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Author Topic: Hard-Polytheism/Soft-Polytheism and attitudes to other religions  (Read 22065 times)
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« Reply #45: October 09, 2007, 09:12:22 pm »



Welcome to The Cauldron, Ben.

I enjoyed your post, and I have a certain amount of affection for the Quaker way of seeing things.  I hope you contribute more such on the board.

This particular discussion is more of a wrangle about the proper way to define terms, rather than a discussion of 'right' or 'proper' ways to view the gods.  It's not a matter of whether hard, soft, medium, scrambled, or sunny-side-up polytheism is more correct, just an attempt to pin down what each term means, completely and individually.

We do that quite a bit, here, actually.  Your scholarly bent will probably come in handy in debates here. Cheesy

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« Reply #46: October 09, 2007, 10:31:57 pm »

It's not a matter of whether hard, soft, medium, scrambled, or sunny-side-up polytheism is more correct, just an attempt to pin down what each term means, completely and individually.

Good point. We are debating "proper" terminology here, not proper belief -- which may not be as obvious as I thought it was now that I think about.
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« Reply #47: October 10, 2007, 05:57:26 am »

Good point. We are debating "proper" terminology here, not proper belief -- which may not be as obvious as I thought it was now that I think about.

Thank for your warm welcomes! I have been struggling in vein to find an academic paper on the subject of various types of polytheisms on-line. Maybe that would help to shed some more light on the roots and the boundaries of the terminology we are using.

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« Reply #48: October 12, 2007, 08:46:07 am »

Why do you consider this the standard definition as it sounfds like one you have pieced together from different definitions you have seen in different places on the Internet

As I understand it the qualitative element in the definition arose first because various occult type Pagans were saying things like "I don't believe in the Gods as real beings but as personifications of natural forces, archetypes or manifestations of a single god"

There was a move towards believing in the Gods as real divine beings when the recon' religions started emerging. About seven years ago many of the debates on recon' forums were about this distinction. Most debates were around the idea of how or whether the concept of a divine unifying principle could be reconciled with hard-polytheism or whether a hard-polytheist could believe in a supreme God with other Gods as generations of that God without compromising Hard-Polytheism. At the time as I understand it the quantitative element arose as a safe guard, because most soft-polytheists appeared to believe in a form of monotheism.

Now the debate has moved into a different area with hard-polytheists claiming to believe in the Gods of all pantheons. Which to my mind moves beyond the scope of polytheism and is towards a theory of religion.

In Oenechoe's book Kharis she uses the term "'Rock' Hard-Polytheist" to mean people who believe in the Gods of other pantheons, clearly she is using the word 'Rock' to imply a further distinction from what she considers a standard definition.

Ultimately there is no 'academic' definition as it's a term we've evolved, with little scholarly work done from which to quote. My understanding is drawn from the history of the term being used on various recon' forums.

A hard-polytheist may or may not believe in the Gods of all pantheons and may be an exclusivist, inclusivist, relativist or a pluralist with regards the relationship between ones own religion and other religions & their Gods.

In the interests of clarity I think we should keep any definition of hard-polytheism solely on the Gods within ones own religion and based on the concepts of divinity found within sacred-texts.

Also 'Hard' and 'Soft', unlike monos (one) & poly (Many), are qualitative rather than quantitative qualifiers and therefore I think that a definition should be ultimately be based on or emphasis the qualitative element.

That being said I believe that Hard-polytheism is best defined as the belief in the reality of the Gods
and can be most easily expressed in the saying 'The Gods are real!' (Plethon)
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« Reply #49: October 12, 2007, 10:27:34 am »

As I understand it the qualitative element in the definition arose first because various occult type Pagans were saying things like "I don't believe in the Gods as real beings but as personifications of natural forces, archetypes or manifestations of a single god"

Some people in the ancient world thought like that as well.

Quote
There was a move towards believing in the Gods as real divine beings when the recon' religions started emerging. About seven years ago many of the debates on recon' forums were about this distinction.

This would be an example of why I avoid most recon forums. Among other things, the people in them like to waste time attacking beliefs of other Pagans as if they were world-shattering when in reality they are often minority views in the greater Pagan community. Most non-recon Pagans believe their deities are real beings too.

Quote
Most debates were around the idea of how or whether the concept of a divine unifying principle could be reconciled with hard-polytheism or whether a hard-polytheist could believe in a supreme God with other Gods as generations of that God without compromising Hard-Polytheism.

An interesting subject for discussion, but not something that seems to merit redefining "polytheism" to be sure the term excludes those we do not agree with. I did not like this when the PUC was trying to redefine "Pagan" to exclude any religion like Satanism or any other religion that had beliefs or practices (e.g. animal sacrifice) that might upset the political types and I see no reason to like it when recons do it.

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At the time as I understand it the quantitative element arose as a safe guard, because most soft-polytheists appeared to believe in a form of monotheism.

Some do, some don't.

Quote
Now the debate has moved into a different area with hard-polytheists claiming to believe in the Gods of all pantheons. Which to my mind moves beyond the scope of polytheism and is towards a theory of religion.

The Cauldron is an inter-faith board, we tend to like definitions that work with many different religions. Besides, the definition of (soft/hard) polytheism really says nothing about which of humanity's gods one must believe are real. However, most historical polytheists from the ancient world seems to accept as "fact" that other people's Gods existed. There aren't many cases I know of where ancient people's thought their Gods were the only real Gods and everyone else's were just imaginary.

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In Oenechoe's book Kharis she uses the term "'Rock' Hard-Polytheist" to mean people who believe in the Gods of other pantheons, clearly she is using the word 'Rock' to imply a further distinction from what she considers a standard definition.

That doesn't mean I have to use the term. However, while I don't see the need for it, I like this solution better than trying to redefine "soft/hard polytheism" to fit a group's ideas.

Quote
Ultimately there is no 'academic' definition as it's a term we've evolved, with little scholarly work done from which to quote. My understanding is drawn from the history of the term being used on various recon' forums.

Given the hundreds of years the term has been used, limiting one's understanding of the term to one limited group's usage during the last five or ten years seems pointlessly limiting to me.

Quote
In the interests of clarity I think we should keep any definition of hard-polytheism solely on the Gods within ones own religion and based on the concepts of divinity found within sacred-texts.

That makes interfaith discussion hard as every faith could redefine common terms in completely different ways. That's counterproductive to communication.

Quote
That being said I believe that Hard-polytheism is best defined as the belief in the reality of the Gods
and can be most easily expressed in the saying 'The Gods are real!' (Plethon)

Many soft polytheists and even some monotheists (e.g. those who believe other Gods are real, but demons) could make that statement.
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« Reply #50: October 12, 2007, 11:39:36 am »

Many soft polytheists and even some monotheists (e.g. those who believe other Gods are real, but demons) could make that statement.

My Christian ex-boyfriend once prayed for guidance on how to deal with me and got an answer from Set.  This has not made him not a monotheist; it has, so far as I know, mostly left him in a state of "God is weirder than I can understand."
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« Reply #51: October 12, 2007, 11:56:53 am »

My Christian ex-boyfriend once prayed for guidance on how to deal with me and got an answer from Set.  This has not made him not a monotheist; it has, so far as I know, mostly left him in a state of "God is weirder than I can understand."

ROFLOL...oh that's good.
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« Reply #52: October 12, 2007, 08:09:19 pm »

This would be an example of why I avoid most recon forums. Among other things, the people in them like to waste time attacking beliefs of other Pagans as if they were world-shattering when in reality they are often minority views in the greater Pagan community. Most non-recon Pagans believe their deities are real beings too.
Thank you, Randall.  You've said what I wanted to say, but far less crankily than I would have said it.

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« Reply #53: October 12, 2007, 08:57:13 pm »

You've said what I wanted to say, but far less crankily than I would have said it.

Where some get the idea that most Pagans believe their god(s) are just their "higher self" or the like (instead of real being(s))  is beyond me. That's really a minority view. In my experience, a very small minority.
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« Reply #54: October 12, 2007, 10:57:14 pm »

Where some get the idea that most Pagans believe their god(s) are just their "higher self" or the like (instead of real being(s))  is beyond me.

If they were my "higher self" I'd argue with them a lot less...
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« Reply #55: October 13, 2007, 12:00:58 am »

Where some get the idea that most Pagans believe their god(s) are just their "higher self" or the like (instead of real being(s))  is beyond me. That's really a minority view. In my experience, a very small minority.
As far as I have been able to tell, the recons who rail about such things get those ideas because they've met a segment of that small minority, one that was loud and adamant in claiming "this is what Paganism is", and took their word for it.  I don't blame the recons one bit for becoming allergic to that sort of thing.  But assuming that small segment really does speak for non-recon Pagandom, without further research, is... ironic.

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« Reply #56: October 13, 2007, 07:57:32 am »

The Cauldron is an inter-faith board, we tend to like definitions that work with many different religions.

Yes I see that, hence the Pluralistic Hard polytheism. Smiley
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« Reply #57: October 13, 2007, 08:13:12 am »

Yes I see that, hence the Pluralistic Hard polytheism. Smiley

I still don't see the definition used here as particularly "pluralistic" -- it's just not specifically non-pluralistic.
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