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Author Topic: Question about belief in the God/s  (Read 1407 times)

AxiomBias

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Question about belief in the God/s
« on: March 15, 2016, 07:54:41 am »
So, I have been extremely interested in "asatru/odinism" I love everything about it and it continuously calls to me and I want to start following etc.

But, my question is: Can I be a true follower, yet not believe the gods are physical beings? I love the idea of the gods being metaphors for life and personal wellbeing, but I can't believe that they are "real"

I'm not trying to annoy anybody as I know it may be a controversial subject. I just want clarity so I won't get into trouble by going and starting something and pissing people off.

Thanks everyone

Darkhawk

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #1 on: March 15, 2016, 11:25:37 am »
Quote from: AxiomBias;188143
But, my question is: Can I be a true follower, yet not believe the gods are physical beings? I love the idea of the gods being metaphors for life and personal wellbeing, but I can't believe that they are "real"

 
I can't speak from a heathen perspective, obviously, but I think you have some unexamined assumpions in here.  So I would ask what you mean by "real" and what you mean by "physical beings" and why you seem to equate them.

A heathen I knew once would refer to "the regular 2pm 'Hail Thor!' Maryland thunderstorms" (which I know means nothing to you as a locality thing but is probably translateable otherwise); is perceiving Thor in the thunderstorm the same as believing Thor "is a physical being"?  Is that "real"?
as the water grinds the stone
we rise and fall
as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

bobthesane

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #2 on: March 15, 2016, 02:27:38 pm »
Quote from: AxiomBias;188143
So, I have been extremely interested in "asatru/odinism" I love everything about it and it continuously calls to me and I want to start following etc.

But, my question is: Can I be a true follower, yet not believe the gods are physical beings? I love the idea of the gods being metaphors for life and personal wellbeing, but I can't believe that they are "real"

I'm not trying to annoy anybody as I know it may be a controversial subject. I just want clarity so I won't get into trouble by going and starting something and pissing people off.

Thanks everyone

Why/how would you engage in a gift-cycle with a metaphor?

Basically, if you don't believe the gods are 'real', you aren't practicing heathenry. You are applying heathen philosophy to your life, but not partaking in the religion. There's nothing wrong with trying to live a life of honor and integrity and yet not worshipping the gods, it's not like Thor is going to come down and smite you for your impertinence :)

Jainarayan

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #3 on: March 15, 2016, 02:59:10 pm »
Quote from: AxiomBias;188143


But, my question is: Can I be a true follower, yet not believe the gods are physical beings? I love the idea of the gods being metaphors for life and personal wellbeing, but I can't believe that they are "real"



If by real you mean anthropomorphic, I don't think anyone really believes Thor is a big burly red-haired, red-bearded powerlifter. Thunder is real, Thor is thunder, therefore  Thor is real. Here's one way to look at it (I pulls this out quite often):

A more accurate way of speaking about them would be to say that, for example, Thor is not “the god of thunder,” but rather the god thunder. This is not merely symbolism, nor is it an attempt to “explain natural phenomena” in a “pre-scientific” idiom. It’s an account of the direct experience of the storm as a personal and divine force. - http://norse-mythology.org/concepts/pantheism/

We also tend to ascribe physical characteristics because, as Krishna points out in the Bhagavad Gītā 12.5 "For those whose minds are attached to the unmanifested, impersonal feature of the Supreme, advancement is very troublesome. To make progress in that discipline is always difficult for those who are embodied." This is usually interpreted as humans, being sensory beings (embodied), we need something to relate to that is like us.

I don't really think one could be a true Heathen or polytheist of any tradition with the gods as metaphors, archetypes or symbols.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

Lana288

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #4 on: March 15, 2016, 08:40:53 pm »
Quote from: Thorbjorn;188173
I don't really think one could be a true Heathen or polytheist of any tradition with the gods as metaphors, archetypes or symbols.

(Here to nitpick)

I'm not Heathen, so I'll leave definitions on what makes a Heathen a Heathen to the Heathens, but as a polytheist, I do think that one could totally be a polytheist and think of the gods as metaphors. In order to be a polytheist, you just have to believe that multiple deities exist. How they exist, or in what way they exist, is totally up for discussion.

Admittedly, I'm biased- I tend to mentally blur the lines between gods as reality and gods as metaphor all the time, so.
« Last Edit: March 15, 2016, 08:41:12 pm by Lana288 »

Megatherium

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #5 on: March 15, 2016, 10:06:19 pm »
Quote from: AxiomBias;188143
So, I have been extremely interested in "asatru/odinism" I love everything about it and it continuously calls to me and I want to start following etc.

But, my question is: Can I be a true follower, yet not believe the gods are physical beings? I love the idea of the gods being metaphors for life and personal wellbeing, but I can't believe that they are "real"

I'm not trying to annoy anybody as I know it may be a controversial subject. I just want clarity so I won't get into trouble by going and starting something and pissing people off.

Thanks everyone

 
I agree with bobthesane's comment above (admitting that this is heavily dependent upon what you mean by "true follower" and "physical beings").  Leaving aside precise definitions of the terms mentioned above, I think it would be reasonable to say that the establishment of a reciprocal relationship with the Gods is a key feature of both historical and modern Heathen religious traditions. If you don't believe the Gods are beings able to engage in such a relationship, than a significant number of people who consider themselves Heathens would likely not consider you to be one.

That being said, at the local level, there can be considerable variation in beliefs and practice. It is possible that there is a local Heathen community in your area that would accept your views as being consistent or acceptable with their particular outlook. It is probably more useful to ask "is this heathen according to specific group x" rather than "is this heathen" in general.

None of the above means that Heathenry cannot be a significant or even primary influence in your religious life, or that there are many other important aspects of Heathenry that could be shared between you and more theistic heathens. Viewing the Gods in a metaphorical sense can be a wonderful way to synthesize aspects of Heathenry with a more atheistic outlook, but it will be just that, a synthesis.

When I first became interested in Heathery, I also viewed the Gods in a metaphorical way. I saw Thor as a poetic way of seeing the storm, Frigga as a way to refer to the maintenance of productive relationships, Njord as the sea, etc. Over time this slowly developed into a far more "theistic" understanding of the Gods for me. So while I still see the storm as connected to/ a manifestation of Thor, there is now another huge layer on top of this understanding for me.

Ultimately, you don't need anyone's permission or approval for your personal spiritual life. If you, at some point, decide to become part of a larger community, then any such issues relating to theology would be between you and them, rather than the Heathen community in the larger sense.
My views are one that speaks to freedom.
-George W. Bush

Jainarayan

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2016, 10:29:07 am »
Quote from: Ian288;188194
(Here to nitpick)

I'm not Heathen, so I'll leave definitions on what makes a Heathen a Heathen to the Heathens, but as a polytheist, I do think that one could totally be a polytheist and think of the gods as metaphors. In order to be a polytheist, you just have to believe that multiple deities exist. How they exist, or in what way they exist, is totally up for discussion.

Admittedly, I'm biased- I tend to mentally blur the lines between gods as reality and gods as metaphor all the time, so.

 
Actually you are right. There are many Hindus, especially Advaitins, who don't believe the deities are individually real, they see them as metaphors or reflections of oneself.
śivāya vishnu rūpaya śivaḥ rūpaya vishnave
śivasya hridayam viṣṇur viṣṇoscha hridayam śivaḥ
Vishnu's appearance is Shiva; Shiva's appearance is Vishnu
Vishnu is the heart of Shiva; Shiva is the heart of Vishnu - Skandopanishad
 

bobthesane

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2016, 03:20:13 pm »
Quote from: Ian288;188194
(Here to nitpick)

I'm not Heathen, so I'll leave definitions on what makes a Heathen a Heathen to the Heathens, but as a polytheist, I do think that one could totally be a polytheist and think of the gods as metaphors. In order to be a polytheist, you just have to believe that multiple deities exist. How they exist, or in what way they exist, is totally up for discussion.

Admittedly, I'm biased- I tend to mentally blur the lines between gods as reality and gods as metaphor all the time, so.

And that's fine for polytheists, but the question was specific to Heathenry/Asatru. In which case, no, the gods are very much NOT metaphors, not if one is trying to practice the religion. The gift-cycle is incredibly important to the practice of our faith, and relegating the gods to 'metaphor status' pretty much invalidates the entire practice. It removes one of the foundational cornerstones of our entire religion.

Lana288

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Re: Question about belief in the God/s
« Reply #8 on: March 16, 2016, 05:28:15 pm »
Quote from: Thorbjorn;188217
Actually you are right. There are many Hindus, especially Advaitins, who don't believe the deities are individually real, they see them as metaphors or reflections of oneself.

 
That's super interesting. I'll refrain from any more commentary, because I don't want to bump this thread off track, but if there's any interest, I think this would make an interesting thread in of itself.

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