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Author Topic: Why bother with gods?  (Read 3968 times)

keen

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #30 on: August 03, 2018, 02:09:48 pm »
Thoughts? Outbursts? :)

There's some informative and fun responses to this one, so I'll bring it back too.

For me, gods and spirits are very real. I couldn't ignore them if I tried. In fact, to pretend that they don't exist would be about as ludicrous as trying to pretend every human being except for myself doesn't exist (as some very dedicated solipsists do). The way the question is framed - and it's often framed this way by people who have trouble with belief - says a lot to me: that being religious and experiencing gods and spirits is something that one must go out of their way to integrate into their life experience, rather than it being part of the natural fabric of life that is there whether you want it to be or not, or whether you act on it or not.

For me, I would need to go far out of my way to 'believe' that there is nothing out there beyond the realm of materialist understanding, just like I would have to go far out of my way to 'believe' that I wasn't married and cohabiting with my husband. In other words, my faith in their existence is so solidified that I would have to drive myself into mental illness in order to think like an atheist.

So why bother, then? Because they're here, whether I or anyone else likes it or not, and I'm not interested in being a hermit to the spirit world. It's just not conducive to my well-being. So I make friends, I do the work, and I participate in relationships that make the world a better, more orderly, and more interesting place to be for everyone involved.
rotwork: on devotion to lesser-known and un-known gods, transplanting genus loci, art, and modernity

Hariti

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #31 on: August 26, 2018, 03:49:47 pm »
While there's parallels with this relationship in ancient religions, it wasn't the norm by any means. Gods were more often involved in a business type situation with humans, the whole do et des. I know in ancient Greece, Babylon and Rome, gods were worshiped because they were communal benefactors and "mascots"

I feel like you are generalizing a lot. Even in those cultures, there were some people who thought the Gods were there to help them with their day-to-day activities and to guide their lives. This was especially true in the late classical period, when the influences of Gnosticism, Chrsitianity, and Mithraism had seeped into Hellenism, but even in earlier periods, popular religion was very much a personal affair. There were great public displays, of course, which served political and social purposes, and which were quite dry, but there was also private religion. For example, the relationship most Roman families had with their Lares, or the ancient Greek practice of giving offerings to your patron God or Goddess before engaging in a difficult task.

Off the top of my head, I can think of a few examples of very personal worship in ancient Hellenic thought:

* The philosopher Proclus invited the Goddess Athena had come to live in his home with him, after the Christians drove her out of the her home, the Parthenon, and destroyed her statues.

* The rhetor Aelius Aristides dedicated his life to the relatively minor god Asclepius. He attributed all of his success and talent to the Asclepius whom he believed had blessed him specifically as his chosen servant.

* The Emperor Julian "the Apostate" of Rome. In an ironically very Christian gesture, Julian believed that the Gods had literally saved his soul from the lies of Christianity. He was a born again Pagan, and he believed that without the Gods, human civilization would fall into irreparable decay. He spent a great amount of personal wealth and put immense effort into restoring the Hellenic pantheon to primacy in Rome, despite the fact that Christians were the majority and popular sentiment was against him.

So yeah, even in ancient times, the Gods were never "just" business. Certainly, all organized, state sanctioned religions have a public civic function, but nonetheless popular religion always tends to take on personal forms of worship and personal relations between the divine and the mortal.

As for me personally, I worship my Gods because they helped me become a better, more conscientious person at a bad point in my life. They give me strength and guidance, and motivate me to keep going and to achieve bigger and better things, and to overcome my vices and weaknesses.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

Louisvillian

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #32 on: November 21, 2018, 06:35:09 am »
I've noticed that a lot of neo-pagans see it in terms of a personal relationship of sorts...While there's parallels with this relationship in ancient religions, it wasn't the norm by any means. Gods were more often involved in a business type situation with humans, the whole do et des.
True, and there's a reason for that. The more eclectic branches of Paganism, the ones that tend to overtly use the Neopagan label, are quite influenced by Western Occultism, Eastern mysticism, and various other mystery and esoteric traditions. The parallel they have in ancient religion is less the communal polis religions, but more the mystery cults at Eleusis and Arcadia and elsewhere. And those mystery religions in Antiquity did profess a personal relationship with the divine.
The further you get into the less-eclectic branches, ranging from historically-sourced ADF Druidism to the Reconstructionist methodologies, the closer you get to the contractual religion model.

Quote
What this has me wondering is, why exactly should one be involved with deities at all? No one lives in a city-state with a patron god who is expected to be venerated simply due to custom...
I can say for me that, while my city and country do not recognize their patron gods, I still believe that certain gods do hold patronage over my city and nation. They still are communal benefactors, even if the community as a whole has shunned them; for me, I feel that it's my responsibility as a Modern Pagan to do my part in restoring the pax deorum.
But even if that were not the case, there are still smaller levels of community to which the gods can apply their end of the "business relationship". The family, most prominently; it's one the main reasons I worship the gods of my Celtic and Saxon ancestors. Through honoring them, and building a relationship of reciprocity and hospitality with them, I can ensure a continuation of their presence and aid.

Karhunvatukka

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #33 on: October 14, 2019, 11:35:28 pm »
Fascinating thread, so I thought I'd revive it, and add my two cents. I haven't been to this site in years (was it really 2011???) but I've been thinking a lot about pagan topics lately, so here I am.

I feel kind of self-contradictory sometimes. On the one hand, I'm a rationalist, a believer in objective, scientifically-knowable reality. One the other hand, I find myself drawn to the idea of animism, that everything has a soul or spirit in it. I reconcile this by concluding that there's scientific truth and then there's emotional/metaphorical truth, and both are good and useful. As Dumbledore said, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I can't say I've ever experienced the existence of any particular god or gods, but I don't consider that a problem. On the other hand, if that's what you experience, and it works for you, go for it. It's just a different way of phrasing the metaphor.

I tend to think that what someone experiences as a particular god, or the spirit of a particular place/object/animal/etc., is really just an aspect of the One Big Sacredness of Everything. Which is real, even if it's only happening inside our heads.

PerditaPickle

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #34 on: October 15, 2019, 03:36:33 pm »
Fascinating thread, so I thought I'd revive it, and add my two cents. I haven't been to this site in years (was it really 2011???) but I've been thinking a lot about pagan topics lately, so here I am.

2012 it looks like, but a long while anyways - welcome back!
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Anon100

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #35 on: October 15, 2019, 04:02:43 pm »
Fascinating thread, so I thought I'd revive it, and add my two cents. I haven't been to this site in years (was it really 2011???) but I've been thinking a lot about pagan topics lately, so here I am.

I feel kind of self-contradictory sometimes. On the one hand, I'm a rationalist, a believer in objective, scientifically-knowable reality. One the other hand, I find myself drawn to the idea of animism, that everything has a soul or spirit in it. I reconcile this by concluding that there's scientific truth and then there's emotional/metaphorical truth, and both are good and useful. As Dumbledore said, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I can't say I've ever experienced the existence of any particular god or gods, but I don't consider that a problem. On the other hand, if that's what you experience, and it works for you, go for it. It's just a different way of phrasing the metaphor.

I tend to think that what someone experiences as a particular god, or the spirit of a particular place/object/animal/etc., is really just an aspect of the One Big Sacredness of Everything. Which is real, even if it's only happening inside our heads.

It certainly is an interesting topic.

My minor 2 pennies ( UK rate, not sure how much it would come to in cents ) is that I believe because for me there are gods ( it would feel a less alive world not having that if that makes sense ), not that that means that anyone else is wrong in their believes.

Why I would bother is simple - as I said above, the world would seem a poorer place without it. I don't get anything major from believing but I feel a connection and get to learn a bit about myself as well ( that's the thing about learning about another, you get to learn how you relate to aspects of them ) and I like to think that I grow a bit stronger from that. Most of all I find that I care about them too.

Anyway. How daft that sounds I don't know but that's me. 

Donal2018

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Re: Why bother with gods?
« Reply #36 on: October 15, 2019, 05:20:10 pm »
Fascinating thread, so I thought I'd revive it, and add my two cents. I haven't been to this site in years (was it really 2011???) but I've been thinking a lot about pagan topics lately, so here I am.

I feel kind of self-contradictory sometimes. On the one hand, I'm a rationalist, a believer in objective, scientifically-knowable reality. One the other hand, I find myself drawn to the idea of animism, that everything has a soul or spirit in it. I reconcile this by concluding that there's scientific truth and then there's emotional/metaphorical truth, and both are good and useful. As Dumbledore said, "Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”

I can't say I've ever experienced the existence of any particular god or gods, but I don't consider that a problem. On the other hand, if that's what you experience, and it works for you, go for it. It's just a different way of phrasing the metaphor.

I tend to think that what someone experiences as a particular god, or the spirit of a particular place/object/animal/etc., is really just an aspect of the One Big Sacredness of Everything. Which is real, even if it's only happening inside our heads.

I think that you can be a Rationalist and a Pagan. Or Atheist, or Christian. Religion to me is an Art, not a Science. So it is subjective and creative and imaginative. Gods can be useful as metaphors, stories, and symbols. Animistic spirits as well. Some people believe them to exist as actual entities, individuals, and beings. Who am I to say that they are not? To me it is a matter of Religious Freedom and Freedom of Thought. I would not put down someone else's beliefs because I do not want someone to do the same to me.

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