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Jembru
16 May 2015, 16:50
I've never been very good with definitions when it comes to spiritual paths, but I've always at least considered myself a pagan of some sort or another. However, lately my beliefs have changed so much that I'm wondering if I should really still be using this term. In fact, I'm not even sure I should be considering myself a theist.

As I've mentioned and at times quite publicly displayed (largely within, but not confined to, the 'why bad things happen' thread), I've had quite serious anxiety about the injustices and suffering in the world. It made me angry towards the gods. I was angry to see devoutly religious people being starved or slaughtered on mass. I wondered why their frequent and heart-felt prayers could be ignored. I wondered what kind of deity could ignore the cries of an innocent child in pain. I started to reason that if the gods are real, they either don't care, in which case why should we be bothering with them, or they are powerless, in which case, ditto.

I hadn't stopped believing in my gods, I couldn't because I'd experienced them so I felt they had to exist in some way or another, but I had lost faith in them.

Much soul-searching followed (and is of course on-going), and one of the first pushes was a vision I received in response to the question 'why is suffering allowed'. I already described this here, so I'll just quote for those who missed it;



I was shown a still in my mind from the prologue of the movie, Watership Down. One of the hardest things for me to reconcile is that deeply religious people put their faith in their god(s) all the time, and live good holy lives, only to still suffer. It angered me that their prayers went unanswered, and made me question what the point was in worshipping at all. So being made to recall this scene, form a movie I haven't seen since my childhood was very moving. Many of you will recall it I'm sure, but for those who don't, the story speaks of how a species (in this case rabbits) grew out of control, destroying everything in their path. Their god gave them a choice to control their own numbers, but their leader the prince of the rabbits, refused. This angered their god who responded by turning other animals into predators. However, their god didn't just leave the rabbits to die. He blessed them too, giving them speed and cunning.. gifts to help them outrun and outwit their predators.

So now I am considering.. is it that there HAS to be war, famine, disease in order to keep human population in check, but we don't suffer because the gods want us to.. so they've actually blessed us with ways to survive, trying to give us a fighting chance. Is that why (for those of us who believe this anyway), we have the ability to use spells, why we have the intelligence to discover medicines and the gift of communication to negotiate with our enemies. People will continue to suffer, but are we as helpless as I thought? Or for every failed attempt to preserve life, were many more lives saved elsewhere?

I can't find the orginal on YouTube, but here's a remake of the prologue I'm talking about (the audio is unchanged): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bVMHeqxQlBs

This wasn't the final answer that allowed me to return to business as usual, praising my gods as though nothing had changed. Instead, it was the first push that set the ball rolling. With this idea in mind, I started to read Francesca de Grandis again. She's a quirky and disorganised witch of the Anderson Feri variety (a branch of paganism from the States that I'm very much inspired by). One of the biggest influences Francesca has had on my working is the use of energy in spellcraft. Rather than casting a circle and calling all kinds of spiritual entities, one simply visualises themselves and the world around them as energy, until there is no boundary between where you stop and the world around you starts. Everything just flowing together, glowing with the same energy. It's simple and for me at least, affective.

To bring myself more in tune with this energetic world-view, and to compliment the cognative therapy I was using to try to work through my anxiety, I started using mindfulness techniques on my walk home from work, and at other times if I felt I needed it. It was through this technique that I had my biggest shift in belief. It came to me so naturally and seemed so logical.

This energy that is in everything IS god. God doesn't care for our suffering because it has no consciousness any more than gravity or magnitism have consciousness. It's just there.

Until that is, the human mind interacts with it. It then takes on all kinds characteristics that seem like personality. However, it is of absolutely no power or use to the human it interacts with until that human identifies the god essence within themselves and projects THAT. Even then, we can only affect change upon ourselves, not others.. because others have their own god essence.

It was the answer to the question of why I should bother with my gods. It explained why suffering was allowed. I was already turning to my inner landscapes through meditation, even stepping out with a brand new one. This all seems necessary in getting to know my own unique god-self.

So.. if I believe that god is nothing more than a mindless, bodiless energy, and if I believe that god is within me and only conscious through me, then am I still a theist? Do I still belong beneath the Pagan umbrella?

I still speak to and envision deity as Goddess and God and specifically in the guises of Brigantia and Bregans. That hasn't changed. Nor do I love them any less than I did before. I just now feel that these beings are just manifestations of this god energy appearing as humans for my own sake.

It's not so much 'God created us in His image' as it is, 'we created God in our image'.

Does this make me an atheist?

Willow
16 May 2015, 19:56
In my very stark definition of paganism (as in, non-"mainstream"), I would say yes. I wouldn't consider it atheism per say, but I do tend to believe that scientists will eventually find scientifically validated links between the physical and the spiritual.

Jembru
16 May 2015, 20:38
In my very stark definition of paganism (as in, non-"mainstream"), I would say yes. I wouldn't consider it atheism per say, but I do tend to believe that scientists will eventually find scientifically validated links between the physical and the spiritual.

Oh I'm sure they will too. The fact that there already seems to be compelling evidence for the existance of the energy I'm talking about, suggests that we're already well on our way. I wonder what that would mean for us as a race though.

Medusa
16 May 2015, 22:32
Are you an atheist test.
Do you believe in deity in any form? Yes. Then you are not.
No. Then you are.
I am an atheist. I have no belief in any deity. In any form. They are not ghosts of. They are not manifestations of, they are not representations of. There are no deities. The end. Amen. Pray to baby jesus and eat your peas. Something like that. :p

Jembru
17 May 2015, 02:19
Are you an atheist test.
Do you believe in deity in any form? Yes. Then you are not.
No. Then you are.
I am an atheist. I have no belief in any deity. In any form. They are not ghosts of. They are not manifestations of, they are not representations of. There are no deities. The end. Amen. Pray to baby jesus and eat your peas. Something like that. :p

I actually can't answer that though. Do I believe in deity? It really depends now on what terminology I decide to use. I could call it god, or I could call it universal life energy, or I could call it hallucinations, waking dreams, or over-active imagination. I believe in something I guess. No, I don't believe.. I know there's something. I just don't believe that there are conscious and self-aware spiritual beings. I believe it is me creating these amazing experiences of 'god', because I am god. Everything is. Even the bad guys...

I can't even call myself an agnostic because I'm not searching or waiting for proof. I've had my proof. It's like... like seeing a rainbow for the first time. You can speculate about what the rainbow is. Is it solid? Could I touch it? Could I find the end? Who put it there? Of course, I've seen enough rainbows and asked enough questions to satisfy my curiosity now. But what if all I had was a single experience of seeing a rainbow? What if there were no scientific explanations, or the hours of my childhood spent chasing them? All I'd knew was that rainbows happen. After that I'd have no explanation or details to offer.

Deity is my rainbow. I've witnessed something. I just can't explain what it is, and I am pretty sure there's no treasure at the end.

I'm probably somewhere on the fence. Story of my life ^^

Azvanna
17 May 2015, 04:44
This energy that is in everything IS god. God doesn't care for our suffering because it has no consciousness any more than gravity or magnitism have consciousness. It's just there.


WOW! This is also the realisation I'm heading towards. It's kind of lonely though. I like relating to God as a personality! However, it's kind of inspiring to think that the God I was interacting with was myself all along. I don't think I'm ready to make the leap yet.

It's an interesting question, are you theist or atheist...
I would say interacting with/acknowledging a non-corporeal being would make you theist still. Do you think?

Gleb
17 May 2015, 05:05
I think it's for you to decide whether you're pagan or not. ;) As far as I remember, a pagan is someone who doesn't follow one of the monotheistic religions.
Personally, I believe that gods are separate entities, and we - as humans and all other living creatures contain their godly (I'm not sure it's the right word) power.
It's a really interesting question you have there. Perhaps it just requires time to come to an answer. :)

anunitu
17 May 2015, 05:28
Are you an atheist test.
Do you believe in deity in any form? Yes. Then you are not.
No. Then you are.
I am an atheist. I have no belief in any deity. In any form. They are not ghosts of. They are not manifestations of, they are not representations of. There are no deities. The end. Amen. Pray to baby jesus and eat your peas. Something like that. :p

Tosses a tasty plastic Jesus covered in chipotle stuff to lick off for the flavor(Do not eat the plastic itself,though you may consume the body and blood if you wish) A little wine afterwards is always good also.

Thorbjorn
17 May 2015, 05:59
From a Heathen perspective I can only say that bad things happen because:

The gods are not omniscient nor omnipotent.
The gods are not obligated to help. Saving people requires an offering and sacrifice humans probably can't make. We belive in reciprocity: a gift for a gift. We can't make any offering that would be worthy of the gods' intervention.
Some Heathens believe the gods have so much to do they don't even notice us. I reject that belief.
We're expected by the gods and ourselves to help ourselves and each other.
It's very difficult if not impossible for the gods to affect orlog and wyrd; it's similar to karma.

I don't know if other Pagan traditions have the same belief, but this what Heathens and Ásatrúar believe.

Medusa
17 May 2015, 20:10
I actually can't answer that though. Do I believe in deity? It really depends now on what terminology I decide to use. I could call it god, or I could call it universal life energy, or I could call it hallucinations, waking dreams, or over-active imagination. I believe in something I guess. No, I don't believe.. I know there's something. I just don't believe that there are conscious and self-aware spiritual beings. I believe it is me creating these amazing experiences of 'god', because I am god. Everything is. Even the bad guys...

I can't even call myself an agnostic because I'm not searching or waiting for proof. I've had my proof. It's like... like seeing a rainbow for the first time. You can speculate about what the rainbow is. Is it solid? Could I touch it? Could I find the end? Who put it there? Of course, I've seen enough rainbows and asked enough questions to satisfy my curiosity now. But what if all I had was a single experience of seeing a rainbow? What if there were no scientific explanations, or the hours of my childhood spent chasing them? All I'd knew was that rainbows happen. After that I'd have no explanation or details to offer.

Deity is my rainbow. I've witnessed something. I just can't explain what it is, and I am pretty sure there's no treasure at the end.

I'm probably somewhere on the fence. Story of my life ^^

Now I don't like to tell people what they are. But I know you aren't an atheist.
So that should narrow down things for you.
An atheist has a very distinct 'no' to the question of deity. No qualm or explanation needed. So this should help you figure out maybe you are just you and that's ok. No need to have a belief in something rigid if you just aren't feeling it at the moment. You won't get an f in life. I promise! It's all an Easy A!

LunarHarvest
17 May 2015, 21:58
To me it sort of seems like you are still a theist, but that your realm of pantheism, or a similar school of theistic thought, other than direct hard polytheism. Pantheism recognises the existence of some form of divine energy within the world, but not necessarily in the form of a personal deity which we can directly communicate. It IS, however, still a form of theism. It is stating that nature, to varying degrees, is identical with deity. So long as you as you believe in some manner of theism you are not an atheist, but rather just a theist of a different school of thought. ^v^

As for whether you are still a Pagan that is entirely up to you. There are plenty of panthentheistic and pantheistic pagan religions, and I don’t see why it would be a manner of exclusion for simply having a different form of theistic belief. It is less about what form of deity you believe in, and more about our being separate from the Abrahamic religions, in my opinion. :3

thalassa
18 May 2015, 04:29
Yes.

Paganism is polythetic, rather than polythestic. The defining hallmarks of Paganism is that divinity is plural--multiple ways of naming and relating to the sacred can coexist, that sacredness is imminent and can be interacted with directly, and that the basis of our "faith" is orthopraxy not orthodoxy (its what you do, not what you think).

Everything else is just details.

B. de Corbin
18 May 2015, 04:45
Jembru, I can give you a tentative, personal answer to the question "why does suffering exist?"

Answer - because it is time for people to grow up and stop expecting solutions to come out of "heaven."

If you are a believer, then I suggest that the god(s) & godess(es) don't care for the "mommy & daddy" role they've been assigned.

If you are a non-believer, well, it's obvious...

geoff
18 May 2015, 04:56
I could call it god, or I could call it universal life energy,

I believe it is me creating these amazing experiences of 'god', because I am god. Everything is. Even the bad guys...



Once upon a time, in a Galaxy far far away........

While Mr Lucas created a fantasy universeral life force I do believe there is a lot to be said for such an energy being the basis of many peoples search for a god or gods.

quoting Roman Kroiter "Many people feel that in the contemplation of nature and in communication with other living things, they become aware of some kind of force, or something, behind this apparent mask which we see in front of us, and they call it God."

thalassa
18 May 2015, 04:59
Jembru, I can give you a tentative, personal answer to the question "why does suffering exist?"

Answer - because it is time for people to grow up and stop expecting solutions to come out of "heaven."

If you are a believer, then I suggest that the god(s) & godess(es) don't care for the "mommy & daddy" role they've been assigned.

If you are a non-believer, well, it's obvious...

I like this. A lot.

cesara
19 May 2015, 08:04
The concept and reality of suffering truly helped form my current spiritual beliefs, so I can very much relate to you on that level.

I love what Thalassa has said.

I also agree with LunarHarvest....I perceive what you are describing as 'pantheist', or even 'panentheist' (depending on how far 'God Energy' reaches...only as far as the universe, or beyond)....It's where I'm at, so, my perceptions are most certainly influenced by my own experience.

I would also throw out there that soft polytheism is also under the pagan umbrella, and, I could feel that coming through in your post, as well.

I've been 'in limbo'.....alot....especially in relation to the suffering that goes on in the world....I feel I've managed to work it into my world view relatively well, these days.....it will happen for you, too...in fact, it seems that it has already started. :)

Best of luck!

thalassa
19 May 2015, 08:40
A random though...

Jem, I'm an agnostic humanist pantheist polytheist...and if that's not having my cake and eating it too, I don't know what is.

And I'm Pagan.

cesara
19 May 2015, 08:43
Haha! Woot! Syncretism at it's finest!

Jembru
19 May 2015, 09:50
Thanks for all the feedback everyone. There's a lot to think about but it seems to be getting clearer and clearer for me. I had intended to spend some time yesterday writing my thoughts and doing some research. Instead I ended up staring at reruns of Knightmare from the 1980s with very little brain activity at all. I think I just need some quiet head space for a day or two before I get all proactive on this.


A random though...

Jem, I'm an agnostic humanist pantheist polytheist...and if that's not having my cake and eating it too, I don't know what is.

And I'm Pagan.

I think I'll end up with a long string of titles too! I'll try not to let that bother me though.


Jembru, I can give you a tentative, personal answer to the question "why does suffering exist?"

Answer - because it is time for people to grow up and stop expecting solutions to come out of "heaven."

If you are a believer, then I suggest that the god(s) & godess(es) don't care for the "mommy & daddy" role they've been assigned.

If you are a non-believer, well, it's obvious...

There is an entry in my BoS from 1998 in which I said pretty much this. I was explaining why witchcraft is so appealing to me and I was comparing how witches are empowered to do the work themselves rather than praying to mummy and daddy to wipe their asses. So this theory isn't new to me. It unfortunately doesn't satisfy my question anymore though. It would do, if the 'bad stuff' I am talking about were things like 'why did god let my boiler breakdown, 'why did she let me crash my car despite having a charm in my window?' 'why didn't I get that promotion'. (I don't drive, or own my boiler, but you get my point). I'm cool with the little things going wrong, even the bigger things like bad breakups, physical illness and of course, the on-going plight of my poor mum. In these cases, I can blame myself for not trying hard enough, not being good enough.

My new approach addresses both these small things, and the larger global issues. The reason the gods don't step in when an infant is being abused, or dying painfully, bleeding from its eyes and ears.. despite the desperate prayers of it's mother, is because they simply are not and can not be, moved by the emotional feelings of the prayer. They have no concept of our pain, because they're not conscious. They just are.

Oddly, this hasn't made me feel any less reverence for deity. It's just changed my expectations of them. It's made me value myself much more than I did before. I don't feel so small and insignificant. In fact, in my own world viewed through my own eyes, I'm very significant indeed.

thalassa
19 May 2015, 10:01
The reason the gods don't step in when an infant is being abused, or dying painfully, bleeding from its eyes and ears.. despite the desperate prayers of it's mother, is because they simply are not and can not be, moved by the emotional feelings of the prayer. They have no concept of our pain, because they're not conscious. They just are.

Oddly, this hasn't made me feel any less reverence for deity. It's just changed my expectations of them. It's made me value myself much more than I did before. I don't feel so small and insignificant. In fact, in my own world viewed through my own eyes, I'm very significant indeed.

Have you ever watched Star Trek Deep Space 9? If not, and you can get it there (I'd say its on Netflix, but I know what is on Netflix can vary by country...here its also on Amazon Prime)...this really isn't off topic, your comment about concept made me think of the scenes of Commander Sisko with the Bajoran prophets (which are really non-temporal space entities of immense power).

Jembru
19 May 2015, 13:50
Have you ever watched Star Trek Deep Space 9? If not, and you can get it there (I'd say its on Netflix, but I know what is on Netflix can vary by country...here its also on Amazon Prime)...this really isn't off topic, your comment about concept made me think of the scenes of Commander Sisko with the Bajoran prophets (which are really non-temporal space entities of immense power).

I haven't seen it, but my mum has quiite a lot of star trek on DVD, so she might be able to lend it to me. I'll ask her about it. I formed my concept of the spirit relms through a novel, so a concept of deity inspired by sci-fi won't be much of a stretch. ^^