Under the Microscope Part 2: An Abductive Case Against Theism

In the last post, we took a look at the first part of a short abductive case against theism. As you can see in the image below, the first section concerns the prior probabilities of Naturalism and Theism. The idea is that we can have some understanding of how believable a proposition is prior to or in advance of considering any evidence for it. Contrary to the author of the post in the image, I argued that the prior of naturalism isn’t anywhere near as high as they estimated, nor the prior of theism anywhere near as low. In this post, we’ll continue providing a polytheist response and take a look at (2).

The first thing I want to say is that the author commits themselves to a rather blatant inconsistency. On the one hand, they suggest that on naturalism there is a “fundamental indifference” built into the universe toward things like human flourishing, religious “quality,” and the rationality of nonbelief, etc. But on the other hand, the author suggests this innate indifference actually leads us to expect suffering, varied religious “quality,” and the rationality of nonbelief. But indifference toward x does not generate expectations of x. You might think it should be just as likely, given cosmic indifference, that there is, say, suffering as that there is not. But things are far worse. Without any prediction one way or the other, Naturalism has no probability: it’s completely inscrutable. The author inadvertently renders Naturalism explanatorily impotent by tying it to this particular thesis about cosmic “difference.” We could, theoretically, end the discussion here, because Naturalism is apparently not an explanatory competitor and makes no predictions at all. Indeed, an inscrutable probability can’t be compared to a scrutable one, however high or low.

But, the idea that theism has such failed predictions as those alleged above should not go without response. Let’s consider then what a polytheist might have to say.

So does theism predict a universe designed with us in mind, and one that is consistent with moral perfection? Here the polytheist has a variety of things to say, some of which the naturalist will no doubt be unaccustomed to hearing.

First of all, we have the idea in polytheism of pantheons of Gods, each with different moral characters. According to such a view as this, we would not expect a universe to be free of suffering and flaws, or to have no nonbelief whatsoever, or no rational nonbelief at least, etc. But at least it would predict that there be a life-permitting universe in the first place, one with incompatible goods, and diverse religions, etc. This prediction is not made by Naturalism, especially one in which Nature is fundamentally indifferent.

Monotheism understates the evidence by predicting a general sort of life, though not the specific sort we actually see. But Naturalism overstates the evidence by purporting to predict a specific sort of life, though not that there should even be any in the first place. Polytheism is the natural middle-course between these extremes.

But polytheists needn’t align with the discussion as it customarily proceeds. The Platonist polytheists for example will deny that reality is created. Rather, they will say, all things emanate from the Gods. For polytheists such as these, Gods are too ultimate to be faced with decisions, and so we can hardly come to expect Gods to do different things based on what we think they intend. Reality does not unfold according to an intention here, but according to a character. This is the difference between causal models of the First Principle, and constituitive models of the First Principle.

On a constituitive model, a God’s utterly unique character functions like a “nature” that things have in common. But unlike a nature such as ‘humanity’ which only some things have in common, a God’s character is what all things have in common. Not everything is organic, or conscious, or even temporal, or whatever. But everything is itself. That’s what metaphysical individuality is; what the ancient Platonists called “unity” or “henos.” It’s what absolutely all things, no matter what, have in common. Each thing is its own one, individuated thing. What every self has in common is ‘Self’; what each one has in common is ‘One-ness’. Be it concrete or abstract, actual or potential, it doesn’t matter: each thing has it in common at the very least that it is one, individual thing.

On such a model as this, each God will function in this capacity as the individuator of all thing; the One, so that for anything to be one thing just is for it to take after that deity. Zeus, for example, will function like a form, say, ‘Zeuseity’, and in this capacity be the ‘Self’ of all ‘selves’ such that for anything to be one thing just is for it to be ‘zeusaic’. So too for each God, such as Odin functioning like ‘Odinity’, and all things insofar as they are one being ‘odinic’, etc.

So it’s not that ‘One-ness’ decides to start creating ones, or to do so with any particular kind of ones in mind; the divine natures don’t cause anything, intentionally or otherwise. Rather, they constitute.

As stated above, then, it’s not divine intentions on theism that lead us to expect things; that’s not how theism makes predictions. Rather, it’s divine constitution.

How does divine constitution do that? Because by identifying the different “ways” in which one can partake of Unity, we can map out a hierarchy of categories or types of being. The closer these categories are to Unity, the more general and abstract they are. The more remote they are to Unity, the more specific they are. In the end, we have a picture of an all-encompassing whole with different strata. The Platonists, over the course of centuries, drew this map more or less like this:

Unity predicts Being, Being predicts Life, Life predicts Intellect, Intellect predicts Soul, and Soul predicts Body.

The Platonic deduction is unfortunately so often cast in arcane vocabularies, and Platonists disagreed with each other on many of the details. I try to present this idea in easier to digest language in chapter 3 of my book. But the takeaway here is that there is an entirely different way of understanding theistic predictions than what is customary nowadays, and the argument shows no awareness of it.

I hope if nothing else that this short series encourages people to think through these matters in new ways. Much, much more work needs to be done before anything so simple as the initial abductive case can so casually be given.


Under the Microscope Part 1: An Abductive Case Against Theism

Occasionally, I see the screenshot below getting shared around on Twitter. I am not familiar with the author, but I think it’s clear why the post enjoys popularity: on its surface, it is an unusually and admirably clear and condensed case. I think it is also aimed at typical representations of theism and atheism, which makes it relevant to more people. But what might a polytheist think of this? I’d like to share some thoughts from this perspective in light of my most recent book Polytheism: A Platonic Approach. First, consider the argument itself:

in this post we’ll take a look at (1), and we’ll wrap up in another by going over (2).


The author says that theism is “far less” intrinsically probable than naturalism because the former comes with more ontological commitments, fits poorly with our background knowledge, and fails in informativeness due to its fundamental mysteriousness.

Now, I do not think the author actually intends ‘intrinsic probability’ here because neither ‘fitting with background knowledge’ nor ‘failing in informativeness’ have to do with the intrinsic nature of a theory, but with its extrinsic relations to such things as bodies of background knowledge. What this means is that the author is not starting out by considering theism and naturalism prior to any evidence: we are not starting out at the ‘beginning’, so to speak. Rather, the author wants us to start with considerations which they feel make their point. But what if we looked at these position’s intrinsic probability first, and theism came out on top? How would that affect our impression once we consider the author’s points? For another time, perhaps. Let’s set all this aside for the sake of argument and suppose that the actual intrinsic probabilities of these positions don’t make a difference.

Does theism come with more ontological commitments than naturalism? Does it fit poorly with our background knowledge? Is it fundamentally mysterious? I’m afraid this is where we’ll have to take this individual to task.

First of all, theism does not posit a “whole new kind of reality” compared to naturalism because in saying there is more to reality than Nature, theism is committed to The Ineffable. I cover this in chapter 1 of my book. The Ineffable is not only present in Nature via metaphysical individuality, and so cannot be a ‘whole new kind of reality’; but, in being “ineffable”, by definition it cannot be a “kind” of anything at all, let alone a “new” one.

Moreover, even if theism did posit a new “kind” of thing, it incurs no greater initial commitment in doing so than naturalism does by positing a new “extension” of Nature. Remember, naturalism is not the position that Nature exists. Everyone agrees with that. Rather, it says something like only Nature exists (or is causal, or concrete, or some such). In doing so, naturalism substantively alters the philosophically naïve or neutral starting point by taking a stand on what else besides Nature exists, is causal, concrete, or some such. So, if theism’s complexity increases because it modifies our starting neutral commitment to Nature by stopping Nature’s border short of all things (or all causal, or concrete things, etc.), then naturalism’s complexity increases just as well because it modifies our starting commitment to Nature by pushing Nature’s border around all things (or all causal, or concrete things, etc.). They both modify Nature’s boundaries — from the neutral position — they just do so in different directions.

Secondly, it is not true that theism has a “poor track record.” Here, theism is the simple, abstract position that there is more to reality than Nature (which I argue in my book just is the view that beyond Nature there are Ineffable Individuals). So the author is playing fast and loose with “theism” and some very specific hypothesis which may or may not have anything to do with theism. For example, if the author includes in the intended “poor track record” such “failed” explanations as “ghosts” or “demons”, then they are including hypotheses which naturalists can hold to as well! At least, unless the author takes a very narrow stance on Nature which excludes such things (such as reductive physicalism), and thus no longer speaks for naturalists in general. But in the general sense the post started out with, if the failure of such explanations as these somehow counts against abstract theism, then they count just as well against abstract naturalism, and we are back to square one.

Keep in mind that if specific theistic hypotheses are fair game as representations of abstract theism, then so too are specific naturalistic hypotheses. So should we talk about the track record of such naturalist explanations as logical positivism? The mind-brain identity theory? Eliminativism?

Thirdly, theism is not fundamentally mysterious. At least, in the way intended here, or any more than naturalism! The author is thinking of ‘mysterious’ as some kind of bad thing. That is, like a failure to be understood when it supposedly can or should be. But, ineffability isn’t such that it should be intelligible, or even can be! As such, its transcendence of intelligibility isn’t even like someone positing an explanation which seems like nonsense: we’re positing pure individuals, for whom there is nothing more to describe them by than themselves.

So, theism is mysterious in a trivial sense. As I explain in my book, this is because ‘ineffability’ is just ‘individuality’ considered by way of negation. Just as the subject qua subject has no predicate by which to be described, and so is literally ‘indescribable’, so too is the individual qua individual ineffable.

Insofar as theism is non-trivially mysterious, so is naturalism! Consider just some of naturalism’s non-trivially mysterious intelligibilia: What are moral duties? How does mind interact with matter? What is moral responsibility? What is consciousness? What is causality? Why is there something rather than nothing? The list could go on and on. Every view has mysteries like this, and we each have our fair share of work in trying to answer these sorts of questions in our own terms. But to say that theism is more mysterious just seems like an unhelpfully unquantifiable impression. What are we to do with that?

For what it’s worth, as I go over in chapter 3 of my book, I believe theism predicts Nature (in surprisingly specific ways!) due to divine constitution. So, while it’s beyond my scope here to argue, I would hold that theism is brilliantly informative, and precisely so because it embraces ineffability!

In light of the preceding considerations, I don’t understand how one can say so confidently as the author does that P(N) > P(T); or, in other words, that the probability of naturalism prior to considering any evidence is higher than the probability of theism prior to considering any evidence. I’d settle for a 50/50 split for dialectical purposes, but my honest impression is that it seems quite the opposite!

Aquinas, Gods and Revelation

1. Introduction

Those who have followed my work through the years know that Thomas Aquinas had a big impact on my thought. I considered myself a Thomist for some time and attempted to adapt his philosophy to a Pagan worldview – much as he did with Aristotle for his Christian worldview. I’ll enchant Aquinas, like he baptized Aristotle; I’d say. I stopped this project, not because I found it unsuccessful, but because I became convinced of another system of thought: Platonism – to which Thomism bears a complicated relationship. I still interact with Aquinas’ works, but mostly because he is one of the few monotheist thinkers to offer substantive philosophical treatments of polytheism. Sometimes his treatments were direct and deductive, but not every time.

Sewn throughout his vast corpus are the premises to an indirect and inductive argument against polytheism; one, in fact, which seeks to make us expect God to reveal something like a major monotheist religion. Of course, he had Christianity in mind as the religion of this induction; but, this is only an extension of the initial argument, and thinkers of other religions can make the same move in their own directions. I have interacted with this argument variously throughout the years, but I would like to consolidate my thoughts as a resource for those who are interested, and perhaps as a conversation starter for others.

I’ll begin by presenting Aquinas’ argument as well as some of the background metaphysics it takes for granted. Once we have as good an understanding of this as might be expected from a blog post, I’ll explain why I don’t think this argument works in the way that Aquinas thought it did. Finally, I’ll close this post by arguing that Thomas’ induction lends itself to a polytheist formulation.

2. What Do You Expect?

a. Metaphysical Prolegomena

Thomas Aquinas developed an entire worldview from basic metaphysical principles that he took to be ‘Aristotelian’. Among these is that there is such a thing as a ‘final cause’. This is the effect or range of effects that causes head in the direction of bringing about. For example, we might say that converting light energy into chemical energy (photosynthesis) is a final cause of green plants or that developing into an oak tree is the final cause of an acorn. The final cause gives the reason why a process is occurring and prevents the laws of Nature and their endless regularities from being outrageously coincidental. But the idea of naturally occurring purpose is lost on today’s philosophical world, probably due to modern associations of ‘purpose’ with conscious intention or intelligent design.

This concern was not on Aquinas’ radar, and he saw Nature as brimming with final causes – or ‘finality’. Every cause aimed (whether by nature or by intention) at some effect or range of effects. As Aquinas (SCG argued:

Besides, if an agent did not incline toward some definite effect, all results would be a matter of indifference for him. Now, he who looks upon a manifold number of things with indifference no more succeeds in doing one of them than another. Hence, from an agent contingently indifferent to alternatives no effect follows, unless he be determined to one effect by something. So, it would be impossible for him to act. Therefore, every agent tends toward some determinate effect, and this is called his end

Nothing in this general picture of reality changed for Aquinas when it came to human beings. It looked to him like humans have naturally occurring means: a power to understand things (intellect) and a power to desire what they understand (will). Intellect is the means by which we pursue truth and will is the means by which we pursue goodness. In other words, intellect is for acquiring truth and will is for obtaining goodness – these are their naturally occurring purposes or functions.

Now, for Aquinas, even though we may not know it, Truth-ness and Good-ness both refer to the same thing: God. That is, Aquinas’ metaphysics had the consequence that the single, transcendent cause of all things appears to the intellect as truth-ness and to the will as good-ness.

As a result, Thomas Aquinas’ background metaphysics meant that we are directed by Nature to attain God; that is our naturally occurring purpose, why we are ultimately here.

b. The Argument from Expectation

The odd thing about all of this, Aquinas might have said, is that while our whole point is to head in the direction of reaching our ‘Final End’, it’s practically impossible for us to do so! Why? Because there’s almost no way for us to come to know of it or anything about it all on our own. After all, people tend overwhelmingly not to have the time, talent, or inclination to think deeply or carefully about such things as whether there even is a First Principle, let alone whether it is also our Final End. And even for those who do, they still struggle to come to any kind of consensus. We’re just too prone to error or distraction. As he put it (ST 1.1):

indeed, because man is directed to God, as to an end that surpasses the grasp of his reason…But the end must first be known by men who are to direct their thoughts and actions to the end. Hence it was necessary for the salvation of man that certain truths which exceed human reason should be made known to him by divine revelation. Even as regards those truths about God which human reason could have discovered, it was necessary that man should be taught by a divine revelation; because the truth about God such as reason could discover, would only be known by a few, and that after a long time, and with the admixture of many errors.

So, Aquinas reasons, God makes us for a purpose that we can’t really fulfill on our own. Shouldn’t we expect God to intervene, then, so that we are able to fulfill his point of making us? Lest we be created for an end that there is no realistic means to, and God’s divine wisdom and providence be called into question?

It seemed so to Aquinas. We need to know the First Principle as our Final End, so that we may orient ourselves to it. And this just does involve coming to know facts about the First Principle which most people would struggle to even grasp or reason to if left to their own devices.

Expecting such a revelation to be made is how the initial argument concludes. It allows people to look out into the world to see if any such revelation has in fact been made. That is, has it been revealed to most people that the First Principle is their Final End, so that they have the chance to direct themselves to it?

From here, Aquinas would argue that this revelation has been made by the person of Jesus of Nazareth. As noted earlier, thinkers of other monotheist faiths can make the same move for their respective religions.

3. One is Not the Loneliest Number

So, why don’t I think this argument works the way Aquinas thought it did, and how can it be adapted for polytheism?

Let me start with a soft ball and work my way up to the curve ball.

a. How many is most?

Right off the bat, the argument might strike you as proving too much for the Christian: it tells us to look out for something that Christianity does not deliver. After all, if doctrine should be revealed to most people so that most people can reach their ultimate purpose, then shouldn’t candidates for this revelation at least be known to most people? But Christianity is relatively new to the scene (what about everyone before it?), and was relatively local only until recently in world history. It just doesn’t look like a revelation made to most people. And the more you have to qualify the initial induction with suggestions like ‘well, Christianity eventually became global’, or ‘the revelation could have been made less explicitly beforehand, or even post-mortem’, the more unrealistic and ad hoc it all sounds. So I don’t think this argument works the way he thought it did. But let’s set this aside for now.

b. A polytheist take

This final section will condense and presume significant portions of Platonist thought. I do this to spare the reader from even more abstract lines of reasoning, especially because I have covered these grounds elsewhere — such as in my most recent book ‘Platonism: A Platonic Approach‘.

Now, as we saw, Aquinas’ idea is that we need to know the First Principle as our Final End in order to orient ourselves to it as such. He thought that this at least had to involve coming to know facts about the First Principle which most people would struggle to even grasp or reason to if left to their own devices. But what are these facts? Whatever the details turned out to be, Aquinas made it clear (ST 1.1.7) that they would reveal the First Principle through its effects, as their cause:

Although we cannot know in what consists the essence of God, nevertheless in this science we make use of His effects, either of nature or of grace, in place of a definition, in regard to whatever is treated of in this science concerning God; even as in some philosophical sciences we demonstrate something about a cause from its effect, by taking the effect in place of a definition of the cause.

But what are the effects of the First Principle?

The polytheist can say with the Platonists that the First Principle is the One, or One-ness, or Unity, so that what it does is to make any given thing hold together or count as the one, numerically distinct thing that it is. It’s what gives each thing its individuality, its uniqueness, its one-ness, its unity.

Understanding the First Principle through these effects yields a very different expectation than what Aquinas had in mind, because the way we attain unity is not the way we attain, say, truth. Truth is obtained by intellection, unity is achieved by inclusion. Were our Final End something like Truth, we’d call our attainment of it something like ‘beatific vision’. But where it is One-ness, our union with it can be called ‘henosis’ — after the Greek term for unity.

Henosis is not a matter of grasping the First Principle intellectually, but of drawing out our oneness with it. As such, this union is not prompted by treating the First Principle like an intelligible object, which requires distinction between subject and object and thus actually precludes henosis, but by experiencing the First Principle as the One-ness in us whereby we and all things are individuated as our own one things.

The prompts such polytheists should expect to be revealed, then, are not intelligible facts about the First Principle which only ever allow us to apprehend it as other and as object, but presentations of the First Principle to us as the utterly unique One that it is so that we can encounter it as such.

However these presentations are made to us, whether to our senses, to our minds, or to both, they have to be symbolic, because they are of an utterly ineffable individual for whom there is nothing else to depict her as but herself.

The expectation, then, would be for symbols to be revealed which allow us to encounter the First Principle in all its sheer, unbridled individuality.

But that’s just the sort of revelation I would argue we observe in the world: myths and theophany in every culture, symbolizing the Gods so that each one can be encountered in her utterly unique way of being the First Principle (oh, were you assuming the ‘First Principle’ referred to one God in particular rather than the arbitrary God?).

4. Concluding Remarks

Aquinas recognized that if our Final End surpassed our reason, we should expect it to be revealed to us. But because of how the Final End looked to him, he thought this revelation would come in the form of sacred doctrines — truths understood by the mind. Such an expectation then allowed him to go through a process of elimination by looking at the world religions and determining which, if any, was the best candidate for channeling these sacred doctrines as revelation. But a more polytheist take on the First Principle yields a very different picture of things; one where we shouldn’t be expecting doctrines about one God to be revealed, but myths about many Gods!

In the end, whether and to what extent the argument works is for better minds than mine to figure out. But that polytheists can make this same sort of induction is something that should be kept in mind, and explored.

Some Thoughts on Religious Experience

For as long as we’ve been around, human beings have had experiences which cause them to believe that a God is doing something to them — like consoling, watching over or guiding, etc. — or that a God has some property — like being loving, powerful or even great, etc.

It has often been remarked that there is a difference between having these experiences and hearing about them. It’s one thing to have an experience that causes you to believe in a God and another to hear someone say that they had such an experience.

It is alleged that while someone may have reason to hold theistic beliefs after having such an experience, someone who merely hears another claim to have had such an experience does not.

The distinction being drawn here is an important one. There is a difference between your experience directly causing your beliefs, and indirectly causing mine.

Suppose we’re on the phone. I ask you what it’s like outside where you are. You look outside and have a visual experience that directly causes you to think it’s snowing. You tell me “it’s snowing,” and I believe you.

In this case, your experience causes us both to hold the same belief, but it does so directly for you and indirectly for me. (For our purposes, you didn’t lie about having that experience).

However, because I am not having your experience directly, it may not affect me the same way as it does you.

Like if you told me the snow was rainbow colored, and I didn’t think you were just messing around or high, I’d probably say ‘pic or it didn’t happen’. That is, your visual experience caused you to believe, involuntarily and immediately, that the snow was rainbow colored; but the belief itself strikes me as so implausible that I actually doubt that you’re having that experience.

Think about what this means.

Why don’t I just accept that you are having that experience but dismiss the belief it’s causing in you? Why do I automatically doubt that you’re really seeing that?

I think it’s because we recognize that experience implies reality. Or that, reality causes experience.

The only times we have no problem accepting that someone is having an experience even though the belief it’s causing in them is bananas is when we know that it isn’t reality which is causing the experience, but something like hallucinogenics.

Given that there really are religious experiences happening, and that experience implies reality, they should be treated as innocent until proven guilty.

There’s nothing crazy about believing that a God is doing something to you — like consoling you or watching over you, etc. or about believing that a God is loving, powerful or even great, etc. Moreover, there is downright no reason whatsoever to think all or even most religious experiences are caused by perceptually distorting factors.

Gods just aren’t anything like rainbow colored snow: they’re not bizarre transgressive variants of a regularity. In fact, people have been having experiences of seeing them forever now.

So, it takes a lot more to write off religious experiences than just not having had one. Either the idea of Gods must be crazy or it must be clear that the causes of religious experiences do not track truth, and neither one of these has much going for it.

The Emperor has no Clothes

As I stated in the last post, I began this blog in part to confront the spirit of hegemony that’s wormed its way into Pagan and Polytheist circles. This isn’t my favorite thing in the world to do. My passion has always been to bring the tools and insights of philosophy to bear on Pagan and Polytheist beliefs. I want to follow these beliefs to their logical conclusions, discover their hidden assumptions, and defend them from common and academic-level objections. To that end, I spend my time researching Pagan and Polytheist beliefs, studying and practicing different logics, and keeping up to date with academic philosophy of religion. I see this type of work as providing a sort of meta-level service to the Pagan and Polytheist communities in that while I’m not Hindu, or Kemetic, or Druid, or Hellenic, or etc. I work for the sake of all of them. I believe in all of the Gods, I worship many of them, and I hope each of their traditions and communities flourish one day.

So, what am I doing wandering out of my niche little pasture and getting into American politics for?

Because American Paganism is not well, and someone has to say something. Before the movement gets completely hijacked by political elitism and the silent majority become entirely alienated. It’s on the verge of becoming the next victim of the American political mentality that it’s your way or the highway, and everyone else can go to hell.

Now, look. I’m not going to get all this right. I know I’m going to make mistakes. But enough is enough.

So what the hell happened? We can’t commune with one another to study or worship the Gods and pray or sacrifice for justice, or the common good. No. Our common principle isn’t religion anymore! It’s politics. Rituals are now town hall meetings where you can’t participate unless you fling yourself on to the latest, bizarrely specific bandwagon.

If you have no considered view on one of those positions or, Gods forbid, don’t find yourself convinced of them, well…then you’re not a real Pagan! You’re a Christian in disguise. Or some Puritan nonsense.

Folks…why did you even leave Christianity? You clearly weren’t ready. You still want the orthodoxy, the purity, the control. This Paganism stuff ain’t for you!

Let me illustrate this by bringing up one of the Forbidden Subjects.

Take abortion. Did you know that in order to be a Real Pagan ™, you have to have figured the abortion debate out? Yep. And not only that, but you better hope you figured it out…correctly. Otherwise. Ya know. You’re a fake Pagan. In fact, you’re in league with the Devil – or ‘Christianity’, close enough. So, suppose it seems to you that the human fetus is a child in its earliest stage of development and that children, no matter their stage of development, generally deserve to be protected by their parents – even if there are justified exceptions (a popular flavor of ‘pro-life’). Well, then, shame on you. End of discussion. The Gods don’t love you.

Haven’t you read Judith Jarvis Thompson’s A Defense of Abortion!?

As if no one had anything interesting to say in reply to her…in 51 years. I’m so serious. I know it sounds like sarcasm. Gods I wish it was.

You thought when Pagans said things like they revered Nature, cherished Life and harmed none, that this meant human fetuses at least mattered? That if all things are full of Gods, taking a life should be a sober and considered decision? Bigot.

They’re just a clump of cells (somehow, in a way that you aren’t too), and clumps of cells are entirely worthless and disposable.

The truth is your perspective doesn’t matter. They don’t care how things seem to you. It’s their way or the highway. They’ll graciously allow you to hold an opinion, such as that abortions involve dismembering children and for that reason require some moral justification beyond sheer fiat. But they will not allow you to “impose” that opinion on them. By contrast, they forbid you from reciprocating that dynamic: not only are they going to hold an opinion on the matter no matter what you say, but they’re going to shove it down your throat and you’d better say “thank you” when they’re finished. It’s okay for them to trivialize what strikes you as a morally shocking procedure, but it is not okay for you to…be…morally shocked…at child dismemberment. Because that’s forcing births! Your perspective doesn’t matter. You don’t matter.

At least unless you could be useful. You could support The Cause, which is an almost completely undefined political outlook that has more to do with emotional satisfaction than with anything in real life. But if you don’t agree with The Cause? Well, then you’re illiterate, uneducated, unintelligent, or immoral.

Unfortunately, most of us do not have considered views on these extremely complicated matters. We’re too busy with life to figure them out. But roger. Shame on us. Got it. And those of us who have dared to involuntarily form alternative beliefs? We’re the worst.

I wish I did, but I don’t know what to make of abortion: I’ve been reading the best defenders of both sides for too long, and my views have flip flopped over the years (I even defended abortion in a public debate with a Catholic speaker and apologist several years ago). But I’ll be damned if someone is going to condemn me for taking it seriously enough to let the evidence speak for itself, especially when they are lightyears behind me in research.

And the same goes for many of the Forbidden Subjects. Like, transgenderism. I tried to keep up with the literature on gender, but I don’t even know what the hell it’s supposed to be anymore.

By the way, I probably just committed career suicide by mentioning that. It doesn’t matter what I actually said; or that I am bi-sexual, or fairly socially and politically liberal myself. I spoke on not just one, but two Forbidden Subjects!

And it’s not about whether these propositions are true, but whether anything less than absolute certitude or blind faith in them is even morally permissible.

Most of us are not going to have considered views on these dogmas. It’s not even clear what we’re supposed to believe in half the time, and when someone graces us with an explanation, they’re downright aloof and unrelatable.

What started out as a well-intended fight for equality across the spectrum, and a sharp rejection of such things as racism and bigotry has turned into an imperialist bid for power and control over Paganism. The spirit of hegemony was easy to spot on the “right” side of the spectrum, especially in the form of white supremacy. And it continues to be confronted and cut out to this day. But what happens when that same spirit infects the “left” side as well? Do we accommodate it, because it’s on the “left”?

Or do we call it out for its “fascism?” – a term you’d think meant some kind of authoritarian nationalism, but which actually just refers to anything that’s…coercive?

We’re in the overcorrection stage.

So, look. Don’t worry about trying to keep up with them, you couldn’t if you tried. This is not about a list of facts, it’s about their supposed authority to declare things as factual; it’s about deferring to whatever The Cause happens to be today.

American Paganism is turning into political Catholicism at this point, and any failure to celebrate whatever its commitments happen to be right now is an indictment against you on basically every level.

Disagreement is no longer respectable. We are not peers, or equals. If you’re not on board, it’s because something is wrong with you.

It’s not enough, anymore, to protest, donate, vote, publish, pray, or make noise. Now you have to do that with the official name brand Pagan, otherwise…well you’re obviously not Pagan!

This isn’t about tolerating disagreement or playing “nice” with each other; it’s about fundamentally transforming an orthopraxy into an orthodoxy.

But once a Pagan Always a Pagan, I guess. No separation between Grove and State.

Oh, you thought you’d left Christianity? I did too. I imagine a lot of us did.

So, what about the rest of us, floundering about in our unedumacated state of sin? How do we restore sanity? How do we save Paganism from Americanization? How do we stop this spirit of hegemony?

Well, I don’t know, to be frank. But I think speaking freely is a good start. Normalize speaking your mind and take their power away. Despite what they think, this is not a damned Cathedral, it’s a Big Tent. Remind them of the fact of plurality, diversity and complexity. Maybe with time we can restore good sense and will to our communities, and even begin to repair the damages these fanatics have caused between American Paganism and other Pagan or Polytheist communities, like Hinduism.

In the end, maybe this won’t reach many of you, and for those it does, maybe it won’t embolden you. You now have reason to not associate with me, I just painted a big ol’ target on my back, and it’s risky to disagree with the Pagan Magisterium right now; or, really, to do anything but shout their pronouncements from the roof tops. But the Emperor is butt ass naked, and I hope you know that you aren’t the only seeing it.

Trends come and go, but Gods are forever.

A n(other)ew Start

The political climate recently erupted again here in the United States when the Supreme Court ruled that, whether it’s right, wrong, beneficial or catastrophic, there is no constitutional right to abortion — which is the only angle the Supreme Court is supposed to be looking at things from.

In its wake, confusion engulfed the public. Some thought the Supreme Court had outlawed abortion and panic over what would be “outlawed” next was left to run free.

But in the Pagan and Polytheist communities, there was another confusing sort of response popping up on social media: it was an anathema to anyone who was “pro-life.”

As I watched this rhetoric grow, I recognized the spirit behind it: hegemony. It wasn’t wearing the same clothes as it usually did in the orthodoxy of monotheism, but I knew that ugly face all the same — the echo chambers, the demonization of anyone outside of them, the cult-like purity, etc.

I started this blog in part to confront this hegemony. Its bark is much worse than its bite, and behind all the bravado, it’s extraordinarily fragile. But my intention is not simply to destroy this cancer; it’s to heal the wound.

I intend to do this by reminding people of the fact of plurality; of the reality of diversity, and of the complexity of life. By forcing the hegemonic positions to defend themselves, instead of treating them like dogmas you should be punished for even wondering about, people will be able to see (perhaps for the first time) just how distorted the narrative has become.

I’ve been through this procedure before. Something to look out for. There is a difference between informing others about something and trying to persuade them of it. The tell between these is whether one is allowing a proposition to speak for itself or instead speaking on its behalf.

There is nothing wrong with persuasion, obviously. But it’s important to ask why the proposition can’t just speak for itself, and why someone feels the need to control how it appears to others. As we delve into different topics, look out for positions that feign self-evidence by forbidding anyone from scrutinizing them.

In the end, I’m not going to conclude whether the hegemonic positions are true or false. But I am going to yeet their insulating rhetoric into oblivion and conclude that disagreement is reasonable, and plurality is precious.