Reblog: “If Your Paganism is Anthropocentric, I Don’t Want Your Paganism”

I agree with much, but perhaps not all of what Sarenth says here. In any case it’s a helpful overview of rebuttal 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.


Sarenth Odinsson

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.

Beckett wrote a post about the future of polytheism and the importance of ‘keeping the Gods at the front’.  Halstead’s article is the response to this.

‘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…

View original post 3,263 more words

About EmberVoices

Ember Cooke has been a member of Hrafnar and Seidhjallr for more than a decade, where she trained to be a Seidhkona, Galdrakona, and Gythia. She founded the Vanic Conspiracy and made ordination vows to the Vanir and her congregation in the summer of 2013. She has contributed to several publications on Heathen and Northern Pagan subjects and regularly presents rituals and workshops at festivals. Her personal practice is more diverse, as the Vanir have lead her into cross-training and service for the wider Pagan community. This has including medium and servitor training in American Umbanda, clergy training with the Fellowship of the Spiral Path, and jail ministry for local counties. She holds a BA with honors in Religious Studies from Santa Clara University. Ember has lived all her life in the south San Francisco Bay Area, and is intimately bound to the valley of her birth.
This entry was posted in Interfaith, Politics, Polytheistic Theology, Praxis, ST4R and tagged , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Reblog: “If Your Paganism is Anthropocentric, I Don’t Want Your Paganism”

  1. Still baffled as to why Halstead cares what Polytheists do. Seriously, what does it have to do with him? I have no interest in telling him How To Pagan; why does he want to tell us How To Polytheist? Still baffled.

    Liked by 1 person

    • EmberVoices says:

      Well, to the degree that he’s a professional blogger, he wants to tell *anybody* what to do because Having An Opinion is his *job*.

      But I think it’s clear from the basis for his comparisons that the underlying reason is fear.

      It sounds like he was very hurt by the form of Christianity he was raised with, and he’s very much bothered by anything that reminds him of it.

      Notice, I didn’t say “Anything that resembles it”, because Devotional/Relational Polytheism *doesn’t* actually resemble what he’s being reminded of. But it nevertheless reminds him of it, and that itself seems to be the source of his energy on the subject.


      Liked by 1 person

      • Amanda says:

        I think you’ve really hit upon something here.

        I notice this a lot with pagans of various sorts. I was raised in a nonreligious household, so I think I notice it more than a lot of people who were raised Christian do. It seems to me like so many pagans simultaneously reject a lot of things that remind them of Christianity in any way (throwing out some babies with that bathwater in the process) while still accepting a lot of assumptions that they got from being raised Christian without even realizing it.


        • EmberVoices says:


          It depends on a lot of things, including how much exposure they have to a wide variety of Pagan traditions, how upset they were when they determined that Christianity wasn’t for them.

          I was raised Episcopalian, but my parents were raised Unitarian, and I wasn’t upset with Christianity when I determined that it wasn’t what I believed. That makes it a LOT easier to look at Christianity in its various forms now and go “Well, it’s not my thing, no, but here’s this useful bit and that useful bit and this bit I don’t agree with and that bit that doesn’t apply to me.”

          Which is to say, it’s easier not to have any knee-jerk responses.


          Liked by 1 person

  2. I’m not troubled by Atheist Pagans; I’m troubled by Atheists saying that Polytheists are bad Pagans. For a brief moment in this kerfluffle I thought “Maybe I’m not a Pagan.” but I’ve been down that road with Heathenry. If dominant Paganism thinks I’m a bad Pagan for being a Polytheist, I’ll still show up to Pagan events and let dominant Paganism kiss my ass. I’m not going to meekly back out of my associations and relationships because one person standing in the corner says that I don’t belong.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. EmberVoices says:

    Argh! Why do italics not appear in the finished post?? -E-


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