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Author Topic: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism  (Read 5787 times)

Roheon

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3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« on: August 19, 2013, 05:42:19 am »
I have a few questions regarding views on the Gods and Goddesses. I started out as a soft polytheist but, to my surprise, a few experiences have rapidly been changing that. I'm mostly there, but the "scientific" part of my mind is still restless about a few things.

Hopefully none of these questions are offensive, as they are things I honestly want to know for myself. I'm not doing this to find a pre-packaged answer, but I feel that outside input would be very helpful.

Also forgive me if any of these are repeats. I tried to make sure they aren't. I specifically mentioned hard polytheism, but I would still welcome input from people with other conceptions of divinity.  

1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"

2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?

3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?
« Last Edit: August 19, 2013, 05:46:49 am by Roheon »

RandallS

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #1 on: August 19, 2013, 08:26:16 am »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"

It is more something associated with them than it is their dominion -- at least as western thought on deities and dominion goes. Dominion in western theological thought usually means absolute control over -- probably because monotheism completely dominates western theological thought. However, shared dominion is common in the real human world. For example, in the US, all sorts of groups have a form of dominion over law enforcement and in most cases, that power/dominion is shared with other groups. Your local police can arrest you for violating the law, but so can the state police, the FBI, etc., etc. But then these groups don't have final say, the courts determine if the law has actually be violated -- but even there no one court is absolute, not even the US Supreme Court (as presidents and governors can issue pardons, congress can rewrite the law, constitutions can be amended). Dominion among humans is almost always shared -- there is no reason for it to be otherwise among the gods.

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2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?

Humans are probably nothing more than interesting pets to the average deity. Some deities may take more interest than others, of course -- in humanity in general or is specific segments of it. What were Gods before X came along? Beings interested in something else? What were humans interested in before TV or the Internet came along?

Quote
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?

I don't know.
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #2 on: August 19, 2013, 09:06:05 am »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
I have a few questions regarding views on the Gods and Goddesses. I started out as a soft polytheist but, to my surprise, a few experiences have rapidly been changing that. I'm mostly there, but the "scientific" part of my mind is still restless about a few things.

Hopefully none of these questions are offensive, as they are things I honestly want to know for myself. I'm not doing this to find a pre-packaged answer, but I feel that outside input would be very helpful.

Also forgive me if any of these are repeats. I tried to make sure they aren't. I specifically mentioned hard polytheism, but I would still welcome input from people with other conceptions of divinity.  

1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"

2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?

3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?

 
1.) I follow what Randall mentioned, that one deity's domain is not absolute and that indeed they do share. I see how this all happens like this, say we have Bob, Doug, and Jim. Bob, Doug, and Jim are all mailmen. They have their own routes, they are their own individual people with their own likes and dislikes (Bob is a Cubs fan, Jim likes NASCAR, Doug does work on his parents farm whenever they call). They have similar jobs, and at times their routes overlap, but that is part of the job. They are all employed by the postal service to keep the mail moving and on time, along with others in the postal service. Sometimes on the route it's Bob that brings you your mail, sometimes it is Jim, and sometimes it's Phil who is subbing in for Doug because he's at home with his daughter who has the flu. That's how I see things.

2.) Human beings...well in my personal theology I take the approach of "many races of men". This current batch of human beings that have made it this far in terms of civilisation? Not the first, not by a long shot. We're just the latest batch that have been tinkered around with in the grand scheme of infusing a divine spark of god essence into one of nearest critters capable of sapience in the animal kingdom. We're nice to have around when we don't act like great f*ck-ups, but the gods can erase us and start over at their leisure if they don't like how we're heading, (Either by prodding a select few into making sure we make ourselves go extinct, or by throwing a few natural disasters our way). As for the gods before humans came about? Known by other titles, and the roles we ascribe them now are just the ones they take in regards to humanity and our role in the multi-verse.

3.) In terms of my theology, seeing as I'm a Greco-Kemetic, it depends on the gods we're talking about. If we're talking about Chaos or Nun, then I'd wager that those deities transcend this little nook of the galaxy. If we're talking about Ra, or Helios then I'm more inclined to say that those gods are gods of this solar system (judging by my own experience, info I've gotten from the gods, and just good ole common sense). Now to be honest the only way we'll ever know for sure is if we have some of the neighbors from the next civilization closest to our planet stop in and have a chat about their religions so we can compare notes. I'd be tickled if I was to learn that Serapis is worshiped widely in the Taurus constellation, but my theology doesn't need the validation that my gods are the supreme cosmic gods of all the multi-verse. My gods are the gods of this planet I dwell upon, like many other gods are, and that works for me.
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #3 on: August 19, 2013, 10:56:04 am »
Quote from: Roheon;119266

1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"


As others have said, I think of this more like 'profession' and not like 'there can be only one'.

There are lots of librarians. There are lots of doctors. Both groups have things in common with other people in their group (and they generally like helping people.) But there are times you go to your local library and times you might go to a different library (or librarian). There are times you go to your local GP and times you go to a specialist you wouldn't normally see. None of these are exclusive to each other.

(And, like librarians or doctors, I presume they have ways of communicating with each other so they don't step on each other's toes. Presumably mostly geographically, for geographic effects, but much more "Well, X came to me, not you, so I'll take this one" for things that are not, say, weather or local phenomena.)

Quote

2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?


I tend to think that deities grew to a certain extent from people and from older primal forces (spirit of place, spirit of ocean, spirit of time flow, as it were - what might be called the Titans in Greek mythology.)

Quote

3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?

 
I tend to think that the deities I talk to are planetary - there may well be lots of other deities out there that we have no idea about, but I think that deities grew in a certain degree of symbiosis to humans, and that therefore the ones we talk to tend to mostly focus on this planet, rather than other ones.

(On the other hand, this is not a big deal to me: it's a matter of curiousity and intellectual amusement, and not key to any part of my actual practice.)
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #4 on: August 19, 2013, 12:11:32 pm »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"


What of them?  There are millions of mothers in the world.  Nobody asks "How can they all be considered mothers?"  There are plenty of stockbrokers, construction workers, truck drivers, electricians, doctors - none of them are the same as the work they do.

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2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?


I don't know, and I don't know that it matters.

Quote
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?

 
I definitely have no idea, nor any reason to care.  It doesn't matter at all.
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as our ashes turn to dust
we shine like stars    - Covenant, "Bullet"

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #5 on: August 19, 2013, 02:38:37 pm »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"

Wow, it remainds me of some scholastic medieval dillemas...
My lifepan is not long enough to get acquainted with all of undeniably noble Polytheistic Pantheons. I'm not going to guess whether Thor is a subordinate of Zeus or Perkunas/Perun sent them both to Northern and Southern Europe respectively to focus himself exclusively on Slavdom... What a nonsense.

Rather, what pays my attention is fact that many unrelated fantastic Civilizations find something special in thunders! Despite being in love in whole Nature, they independently found something magical in atmospheric electric discharges! A mystery that if resolved, brings you closer to their wisdom and comprehension of their worldview!

Let's leave scholastic conflicts for monotheists, IMO we should think about Paganism as the Inborn Nature Religion, sublime enchantment over our beautiful world, not as a cheesy "battle of gods".

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #6 on: August 19, 2013, 02:42:49 pm »
Quote from: Ludola;119301
Let's leave scholastic conflicts for monotheists, IMO we should think about Paganism as the Inborn Nature Religion, sublime enchantment over our beautiful world, not as a cheesy "battle of gods".

 
This is an odd thing to say, on a debate and discussion forum.

Also: paganism is not necessarily inborn, is not a single religion, and may or may not have anything to do with nature.
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #7 on: August 19, 2013, 02:48:10 pm »
Quote from: Ludola;119301

Rather, what pays my attention is fact that many unrelated fantastic Civilizations find something special in thunders! Despite being in love in whole Nature, they independently found something magical in atmospheric electric discharges! A mystery that if resolved, brings you closer to their wisdom and comprehension of their worldview.


Oh, I think this mystery is solved by thinking about how freaking scary a heavy storm is. With having none of the modern amenities and being dependent on the crop not being smashed down by the next thunder storm. They were scared that nature effs them up. And unlike modern mankind, they were quite aware of nature's mysterious ways to kill you dead with its splendour.
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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #8 on: August 19, 2013, 04:16:50 pm »
Quote from: Tana;119304
Oh, I think this mystery is solved by thinking about how freaking scary a heavy storm is. With having none of the modern amenities and being dependent on the crop not being smashed down by the next thunder storm. They were scared that nature effs them up. And unlike modern mankind, they were quite aware of nature's mysterious ways to kill you dead with its splendour.

You definately touched the truth, but I'd like to replenish your remark.
Fear was not the only reason to consider thunder/flame/sun magical. They were the closest thing that ancient tribes could equate with what we today call ENERGY (Heraclitus when pondering about mass–energy equivalence used the notion of fire!). Energy is the way to create/build something new (even via most primitive black-smithing), transform existing often unfavorable conditions, ease and multiply the fruits of your work etc.
So, thunder is terrifying, destructive, yet creative and powerful. I can easily imagine that Thor or Zeus were two idols who simply wielded energy we all could long for.
(sorry for that little off-topic:o)

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #9 on: August 19, 2013, 04:35:55 pm »
Quote from: Ludola;119301
Wow, it remainds me of some scholastic medieval dillemas...
My lifepan is not long enough to get acquainted with all of undeniably noble Polytheistic Pantheons. I'm not going to guess whether Thor is a subordinate of Zeus or Perkunas/Perun sent them both to Northern and Southern Europe respectively to focus himself exclusively on Slavdom... What a nonsense.

Rather, what pays my attention is fact that many unrelated fantastic Civilizations find something special in thunders! Despite being in love in whole Nature, they independently found something magical in atmospheric electric discharges! A mystery that if resolved, brings you closer to their wisdom and comprehension of their worldview!

Let's leave scholastic conflicts for monotheists, IMO we should think about Paganism as the Inborn Nature Religion, sublime enchantment over our beautiful world, not as a cheesy "battle of gods".

 
I'm boggled at the utter fail of thinking that paganism is *one* religion, that it's necessarily nature-centered, or that it's inborn, much less that the gods don't ever have conflict.

Also, the scare-italics you use with the word "scholastic" are a little sad.
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That what is no sense must be nonsense.

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #10 on: August 23, 2013, 04:33:48 am »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1)] What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"


I think the deity of [insert thingy] thinking is a gross oversimplification of most deities, certainly Celtic ones. Sure some may be associated with certain natural events or realms but they aren't necessarily bound by or to them. There are always exceptions to this of course but I'm speaking very broadly and being a bit ramblesome.

Deities to me (I identify as a hard poly) are individual separate beings that I'll never really understand. Until and unless a deity makes clear to me that they are a combination of beings/forces etc. I consider them separate and individual. For one it only seems polite to.

I think named deities are culturally and literally of the people that named them. That doesn't mean they don't exist before, after, or independently of them. Just that there is a very real bond there.

Among deities with named aspects / titles there isn't necessarily any collision in aspects and 'duties' because there are so many peoples and cultures and names and so much to do. Of course numerous myths (the invasion myths and cycles of Ireland for instance) do speak of battles between deities and usurpation etc. so sure it must happen. But, it's not necessarily inevitable.

For instance, do these deities 'share' when it comes to mixed groups like many modern neo-pagan groups? Maybe. But that doesn't mean there's necessarily a collision or hostile interaction. I'm sure there probably is in some cases, certainly various UPG statements seem to indicate that some deities or even pantheons are hostile toward others.  

Then again some deities seem to be very 'quiet' in mixed groups or only 'select' / god-bother a handful of persons (that is to say they seem to do so with less people than the 'average' deity).

So maybe some deities get jealous of their followers and protect them from other influences, maybe some deities share them, maybe some pop in and work with a follower for a few days or years and pop out again, maybe some just hang out in background and never come forward but poke as needed...so on and so forth.

Perhaps that's how they treat their 'Thunder' aspects as well :)

Quote from: Roheon;119266
2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?


We're not the first intelligent bipeds. Neanderthal and others before had tools and there is some indication that Neanderthals at least had some sort of culture based on signs of deliberate burial with grave goods.

Perhaps we're only latest iteration of clever bipedal Earth critters. I still think it's silly to look at all the life on Earth and scoff and say 'humans are just x'. While we are just animals we're also 'just' the only tool using critters to have survived on every continent and left the planet and sought the depths of the oceans and Earth itself.

We also have an incredibly powerful tool, culture. Via culture a deity gains worshipers, sacred sites, offerings, praise / prayer etc.

Which, I would think, makes us pretty darn interesting. Maybe that's enough for deities to stop and look.

Quote from: Roheon;119266
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?


I haven't thought about this in depth. I have pondered it at least on a surface level.

Here's what I have.

For all practical intents and purposes? Yes. To both.

We're not really built to literally comprehend the vastness of the universe. For most of us (me included) it's a serious challenge to literally try to grasp the size of our solar system let alone the milky way.

So, to me, practically speaking? Our human deities are the deities of all creation because they're the deities of what reality and creation I can actually wrap my brain around.

Until and unless we run into an intelligence outside our planet that has anything like Terran religions I'mma stick with that.

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #11 on: August 23, 2013, 05:06:28 am »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap?

Mostly, I think that the concepts we have of the gods ruling over certain phenomena are equal parts the deities themselves, and human ascribing things to them based on interaction. For example, Greeks ascribed domains of weather/storms to Zeus, possibly because of his boisterousness; and domains of masculinity and rulership, possibly because of their own patriarchal culture and his strong personality. Associations were made, and reinforced through mutual interaction. They're not necessarily real or unreal. Just constructed.
So, as a result, I don't see it as a problem that many cultures have a different sky-god. It's a niche those cultures' mythologies had to fill. So different gods answered the call.

Quote
2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi?

Depends on which deities we're talking about. I think most gods are indifferent to us, because I think the gods are coterminous with the universe, i.e. that the gods are the universe's collective spirit. The universe is indifferent, thus the gods are generally indifferent.
The gods that we interacted with and ascribed certain characteristics that relate more to humanity than to nature likely had more cthonic or primordial facets early on. But they became downplayed as mythologies developed.
As to why they interacted with us? Beats me. Maybe because we're intelligent, they're intelligent, but different kinds so it interested them?

Quote
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?

Neither. The way I view the universe, I don't see it as having been created, as constantly being created by the gods. So, I don't view the gods I worship as the creators of the universe, nor do they hold that role mythologically. They're more like sustainer gods than creator gods.

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #12 on: August 23, 2013, 06:53:24 am »
Quote from: Asch;119776
I think the deity of [insert thingy] thinking is a gross oversimplification of most deities, certainly Celtic ones. Sure some may be associated with certain natural events or realms but they aren't necessarily bound by or to them. There are always exceptions to this of course but I'm speaking very broadly and being a bit ramblesome.

 
It's kinda like how, yes, I'm a feminist and interested in women's issues. I still got annoyed when EVERY SINGLE GIFT I got from a specific group of people was a book on women's issues. Sure, I'm interested in that, but there IS MORE TO ME. Gods are unlikely to be less complicated than lil' ol' me.

--Chabas

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #13 on: August 23, 2013, 01:22:17 pm »
Quote from: Roheon;119266


1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"

Thunder is merely something associated with them but that's not my whole perspective: Thunder was something the Celts, Norse and Greeks all experienced but they had different ideas, explanations and personifications for this phenomenon.

So, you end up having Zeus, Thor and Taranis, deities of thunder but of different personalities (Can you imagine Thor with Zeus' personality? I can't). The only thing that makes them similar is their shared association for thunder.

Quote
2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?

Oh no, it's the question I hate answering. I'm not really sure. I tend to view deities as "neutral" beings with their own agendas. I feel like they have interest in humans (I mean... we create cultures, societies, religion, technology but we also destroy. Sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally. Something about all of that probably would peak an interest.)  but that's a feeling. There's always the possibility we're a means to an end for them or that it could be both an interest and a means to an end. Who the heck knows?

Quote
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?


Just our local solar system because I r human and thinking of all creation can kinda hurt my head, metaphorically speaking. That being said, if there was a terrestrial race that had their own religion, I definitely would be curious about it and their deity/deities.

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Re: 3 Questions for Hard Polytheism
« Reply #14 on: September 04, 2013, 11:07:29 am »
Quote from: Roheon;119266
1) What of Deities of countless different cultures whose associations overlap? What of, say, Thor and Zeus and Taranis? How can they all be considered Gods of thunder? Is it a timeshare situation? How do you know which Deity to associate with any given storm? Is Thor Norse thunder and Zeus Greek thunder? Or is thunder merely something associated with them, and not their "dominion?"


In my encounters with a divine entity, the only mentions that I have heard of such classic anthropic gods is that they are false gods, though in some cases they have inspired elements of truth in them; therefore this isn't an issue to me.

Quote from: Roheon;119266
2) Humans are a tiny blip in time on a cosmic scale. What are we to the Deities? A random creature that actually noticed them, and decided to say hi? What about societal Deities? Who was Heru before there were pharaohs? Who was Hestia before the hearth, much less land animals, period?


The deity that I have encountered has told me that deities create and influence life, including intelligent life, on Earth and on other planets, to serve the deities' will by the life forms' attributes, emotions, and behaviors, though the most powerful and fundamental deity creates destruction, disorder, and oblivion, which is highly antagonistic to life and especially advanced life.

Quote from: Roheon;119266
3) We are also a tiny blip on a cosmic scale. In your theology, are "your" Deities the Gods and Goddesses of all creation, or just our local solar system?


The deity that I have encountered has said that it is a cosmic spirit that spans across the infinite space and time of the universe, and exerts it's influence upon it, and that the other deities are of the same nature.
It is more often than not the case that dominance-asserting sociopaths rule over decent people, due to the more power-hungry nature of the former. That principle is demonstrated well by various internet forums. ...*ahem*

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