Editorial: The Invisibility and Inevitability of Polytheism

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  August 19, 2014 — 157 Comments

“If the pagan polytheisms have always lost, … it is, among other reasons, because of their exceptional capacity for tolerance…” – Marc Augé

510U4nBPTUL._SY344_BO1,204,203,200_The books you read can often illuminate patterns within the culture and society that you may not have noticed, or re-contextualize thoughts you’ve already had. Such is the case with “A Million and One Gods: The Persistence of Polytheism” by Page duBois, a Distinguished Professor of Classics and Comparative Literature at the University of California, San Diego. For the well-read Pagan or polytheist, much of what duBois says regarding the worship of multiple gods and powers won’t be all that new, but the cumulative goal to advocate for a course-correction within academia regarding the concept of polytheism underlines just how pervasive monotheism is within Western culture’s assumptions and thinking, even from the scholars who are supposed to be dispassionate observers and analysts.

DuBois writes with the zeal of someone working to right a wrong, noting that “the attempt to deny its [polytheism’s] presence produces intolerant assumptions,” and that when “we naturalize monotheism, or see it as the telos, goal or end of religious development, perhaps a stage on the way to atheism, we accept the homologies that have governed Western modernity.” Monotheism as norm has been so rigidly enforced, notes duBois, that we have a hard time seeing the truth about ancient polytheisms, let alone the fact that “polytheism is always present.”

“Our residence in a predominantly and dominant monotheistic cultural setting, one that has been defensively, even militantly attempting to patrol and police monotheism for millennia, has had its effects on obscuring the nature of ancient societies.”

Seeing an academic stand up and advocate for a re-thinking of polytheism, even if it might be limited to academia, is welcome. As I’ve been reading this work, I couldn’t help but notice how many adherents of the dominant monotheisms constantly engage in the work of boundary maintenance, ever-vigilant in their quest to see polytheism remain outside the bounds of “normal” and “rational” discussions of religion and faith. Or, if polytheism must exist, it must be content to do so from the margins of society, or in distant lands far away from the concerns of Western modernity. For example, this editorial by Bryan Gray at The Davis Clipper on a 10 Commandments monument being erected on government property in New Mexico that was successfully challenged by two Wiccan residents. Gray makes sure to insult the Wiccans, and paint their beliefs as strange.

bloomfield nm


“The New Mexico lawsuit was brought by two people who practice the Wiccan religion. I’m not versed in Wiccan beliefs, but figure the religion’s precepts are somewhere between the Great Mandala and Harry Potter. Frankly, I would have no problem if the Wiccans wanted to pony up money and put their own display outside city hall. The groundskeeper would have less lawn to mow […]  Yes, we need freedom from government-sponsored religion. We also need freedom from stupidity.”

Further, Gray, seemingly forgetting that the 10 Commandments were handed down by the God of Abraham, argues that they are largely secular, glossing over the many explicitly religious rules laid down. Reinforcing that monotheistic religions are so normal that their removal from a secular public square is suspect, even in the face of non-monotheists speaking up. People like Gray have the luxury of not being bothered by these monuments, because they see monotheism as the acceptable manifestation of religion, and no rebellion (even from within their own theological boundaries) can be tolerated for long in such a system.

“Archbishop Coakley says the Civic Center is a venue where the community can experience a positive form of entertainment. He says this satanic organization has an agenda, that has no place in our society. ‘The Satanic ritual that is scheduled to be performed at our Civic Center is to invoke those dark powers, which I believe are very real and call them into our city, into our community.’ said Archbishop Coakley.”

This endless vigilance against polytheism happens even when it seems like monotheism is winning. Mere adherence to a monotheist identity isn’t enough, they must also be willing to erase any trace of what once was. For instance, Christians love the successes brought about by evangelizing their faith to the “Global South,” until that form of Christianity risks becoming the dominant form of the religion. Then, the hand-wringing over “animism,” syncretism, and polytheism begins.

“When the Church’s center of gravity has completed its transit to the Southern Hemisphere, would any Catholic alive today still recognize it? It is hazardous to predict the full effect of that demographic shift on the historical practices of Christianity. Still, we ought not discount the chance that this tectonic shift could yield a syncretic, creole Christianity more congenial to animism than Thomism. […] Numerical growth tells us nothing about the blurring of religious distinctions among African congregations or among clergy themselves. A priest might preach Christianity by day and, under cover of the communion of saints, visit an animist divine at night to consult his forefathers.” 

nones_gssHere, we arrive at the deepest fear of the monotheist: That polytheism is actually natural to humanity, and when social controls are lifted, people either leave, or change the faith into something unrecognizable to the purists. As duBois puts it, there is “an inevitability to the persistence of polytheism, an undercurrent that cannot be suppressed, a popular culture that holds to its many gods, a recurrent resurfacing of polytheism within monotheism, or an exhaustion of monotheism that dialectically produces polytheism.” While Christianity still numerically dominates in the United States, the last 20 years have seen the population of those called “nones” (those who claim no formal religion) skyrocket, while non-Christian religions have also continued to grow. This, along with the ragged persistence of secularism, has caused some Christians to adopt language of being in “exile” despite experiencing mild inconveniences at best.

“The harder task is to face the fact of our lingering privilege, tarnished and dimmed though it may be, with an honest and critical heart. Harder still may be the task of reaching out to those whom we managed to drive away from the Kingdom of God all on our own, with no help from music videos or the Supreme Court.”

The invisibility of polytheism in the West is a manufactured invisibility, it didn’t just happen. Western society after the rise of Christianity was built on making sure no competing theologies interfered in the narrative. Dissidents were commodified and defanged, or villainized and mocked. This status quo is maintained in a myriad of ways, such as a mainstream religion news organization increasingly hiring journalists who came up through denominational or evangelical Christian media outlets. Think that doesn’t matter? In their coverage of the current crisis in Iraq, Religion News Service have published one story on the plight of the Yazidis, who practice an ancient pre-Christian religion, and seven on the plight of the Christian minority. Perhaps this imbalance could be waved away as them simply catering to the Christian majority in the United States, but they then also run an editorial lambasting politicians for “ignoring” Iraqi Christians.

“The Yazidis deserve protection and humanitarian aid, but so do the Christians who number in the hundreds of thousands in Iraq. While the Yazidis received air drops of food and water, nothing has been dropped to the Christians who are homeless and in dire need of food and water. Each day that passes is a matter of life and death.”

One could point out that the Yazidis can’t turn to a hugely powerful network of Christian faiths that number in the billions, control huge assets, and walk in the halls of power across the world to advocate for them, thus making the comparison obscene, but let’s simply recognize this for what it is: A reminder that one must not take the focus off the dominant monotheisms for too long. Despite this enforced invisibility, polytheism endures, all we need to do is open our eyes and it is everywhere.

“Polytheism is not primitive, an early stage of human development, to be transcended as people progress toward a more sophisticated understanding of divinity, nor do religions necessarily oscillate between polytheism and monotheism. Rather, I contend that polytheism is always present, officially or unofficially, and that the attempt to deny its presence produces intolerant assumptions among monotheists and even atheists, who claim a moral superiority to polytheists.” – Page duBois, “A Million and One Gods: The Persistence of Polytheism”

I think that no empire lasts forever, they crumble, or consume themselves, or over-estimate their powers and fail, and such, I think, will be the ultimate fate of the dominant monotheisms. The controls that once worked lose their effectiveness over time, and thus freed, the inevitability of polytheism(s) will reassert itself. I won’t pretend to know what that world will look like, and perhaps the time of transition will be a bleak time, as it often is when oppressive powers finally fall, but I can only think we will better off with an existence that acknowledges our need for interweaving and interconnected relationships as a model. I think a renewed global polytheism will provide that, but for now we need only to push back against the invisibility while we await the inevitability.

Jason Pitzl-Waters


  • Hecate_Demetersdatter

    Jason, Thanks for the excellent editorial. I’m adding this book to my list. It always makes me laugh when people insist that the Ten Commandments or the cross are “mostly secular.” If that were so, the Christian right wouldn’t defend and demand their inclusion in the secular square.

  • mptp

    Regarding the Yezidi – I find it sadly ironic how much the Muslim Kurds of northern Iraq and the Arabic Iraqis are beating their breasts over what is happening to the Yezidi, given that ten years ago, while I was meeting with Kurdish military and police, they referred to the Yezidi as dirty devil worshippers.
    NPR just covered how many of them can’t go home because their neighbors, not members of IS, have taken what was abandoned in flight.

    • TadhgMor

      Was it hostile? Because I’ve heard from some reports in the KRG that the term had taken on jokingly friendly connotations for many Kurds. Yezidis have/had a central place in the Kurdish nationalist mythos.

      • mptp

        When I heard it, it did not come across as joking, it came across as painting them as outsiders. I heard this from the Peshmerga and various police and security forces.

  • Tauri1

    I find it humorous that the Christians think the Ten Commandments were handed down by their Christian God when it is, in fact, nothing more than a watered-down version of the Hammurabi Code which was promulgated by a very pagan ruler.

  • It seems to me that polytheism is very compatible with the secular idea of pluralism. The belief in many gods and the concept of diversity appear to me to go hand in hand. By definition, both value diversity, sharing of power and tolerance of others while honoring their own distinctiveness. If the secularists could get over the false idea (promoted by the monotheists) that polytheism is weird and/or crazy, then maybe they would see that many of the values of polytheism are for the good of all the community.

    • Daikan

      Also, we should state the fact that the great ancient civilizations, with their scientific advances and development were all polytheistic. And also, to note that in most cases, when a monotheism took over any of them, all advancement of knowledge stopped and their decline began. For example: the Romans and the Persians.

      • thelettuceman

        That is a ..terribly reductionist and simplistic perspective that ultimately serves no purpose other than propaganda.

        • Crystal Hope Kendrick

          That’s true. We did have polytheistic dark ages, as well.

      • Bianca Bradley

        Rome decline was well on it’s way after Caesar, not the Monotheistic emperors. The abuses of power happened before the Christian emperors. smh

        • TadhgMor

          After Caesar? So the 5 Good Emperors were during the decline? That’s not quite accurate. The decline did begin before Christianity was adopted, but not “after Caesar”.

          • Bianca Bradley

            Yes after Caesar. He consolidated power, and changed the Republic. Just because after him were 5 decent Emperors doesn’t mean it was a great idea to do that.

          • TadhgMor

            Rome reached new heights of power under the early Empire, particularly under the “5 Good Emperors”, and there is simply no way from an objective historical view to suggest they were in decline after Caesar during the first and second centuries. That was the height of Roman power.

      • Daikan

        I agree with all of you, yet:
        1. I can’t get into a full dissertation on how polytheism is more akin to scientific development than monotheism given its inclusive, diverse nature.
        2. I know about polytheistic dark ages, yet those periods cannot compare to the christian dark ages, as they weren’t as lasting or as extensive in terms of territory, and as far reaching in terms of influence.
        3. In the case of Rome, you are right Bianca Bradley, their decline was already on its way before Constantine and the conversion to monotheism, yet advances in science (mainly engineering) had not stopped, whereas with the advent of christianity it came to a halt in a matter of years and didn’t recover until the Renaissance. Plus, the decline and collapse of Rome, in comparison to Persia’s was markedly faster with the under christianity.
        I apologize for being simlistic and reductionist, and by no means do I meant that as propaganda, yet the fact remains that the core of what I said is true: monotheism does affect cultural/social health and knowledge advancement in a negative way.

        • TadhgMor

          From a historians perspective, there is no such thing as the “Christian Dark Ages”. Historians stopped using the term “Dark Ages” decades ago. It’s still used to refer to individual eras when the textual and archaeological record are sparse, like the Greek Dark Age, but that’s it.

        • Deborah Bender

          China has been polytheistic throughout its history, and has had periods of supporting scientific development and periods of shutting it down.

          The Romans, unlike Greeks and Hellenistic rulers, had little interest in basic scientific research either before or after they adopted Christianity. They cared about technology that had immediate practical applications and they funded what they thought was important.

          While the collapse of Roman rule in the West was accompanied by great losses, once power arrangements stabilized a bit, medieval Europe developed quite a number of technological advances over what the Romans had. Christian Europe did not have the economic resources for grand engineering projects, but it was inventive. One reason was less availability of slave labor. To name a few medieval inventions: horse collars that don’t compress the windpipe of the horse (so it can be used as a draft animal), crop rotation for cold weather crops, the chimney (if you think this is trivial, you haven’t had your health ruined by inhaling smoke from cooking fires every night of your life), water mills and wind mills for grinding grain, flying buttresses, accurate mechanical clocks (which were a later development from the water mills), and better steel for weapons.

          A lot of commonly accepted beliefs about the backwardness of medieval Christendom, like the ones you expressed, are leftovers from polemics of Protestant writers trying to show how oppressive and superstitious the Roman Catholic Church is, folllowed by atheist and secular writers using the same arguments and selection of facts to show how oppressive and superstitious all forms of Christianity are. One fact that has been suppressed by this propaganda is that in the late medieval period right through to the Enlightenment, the Church was a major patron of scientific inquiry, and many churchmen were also working natural scientists.

  • Gus diZerega

    Excellent article Jason. I’m getting the book. Readers who like this might be interested in a piece I published on Patheos arguing no coherent model of monotheism exists, and that monotheists worship different deities while each is called by the same name. Those believers who switch from one monotheistic faith to another practice “serial monotheism.” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/pointedlypagan/2013/02/the-mirage-of-monotheism/

    • ……..

      You know, I started to respond to this, then I realised it wasn’t worth it.

    • *wincing*
      I’ve heard this argument before, and certainly the books of the Bible follow a pattern that can be explained in this way.

      However, I’m not sure I’m any more comfortable, as a polytheist, with telling monotheists what their religious beliefs “really” mean than I am being schooled in such a way by monotheists.

      • Gus diZerega

        I am writing as someone who respects what words mean and takes these people’s descriptions of their deity as THEY describe it. When a lot of people claim one God, disagree radically about its characteristics, and kill each other over it, and in many cases all the while attacking us and anyone else not like them, it is reasonable for us on the outside to try and figure out what the Hell is going on.

        • That is a pretty big assumption though. Odin has a LOT of heiti that, were one to interact primarily with Him via one vs. another, it may seem to an outsider as though we are talking about two entirely separate Gods. Oski as opposed to Yggr, for instance.

          I do not find it all that problematic that different denominations have wildly different understandings of their God. It makes sense that a Catholic view and experience of God is unlike an Anglican one. Their theology is different, and so, while they may be worshiping the same God, their lens through which they understand and experience their God is their own.

          • Gus diZerega

            I don’t think it’s a big assumption at all. There are degrees. Did you actually read my post? I am describing mutually exclusive qualities, not just different dimensions of one integrated consciousness. Further these denominations have a long history of killing one another over these issues. Most deities seem to have different aspects. Certainly the major ones of my acquaintance do. Not a problem.

            If there are as many varieties of Odin as of the Christian deity then TO MY MIND it has neither appeal nor interest.
            BUT since Odinists do not claim imperial supremacy over the rest of us, they are not really my concern or my business. I leave them alone as they leave me alone.

          • Your condescension is neither necessary nor appreciated.

            I read your post and made my response.

            Note my qualifier: if you were to primarily or exclusively interact with Odin-as-Oski versus Odin-as-Yggr the experience one would have would, necessarily, be quite different. Oski, Wish-giver vs Yggr, the Terrible. It would not be odd for a worshiper of Oski, understanding Odon only or primarily through this lens, to have a different understanding of and relationship compared to one whose exclusively or primarily worship Yggr.

            If you really don’t believe Christians are worshiping the same God, I’m not invested in convincing you otherwise. That is not worth my time. I just wanted to offer my own perspective and offer another way of understanding why the deep differences exist between different understandings of the a given God.

          • Gus diZerega

            There is no condescension. I have good Heathen friends and in no way look down on their practice. But you are asserting a argument by me that I did not make and using as an example a deity that is in no sense a stand in for a monotheistic deity.

            So whatever.

  • Gwion

    I find that polytheism, and those that tend to believe in many gods, are capable of holding polytheistic thoughts. Holding polytheistic thoughts means that that one can view a situation from many vantage points. One can see the beauty, terror, joy, need for compassion, etc. If one can hold that many things can be simultaneously true, there’s more room to be tolerant and stand up for the rights of others. Belief in one god (usually “God”) often shows up with tendencies of “locked” opinions, “my way or the highway”, “There is only good and evil” which shuts down most conversations about “others” because they are, well, other!

    So it seems another book is going to find it’s way onto my night table!

    • If one can hold that many things can be simultaneously true, there’s
      more room to be tolerant and stand up for the rights of others.

      Mind though that just because “many things are simultaneously true” does not in any way mean that all things are true. Many things can be simultaneously false, just as easily.

  • PhaedraHPS

    Seeing the 10 Commandments as ‘secular’ is a great example of how Christianity and Christian attitudes are so pervasive in our culture that theologically-derived concepts have been normalized. Christian concepts are embedded in “common sense.” And you’ll find profoundly Christian attitudes internalized even by ‘nones’ and atheists. For example, in grad school I was assigned an evolutionary psychology text titled “Ever Since Adam and Eve.” I read a animal behavior paper entitled “Divorce among Penguins.” Anthropomorphism is a huge no-no in that field, but until I pointed it out to the professor (along with several other examples) it was invisible. I call it the fish don’t see the water syndrome. Isaac had actually began to work on a book about it.

    • Daikan

      It’s also consitent with the rethoric they employ in debates about religion, even comment-wars in posts like this: whenever an openly polytheistic person starts posting, everyone else (including the atheists) stop posting and answering. Also, in the language they use in debates like the ones between Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris or even Bill Nye, and some christian apologetic; when they use the word “religion” they are always refering to christianity and in a lesser measure to islam, judaism and buddhism (all monotheism). They never even mention polytheists or equate us to monotheisms in terms of importance.
      It’s like in that Simpsons’ episode when Homer becomes a heretic and is saved in the end by Flanders, rev. Lovejoy, Krusty and Apu; and the rev. tells him that his friends and neighbors will always help him whether they are “christians (Flanders), jewish (Krusty), or miscellaneous (Apu)” and when Apu protests he (the rev.) answers with “they are all the same”. And this is a cartoon meant to be satirical.
      We tend to underestimate the power of language, its composition and the structure in which it is presented to us in the mental image it creates in us and the general public.

      • Apu protests “Hindu! There are 700 Million of us.” to which Rev. Lovejoy replies “Aw, that’s super.” So it is the marginalization which is being satirised, as opposed to their “it’s all the same”.

      • Froggy

        Like your comment but just came here to point out that Buddhism isn’t monotheistic: the Buddha was a Hindu (polytheist) Brahmin who practiced and preached agnosticism. Many schools of Buddhism coexist with the preexisting polytheism of their adoptive cultures e.g. the Tibetan Bon or Japanese Shinto religions.

      • and in a lesser measure to islam, judaism and buddhism (all monotheism)

        For the sake of offering a fuller picture, not all Buddhism is monotheistic. Depending on the school, it can be either polytheistic or borderline atheistic. But then that’s just another example of how pervasive the “monotheising” of Western culture is, when a religion is only as relevant if it can be worked into a monotheistic mould.

    • Seeing the 10 Commandments as ‘secular’ is a great example of how
      Christianity and Christian attitudes are so pervasive in our culture
      that theologically-derived concepts have been normalized. Christian
      concepts are embedded in “common sense.” And you’ll find profoundly
      Christian attitudes internalized even by ‘nones’ and atheists.

      There’s a joke I’ve brought up dozens of times before to illustrate just this sort of point:

      A man from England finds himself suddenly walking down the wrong part of Belfast, N.Ie., when he is approached by a small band of tuffs. One boy demands of him, “Are your Catholic, or Prod’?” The man replies, truthfully (but also hoping that it’d save him some misery), “I’m an Atheist!” The boys then turn to discuss amongst themselves for maybe a minute, before the first one asks him a revision: “Are you a Catholic Atheist, or a Prodestant one?”

      What we come from shapes our own individual thinking and the internal monologue of the entire culture in ways that many people don’t even realise, and no-one is really immune to it, though it’s certainly a trait that can be unlearned, should one be willing enough to do so. The atheist gentleman in the joke may surely feel he’s just an atheist, fullstop, but the likelihood that he’s truly managed to unlearn either the Catholic or Protestant internal monoligue he was most likely raised to have is very small.

      Western society is ultimately a Christian one, not necessarily because that’s what most people are (though that certainly doesn’t hurt the contention that it is) but because it’s what most people in that society come from, even if they’ve converted to something else, so it’s a regular reference point to them, on a subconscious level.

    • Deborah Bender

      Even more pervasive, have you noticed the number of biologists, naturalists, etc. on TV documentaries who routinely refer to animals as “creatures”?

      Reminds me a bit of a few decades ago when I was flying into London and had to fill out a customs form. The first thing it asked for was my “Christian name”.

      • Having lived in th UK, that is certainly the common parlance, rather than saying “forename” or “first name”, but it is one of those little things that make me laugh out loud whenever I see friends or acquaintances in the United Kingdom insist that the UK “isn’t all that Christian compared to the States.” It really is, the British are just a bit more subtle about it and American Evangelical Christians would scare anyone with common sense, but the expectation of being at least nominally Christian in the UK is just as pervasive, I’d not more so, is just far more subtle.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Most ironically, a lot of nominal monotheists don’t practice monotheism. There’s all those saints, not just the ones that are clearly Pagan retreads. Jesus your savior and his Dad your law-giver have different personalities. The identity of the God who made the many sexual patterns of the animals with the God who laid down one exclusive sexual format for humans is not self-evident. Et cetera.

    • The “Trinity” is also proof that Christians (at least the majority of them) could not break away from polytheistic thinking.

  • Crystal Hope Kendrick

    Thank you for this, Jason. I’m adding this to my book list and will make sure my local library purchases a copy.

  • mobius

    It’s about time this issue is raised and respected. the influence on mind and belief is outragously underplayed in the pagan world. without gutting this bull from pagan practice pagans are just christains in pagan garb.

    • Franklin_Evans

      Hm. Your logic circles around on itself with a twist. Is your last name “strip”?

      Maybe it’s your poor syntax and phrasing. I’m willing to be corrected.

      My practice starts and ends wtih mind and belief. I know a few other Pagans with a similar approach. Perhaps your broad generalization is not so strong as you assert.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        My guess is there is an implication of contradictory world views at play.

        • Jay

          I think you’re correct here. I’ve met many a Pagan who had not overcome their Christian background and approached their religious beliefs and practices from that perpective. There are quite a few Pagans out their who don’t actually know how to think and interact with divine powers in a polytheistic way.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            It is a major problem with Heathenry, as well. Lots of people switch pantheon, but not mindset.

            It is almost comical to see how people fawn of “Odin” as if he was a big, cuddly sky-daddy with nothing better to do with his time than care for each of these pillocks like they were his own, direct kin.

          • Oi theoi… I was *just* (well, maybe a week ago –I have a really skewed perception of time) laying it down on some Tumblr kids that no, the gods don’t love all people, not even their worshippers, equally. The whole “smiting” angle aside (though in Hellenism, in particular, there is no shortage of examples of deities doing so to people who went out of their way to be insulting to Them, but not so much just for existing…), the idea that i see frequently around Tumblr whenever someone argues that Such Deity may dislike certain kinds of people is to counter this with a portrayal of that very Such Deity as being all-loving and super-sweet to all of Their worshippers. This is not only just not true of all deities in all pantheons, it really does betray a highly Christianised way of looking at the deities by replacing an individual deity and Her personality with basically “Jesus with tits” (as I’ve seen one person, who is native Chinese and shenist [Chinese indigenous polytheist], characterise Western interpretations of Kwan-Yin), and Dionysos becomes “Jesus with wine”, and Artemis as “Girl Jesus with a Bow & Arrow” and so on, and so forth….

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I have very little time for such people. Unfortunately, this does tend to mean I am somewhat dismissive of a large amount of people I come in contact with.)

          • Jason Hatter

            The problem as I see it with that mindset (that is, being dismissive of it) is that they don’t learn any better. We are, at best, looking at the beginnings of 3rd generation paganism. A lot of us are still working on undoing the damage that we grew up with. I dare say that the majority of us will STILL be working on it as we pass through the veil. Christianity didn’t ascend in a single generation – it will take more than a couple to reverse the impact.

            (edit) Not to say that I don’t understand your viewpoint. It is sometimes very hard to deal with them time and time again…

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Correcting misinformation is fine, but many seem to prefer the misinformation.

            Those are the people that really bug me.

          • Deborah Bender

            A related thing that comes up for me when listening to people from Christian or New Age backgrounds is the statement God Is Love, which is always presented as so self-evident that no one could disagree with it.

            I infer a syllogism underlying this proposition that goes something like this:
            1. The ruling or underlying principle of the cosmos is love. [Source: the insights of a number of mystics, codified into religious teaching.]
            2. There is only one God. [Source: Abrahamic monotheism.]
            3. The One God encompasses or is identical to the ruling principle of the cosmos. [Abrahamic monotheism again.]
            4. The nature of the One God is internally and eternally consistent. [Abrahamic monotheism.]
            5. Therefore, all acts of the One God are acts of love.

            Statement #1 IMO can only be competently agreed with or disputed by people who have had that mystical experience or a different mystical experience. Anyone who believes it on the authority of another person, without direct experience, doesn’t know any better than a person who disbelieves it. I’m agnostic about the truth of this proposition.

            Propositions #2 and #3 are disputed by most of the world’s religions other than the Abrahamics and offshoots like Baha’i. There are decent arguments for and against them. They certainly are not self evident to anyone who thinks about them. #4 is basically part of the definition of an Abrahamic monotheistic conception of the One God.

            Pull any of the legs out, and the chair falls down.

  • Thank you, Jason. I really do wish more people would look beyond a 2000 year old slice of monotheism in religion. The “just one” and the “just one thing” and “just one cause” phenomenon of American life could use a more diverse updated view of the world and life — both spiritual and physical.

  • PhaedraHPS

    Our culture has also internalized the concept of ‘progress’ in religion, from primitive poly to evolved, end-stage mono, to the extent that it affects sexual mores, also. Poly is primitive, abusive, against common sense, etc., while Mono is what we ‘naturally’ want to strive for.

    • Modern academia has pushed the notion of the evolution of religion and it’s high time it stopped. In every class on religion I took, even where my Religious Studies profs objected against it, this outmoded, monotheist (or atheist) privileging system pervaded. It was certainly still being taught in many of my psychology courses where religion came up.

      I eagerly await the day where this is no longer the case and polytheist thought, theology, and academic ideas become not only accepted, but proposed in academia and society itself.

      • TadhgMor

        Not just religion, evolutionary anthropology was really big for awhile, though it’s mostly discredited now. Same with notions of “progress” in history.

        It seems each field is slowly removing these 19th century notions though.

        • Good point, there were those teachings and attitudes in my anthropology courses too.

      • Deborah Bender

        There would be no problem with the idea of cultural evolution if people were using the word “evolution” the way biologists use it. Biological evolution has no inherent direction. It does not have to lead anywhere in particular. It is not progress or improvement. It is simply change.

        I winced when a recent poster to this blog used the expression “more evolved”. This phrase has no scientific meaning at all. The writer intended it to be a description of people who have finer or more advanced spiritual or moral sensibilities than other people who are less evolved. The assumptions in this language need to be unpacked and examined directly.

        • Baruch Dreamstalker

          Word!!A few decades ago I was irritated past endurance by liberal clergy who took the concept of evolution, stuck their god into it behind their backs, and tried to peddle it as the original article.

    • You know, even Oberon Zell has suggested that polyamoury is only an ideal and that “serial monogamy” may indeed be the natural human default. Here, let me grab the video where those words are coming right out of his mouth from my bookmarks:


      (well, OK, from my blog, but it’s just as good a place to get it, if not better)

      Now, mind, that doesn’t mean that there are not people that polyamoury works for, but the fact that there are people who agree with it idealistically, and are theoretically committed to it as a principle, but who cannot make it work for them in their real-life relationships, and not cos of “jealousy” or “selfishness” or “lack of communication”, but because of just how they are, should not be discounted in your efforts to make a point.

      You know, I get that this is a principle that you’re committed to, but the fact of the matter is, there are not only many pagans and polytheists who are just monogamous in their romantic/sexual desires, but even one of the most prominent advocates of both paganism and polyamoury (and likely one of the biggest reasons the latter is so visible in the pagan community) has come out and said that it’s simply not something that works for everyone, and suggested a potential neurological reason for this, your comparison of monogamy to the more destructive aspects of institutionalised Monotheism is a really back-handed thing to say, especially for someone of your esteem in the pagan community.

      • PhaedraHPS

        I think perhaps you have read more into my comment than what I intended. I have always advocated that people should pursue the style of loving that is most appropriate and authentic to themselves, not succumbing to the pressures of others or merely following the norms of a culture when it doesn’t feel right to them.

        In the same way, I believe that people should pursue the religious options that are best for themselves. I know many happy, sincere monotheists. The point is not one or the other, the point is free choice.

        When the idea of “progress” idealizes “mono-” anything as better than “poly-” anything, the choices are restricted.

        • The thing though is, is that your comment is based on pitting one ideology against another and drawing a correlationg between the permissiveness of polytheism and what you perceive as permissiveness in polyamoury, against the restrictiveness of monotheism and what you perceive as restrictiveness in monogamy. You further suggeated that there is a perceived line of “progress” in mainstream thinking where polyamoury is “primitive”, etc…, and monogamy is “progressive”, etc…. In fact, the historical record and pre-human anthropology suggests that monogamy, serial or otherwise, or rather “pair-bonding” has been the most-common form of implicitly sexual relationships in humans since our evolutionary line split from bonobos and came down from the trees. The “historical record” that polyamourists point to suggesting it as a natural human default actually don’t support that idea at all –they point to people in political or class-conscious marriages (which were often arranged) and the series of lovers maintained by certain individuals in those by-default loveless marriages (often men), or they point to polygyny (a.k.a. “wife hoarding”, which has historically been political or class-based in nature, and more of a dick-waving contest in polygynous cultures than an expression of love toward the women involved –who tend to have no real say in the matter); the lowest classes and slave castes in ancient Europe and the ancient Mediterranean tended to marry for emotional reasons rather than social climbing or politics, and the surviving record for divorces (amongst the classes who could have them) due to extramarital affairs seems to suggest no difference between people then and now in that area over the last 3-4Kyears. While there are certainly at least two tribes off the top of my head that, at least in the current day, practise something more-like what Western polyamourists do than the former examples (which look nothing like what Western polyamourists do), and these examples should not be discounted, it’s also not-unimportant to point out that these are cultures with a history that’s hard to decipher (which certainly begs the question of whether they have always been this way, or did they only adopt this model of bonding in the last few centuries?) and they are cultures that have little room to draw parallel with in other parts of the world where pair-bonding in the norm and so it is possible that these cultures developed their model of bonding out of the circumstances around them (at least early in the development of the culture) rather than out of any sense of “progress” falling into the mix.

          The point is that you’ve drawn a really poor analogy in your comparison between the restriveness of monotheism and what you perceive as “restriveness” in monogamy. The former is something that we can say, in no uncertain terms, was inflicted onto Western civilisation by force and with no real choice in the matter from the highest rungs in the socio-economic class latter; the latter is something that Western society most likely just developed “organically” from the circumstances of environment early on in the society’s development.

          Because this is such a poor analogy, and because I trust that you are at least about as well-read as I am in this matter, I find it not necessarily odd that you would draw it, I honestly can’t help but wonder if it’s just little more than an attempt to throw around a subtle insult to people who are perfectly happy being in love with one person at a time.

          • PhaedraHPS

            I welcome your discussion of the weaknesses in my comments but not “…I honestly can’t help but wonder if it’s just little more than an
            attempt to throw around a subtle insult to people who are perfectly
            happy being in love with one person at a time” which is an attempt to tell me what my motivations might be. The short answer to your wondering is, no, I have no such agenda and never have.

          • And you choose to fight what you perceive as telling you what your motivations may be by telling me what mine may be? I don’t follow your apparent logic.

          • PhaedraHPS

            It looks as though we are talking past each other not at each other. If that is the case, I don’t think we have much to offer each other at this time. Of course, YMMV.

          • Ruadhan, I think you are reading what you want to see and not what Phaedra said. in her initial post, she wrote: “Our culture has also internalized the concept of ‘progress’ in religion, from primitive poly to evolved, end-stage mono, to the extent that it affects sexual mores, also.”

            I read that to indicate that is what _society_ and _modern culture_ have internalized, not what she herself believes. From her later post:
            “I think perhaps you have read more into my comment than what I intended. I have always advocated that people should pursue the style of loving that is most appropriate and authentic to themselves, not succumbing to the pressures of others or merely following the norms of a culture when it doesn’t feel right to them.

            In the same way, I believe that people should pursue the religious options that are best for themselves. I know many happy, sincere monotheists. The point is not one or the other, the point is free choice.

            When the idea of “progress” idealizes “mono-” anything as better than “poly-” anything, the choices are restricted.”
            In other words, she is advocating (and always has, as far as I am aware) that the modern concept of ‘progress’ towards ‘mono-‘ anything is blatantly false, and that people should follow their hearts. Period.

  • Bianca Bradley

    http://www.britishconstitutiongroup.com/british-constitution/common-law Our law is based a good deal on English Common law. It can be argued, if you look at the first two sentences in the link I gave, that yes the Ten Commandments do have an historical significance.

    We also drew from Greek, and Roman law. We drew from Roman government.

    • TadhgMor

      Funny how there are no monuments to Greek or Roman deities then.

      Suggesting the Commandments have a (secular) historical significance is bunk.

      • Roi de Guerre

        Actually there are. I find them around almost every corner in D.C. it’s really kind of nice.

        • TadhgMor

          In a religious context? No. That’s a bit of a false equivalence.

          I know some of what you’re talking about in DC, but I don’t think having Ogma on the door to one of the Library of Congress buildings is quite the same thing.

          • Roi de Guerre

            Ah. In context of your reply to Bianca I assumed you meant a secular context.

            Agreed, not in a religious context at all.

          • TadhgMor

            I disagree that the 10 Commandments are secular at all in any context, hence why the comparison isn’t valid to me.

            I do agree there are many monuments in DC that are secular but have connection to Greco-Roman and even other traditions.

          • Roi de Guerre

            Hahaha. We are nearly separated by a common language.

            I agree with you about the ten commandments.

            Though the same logic that would exclude a cross or a pentacle or (insert symbol here) could be used to exclude the existing monuments from the public square as many are technically derived from religions. (Original intentions of the architects not withstanding)

          • TadhgMor

            The same logic could, if people in power actually bothered to acknowledge pagan religions as valid. Since they won’t, we essentially skirt around the issue.

          • Bianca Bradley

            1985, yes the people in power have acknowledged Pagan religions as valid. You want acceptance and no one is required to give that.

          • TadhgMor

            You don’t know what I want. Your assumptions are false, as usual, like your bad sources.

            I can’t decide if you’re just a contrarian or what it is that fuels you to defend Christian hegemony.

          • Bianca Bradley

            I don’t recall saying they were secular, I said historical. Not everything has to do with being secular.

          • TadhgMor

            They aren’t historical either. They never existed, the stories they come from are stories. Their only validity is as something RELIGIOUS that people believe in.

          • Bianca Bradley

            So the link I gave, showing English common law came from Aelfred and he based it off the 10 commandments isn’t historical? Try again.

            Also, if you don’t like Christian behavior don’t do it. But just because you don’t agree with something doesn’t make it “bad”.

          • TadhgMor

            Your link seems non-credible. It’s a Nativist group! Further, they are completely full of it in claiming that common law is based in the Ten Commandments. Anglo-Saxon tribal law covered the same issues, and pre-dates the arrival of Christianity there. The only reason that group is claiming it is because they are a British Nativist group, which means they’ve picked a “national hero” (Alfred, since they’re anti-EU) and a Christian identity to show their anti-foreigner/anti-immigration stance.

            You are extremely historically ignorant. More and more I begin to question why you bother to come to this site if all you intend to do is make false arguments from conservative Christian sources.

          • Bianca Bradley

            Anglo Saxon law did not cover the same issues. While Anglo Saxon law does play a large role in British Common law, so does Christianity. sigh

          • TadhgMor

            Yes, yes it does. I’ve spent quite a bit of time dealing with Old Irish law and the similarities are quite thorough, a point which was solidified to me by an English historian that you cannot shine a candle next to, who sat on my thesis defense. The only parts that are unique are the solely religious portions.

            Christianity does play a role, yes. The Ten Commandments do not play particularly much of one, since as others have noted, the basic social portions of that fictional law code are nearly universal.

            Further, you’re still failing to account for why you’re using unreliable Nativist sources.

          • Bianca Bradley

            My bad sources snort.

            Irish law is Gaelic, not Anglo Saxon. Saxons are Germanic. http://dictionary.law.com/Default.aspx?selected=248

            You also have Admirality courts in England, Eccliastical courts and the Kings courts(Henry the 2nd)pg 21, 32, 33 in Judicial Process Law, courts and Politics in the U.S. That and the Saxon law is English Common law.

            Saxon law brought in equity. It brought in once you had to go to court you were expected to show up, or you faced a fine(beginnings of bail bonds).

            I cite my sources when I can, you haven’t in my memory.

          • TadhgMor

            Are you really such an ignorant condescending ass that you’re going to make that second sentence? I know more about Old Irish law than you do, I would bet my bank account on it. More on Anglo-Saxon and Germanic tribal law as well, clearly. They both developed along similar lines, though the Fenechas is considerably more detailed and developed than Anglo-Saxon law ever reached.

            Saxon law brought equality? In a heavy hierarchical society? You’re on drugs. Stop listening to stupid Nativists trying to create fictional versions of English history. Anglo-Saxons didn’t have equality before the law, it completely destroys the concept of wergild. High status individuals had more legal power and standing than low status individuals. That’s not even arguable.

            I’m not going to be condescended to by some secret authoritarian Christian who is using English chauvinists as a source. Any real scholar is going to laugh in your face, just like I am. Your confidence is betraying you.

      • Bianca Bradley

        No monuments to Greek Deities. Huh, I wonder what Athena would say to the one in Georgia. How about the many depictions of Columbia or Lady Liberty, who can be traced back to Greek Deities.

        • TadhgMor

          Honestly, I’m really not interested in your perverse obsession with defending bad Christian behavior.

          You’re making false equivalences, and you know it.

          • Bianca Bradley
          • TadhgMor

            Moralizing? I’m opposing the institutionalization of a religion that is generally hostile to me and mine.

            What sort of pagan are you exactly, that so regularly defends Christian hegemony? I mean you’re well beyond “some people are too mean to Christians” and well into actually making the same false arguments they use to justify their discrimination.

          • Bianca Bradley

            Hostile to you and yours huh? I guess not liking what you believe in, or choosing to exercise their 1st amendment rights is considered hostility now.

          • TadhgMor

            Yes, your promotion of false Christian supremacist narratives and their historical revisionism is hostile to me.

            You’re like a damn stereotype of a far-right Christian.

          • PhaedraHPS

            Your arguments would be more convincing (and readable) if they weren’t filled with name-calling, ad hominem attacks, and telling other people what they *really* think, feel, or are motivated by, despite their declarations otherwise. Really quite unpleasant. One would think your arguments, if credible, could stand on their own without such nonsense.

            For the record, I’m not on anyone’s “side” in this side discussion, merely on the “side” of civil discourse. The difference in tone in this sub-thread from the rest of the comments is quite marked.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker


          • TadhgMor

            So I should be polite to the person lying to protect a regime that harms me? I should be polite to someone using bigoted sources to spread lies based in the British version of white supremacy? Why should I be overly polite to a person like that?

            I’m being pretty bloody polite as it is. I don’t understand what it is about people who fetishize politeness over actual accuracy and rightness. It doesn’t matter that her points are openly lies, what matters is I’m not nice enough for your taste. Grab your bloody smelling salts!

            One would think if you really care about my arguments you’d actually bother to address them, rather than just defending distasteful people.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I can’t tell from letters on a screen who is lying and who is telling the truth. I can tell who is polite and who is rude.I used to operate the way you do when I was younger, but I discovered that if I attend to form as well as content, I have some transactional capital to fall back on when I have to say something that I know will go down sideways.

          • TadhgMor

            You could try looking at the ugly unreliable sources, or perhaps doing some research, or actual reading the substantive part of my posts rather than clutching pearls.

            Again, none of you have suggested why I should be polite to someone shilling for Christian bigots AND using probably racist definitely false Nativist sources. A condescending one at that.

            Next you’re going to tell me I need to be nicer to Evangelicals who call me a Satan worshipper and folkish pagan groups.

            Why exactly is it my impoliteness seems to be a bigger issue to you people than her lies? This has disturbing shades of the debate going on right now about Ferguson, where old white people complain about “rude and emotional” people instead of condemning the liars and bigots. They seem to place politeness ahead of rightness as well.

            Because rather than make any attempt to engage my points, or to call out both sides equally, all I’m seeing is more people trying to police the discourse on superficial bounds.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I never told you to be more polite. (That might sound a little funny coming from me.) I told you that lies and truth are harder to pick apart prima facie than rudeness and politeness.I don’t check out a commenter’s sources because that enables the passive aggressive behavior of making a statement and forcing the viewer to confirm or deny it. The technical term for that is “Scholar’s Ploy” and it’s classic debate fallacy.

          • TadhgMor

            ….how can you expect anyone to take you seriously if you don’t check the sources behind someone’s assertion, particularly when they link them?

            Noting unreliable sources if not a fallacy.

            Saying, and I quote “Anglo-Saxon law brought equality” is a lie that anyone with even a tiny amount of knowledge of the society in question can tell you is a lie.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            ….how can you expect anyone to take you seriously if you don’t check the sources behind someone’s assertion, particularly when they link them?Perhaps it’s the firmness with which I say, “You don’t get to assign me homework. You get to make an argument in your own words.”

          • TadhgMor

            Yeah, no. That’s the opposite of how scholarship works.

            If you base your assertions off of tacitly false information, your sources are relevant.

            Apparently all of you would rather complain about me than actually bother to check if the person I accused of lying is actually lying. Which really sheds light on your true intentions.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            But I’m not buying into anything Bianca posts just because she posts it, cites or no. This isn’t an academic seminar, it’s a Pagan blog.It’s far more valuable to me when someone gives a rebuttal in their own words, as you did. Maybe not the words I would have chosen, but you get to live with them, not me.If you have trouble remembering this isn’t a seminar, I sympathize. It took me years to quit treating every encounter like a physics problem.

          • TadhgMor

            I reject wholeheartedly the notion that unsupported assertions have as much validity as you give them.

            But we will simply disagree there. Rarely do lies about physics have the same political and social effects and problems that lies about history do. Distorting history is a political act, done for a narrative. Distorting physics is well…I’m not sure honestly.

            My problem is her narrative is utterly without merit and is based in dishonorable chauvinism and prejudice. It’s bad enough coming from Christians, it’s worse coming from a supposed pagan on a pagan blog who seems to do nothing but defend bad Christian behavior.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Distorting physics is done, eg, to fabricate a warrant for magick in the uncertainty principle of quantum mechanics, or to misunderstand gravity in an attempt to validate astrology.

          • TadhgMor

            That’s not even close to a comparable issue with comparable consequences though. The two are an order of magnitude apart in the harm they can cause.

            Coming to a pagan blog spouting discredited Christian arguments about “secular history and the 10 commandments” and then backing it up bigoted nativist sites that I have no doubt have a bit of “Christian Identity” to them is about trying to fundamentally reject the experiences and voices of pagans. That is all Bianca has ever done, other than make historically ignorant comments that I’d find odd from even the fluffiest of Wiccans.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            I agree the distortions of physics are minor in the grand scheme of things. I provided examples because you couldn’t come up with any, despite this being a repetition of the theme in this space.That disposed of, you then go on to do the sort of thing Phaedra has been on you about, in this case suggesting that I can’t tell the difference in magnitude. Such behavior has gotten you the name “TalksMore” in my household. Screw polite or rude: The question you need to ask yourself is: Are you here to get people to listen to your position, or for their amusement in the sense of the Roman Games?

          • TadhgMor

            Having any name in your household is pretty strong evidence of exactly the sort of bias by you and others that I find so concerning. You seem far more interested in insulting and complaining about me, in a group, than about the dishonorable behavior of others. At the end of the day it surely seems like a bunch of people getting together to make themselves feel superior to us emotional types. Yet you people wonder why I feel a bit defensive and don’t use the kindest words when this behavior happens constantly?

            None of you are interested in my position, which is made pretty damn clear by the large number of responses and not a SINGLE one of you actually addressing the point that I made.

            This is a bunch of you getting off on how “polite” and “nice” and whatever else you feel compared to others. Excuse me for not having any desire to join that circle jerk.

          • Baruch Dreamstalker

            Just so I don’t come off as primarily a tone cop, I did indeed follow you and Bianca and concluded that you have the better case, despite that she is more social. I didn’t bother to comment on the topic because I’m not an expert, you know my attitude toward passive-aggressive homework, and others including you were doing a fine job.

          • Franklin_Evans

            There’s polite dancing around facts and points, and there’s civil debunking of fallacies and false conclusions. There’s an art to trashing a person’s writing without ad hominem as a first resort — I rarely ascend to that level myself — and I doubt anyone here is demanding that of you.

            I sincerely respect your knowledge and scholarship. I also routinely pan your posts because I have no interest in paring away your invective or wasting my time only to find nothing of value in them. From the POV of someone like me seeking knowledge and new horizons, you are wasting your time and energy.

          • TadhgMor

            If you look at most of my comments here, they’re pretty bloody civil considering someone is shilling for Christian supremacists I find extremely distasteful, as well as blatantly misrepresenting history based on very unreliable and potentially bigoted sources.

            Or is calling someone out for regularly defending bad Christians too much?

            Can I get some specifics about exactly which part of my comments people are objecting to? Because not a single damn one of you has bothered to correct the falsities here. Again, why is it more important to complain about my “invective” than promote accuracy and truth?

          • Franklin_Evans

            Allow me to try it this way…

            I personally consider off-hand rejection of expertise a bane on our culture. It makes “elite” into a dirty word. Please keep that in mind as you read the rest.

            I would rather depend on your given summary and opinion or conclusion about a thing. I would ask that you provide basic points as briefly as the topic permits. What I won’t do, at your or anyone’s suggestion or demand is spend the necessary HOURS reading something for the first damn time just to satisfy your sensibilities and likely struggle to come to a coherent opinion or conclusion about it, let alone one YOU would respect.

            I am guessing that some people are also reacting to your implied assumption that upon reading what you direct us to read, we are automatically going to see and agree with your point. I point that out to get your explicit thought on that, though I must confess to sympathizing with the reaction.

            You can accept my default trust and express yourself civilly, or at least spare us the wasted bandwidth and use one post to tell the offending person to pound sand and be done with it. Every previous post to that, dripping with sarcasm or just outright name-calling, will go unread by the very people who want to read something of actual substance.

            In this thread-tangent, your first reply to Bianca is a short rejection of a point, civil enough in tone. Every post after is almost entirely ad hominem. I’ll disclose that she is my friend, but also that we’ve had flame-fests between us quite as vigorous as yours here.

          • TadhgMor

            To be honest, if you read her sources I think you’ll come to the same conclusion. There’s no hours involved. I see the point you’re trying to make, but the link in question doesn’t merit it.

            Your friend is shilling for the worst sort of Christians, as well as using unreliable bigoted links. I would suggest you look to your friends issues some of the attention you’re directing at me. I’d rather be rude than take such dishonorable behavior.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I owe you an apology. I’m not trying to make you the issue here. I am at fault that you feel that way.

            For the rest, please see my reply to kenofken’s exchange with Phaedra. It might be true that some are dodging, but their silence is not license for you to make that assumption. If they remain silent, your only recourse is to accept the uncertainty.

            For the record, perhaps not clear so far, I’m in general agreement with you, I disagree with Bianca… and I’m still not willing to invest the time and energy to expand that to any level of detail.

          • TadhgMor

            Almost everyone is dodging, and Phaedra has earned no respect from me by showing she is far more interested in attacking my rudeness than bothering to see what might have triggered my reaction. Her bias is evident. It’s her right, but quite frankly, I find it stupid to give such defense, even if it’s via silence, to such dishonorable behavior and assertions.

            But I see I’m going to get no satisfaction here. As usual. This fetishizing of politeness over rightness is a truly odd thing.

          • PhaedraHPS

            Well, I’m curious. My bias towards what?

            I’m not fetishing politeness, I’m disapproving of attacks and name calling in the name of “rightness.” Nastiness does not prove a point. If someone is completely off the wall, then give the attention they deserve–none. It’s clear that the more you engage, the more you bring attention to the arguments that you find so distasteful. I am baffled by that.

            It’s not a game of winners and losers. You don’t “lose” by walking away from someone who is not going to agree with you. You don’t diminish someone else’s credibility nor raise your own with blazing personal attacks. Just because it has become a norm in Internet discourse does not mean it is effective. That’s a truly odd thing, too.

          • TadhgMor

            You lose by allowing blatant falsities to stand unchallenged.

            I have no idea what your bias is, but only that there is evidence of it.

            Either way, I’m really not interested in this continuing. You’ve all got to feel very superior now, so lets just drop it.

          • I am in agreement with you in regards to Bianca’s statements. However, I also see Phaedra’s point for what it is: you’re not effectively arguing your points. People who are sympathetic to your views are telling you that your style of debate is getting in the way of your message.

            There is another point to consider in regards to tone, civility, and the like: this is not our place. This is Jason’s. You don’t have to like guests he has on here, but they, as we are, are his guests. This is not our blog, it is his. It may not be his home, but he devotes a good chunk of his life hete. I may disagree and be purple with rage, but once my fingers hit the keys and I type a post here, I am in his space.

            I’m not asking you to feel or even lessen the impact of your rhetoric. As I said I agree with your points, and it exasperates me how much Bianca has gone to bat for people who, on the whole if they acknowledge our presence, would rather we shut up at the least or were dead at worst. I have no idea what vested interest any Pagan or polytheist has in carrying water for these people, especially as much as she has carried.

          • TadhgMor

            The only reason I’m being as polite as I am in the face of what I consider undue insults towards my person by people who are behaving dishonorably is because I recognize this is not my space.

            At least you acknowledge she is doing it. My problem with Phaedra and others is they don’t. They treat me like the only issue based on their bias against me from past interaction. If you’re going to do that, at least be honest about it.

            Because there is no way to look at Bianca’s lies and bad sources and come to the conclusion that I am the biggest issue here without something pushing on the scales.

          • PhaedraHPS

            I think your reply speaks for itself.

            “…none of you ever bother to call out others for their bad behavior.” But I do, on a regular basis. The fact you haven’t seen it doesn’t mean it doesn’t happen.

          • TadhgMor

            Fair enough, let me counter with this. How can I make note of something I do not see? I’ve not seen you ever counter her frequent apologia for fundamentalist Christians, nor have I seen you challenge her vastly incorrect information here.

            What I have seen is people continue a trend of placing civility above accuracy. One that makes me feel both A. targeted and B. defensive, quite aside from the merits of your position, which I reluctantly acknowledge do exist. I’ll cop up to saying I can act better.

            So now will someone please address the substantive issue of why we continue to allow someone to make such ugly posts in favor of Christian fundamentalism without pushing back? As well as using unreliable and possibly bigoted sources that I personally take very seriously because folkish tendencies are a serious issue.

          • PhaedraHPS

            Just as you say you have not seen (“none of you bother”) my asking others to keep an argument civil, I have not observed the the pattern of behavior you describe. Unfortunately for you, what I did see was your over-the-top (to my view) response to her. If you know from experience that she’s not going to engage at the level of discussion you desire, why engage? (Frankly, although I can almost sorta see what she was getting at, she lost me with Wikipedia links.)

            In all honestly, I think liking her remarks to Christian fundamentalism is a bit over the top, which is where you lost me.

          • TadhgMor

            Then you’re bloody blind, and I am not the only issue here.

            She shills for Christian bigots and I’m over the top? Using bigoted sources and trying to justify forcing Christianity into the public sphere is very much supporting bad behavior. She does this CONSTANTLY. I’ve never seen her do anything else.

            Why engage? Because she’s spreading falsities.

          • kenofken

            She doesn’t deserve a hell of a lot of politeness here. So far as I’ve ever seen, she’s never brought a substantive argument to the table and just comes around to antagonize, categorically de-legitimize our experiences and struggles with fundamentalist Christianity and most curiously to me, devote a great deal of time and energy defending the David Barton wing of fundamentalism.

            I get that we aren’t monolithic and that some of us have known evangelicals that were personally likable. I get that we don’t all have to define our whole experience around an unrelenting hatred of all things Judeo-Christian. We also don’t owe any civility and endless indulgence to someone whose only contribution is to dismiss all of our experiences and views out of hand. We can get that crap all day long over at Dwight Longenecker or Rebecca Hamilton’s blogs. We don’t have to politely and passively endure it here.

            One of the measures I use in drawing the line between a troll and a provocative debater comes down to this question: Does that poster advance the debate in any way? Do they provoke you to think or just provoke? Is there anything in the posters collective body of work on a forum that tends to expand or enhance or enrich our understanding of what it means to be a pagan in the world today?

            Before we talk about civil discourse, are they bringing any discourse at all? Does the person ever contribute anything of interest on non-controversial subjects or anything beyond their pet issue? Bianca’s work, so far as I have seen, clears none of these fairly low bars, and is entitled to all of the respect and politeness which it merits on that basis.

          • PhaedraHPS

            Then why do you bother to address her comments at all?

          • kenofken

            On this thread I was not. I was addressing yours. There is much to be said about not feeding trolls, and I increasingly try to live by that, with varying success. My only point is that no courtesy is owed to someone who demonstrates time and again that they are not here or arguing in good faith.

          • Franklin_Evans

            I should offer, as Phaedra has, my own contribution to “tone policing”. It really is out of order, as it were.

            With that, though, is something else that I would like to see discussed, if not here then perhaps at the convenience of our hosts here: the long strings of thread tangents that are 90% invective and in-kind responses, and 10% (if that) topical.

            I want to offer a default respect to all comers. I understand from personally sharing the level of frustration clearly experienced by some, in this case TadhgMor. I also have the same perspective on those others view as trolls, and it comes down to a simple concept I learned in a wild and open usenet group: silence from a person can validly mean only one thing, silence. Assumptions of content are rarely correct as guesses, and always disrespectful at best, shoving words in their mouths at worst.

            That’s the correct answer to kenofken’s “We don’t have to politely and passively endure it here.” Yes we do, because we are not offered moderator status, and our hosts have chosen to permit posting without other intervention. However, I also do not accept the “politely and passively” part either, because MY silence is my choice, and you (specific or general) are not authorized to interpret for me.

          • Yes, thank you. “long strings of thread tangents that are 90% invective and in-kind responses, and 10% (if that) topical” are a frequent problem here. And it is interesting how often they feature repeat offenders.

            If a poster is engaged in a back and forth discussion with someone they come to believe is not honestly engaging with the ideas being presented, continuing to respond with more and more and more heat is troubling… because not only is this happening with no sense that the opponent in the back and forth is going to see the error of his ways, it’s done with either indifference to how the audience is taking in the ideas or with ignorance of how alienating the insult-fests are.

            And if you’re not debating back and forth with the aim of informing either your opponent or your audience, well, why on earth are you doing it? For exercise? To hear yourself talk? Or because you’re just that obsessive and impulsive?

            In any case, it’s something that erases what might otherwise be a persuasive impression you’re leaving with your readers. Bottom line: if your exchanges begin to resemble a non-stop, hostile tennis volley, just drop that ball and walk away.

            Life isn’t scored by the same rules as tennis, and often the one who walks away from a waste of time insult match is the one who “wins.”

          • Franklin_Evans

            I like your tennis metaphor. It prompts me to point out that the “0” (zero) score is called “love”. 😀

          • 😀

          • PhaedraHPS

            “We also don’t owe any civility and endless indulgence to someone whose…” Endless indulgence? Surely not. Civility? I would think civility and courtesy are owed to anyone, baring perhaps a weapon-wielding attacker.

            Yet, you continue and continue to engage, stooping to ad hominem attacks and other logical fallacies and errors of debate. How this makes your point, I am at a loss to tell.

            I am reminded of an old saying, “If you argue with a drunk, who’s the fool?”

            Of course, I’m a little concerned whether I myself may be guilty of tone policing. I suppose. But really, once an argument gets reduced to name calling, you’re not supporting your arguments anyway.

            If you think she’s a troll, then don’t feed the troll. Jeez. 😉

          • Unfortunately, your tone argument only applies if @tadhgmor:disqus was just calling her names and insulting her for the joy of doing so, and not actually refuting her arguments.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      Ælfred of Ƿestseaxna Rīce was very much a Christian and based his legal ideals on what he had learned whilst in Rome.

      There is no way of calling the Ten Commandments secular when at least one of them states:

      Thou shalt have no other gods before me. (Exodus 20:3 – KJV)

      • Bianca Bradley

        I said historical not secular.

        • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

          There is a difference, yes. However, why change the goal posts?

          Everyone else was talking secular, not historical. So, what is the point of mentioning the historical aspect?

          No-one is denying that there is a historical aspect to Christianity being intertwined with law. Merely that it is about time it ended.

          • Biolochic

            “Merely that it is about time it ended.” Yes!!

    • Gus diZerega

      Julian, the last Pagan emperor, pointed out that there was NOTHING unique about the 10 Commandments that could not be found in other cultures other than the claim that one god had to be before all others and the requirement for the Sabbatch. NONE of the other ‘commandments’ have the slightest unique reference to Christianity or Judaism.

      • Bianca Bradley

        I don’t recall arguing the the commandments are unique, I do recall arguing about historical and showing that yes they influenced our law and why. Now I’m not adverse to putting up monuments to the Hamurabi code either.

        So what point were you making?

        • Gus diZerega

          All that is ‘new’ in the commandments is religious and all that is wise in the commandments is not new. They have no special reason to be honored on public property.

          • Deborah Bender

            I’d like to point out that the Ten Commandments are an extract from a Jewish text that the Christians appropriated. Israel, which gives Judaism a number of privileges in law, does not post the Ten Commandments in front of courthouses or schools or any government buildings.

            You also don’t see any support from American Jews for this nonsense because American Jews believe in both the free exercise of religion and the separation of church and state.

    • TadhgMor

      Just in case anyone gets confused, this is a Nativist source making very historically questionable claims.

      “We work to challenge the constitutional change agenda – the imposition of European and United Nations policy upon British law.”

      • Bianca Bradley

        Not a darn thing wrong in making sure that the law of your land is the law of your land and not other courts. Many Americans oppose making treaties with the UN that gives them operating power and take away our sovereign rights. It doesn’t make what they claim historically questionable or make them bad people.

        • TadhgMor

          ….far-right conspiracy mongers, not “many Americans”. No one with half a brain believes that “Agenda 21, UN sovereignty!” crap.

          Your sources are FALSE. You are really on ignorant, most likely bigoted, sources. Nativists are not reliable and distort history heavily to suit their political goals.

          How on earth did some far-right authoritarian like you become a pagan? Every single one of your comments makes you sound like a conservative Christian and conspiracy monger.

    • …and English Common Law originated with the Pagans.

      “I was glad to find in your book a formal contradition, at length, of the judiciary usurpation of legislative powers; for such the judges have usurped in their repeated decisions, that Christianity is a part of the common law. The proof of the contrary, which you have adduced, is incontrovertible; to wit, that the common law existed while the Anglo-Saxons were yet Pagans, at a time when they had never yet heard the name of Christ pronounced, or knew that such a character had ever existed.” — Thomas Jefferson, 1824

      Or you could read Jefferson’s essay “Whether Christianity is Part of the Common Law?”, which you can find by Googling it.

      • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

        Should also probably be pointed out that English common law wasn’t founded until the concept of “Englishness” was.

        The last Heathen king, Arƿald of the Isle of Wight, died in 686CE. Ælfred ascended to the throne of Ƿestseaxna Rīce in 721, but it was not until after the battle of Eþandun, in 878, that he consolidated his power, began writing his charters and paved the way for a unified England (something that would not actually happen until his grandson, Æþelstān, sat on the throne).

        One of the things that moved him to do this was, in fact, the very fact that the invading Danes were not Christian.

        As such, I would hardly call English Common Law non-Christian.

        Indeed, we have several pre-Norman laws recorded that specifically outlawed witchcraft and heathen practices.

        • Whether you wish to call it “English” or “Anglo-Saxon” or whatever is irrelevant. Thomas Jefferson > “Some-Wacky-Tinfoil-Hat-Far-Right-Website-Linked-by-Bianca”.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            I’m ignoring Bianca’s website of choice, because it is laughable, at best.

            Jefferson, however, was in error when he claimed that common law arose prior to the conversion of the Germanic settlers of the British Isles.

          • I think I’ll stick with Jefferson, rather than your un-cited opinion.

          • TadhgMor

            He’s right, the codification of Anglo-Saxon law happened after Christianity. The custom and some of the law certainly is older, but it wasn’t written down until the Christian period, and some of the oldest surviving texts deal with ecclesiastical matters.

            There’s a core of old Germanic custom in there, but separating what is pre-Christian from what is Christian would be very difficult. Old Irish law is the same way, and we have far more textual evidence for those texts than we do Anglo-Saxon ones.

            In particular, you should look at the status and honor-price given to clergy in surviving Anglo-Saxon text, which is second only to kings.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            Yup. Anglo-Saxon studies only really came into their own in the last few decades.

            The Anglo-Saxon period was skipped when I was at school (80s-90s) and called “The Dark Ages” due to the lack of written record of the time.

          • TadhgMor

            One of the professors at my university was a big fan of the Anglo-Saxon period. He taught generic English history, but he loved the Anglo-Saxons and the Plantagenets as favorite children.

            So I was lucky to get a fairly decent overview including a some primary sources from the time period. But I get the feeling that was more due to his personal quirks than anything else, sadly. Those societies get overlooked, which is why I’m theoretically working on a general readership book covering early Medieval Ireland and the Fenechas law.

          • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

            The English legal system was first described as “common law” in 1189 (the year Richard I “The Lionheart” ascended to the throne).

            That is not un-cited opinion. That is just a historical fact.

            The first bringing together of laws from the pre-unified Ænglisc Kingdoms was done by Ælfræd in the late 800s, as is evidenced by the “Dōm-bōc” (Law-book).

            I could easily point out that the book is actually prefaced by the Ten Commandments and contains rule from Mozaic law and also Christian codes of ethics.

            Here’s a citation:


  • Bianca Bradley

    The Christians in Iraq, can’t really turn to the Christian charities either right now. The Christian Charities can’t very well call on the Vatican to come forth and call another holy war, can they. Also the Christians, have also not ignored the plight of the Yazidi’s and I have seen many calls from the Conservative Christians to help the Yazidi’s.

    Also what the heck does this tome, have to do with the Christians or the Yazidi’s in Iraq? What does one person’s anger at lawsuit after lawsuit against the 10 commandments have to do with this academics writing?

    • mptp

      That western civilization’s willful ignorance, in popular culture, in established media, and other venues, of anything not monotheistic, shapes the narrative of what is normal: because it’s their normative to their beliefs, Christians try to argue that the 10 commandments aren’t really religious, they’re historical only – it’s their attempt to get a wedge in the door. Regarding the Yezidi, there was little attention given to the oppression of them by IS until Christians were receiving the same treatment, and the Christians got more press coverage, due to the press treating Christianity as the assumed normal.

    • Deborah Bender

      “I have seen many calls from the Conservative Christians to help the Yazidi’s.”

      Good for them. I salute their moral consistency.

  • TadhgMor

    Definitely need to pick up this book, sounds very interesting.

  • P. Sufenas Virius Lupus

    I’ve just started reading the book, but I have to say, I’m not entirely happy with it for a variety of reasons, including the fact that *GASP* the author admits (reluctantly) that there are still polytheists of the Hellenic type, at least, and talks about Sarah Kate Istra Winter’s book Kharis, but with terms like “so-called” and other snide pejoratives. Some actual modern polytheists, thus, are in the book, and the author doesn’t seem to be particularly happy about it nor positive toward it, even though it is a clear demonstration of the viability of her thesis.

    • KhonsuMes Matt

      Thank you for bringing out this point, Lupus. It bothered me when reading this book too. I found myself wondering if she had ever even read “Drawing Down the Moon”. I suppose (pure conjecture on my part) that she thought she was aiming the book at a part of academia and the general public that in fact does not take modern polytheisms or paganisms seriously, and that to lay more emphasis on them would somehow lessen the book’s credibility in those circles. A very unfortunate choice in my book, and I’m sure yours.

    • I totally agree with this criticism, and think the book won’t be all that revelatory for the well-read Pagan or Polytheist. BUT, having said that, I think it is important as an academic voice advocating for a course correction in how polytheism is treated.

  • KhonsuMes Matt

    I think it is helpful to read this book along with Jordan’ Paper’s “The Deities Are Many”. He provides another academician viewpoint and critique of default monotheistic positions. He also provides a much needed insider polytheistic viewpoint as well. His points on western monotheistic concepts being adopted into and/or overlaid on polytheistic traditions is a very important one (manifest in both Chinese and Western African contexts as he sees it). He has direct lived experience in both Chinese and Native American traditions and uses that experience to illustrate the culturally monotheistic blinders that have clouded much western scholarship.

    • Gus diZerega

      It is an excellent book, made all the more important because he does not rely on NeoPagan traditions.

  • lyradora

    There is much to recommend duBois’ book — but I also found it aggravating and deeply disappointing. Her interest is *purely* academic, and primarily focused on the ancient world. She has little interest in contemporary, real world polytheisms.

    • Lēoht “Sceadusawol” Steren

      There are a lot of benefits to having a purely academic book. Most of the books I own are.

  • Raksha38

    Excellent editorial! Thank you Jason. I really do think polytheism is the natural spiritual inclination of humans, unless they’re trained otherwise. It’s only a matter of time before it’s the norm world wide once more.

  • Slightly O/T:
    Re. the Black Mass scheduled for Oklahoma City, Bp. Coakley’s letter also says:
    “In spite of repeated requests, there has been no indication that the
    City intends to prevent this event from taking place. I have raised my
    concerns with city officials and pointed out how deeply offensive this
    proposed sacrilegious act is to Christians and especially to the more
    than 250,000 Catholics who live in Oklahoma.”

    Irony alert: The Catholic bishops are 117.5% in favour of “religious freedom” when it comes to businesses restricting their female employees’ reproductive choice or refusing to serve or hire Teh Gayz; but when followers of another religion do something that Catholics don’t like, then they’re quick off the mark to urge the authorities to impede those others’ free exercise of religion. Religious freedom for me but not for thee? Yes!
    I wonder if the good bishop is aware that hypocrisy and sanctimony are two sins that Jesus condemned at every opportunity.