A god for everyone?
As many people already know, it has been pride month. Thinking about LGBT+ Pride and the stigma that has been placed upon so many individuals in my home country (the US) had me thinking about the religious and spiritual environments that have been used to justify the oppression of other people. Many years ago I read an article by a gay man that was also a Christian, who was attempting to affirm LGBT inclusivity in a way that came off to me as ultimately self-condemning and apologetic; as if this man’s sexual preference was just another sin in a long list of sins that god loves us in spite of, no greater or worse than any other sin. This, in turn, made me consider one of my favorite things about Heathenry and Polytheism in general; a virtue that I believe will make our traditions more relevant to the future generations that are more readily embracing diversity and inclusive ideologies.
I think we take for granted just how heavily our world is saturated with Monotheism: specifically of a Christian flavor here in the US. There is largely a base assumption of one-ness in our minds when it comes to “God”. There is one God, who is decidedly masculine and very heterosexual. There is one person to aspire to be like, and that person followed gender convention, never had sex, and was very decidedly a man. The best a woman can do to aspire to this deity is to be obedient to him. There is one law to follow that the one god approves of, and if for any reason your personhood diverges to make that law hard or impossible to follow, then there is something very wrong with you, not with the law. There is one sacred being, and that is man; all other creatures on this planet don’t have a soul and are therefore their lives are not as important as our lives. There is one way to be that is acceptable in order to avoid an afterlife full of pain and suffering (and a life on earth full of shame and stigma).
From my perspective, this way of living and thinking is completely delusional and contrary to nature. Monotheistic ideologies like the one I have described above give our lives the illusion of control and order in a world of disorder and chance. It distances us from nature and keeps us within the illusionary structures of our minds. Nature is nothing like the spiritual model so many of us are used to. Nature is chaotic, often unpredictable, always creative, and always changing, which also makes it a terrifying landscape we often try to reason with and tame. We polytheists, worship the gods of nature; and embracing nature means allowing room for the unexpected and for diversity.
Rather than trying to apologize for his sexuality as a sin that doesn’t comply with the one god’s ultimate design, how revolutionary would it be for the gay Christian I mentioned to see a divine figure who shared his sexuality? Instead of lamenting that he isn’t more like the heteronormative deity that he believes holds the keys to his future destiny, what if he began to see his own sexuality and identity as divine in its own right? I see one of the most damaging aspects of Monotheism to be that it gives people the message that some ways of being human are “godly” and of divine origin, while others are not. LGBT people in these religions have no divine image that matches their own, nor do women, nor do many other minorities in this country.
The old gods are multiplicitous in nature. There are gods who are homosexual or engage in homosexual relationships. There are gods who are transgender, gender queer, and everything in between. There are gods who are women and who are men. There are gods who are white, black, brown, and every other shade under our sun. There are gods who take the form of animals and plants, and who grant their favors to more than just one select species on our planet. There are gods who are serious and warlike, there are gods who are gentle and nurturing. For nearly every way of being human (or non-human), there is a god who embodies that way of being in their sacred image. How differently would the minorities in our countries be treated if we had many gods to relate them to, instead of one unattainable deity to judge them against? How differently would we view ourselves and our identities if we all had a god that expressed our own lived experience through their sacred image? Would we begin to see ourselves as sacred? Would we begin to see the other people around us as sacred and relatable to the divine?
One of my absolute favorite things about Polytheism is that there is a god for everyone. The spiritual seeker is always able to find a Holy Power whose story speaks to their own. Our gods are relatable, and our gods show us how to navigate our experiences without denying or compromising who we are. There are just as many gods as there are ways to be men. There are just as many goddesses as there are ways to be women. All of them are equally divine and all of them are required to keep our universe running. It is my hope that as our traditions grow and expand, our old, monotheistic programing that teaches us to lean on the “one right way” of being will begin to dissolve. I hope that we will no longer judge ourselves or others harshly as we aspire to reach one great unattainable ideal. I hope that we will begin to acknowledge that there are many ideals that exist in the divine realms and begin to align ourselves with the ones that we naturally express instead of destroying ourselves while we attempt to be something contrary to our nature.
I believe that all beings have the same divine source, and the multiplicity in our world and in our own natures expresses the natural multiplicity of the divine. Because of this, I see Polytheism as offering the solution to a desire I think many people hold but may not have a name for: to see ourselves in our gods.
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