this, because Paganism isn’t a religion it’s a category, a socio-political movement with spiritual inspiration driving it. I think the main purpose of the Tent in question is to get shit done in contexts where any given trad is too small – i.e. shared resources. That comes in handy when dealing with outside systems like government and academic bureaucracies, keeps us from individually disappearing in the eyes of the mainstream, and gives otherwise isolated solitaries someone to talk to when there’s nobody of an actually matching practice anywhere nearby. Good for it. I’m up for that much.
But that’s because I’m actually up for Interfaith work, and it’s quite clear Halsted isn’t.
That Big Tent called “Paganism” is just an interfaith effort for minority religions that have any one of several different elements to them – faith in many gods is only one of those elements. Feminist spirituality is another. Use of magic is another. Animism is yet another. Regardless of how intuitively these elements go together, they don’t actually require each other. And all of them occur in traditions that don’t identify as Pagan. So clearly, the real requirement is simply self-identification as Pagan.
Expecting any two Pagan traditions, much less eclectic individuals, to actually have specific stuff in common is ignorant at best – often willfully so.
I get why people react so badly to realizing that everyone under the Big Tent isn’t actually the same as them: They believed they had found where they belong, and assumed that “belonging” meant “everyone here agrees with me” and it hurts to find out that’s not actually true. But that’s because their sense of belonging was based on false assumptions and/or illusions. Their actual belonging was grounded in shared needs not shared beliefs.
With articles such as this, it is even more clear to me why polytheists need to speak up within and without the Pagan Umbrella.
With respect to discerning John Beckett from John Halstead, I will use their last names.
‘John Beckett has recently written a post about his vision of the future of Polytheism- the future of the “polytheist revolution” -and the importance of “keeping the Gods at the front”. To me, this sounds disturbingly like the Christianity I left behind 15 years ago – with its rejection of this world or at least its relegation of the concerns of this world to a place of secondary importance. It sounds too much like the monotheistic condemnation of “idolatry” and the “gods of…
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