To clarify my opinion re: this Politics v. Devotion and why there shouldn’t even be a versus

Yesterday I reblogged a post by Galina that was talking about how John Halstead was now a writer at Gods&Radicals. (Per Rhyd Wildermuth’s clarifying comment, I stand corrected: Halstead has been writing for Gods&Radicals for a while, albeit intermittently). I was caught off guard, and so I reblogged with the following post, provided unedited:

For fuck’s sake. Everyone who takes their polytheism seriously MUST read this. There is yet another terrible issue in our work to establish ourselves, and it is taking a political AND anti-theist stance that I am NOT liking. My religion is not a political position. It CAN include politics, as politics houses values and power relations, but religion should never BE a political position. There’s a big difference between advancing polytheism peacefully and equally in various, diverse directions (including politics and social justice), and crafting polytheism into a political position [instead of a tradition where the gods come first and social justice arises from this tradition]. I care about developing devotion, tradition, and right-relationship with the gods… AND having Halstead in this? I have a terrible, terrible feeling about this….

And Rhyd replied:

Hi. Just as a note of clarification, John Halstead has been one of the many, many writers at Gods&Radicals since its founding. He’s not new.

We do not insist on theological purity nor ideological purity in our writing collective. We’re against hierarchy and authoritarianism–we don’t police the beliefs and practices of our writers, nor would it make any sense to come up with a Statement of Belief for our writers to conform to.

And while most of us are polytheists (including all of the board and myself), we’re honoured to feature the writing of many other iterations of Paganism, and will absolutely continue to do so with the blessings of the many gods and spirits who’ve taken an interest in our work, and for whom we offer it. And besides, my gods don’t disappear because someone doesn’t believe in them the same way I do; I doubt yours will, either! 🙂

Taking into consideration that that last line was really a jab Taking into consideration that Rhyd and Galina are having personal issues mixing in with their ideological differences as well as the differences between their goals and what they want to bring to polytheism, this is what I have to say as an outsider who does not know Galina nor Rhyd personally, who does not know their relationship personally, and who is reading only what is being posted up so far.

I think working to restore cultus, devotion, tradition, space for the gods is a wonderful thing. I also think working to fight hierarchy, authoritarianism, and the evils of capitalism backed by polytheism is a wonderful thing; I don’t see how social justice and reform isn’t an offering to the gods or working to make space for the gods. (If social justice and religion weren’t tied together, there wouldn’t be social justice cores in theology programs, nor activism sustained by/for pagan groups, and/or liberation theology in any kind of religion. I certainly see how religion and politics come together and flow parallel to each other).

I actually agree with a lot that Rhyd says in his articles on capitalism (and anti-capitalism, for that matter). I also agree with a lot that Galina brings to the table on restoring devotion and encouraging people to develop a deep connection to the gods in whatever way they do so. Who’s to say that Rhyd’s great work isn’t heavily influenced by his deep devotion to the gods he works with – and who’s to say that Galina’s great work to publicly and privately establish cultus isn’t a form of activism for both the gods and for polytheists everywhere?

I hope that what you see here is this: both Galina’s and Rhyd’s approaches are equally valid and contribute to the greater diversity of polytheism. What Galina and Rhyd write from their stances doesn’t actually go against each other (and I am talking specifically within the parameters of the cultus and anti-capitalist stands, respectively). And what Galina and Rhyd have to bring to the table is equally important. It NEEDS to be talked about!

So why is it looking like we need to start deciding (and soon!) that we need to take sides? I’m not computing, apart from me understanding that there is a personal-relationship level to this that I’m not touching simply because I’m not Galina and I’m not Rhyd.

My religion is not a political position. It CAN include politics, as politics houses values and power relations, but religion should never BE a political position. There’s a big difference between advancing polytheism peacefully and equally in various, diverse directions (including politics and social justice), and crafting polytheism into a political position [instead of a tradition where the gods come first and social justice arises from this tradition].

When I wrote this, I was attempting to share four thoughts of mine: one, that I don’t think religion should ever be a political position and that is not what I am working towards; two, that I do understand the intimate relationship between religion and politics; three, that I fully support advancing polytheism peacefully and equally in various, diverse directions, as it damn well should (including politics and social justice); and four, that I personally think that a healthy relationship with engagement in politics and social justice comes from having established traditions and cultus (which is why I said, at the very beginning of this post, that I support fighting work backed by polytheism).

What I am nervous about is that we will come to a position where I will need to take sides – where we will all need to take sides because of this. And it doesn’t have to be that way! We don’t have to come to that! There isn’t one way to develop something, and there are many spheres that need our attention, that have the attention of the gods. Both Rhyd and Galina have really, really important Work, and I just wish they’d just talk it out, but of course that’s none of by business.

I think anyone who takes their religion seriously should always think about what they want to do for their god(s), what they want to do for their community, and what they want to do for the world. If it’s anti-capitalist social justice, awesome! If it’s restoring cultus, great! I don’t see these things as mutually exclusive – nor, in my opinion, should they be.

What I will certainly not do is support things that I see as wrong. Everyone has a right to their opinion, to develop and critique, and to grow in their differences; and everyone, I think, also has an obligation to cry out wrongs, whether it’s something institutional or something that someone else just casually says. I do not want to pick sides, because if someone asks me what my goal is for polytheism, I will answer every time, “Restoring cultus.” That is what I am working towards and that is what I have been Asked to do, on both a personal and public level. I don’t think Rhyd should be singled out because he has a different goal from Galina, but one does have to make the distinction that it is not the same goal. And that’s okay. The problem begins when that goal starts competing for attention.

Speaking of competing for attention, no, I don’t like that Halstead is on Gods&Radicals. And that’s just my damn opinion, as I have the right to complain and I have a reason for doing so. To me, Halstead is doing the equivalent of walking into a Catholic church and saying, “Okay, so I’m here. I want to be a Catholic, and I want you to call me a Catholic. But since I personally believe that Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and the saints are archetypes, I want you to change the liturgy to reflect this ontology, and I want the theists to be totally on-board with this. Oh, and remember to call me a Catholic, because I am a Catholic.” I don’t like that at all…. and that’s just my opinion. Anyone can do as they like but, well, people are always going to say something. I don’t think Halstead’s actions are conducive to a healthy paganism or to restoring cultus – so, of course I’m not going to like his actions.

Just like Rhyd, just like Galina, I will forward what I believe is right and I will call out what I see as wrong – I believe that I have an obligation as a believer and as a human being to do so. And on that one tiny sentence, maybe we can all agree. And maybe, just maybe, we can have a fruitful conversation that leads to a healthier development of polytheism.


42 thoughts on “To clarify my opinion re: this Politics v. Devotion and why there shouldn’t even be a versus”

  1. I consider his response about having non hierachal structures a get out of responsibility free card. Halstead has been nothing but condescending and dismissive of theists of any kind in the beginning, the face he’s slightly left of center doesn’t make up for his behavior or make the fact he’s allowed to post there any better.

    This anti authority and anti hierarchy justification so often pushed to the extreme makes it so there are few if any standards on that blog roll, but that is what I expect from most online communities ran or cooked up by anarchists so perhaps I shouldn’t be THAT disappointed in them.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. “Halstead has been nothing but condescending and dismissive of theists of any kind in the beginning, the face he’s slightly left of center doesn’t make up for his behavior or make the fact he’s allowed to post there any better.” I will agree with you there, absolutely! In fact, I agree with your entire comment. And extremism in ANY kind is unhealthy and irresponsible. I don’t like what I’m seeing with Rhyd where it is really pushing into extreme. I seriously couldn’t have put it better myself. Thank you for taking the time to read!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Well it could be argued I’m an extremist myself, but I don’t share a lot of what else I really think.

        But I’m a Socialist because even communities after the revolution will need structures, especially to avoid class based and other hierarchies again, and I don’t believe that anarchists have the solutions anymore.

        I believe that a truly radical, polytheist friendly, politically informed Pagan and Magic blogroll and publication would be a great idea. But this just isn’t it, and I’ve been offended by some of the anti-science rhetoric on there, amongst other problems.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. “I believe that a truly radical, polytheist friendly, politically informed Pagan and Magic blogroll and publication would be a great idea. But this just isn’t it, and I’ve been offended by some of the anti-science rhetoric on there, amongst other problems.” ABSOLUTELY. Which is why I am so concerned (and other people as well, including yourself, I see). Would you consider starting this blogroll / publication yourself, by the way, in a vision such as that which you’re presented? What do you think is best in bringing about the change you wish to see?

        Liked by 1 person

      3. To be honest I don’t think I’m right for that kind of leadership, but I am working on a message board related to stuff I’m working on and invested in with hopefully more intelligent discourse than say, too much of the atmosphere in FB communities best left nameless.

        How it will evolve, I have no clue, but I suspect it’s better to let a community like that grow up a bit before debuting it to the world like a publication or blogroll. 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Aaaaand I’m officially sick of this debate too. That didn’t take long. I sympathize with the frustration you’ve expressed and I can say that yes, I understand it at least a little bit. I enjoy the writings of both of these persons currently in question and know neither of them personally. But… I don’t have to take sides. In fact, I refuse. I will insist on carving a third option out of the middle whether they like it or not. I will continue to appreciate the different and equally important work being done by both of them. I will continue to acknowledge that where their work overlaps, they have different opinions and that I should probably form my own regardless of either of them. I will also close this browser and walk away to go talk to my in-person community, which I happen to value more than anything being said online. I realize not everyone has that option… but that’s the option I intend to take.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I like that you refuse to take sides, and I especially like that you do your own thing. Everyone should! I don’t want to take sides either, especially when I know that they’re both doing, as you excellently put it, different AND equally important work. I just don’t like it when goals that should work in partnership begin to split in the middle in competition.

      Polytheism has different areas of need and different goals for taking care of those needs. I have my own goals, and you have yours, of I wish you the absolute best for you and your community. I know you will be of incredible help! If I can be of service in any way, please don’t hesitate to contact me; if I can’t help you myself, I will do my best to find the right resource/person.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. “To me, Halstead is doing the equivalent of walking into a Catholic church and saying, “Okay, so I’m here. I want to be a Catholic, and I want you to call me a Catholic. But since I personally believe that Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and the saints are archetypes, I want you to change the liturgy to reflect this ontology, and I want the theists to be totally on-board with this. Oh, and remember to call me a Catholic, because I am a Catholic.””

    YES! That is exactly what it boils down to. Couldn’t have put it better myself.

    Liked by 3 people

    1. And I forgot to add that he wants everyone to agree with his “theology” too (re: his call in one of his posts for everyone to accept that the gods are “real” on some levels and “not real” on others). I understand presenting a new theology in his space… but a theology with the ‘theos’ or ‘theoi’ being pushed on those who DO see and understand the ‘theoi’ will never agree to that. I’ve read some daft things in my life, but never as daft as *that* – AND aimed at hard polytheists? LOL

      Liked by 1 person

      1. He reminds me of some thirteen year old Wiccan who demands that everyone accepts her as a High Priestess because her UPG tells her so. Like… that’s not how this works. And it won’t work like that just because Halstead is “all grown up” either. The gods are real, individual, and have agency of their own, and there’s nothing that this atheist-masquerading-as-a-pagan can ever say to change my mind.

        Liked by 2 people

      2. I will again say that Halstead is certainly entitled to his opinion and I do agree with Galina in that no one should be silenced, ever. (What kind of world would we live in where we can’t disagree with someone or critique ideas).

        One of my biggest issues with Halstead is that he writes with the intention to get people to agree with him. Well, when you’re presenting an opinion, it’s always nice to get a “hell yeah!” or a “Gee, I really like what you’re saying!” But what I mean by this is that Halstead presents X to a community that CLEARLY believes Y (and he’s been in this too long to not know that this community believes in Y) – and then when this community says that, no, they disagree with him on X, he takes it as discrimination and says that the community that believes in Y is not inclusive.

        Which I don’t think is useful A) for his work in his community, B) for his work in the greater face of this movement, and C) for himself. The only reason I take Halstead seriously is because he is saying very dangerous, very intolerant, very anti-theist, and in my opinion anti-gods things. And we are both not down for that.

        By the way, reading your Duck post – LOVE!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. I definitely agree with that. I don’t think he should be silenced, I just wish he was given a different platform from which to do it, since it’s obvious the ones he’s using are not in line with what he thinks.

        And thank you! I felt inspired after reading your post and Galina’s and thought I’d say something of my own. :3 ❤

        Liked by 1 person

      4. I think so as well. He could be of big help to his own community if he didn’t waste so much damn time trying to get into the theist community. And you’re very welcome; you’re a wonderful and articulate writer!

        Also, since I know that you wrote about the tiring nature of internet paganism drama: I know. It’s fucking terrible. It is exhausting, it is stupid, and it wastes time. We’re clamoring like children. However, like I posed in my post: what is your goal? What is the change you want to see in your world, and how can you be that change? For me, it’s working on polytheist theoilogies, restoring cultus, and education – supporting polytheism in whatever way I can through teaching, action, and critique. This, unfortunately, includes commenting on the internet wars. But, well, again: when we see a wrong, whatever wrong we see, we should speak out against it. Halstead, Rhyd, Anomalous, Galina, Sannion, everyone else in the entire world does it. I will, too.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. It is terrible, but I think it comes with the territory. The only thing I won’t comment on unless I am absolutely forced to (as in, it gets so bad I feel it’s necessary to raise a voice in protest) is actual politics. I honestly HATE discussing politics in general. But sometimes we have to say something to avoid being trampled on.

        I think at this point I’m still working out my own goal. What this whole thing with Halstead has taught me, though, is that it is important to keep tradition in polytheism, and paganism in general. The gods are important, and they deserve a place of honour here. I don’t intend to let some schmuck try to tell me they aren’t real, or that they don’t need to be part of polytheism in order for me to be a polytheist. I figure, with time – perhaps even with more situations like this – I will figure out the rest of my goals in time.

        Liked by 1 person

      6. I wish there was a love button for this ENTIRE comment. Absolutely!! Especially in keeping tradition in polytheism and paganism in general – being the change one wishes to see. “The gods are important, and they deserve a place of honour here.”

        As always this is very difficult and challenging. It is time consuming and excruciating, but it must be done. I wish you the absolute best. ❤ If there's every anything I can help you in, or if you just want to talk, don't hesitate to contact me. Like I always say, if I myself can't be of help for your need, I will do my damndest to find someone who could.

        Liked by 1 person

      7. I wish you the same! ❤ I look forward to seeing more of your writing and your thoughts. Thank you for your kindness, Ossia. ❤

        Liked by 1 person

  4. >To me, Halstead is doing the equivalent of walking into a Catholic church and saying, “Okay, so I’m here. I want to be a Catholic, and I want you to call me a Catholic. But since I personally believe that Jesus Christ, God, the Holy Spirit, and the saints are archetypes, I want you to change the liturgy to reflect this ontology, and I want the theists to be totally on-board with this. Oh, and remember to call me a Catholic, because I am a Catholic.”

    1. So you’re saying that all Catholics believe literally in the Nicene Creed?
    2. Where have I done the equivalent of asking you or any other devotional polytheist to change their liturgy?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi, John, and I hope you and your family are well. Thank you for your questions.

      1. Yes, I do believe that all Catholics believe literally in the Nicene Creed. In the Nicene Creed there is a language of a “theos” – that is, separate and distinct Being with high agency who has taken saving action in the world AND Who works with grace. I would be damned to find a Catholic that recites the Nicene Creed otherwise, or a Catholic theologian who could ever make the argument for that (I would have to ask my professors on that one, perhaps there are several, but generally, Christians do believe literally in their deity/deities).

      The Nicene Creed is a statement of faith. It delineates exactly what is believed about the ontology of the Trinity, the creation of the world, and the salvation of all human kind, amongst other things: “…one Father, creator of heaven and earth… And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, begotten from the Father before all ages… begotten, not made; consubstantial with the Father….” I mean, they’re not saying that Trinity is a symbol. You can’t have a symbol consubstantial with another symbol, or a symbol with agency for death, resurrection, and salvation. They’re saying that the Trinity IS. (Not to mention that a Catholic can’t mean it anything other than literal, UNLESS they want to give a different explanation for how salvation works. Christians in general believe that salvation comes from the loving, selfless, self-sacrifice of Christ, the Redeemer. They mean this LITERALLY, not on a merely symbolic level. Salvation is directly tied in with every single piece of Christian theology, ever).

      2. Although I understand that ‘liturgy’ refers to the ceremony or worship, I would also like to momentarily extend that to tradition and ontology (which is one of several foundations of liturgy – it matters Who / What you’re giving worship to and it shapes how the liturgy works). Your quote on “accepting that the gods are real on some levels and not real on other levels” and asking hard polytheists to accept that and just let it be, is not possible even at a base logical level: if we believe that the gods are present on all levels, then how can we accept a belief of “some but not others”? It would be the same if we had extended, to, an offer for atheist pagans to believe in all levels, when, clearly, there is a different perception to the ecology (to use your term). It doesn’t make sense to ask for such a change in order to be inclusive. Most Catholics would certainly NOT be willing to change the Nicene Creed to fit someone who doesn’t believe in it literally. (Personally, were I to be in such a tradition, I would be absolutely appalled if someone walked in asking for that. But that’s just my opinion, of course).

      I hope I’ve made it clear; it’s still too early in the day for me. Please let me know if I need to clarify something.

      Liked by 3 people

      1. If someone told me that they identified as Catholic, but rejected the entire Nicene Creed, I would ask them, “How are you a Catholic, then – or, to a great extent, a Christian at all?” The Nicene Creed is a profession of faith and belief for Christianity, and it informs (and is informed) by the theology that is both foundation and fruit of it. Someone saying they were Christian without actually believing in Christ (or even salvation) would raise question to me. I don’t know that the *true* in *true Catholic* means, but no, I would not consider them Catholic, and neither would the Church. I would need to ask them and understand how they see themselves as Catholics, but there is a tradition in place. If they don’t answer to that tradition as their tradition asks them to, then they cannot say that they live that tradition. (Here is where “how” the tradition is lived plays out – the whole deal with faith v. works).

        Yes, John, I have heard of the fallacy – but does it apply with what we’re talking about? If a tradition says “we believe in X as a fundamental tenet,” and Joe says “Nope, I believe in Y,” that tradition will most likely say, “Then you can’t call yourself part of this tradition if you believe in Y instead of X. X is the fundamental tenet of our tradition; Y is not.”

        It isn’t about being *true*, whatever that means. There are thousands of conversations about what makes a *true* Christian (faith v. works, God and Christ only v. veneration of Mary + saints, and the list goes on and on). It’s a mere fact of “this is what we as a tradition believe and uphold.” It’s about the fact that I can’t call myself a Greek polytheist (or do things in a Greek polytheist tradition) if I don’t work with Greek gods. It’s a question about the fundamental tenets of a tradition. A Catholic, to me, upholds and believes in the fundamental tenets of the Catholic tradition. If they don’t, they’re not a Catholic. Simple as that.

        Liked by 3 people

      2. I’m not going to jump totally into this, but I used to be Catholic, and it is part of the catechism to profess faith in the Nicene Creed. You actually do have to believe in literally. It’s not a Scotsman Fallacy – it’s the actual system. The term used in the catechism is “professed with faith”; that is to say, with actual belief. You can find more about the Creeds and the required belief in the Trinity at the Vatican’s catechism website:

        If you were to tell your priest that you didn’t agree with the Creed, or you didn’t agree with the Trinity, didn’t believe in God, etc etc etc, you would not be permitted to take communion, since you would be considered out of communion with the See of Rome. Catholicism is incredibly strict, even bordering thought-police. You literally are not considered a “true Catholic” unless to conform to the Vatican expectations.

        Liked by 3 people

    1. The really sad thing is that it’s being said to communities that are still developing traditions. If someone were to tell the apostles and church fathers that Jesus Christ had not *literally* died for our sins, or was not a living Person, while in the process of their tradition, they would have said, “That’s not what we’re working towards. We are creating this tradition with the understanding that God and Christ save all BECAUSE They are real, Their actions are real, and revelation is real. They gave us the means to be able to live our lives rightly and to be able to recognize Their presence in the world.” Every single early Christian theologian would have been outraged at even the insinuation that the life, death, and resurrection of Christ were merely archetypal, merely story. When one studies even theology at the academy (for scholarly reasons), there is a big difference between studying pieces doubting God’s existence and coming to the table with an view of God as anything less than a Person. (If it’s otherwise, there is NO theology, period).

      And when we show such outrage, we’re called exclusionary, discriminatory, hateful? Hmph. If it doesn’t look like a duck, move like a duck, or sound like a duck…. Chances are it’s not a duck.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. I don’t know if your familiar with a lot of my older writing, but you may find this piece intriguing. It was written in 2013 as a defense of polytheism against critiques from John Halstead and others, and is still my most-read article on my personal blog:

    And there’s a very long history of me being one of the folks arguing with him. John can certainly attest to it, and some nasty exchanges between us.

    So why is he writing with us at Gods&Radicals now? Because this is where his voice is particularly needed. As are the voices of many others who I have previously ‘fought’ with. If anything, Gods&Radicals is proving that a polytheist-led project can provide a space for everyone, including people who don’t believe in our gods. That’s pretty amazing to me, and something I would hope we’d all try to work towards.

    Rather than trying to carve out our own spaces in the larger Pagan realm, or seclude ourselves away in ever-smaller (and embittered, and embattled) enclaves, Polytheists can actually create things that non-Polytheists see value, meaning, and worth in–that have the potential to change the world.

    Not that we -need- people who don’t believe in gods to take our seriously in order to continue our relationships to gods, but how better to show the the amazing things that come our of knowing gods than to build something with them as the fountain of strength and wisdom from which others can drink?

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hi Rhyd! I hope you’re having a wonderful week so far, and thank you for taking the time to write to me and to link me to your blog post, which was not only skillfully written but put into words what I was struggling to do so.

      On the one hand, I see exactly the project you’re trying to do, and I admire it: “polytheist-led project can provide a space for everyone, including people who don’t believe in our gods… and [creating] things that non-Polytheists see value, meaning, and worth in–that have the potential to change the world.” I get that. I am completely on board with that. I also am mature enough to understand that someone having a different faith or belief system from me is no threat to my own. The gods certainly do not stop existing if someone else believes in Them differently; I have never said nor implied otherwise, and I never will.

      And I do not have a problem with atheist paganism. I’ve said this many times, and I will continue to say it because it is the truth. I embrace all peoples and all faiths.

      However, Rhyd, I find it particularly questionable that, especially after you have written a post on Halstead’s destructive, disrespectful, and frankly condescending tendencies towards polytheists and theism, you have this person on your blog roll. To me, this choice represents Halstead’s writings and attitudes in his writing, above all.

      If this project is truly backed and guided by the gods, then I will say that the gods are much, much far-sighted than I can ever be. Perhaps I am limited by my humanity, and can’t see the fairness or necessity of having someone as hostile as Halstead on the blogroll. I do see the true challenge and difficulty of being able to extend a willing hand to someone who looks at you with condescension, and be able to work with beginning dialogue from there – that, to me, is fucking fantastic, and I applaud you. But the fact remains that this man’s writings reflect that not only does he carry a hostile, supercilious attitude to those who being in the gods differently from him; not only does he actively engage this attitude against polytheists and then use their (justified) reactions to twist their outrage as outbursts of religious extremism coming from simple-minded freaks; not only does he write pieces about polytheists “owning” words because he himself wants to be called a theist when he’s not; but he also willingly continues this behavior in the face of polytheists such as yourself willing to give him a chance. He marginalizes, discriminates, and seeks to stifle while taking all that he likes for himself.

      No, my gods won’t ever disappear because of the way someone else perceives them, but I’ll be damned if you can’t see why people are raising question to your decision. Writing about the injustices in his writing isn’t an issue of bait-clicking or getting more views; and in fact, I am insulted that it’s been implied that the reason I (or anyone else) engage in Halstead’s subversive pieces is backed by a superficial desire to get more blog likes. As if our community really was so weak-minded to think that “building enemies” as the foundation of polytheism is really the best idea – and anyone who actually believes this is an idiot and I will call them out on that. And as if what *I* really need is more people to agree with me so I can feel good about myself. (As if I enjoy how truly aggravating, exhausting, and repetitive this shit is, Rhyd). That’s not my work and it never will be.

      I want to be able to restore veneration to the gods, to be able to help in establishing and supporting traditions for our communities, and be able to directly guide and provide for people to engage meaningfully and mindfully with the gods, as well as help in any other way I can (including inter-religious dialogue, of which I’m doing already at my Catholic academic institution). You know, I’m more than willing to engage Halstead mindfully, peacefully, kindly, openly, with understanding. I am not against the spirit of what you’re doing, Rhyd; I think, in its structure and intent as you present it to me now, it’s wonderful that you are supporting a platform for all beliefs in the community. It is necessary and just, I believe. But I contest wholeheartddly the support of someone who would most likely walk in through the door and speak down to me simply for being a theist – and then, when I illuminate what he’s doing, call me “hypersensitive” and “fundamentalist.” I am sorry for atheist paganism that Halstead has to be a voice for them, because his voice can sometimes be very hateful and discriminatory – and *that* is what will show up on Gods&Radicals. *That* to me is the consequence of that decision. Again – I contest the person’s writing, not the platform or your idea in itself. I hope I’ve made at least that much clear: I am not attacking you, simply stating my opinion on the consequences of this choice.

      Have a wonderful day, and a most blessed month.


  6. I’m late to complete errands, so I hope this is all I need to say for a few hours-

    I don’t mind the existence of Atheist Pagans much less Atheist Occultists. If Atheist religious types get something out of ritual, far be it from me to police what they do.

    But I do mind when they are condescending arrogant assholes. And this is ultimately the problem, this whole Atheopagan controversy would probably have never happened if it wasn’t for Halstead, especially given his history of behavior and how he continues to behave, and it makes it so much worse that this asshole is allowed to intrude on a space with a misleadingly titled site and blogroll called “Gods & Radicals”. I don’t care if he’s anti-capitalist, he’s still a troll who continues to be a dick promoting solipsism and no polytheist should be manipulated in to working with him in the blogsphere because of the Because Revolution excuse.

    So of course adding him on there would inevitably cause drama, certainly I would never dream of letting someone like that on without anticipating a backlash like this if I was an editor of a blogging collective. No one has to accept the presence of NeoAtheist assholes in the Pagan communities, period, and you’re not an enemy of progressivism, socialism, etc for standing up for basic standards in how things are run.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Again, all I can really do is re-iterate what I said previously. My gods don’t disappear because someone (John Halstead or anyone else) doesn’t believe in them the same way I do. As a matter of fact, because of people who don’t believe in them the way I do, I actually find more ways of understanding and talking about my gods, not fewer.
      Online polytheism has a long history of attempting to create a sense of community and relevance through picking ‘enemies at the gates,’ rather than working together towards common goals. John Halstead has long been a target–in fact, I participated in that previously. And I’ve seen that this goes nowhere.
      Our undue obsession with finding ‘enemies’ to create group coherence (not to mention blog hits) builds nothing, embitters everyone, and highly suggests that the foundations of our beliefs and communities are incredibly weak.


      1. When we speak of boundaries, what do we mean?

        Has John Halstead touched people without consent? Or broken into their homes to re-arrange shrines to the gods? Or hacked into emails? Or forced his way into closed rituals in private space?

        Or has he just dared to see the gods differently from the way we do, and further dared to write about it?

        Again, internet Polytheism has a long history of creating ‘outsiders’ (many formerly part of the ‘in-crowd’) who are ‘oppressing’ our beliefs somehow, while we then ignore (and sometimes support) really-existing oppression in the societies we are part of.

        And honestly, if John Halstead is the enemy of polytheism or the gods, than our gods and our polytheism are embarrassingly fragile.


  7. If you can’t manage to empathize with people who have said, repeatedly, that he’s a problem and why then this is a waste of my time and yours. I could get in to it, but this drama is so wash rinse repeat there’s no reason why you can’t Google it yourself.

    Not everyone who can’t stand him believe that he and atheopaganism is an existensial threat much less a threat to their belieg systems and religion. But you can’t seem to be capable of nuance or refraining from generalizations or false dichotomies. You are choosing to read in to this and are happy to tolerate a bully who loves to hate theism but wants for some reason I do not not understand, to think he deserves the polytheist label. People have the right to question your enabling of him as well as your authority.

    All religions, online or off, have problems. Exclusion is not however a problem if the people are toxic, appealing to how he is somehow oppressed by this is just a geek social fallacy.

    I already stated before that I don’t have a problem with the existence of atheist pagans, but fuck reason, you want to win an argument, not understand other people’s motives or feelings, just whine oppression about how some polytheists are upset that a militant atheist is on your blog.

    Now, I can’t make you throw him out, but I am free to tell others exactly what I think and believe about G&R and lack of empathy towards critics of this.

    Liked by 2 people

  8. So there’s no room for heterodoxy in your mind. I suspect there is far greater heterodoxy than you suspect — both on the individual level and on the organizational level (some groups of nuns are very heterodox). The obvious distinction here is that contemporary Paganism is about as far from the Catholic church as one can get — which is part of the reason why many ex-Catholics come to Paganism. There is no hierarchy enforcing an orthodoxy in Paganism. In fact, Paganism can be seen as a collection of heterodoxies. You can have a tradition within Paganism or Polytheism, but you can’t enforce a single tradition over all of Paganism or Polytheism.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I am well aware that the Catholic church and contemporary Paganism is as far away from each other as one can get. One has tradition and the other is not, for example, and having tradition allows for heterodoxy. When I used to be a Catholic, I was considered heterodoxical for my stance on homosexuals, for example. My heterodoxy came from the tradition itself: in studying “human right and dignity” and “God made humanity in God’s image and likeness” and “God saw that creation was good,” I didn’t understand how the official Catholic interpretation OF the tradition came about. However, the point that I would like to make is that any orthodoxy comes from tradition.

      Now, I would like to state here and now that my work is not aimed at making polytheism an institution. I’m not working to make an “official” interpretation, either; considering the complexity and multi-facedness of the gods, this would be both impious and unreasonable. Institution is markedly different from tradition, and it is possible to have traditions without institution (any pagan who celebrates The Wheel of the Year understands this).

      I don’t want a hierarchy enforcing an orthodoxy in paganism. Paganism is too diverse to limit it as singular or monotheistic, and I see too many remnants of monotheism acting in pagan theology and the pagan community right now that people don’t realize is present (the blog post of which I’m working on). My work is to develop cultus within polytheism – to restore devotion, to give honor to the gods, spirits, and ancestors, to help people connect more deeply to the gods, and to be able to contribute meaningfully to the polytheist community in any way that I can. I want the traditions I’m working in to give some sort of order, something that polytheists can be in relationship in as they engage in relationship with Their powers. Traditions were robbed from polytheists, and now we are working to restore and re-engage in them. To me, part of restoring traditions is making the stand to people who are used to mocking pagans (or who don’t take them seriously because of a perception that, with pagans, everything goes and nothing matters) and allowing them to understand that my gods aren’t simply stories in a classics textbook. Because, sometimes, no one ever takes two winks to understand that the “old gods” were actually worshipped, actually Live.

      You wrote, quite rightly, “You can have a tradition within Paganism or Polytheism, but you can’t enforce a single tradition over all of Paganism or Polytheism.” I agree with this 100%, and I am not working to have a single tradition over all of paganism/polytheism. I never was. I’m working to have traditions IN polytheism, as are many others, and working within hard polytheism.

      However, to me, a fundamental quality of polytheism is *theism*. What I was attempting to describe in my metaphor was that any theistic tradition would at minimum balk if someone came in asking to be a non-theist AND to be considered and be able to be called a theist AND to ask the theists to change in order to accommodate non-theists into the community. I expect to be treated the same if I wedged myself into the atheist pagan community and asked to be called an atheist pagan while asking for accommodation for my hard polytheism. (And for the record, John, I have never done this, and I never will, as that is a total act of disrespect to the good people, and movement, of atheist paganism/archetypalism).

      Liked by 1 person

      1. The problem is that it’s not just Patheos and Gods and Radicals that act as a chair. Every single tidbit of attention does and that’s because Halstead is great at provoking hostility because of his explicit contempt for metaphysics which he ends up using politically. I can’t think that to walk in and try to become a part of a space that is defined by metaphysics is anything but intentional. He’s basically trolling all you guys, you justifiably end up barking at him in rage and then he goes around point his finger at you to people who only have half the picture of what he’s doing and tells them “See? They’re really rabid! I’m cool, hip, rational so join my clan instead.”

        Liked by 1 person

      2. Your comment is fantastic – thank you. I think the term he uses is “hypersensitive.” The really frustrating thing too is that Halstead’s behavior (which you’ve noted) is stupid and petty – and yet it is the most dangerous of all, exactly because such pettiness belies the truly subversive nature of his writing. We would love to ignore him – and yet, he writes some things that we can’t look away from. And then other people take a look at devotional polytheism, for example, and call it the “fundamentalism” of paganism, and not in a good way. When I know that that’s not what my community is about, and when I know that Halstead has directly influenced that view, that makes me pissed.

        I would actually be very willing to speak with Halstead calmly, measuredly, respectfully. I would be willing to leave my ego at the door, especially when such dialogue is tricky due to it being primarily dealing with human beings interpreting their religion. I love inter-religious dialogue and inter-community dialogue: I think it is crucial not only for one-self but also one’s community, and one’s community in relation to all other communities. I don’t begrudge Halstead for having different beliefs in me – that is not *the* problem, nor *a* problem at all to me, and it never will be. Rather, it’s that Halstead expects to be included in a conversation where he is dismissive, disrespectful, hostile and actively corrosive, AND he wants to be listened to, AND he is elbowing into a community whose metaphysics not only he despises, but is at the same time the very object of his goal? No. I’m not going to walk into a room, fully prepared to be as open and kind and understanding as possible – then treated like some sort of illogical idiot for thinking of the gods as Beings outside of myself and walking to restore cultus – and then, when I comment on the unfairness of his behavior, to be outed as an intolerable fundamentalist/radical.

        As you perfectly say, when polytheists become outraged at the stuff that is written about them, many times rightly, he uses the outrage as an example of how he is the martyr and we are the tigers. And I wish I wasn’t part of this drama. I wish I wasn’t so damn tired already about this, because it is repetitive, hurtful, leads nowhere. It’s exhausting, and we waste *SO* much time. But I can’t stand by and read those words and just turn my back to them.

        I apologize for the long reply! Thank you for taking the time to read – and thank you for showing me that I’m not crazy in what I see and what others are seeing as well. Have a wonderful day and weekend!

        Liked by 2 people

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