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Author Topic: Polytheist+Agnostic+Atheist=?  (Read 14715 times)
Aster Breo
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« Topic Start: March 03, 2007, 12:10:32 am »

I'm not sure if this is the right place for this topic (I'm a little confused about the distinction between "Pagan Religions" and "Pagan Spirituality"), but, oh well.

I was completely fascinated by the list of self-descriptors that Sunflower posted in the Introductions thread:

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Religiously/spiritually/magically, I am:
- Animist
- Pantheist (absolutely not panentheist)
- Medium-hard polytheist
- Agnostic (i.e., I believe all these things, based on the evidence of experience, but I do not know them, and have doubts about whether they can be known absolutely - which doesn't stop me from asking the questions)
- Borderline atheist (depends on definition - I do not believe in a self-aware, volitional, omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent creator-of-everything)
- Pagan
- Eclectic Wiccan; Witch. Influenced by many things, including Traditionalist Wicca/Witchcraft and Feri-derived material.
- Libertarian Witch (my trad), and therefore chthonurgist
- Discordian
- Cyberwitch (an aspect of my Craft which I'm making a point of moving forward in of late)
- Humanist (if just one of these is "my religion", this is the one; the others are explanations of worldview and/or descriptors of praxis)

I was particularly interested in that fact that she considers herself a polytheist, agnostic, and borderline atheist all that the same time.  This is probably extremely limited of me, but -- to the extent that I've thought about it -- I've always considered those descriptors to be mutally exclusive.

And, moreover, I've personally been struggling with what I've thought of as my own fickleness because sometimes I feel strongly polytheist, other times soft polytheist, other times agnostic, other times just plain ol' confused.

I'd be very interested in how others think about this.
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« Reply #1: March 03, 2007, 06:18:03 am »

Id suggest in your case that perhaps you're 'just' (no offence intended, but I cant think of a better way to put it) a polytheist with a fairly reasonable level of doubt.  I imagine most people experience doubt at times, but as far as I know, the entire world doesn't self label as agnostic. Wink  Perhaps polytheistic with agnostic qualities?

I would argue that you can't be polytheistic *and* agnostic *and* atheistic all at the same time.  I can see a blend of agnostic working with either of the other two labels, but I don't think you can reasonable believe in multiple Gods and *no* Gods at the same time.  At different times possibly, but I would suggest that this doesn't indicate a stable belief, but rather uncertainty.  In which case Agnostic might make the better primary label.
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« Reply #2: March 03, 2007, 07:14:24 am »

I was particularly interested in that fact that she considers herself a polytheist, agnostic, and borderline atheist all that the same time.  This is probably extremely limited of me, but -- to the extent that I've thought about it -- I've always considered those descriptors to be mutally exclusive.

Well, I wouldn't call that atheist under any definition.  If one believes in /gods/, one is not /atheist/.  One might not believe in /particular/ gods, but last I checked, that wasn't required for theism, just specific religions.

It gives primacy to the view that there's only one way to view God, and since she has a different one it's invalid on the face of it.  Which I reject.

But, y'know, that doesn't mean she can't say it.  Just that I disagree completely. Cheesy

As far as your own personal confusion .. I go between hard and soft polytheism depending on how you ask the question. Cheesy  talk about confusing!  (I have one view, but it falls somewhere in the middle of the hard-soft debate.  I think.  or maybe off to the side).
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« Reply #3: March 03, 2007, 11:08:53 am »

Id suggest in your case that perhaps you're 'just' (no offence intended, but I cant think of a better way to put it) a polytheist with a fairly reasonable level of doubt.  I imagine most people experience doubt at times, but as far as I know, the entire world doesn't self label as agnostic. Wink  Perhaps polytheistic with agnostic qualities?

No offense taken.  I fully admit to a certain level of doubt or fickleness or skepticism or whatever.

It's something I'm trying to figure out.  Am I OK with doubt?  I think so, but sometimes I'm not sure.   Wink
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« Reply #4: March 03, 2007, 11:11:29 am »

Well, I wouldn't call that atheist under any definition.  If one believes in /gods/, one is not /atheist/.  One might not believe in /particular/ gods, but last I checked, that wasn't required for theism, just specific religions.

Yep, that's kinda how I was thinking about it.  I'd be interested to hear Sunflower expand on this.

As far as your own personal confusion .. I go between hard and soft polytheism depending on how you ask the question. Cheesy  talk about confusing!  (I have one view, but it falls somewhere in the middle of the hard-soft debate.  I think.  or maybe off to the side).

And, yep.  I'm glad to know I'm not alone! Wink
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« Reply #5: March 03, 2007, 01:30:45 pm »

Now I'm curious! It kind of reminds me of the comment made by Granny Weatherwax in a Pratchett novel. when Nanny Ogg mentions that gods are real, Granny Weatherwax retorts "Of course they're real. That's no reason to go around believing in them! It only encourages 'em."

I wonder if it's something like that. I do occasionally flirt with athiesm myself, wondering if the gods speaking to me are really real, or if I actually need some kind of medication  Tongue . Then they say something that, once I ask another follower about, proves to be real (Like Set and rum, F'ex), and I go back to believing in them again. Lather, rinse, repeat. I'm quite the skeptic.  Wink
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« Reply #6: March 03, 2007, 06:41:25 pm »

I wonder if it's something like that. I do occasionally flirt with athiesm myself, wondering if the gods speaking to me are really real, or if I actually need some kind of medication  Tongue . Then they say something that, once I ask another follower about, proves to be real (Like Set and rum, F'ex), and I go back to believing in them again. Lather, rinse, repeat. I'm quite the skeptic.  Wink

I wonder if we are more skeptical than people of other time periods... Huh
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« Reply #7: March 04, 2007, 08:35:10 am »

I wonder if we are more skeptical than people of other time periods... Huh

I suspect so.  Most of us have grown up in a culture where religion is viewed as a choice, not an absolute truth.  Therefore it occurs to us to question what we believe.  Barring certain exeptional individual, I think people in earlier time periods would no more doubt the religious paradigms of their culture than we would doubt the existence of oxygen.
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« Reply #8: March 04, 2007, 06:21:19 pm »

And, moreover, I've personally been struggling with what I've thought of as my own fickleness because sometimes I feel strongly polytheist, other times soft polytheist, other times agnostic, other times just plain ol' confused.


I'm in the same boat... most of the time, I'm pretty polytheistic, but sometimes... the "hard" stance dissolves into a more Jungian, archetypal view.  And sometimes I just think I'm going crazy.  Undecided
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« Reply #9: March 04, 2007, 08:55:22 pm »

I was going to quote Moon Ivy's remark about skeptic but don't seem to know how to quote on this new board.

Anyway, skeptism of your own beliefs signifies you keep examining them.  To me that is a natural thing.  I tend to keep examining most of my befiefs and concepts.  And yes, they do change sometimes as new material or ideas interact.

My own problem with religious beliefs is that I'm not overly religious.  I believe, I do silently speak to (not necessarily ask for anything)  Even on rare occasions give a libation or offering to one of  my deities, but most of the time I am content with a mental acceptance of them as mine.
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« Reply #10: March 04, 2007, 09:50:24 pm »

I believe, I do silently speak to (not necessarily ask for anything)  Even on rare occasions give a libation or offering to one of  my deities, but most of the time I am content with a mental acceptance of them as mine.


I'm not sure what you mean by a "mental acceptance of them as mine."  Could you expand on that?
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« Reply #11: March 04, 2007, 09:53:38 pm »


I'm in the same boat... most of the time, I'm pretty polytheistic, but sometimes... the "hard" stance dissolves into a more Jungian, archetypal view.  And sometimes I just think I'm going crazy.  Undecided


I was about to agree, but then started thinking about what I mean when I say "archetype."  I confess that I've never read Jung, but I think I have a basic handle on his archetype idea.  I don't think that's quite where I go; I think for me I have times when I think of deities as *qualities* rather than *beings*.  In other words, intead of thinking of Brighid as an uber-person kind of thing, I sometimes conceive of her as the quality of inspiration, or peace, or something like that.

Oh, that probably makes no sense.
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« Reply #12: March 05, 2007, 12:04:13 am »

I'd be interested to hear Sunflower expand on this.
And here I am to do so.

I feel my list itself covers what I mean by "agnostic" pretty well, so all I'll add to that (unless someone has specific questions) is that it's philosophically important to me to acknowledge that a-gnosis.

As far as the "atheism" part is concerned, the modifier "borderline" is crucial.  I don't identify as an atheist.  The key question here is, what exactly are gods?  I refer to the beings I work with as deities, for the sake of convenience and communication when talking to others.  Most folks, especially most folks on TC, would agree that the Morrigan and Hermes and Wotan and so on count as gods; nearly as many would extend the definition to include Coyote.  Are Lwas/Orishas gods?  What about ancestral spirits?  The Fae?  Where is the line between deity and not-deity?

My gods are not "Masters of the Universe" types; they're fairly small gods.  They know stuff I don't, they have abilities I don't, and they're way better at multi-tasking - but they're not infallible, and they're as much a part of the wheel of That-Which-Is as I am.  Definitionally speaking, "tutelary spirits" would fit them at least as well as "deities" does.

Now, I haven't got a clue what distinguishes deity from not-deity in a broader context (it's a bit easier to do in context of a particular culture).  Mostly I'm not concerned with the distinction - though it'd go well with a jug of palatable plonk, to make an all-night philosophizing session; I'm sure it'd be very educational, but I'm also sure that it'd be as inconclusive as trying to define "Pagan".  Whatever label I use for those I work with, and their cultural-pantheon siblings, they're good enough for me.  I don't believe in any bigger gods than these.

Shadow points out that calling this atheism supports the idea that there's only one way to view God.  I don't think that's quite true; I think there are many ways to view God/gods/the godhead, that my POV is more atheistic than.  "More atheistic" isn't the same as "atheist", but I do feel a need to acknowledge that I lean in that direction - hence, "borderline atheist".

Clearer?

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« Reply #13: March 05, 2007, 12:16:25 am »

I was going to quote Moon Ivy's remark about skeptic but don't seem to know how to quote on this new board.

You've probably already discovered how to by now but just in case you haven't:

In each individual post there is a quote button in the top right hand corner. If you click this button it will take you into your reply window, and the persons post that you hit the button in will appear in your reply window. Then you can just delete any of the parts that you don't need, and then begin your own thoughts under the quote. If you scroll down whilst you are in your reply window, you will also see everybody elses posts in that thread, and you can add quotes from these as well.

Hope this helped if you hadn't figured it out yet. I'm not exactly internet savvy, so I don't know if my explanation will have clarified or blurred it for you even more Cheesy
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« Reply #14: March 05, 2007, 01:51:03 am »

As far as the "atheism" part is concerned, the modifier "borderline" is crucial.  I don't identify as an atheist.  The key question here is, what exactly are gods?  I refer to the beings I work with as deities, for the sake of convenience and communication when talking to others.  Most folks, especially most folks on TC, would agree that the Morrigan and Hermes and Wotan and so on count as gods; nearly as many would extend the definition to include Coyote.  Are Lwas/Orishas gods?  What about ancestral spirits?  The Fae?  Where is the line between deity and not-deity?

My gods are not "Masters of the Universe" types; they're fairly small gods.  They know stuff I don't, they have abilities I don't, and they're way better at multi-tasking - but they're not infallible, and they're as much a part of the wheel of That-Which-Is as I am.  Definitionally speaking, "tutelary spirits" would fit them at least as well as "deities" does.

Now, I haven't got a clue what distinguishes deity from not-deity in a broader context (it's a bit easier to do in context of a particular culture).  Mostly I'm not concerned with the distinction - though it'd go well with a jug of palatable plonk, to make an all-night philosophizing session; I'm sure it'd be very educational, but I'm also sure that it'd be as inconclusive as trying to define "Pagan".  Whatever label I use for those I work with, and their cultural-pantheon siblings, they're good enough for me.  I don't believe in any bigger gods than these.

Shadow points out that calling this atheism supports the idea that there's only one way to view God.  I don't think that's quite true; I think there are many ways to view God/gods/the godhead, that my POV is more atheistic than.  "More atheistic" isn't the same as "atheist", but I do feel a need to acknowledge that I lean in that direction - hence, "borderline atheist".

Hmmmmmm.  Maybe my confusion comes from the definition of "atheist".  I've always thought it meant someone who does not believe in God or in gods.

Are you using "atheist" to mean someone who does not believe in a supreme deity, but who does believe in gods of the non-supreme variety?
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