Today I found myself listless, without direction. My sails were up, but there was no wind. The albatross was still around my neck. It has begun to stink.
Then someone mentioned starting a religion and I thought, “I’m game for that.”
My goals in life have been achieved, there’s nothing left but starting a riot or starting a religion. Riots are dangerous and very loud. I’m in a different place, so I opted for religion. I have no details about it yet, except I believe we need stone circles. The person who suggested it lives in California, so its likely orchids will be involved too.
Anyway, here’s my sermon. Today’s sermon is on …
Paganism and the naming of gods … “Will the real god please stand up?”
I’ve always thought it dubious that a religion which prides itself on a single god not only feels the need to name it, but holds the name so sacred that they refuse to say it, choosing instead to use the most generic term imaginable … god.
I once got in trouble in Sunday school class as a kid for asking why it’s a sin to say goddamn, because it’s taking god’s name in vain, when god isn’t his name?
I wasn’t long at that church, and from that point on if I was in church it usually had something to do with sex.
The problem I have with nearly all religions – orthodox or heathen, is this incessant need to label. Here’s why …
Labels are a human invention. Ask yourself – what’s your dog’s name for you? If dogs label, one of those sounds he makes is his name for you. If dogs give names, shouldn’t you have figured out what it is by now?
I’ll tell you what else doesn’t use labels. Trees. Grass. It’s just us that does that. And relying so much on labels creates division and false expectations which too often are never met. Because labels are human and humans are fallible.
We label gods, thus rendering them human. This screws up the works, so that eventually you have a god which creates the world for the sole purpose of testing those he was created, his children. To pass this test, you have to worship him, bow down to him and follow all his laws. Even then, there’s no guarantee you and your family won’t get wiped out along with the sinners. That ceiling beam that comes crashing down on your child’s head is part of god’s plan.
No, that’s not divine. That’s trying to make labels and expectations work, when they just don’t. It’s unnatural and it becomes illogical, a farce.
My issue isn’t with the almighty, but instead his scribes. I can’t help but think for all the beauty and poetry of countless religious texts, of all faiths, the minute we start trying to explain things, we go off track.
For instance, I love Pan, and I can see the truth in the stories about him. And I can see gods as metaphors for human behavior.
But the minute you label something, name it, when you define it, you not only say what it is, but also what it isn’t. The reality is we grow, and sometimes what we weren’t, we become. Gods, predefined in the dim and distant past, don’t have that same ability to expand. Because they’re fixed by dogma.
So instead, pagans tend to have a looser definition of their gods. The danger in that is without a definition, words lose meaning. When deities begin to vary to the degree that they do now, simply collecting them all under a single name serves no real purpose, except to make paganism more like the established religions. It makes followers of us, devotees and when that happens I remember … that human need for fawning worship is what led me away from Christianity. A good father doesn’t demand you worship him, he just hopes you love him.
Human fathers who test their children’s love are manipulative bastards. Humans are supposed to be made in the image of god. If God does this, and since god is infallible, it’s not a sin. I can’t buy that. Once again, it’s man’s logic, not divine.
But that’s what happens when you start adding labels and definitions to things that should be held sacred, and should be nameless.
The reason animals don’t need names is they recognize by their senses. They know us by sight, by our scent, our sounds, our touch. Without labels, their senses become heightened. They can see things about us wordlessly, that other humans miss. If we follow their lead, that’s how we find gods.
Labels and names are part of the human system. We need them to communicate on a certain level, so we all agree on what we’re doing. When they’re a part of something holy, they take on special powers, deeper meanings. But they’re only an outline, a way of trying to describe the underlying magic which can’t be put into words.
That tree may not know your name, but it might know your touch. It might recognize your voice. That look of adoration in your dog’s eyes is genuine. It doesn’t need a name to call you by, to describe your relationship. It simply loves. That’s nature’s way.
To me paganism is dispensing of man’s role in the sacred, and looking to nature as a guide. Words are useful, labels are sometimes necessary. But I don’t need to name my gods. I just need to find them and keep them close.
I love all the gods, the myth and wondrous things which have been created in their name. But that’s a testimony to our humanity. And our humanity goes hand in hand with our inhumanity. I seek the divine.