Thursday, August 29, 2013

The Use of Divine Images in Spirituality

I don't know what it is about atheistic paganism that gets people's hair all in a snit, but it seems as though someone has taken issue something I said my first blog post. This post was republished on Humanistic Paganism dot com, so, I'm not sure if the emailer I just heard from read it here or on that other site.

In the post, I mentioned that just because I don't believe the Gods exist in physical, sentient form that doesn't mean that I won't use their images in my own spiritual practice. I had a commenter over there ask me about how I use the images or would use them, but I don't think this email came from that commenter. I will redact the personal information and just give you the gist of the email.

The emailer wanted me to know how off putting it is to hear that other pagans are "using" images of deities in their practices while not actually honoring or believing in said deity. One example was that if I used the image of Bast either on my altar (I do have a mildly functional altar) or in my rituals, if I don't really believe in Bast and am not living my life in honor of Bast, I am actually at risk of offending deities. The deities "don't like this".

No offense intended, but........I find that laughable, frankly. I'm sure that I've done a lot more in my life that would be offensive to Bast than using a cat image in an occasional ritual or on my altar. Like, I don't know, running a stray cat out of my yard and away from my truck, or, not feeding a stray cat. And, how exactly does one live their lives in honor of Bast?? Does anyone really have an answer to that? Or are you all just making this up as you go along the same as the rest of us?

The thing is, I don't believe people who say, "I work with Bast." Because, no deity, if they were real, would have any real reason to "work with" a human being. I have always wanted to ask them, "what kind of work does Bast do, exactly? Do you show up at the homeless shelter and try and save all the homeless in the name of Bast?" My hunch is that's a big "no". You just live life. You might worship Bast, you might honor Bast. You might believe in Bast, 100%. But, I just have always highly resented the "work with" phrase when dealing with deities. It's not convincing, especially not while telling me that the same deities would have a problem with me "working with their images."

So, I suppose that makes us even. Mr. or Ms. Emailer? Doesn't it? You take issue with the fact that the face of the deity I see as representative of the holiday or practice in question and not as something that requires my worship or belief or undying fealty, and you believe the opposite. You believe you've got a personal window into Bast's psyche.

I don't care what other pagans choose to do. I'll freely admit that in the back of my mind I'm questioning them the same as I'm questioning any Christian or Muslim or Jew who claims their God is real and claims to know what these deities would want if they were real. Their images aren't that important to me beyond how they fit into my daily connection with the Wheel of the Year. How their images have, for centuries, been associated with certain aspects of the seasons and of nature. The thing is, I just don't really care about the deities beyond that very elementary connection.

And, just to prove that it doesn't really matter which deity you choose, I'm going to do something. I had toyed with this idea back when I wrote the first post and even more when I wrote the Grimoire post. This email just basically made the decision for me. Not because it made me angry, because I wouldn't give it that much credit, but because I actually found it funny enough to do this.

Each year, I'm going to use a different deity as my symbolism. Some of them might be known to a lot of people, but the one I'm going to start with isn't a deity of old. He's a totally made up deity. I'm going to show that the spirituality doesn't change even if the face of the deity does change. I'm going to prove that Bast isn't going to come out and bite me if I use her image, or that lightning bolts aren't going to shoot me in the ass if I use Zeus without actually believing in Zeus.

This next year, 365 days starting All Hallow's to All Hallow's, I'm going to be dedicating everything to the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Pastafarian paganism? Could be fun.....! I'm even going to tailor my holiday menus to include a pasta dish. All my Grimoire pages will be connected to incorporating FSM into naturalist/atheist paganism. I'm going to show that naturalism is the same regardless. That one doesn't need to concern themselves with the offense of the deities, Christian, Pagan, Pastafarian or otherwise. The offense comes from people not deities. When we live life, we're just living life according to our individual set of values and morals and none of it really has anything to do with deities.

I actually look forward to this. I plan to explore all sorts of different deities over the next few years and devoting 365 days to incorporating their image into naturalist/atheist paganism. Complete with prayers and rituals and incense offerings. Should be a lot of fun and will be a great way to learn the mythology behind the deities from an atheist perspective.



  1. To all its own is what I say. I want my divine pasta with lots of glorious cheese on it, please ;-D

    1. You got it! That's how I want mine, too! :P