Pagans of the soft polytheistic or atheistic sort: A series of questions?

Now this is not meant as criticism, first off, merely as an attempt to understand a different belief.

Okay, those of you who are soft polytheists, how do you see the various deities? As facets of each other, or pieces of another greater diety? How do you mesh that with the fact that various personalities are very different and sometimes downright hate each other? Is it like a cosmic case of multiple personality disorder? How does this effect ritual or worship?

If you view various gods as just different explanations for universal truths -- do you actually see them as deities? If not, what is the point of worshiping them? Why be pagan? After all, couldn't you recognise those truths and revere them without using the names of various gods?

And to the pagan atheists I know are around: why do you consider yourself a pagan atheist? I remember when i was an atheist, I wouldn't have considered myself pagan at all, but save for the actual worship that I omitted, I acted no different. How do you define pagan atheism, and how is it different from humanism or just being concious of nature?

-- A curious hard polytheist.


Soft polytheism = believing that all gods are facets or aspects of one god, or that they simply express universal truths without actually existing as gods.

Update 2:

I love when people assume I was never an atheist. I was. There were a good few years where I didn't believe in any gods at all. So please, don't call me a liar.

16 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    I wouldn't call it "soft polytheism." The higher mysticism of many overtly polytheistic religions, including that of Hinduism, Heliopolitan (Egyptian) religion as well as Roman and Greek religion was that there was one supreme deity that the other deities were expressions of --and that creation itself (you and I) are also expressions of that supreme, nondual deity. You have to explore the preSocratic philosophers, the Hermeticists, Qabbalists, Neoplatonists for trend in ancient western religion. This is called nondualism ("God" alone exists as the absolute reality) or else qualified nondualism (everything exists within God, which is the absolute reality)--not "soft polytheism." I believe another term, more appropriate to western paganism that defines this idea is henotheism. Am I that, yes. Because it makes sense to me. Reality/God is existence, consciousness, and experience. We are IT but we don't act like it, we project ideas about It outside of ourselves and call It god(s) and communicate with It through ritual. It's all psychodrama with the purpose of getting past the psychodrama to the real deal, which is self-realization.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I can be called a soft polytheist, and I see the gods much like the Neoplatonists of ancient Greece saw them, as aspects of an unknowable Monad. (not the modern "all gods are one god, and all goddesses one goddess," but rather an unknowable deity, just as are humans, without realizing it) We're all tentacles of the same giant squid. :) The gods will realize their connections to each other at the same time the rest of the universe reaches enlightenment, not before. The left hand sometimes attacks the right. Even a sane individual will have a bodypart removed if they believe it's cancerous. We all have multiple personality disorder, though in most of us, our multiple personalities get along just fine. It does not effect ritual, as ritual is only an outward expression, not a "belief."

    I see them as both individual deities (in the now) and aspects of one (in the future). Indeed, the gods are much more than their names, and I don't worship words (or names, written or spoke) or I'd just be a Christian and find a whole book full of words and terms to worship. Cerridwen is no more a K sound followed by an ERR and Ihd, and a When than she is any other vowells and consonants.

    Source(s): eclectic neopagan
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  • 1 decade ago

    I am a Wych so I could loosely fall into the category of Pagan. I do not believe in God, the bible or other deities ( a few of them I accept accept as a historical icon)

    I don't 'worship' anything including nature.

    I believe there are things within the natural world that are beyond our explanation and measure, but I don't worship them.

    Humanism is a philosophy that could be incorporated with an Atheistic philosophy as neither are a religion hold no tenets, have no dogma and no structure of worship and neither contradicts the values of a pagan path.

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  • Generally, when Pagans are atheists, they are tapping into the spirituality within themselves. The Goddess and God are not actual deities, but the divinity inherent in every person.

    As for soft polytheism, which is my view, I believe they are all the human interpretations of different qualities of the divine. The reason they sometimes hate each other is because they are human interpretations. I do not literally believe that, as Zeus, the God came to earth and raped a girl as a swan! Humans make up stories about mythical beings, but that doesn't mean that the mythical beings have no basis in **something**. As a human, I put human faces on the divinity of nature. If I need to tap into wisdom, I call on Athena, not because I believe that she sprang from the head of the God fully grown, but because focusing on that energy helps me get into the right mindset. I call on other fictional characters as well (I do chaos magick, which means experimenting with everything). I don't believe in Dumbledore, but I may meditate on his personality if I need to evoke and invoke a spirit of serenity and wisdom. I believe that if people put enough energy into a mythical character, it's image starts to resonate with that energy and, in some sense, exists, but only as an energy force.

    While I never use the word worship, the only thing I can be said to worship is nature. It contains all things, including divine consciousness, and as such, it is many faceted.

    I hope that makes sense.

    Source(s): Wiccan
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  • 1 decade ago

    i consider myself a hard polytheist, but i do believe that the gods and goddesses are aspects of one big god, just as everything in the universe is an aspect of that one big god. when you're talking about something so vast and unfathomable, i don't see a conflict in there being gods with very different personalities. many things we take for granted have seemingly contradictory aspects, but they are still one thing. a window is a thing that lets light and air into a house, but the things that make it function as a window do neither. the nile used to have devastating floods, but those floods are what made egypt rich. the universe is a study in contradiction, it would be wrong if the gods didn't reflect that.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I am not a pagan, but I found your question interesting and gave myself venture into answering it :)

    I think that the core of religion is the maturity of approach toward what the universal truth represents rather than what it is composed of. The manifestation is the living itself as well as how we perceive it rationally. It is like me trying to answer your question using your language rather than transferring it into my symbolism or scientific parabolas which you might find not appealing. Both our approaches are not wrong since they appeal to our search; we speak about a same thing. The maturity has to do with life cycle. People belong to different life cycles and their wants and needs change, so does their perception.

    I have a hard time understanding how can someone "return" to paganism being aware of how it forms and what it forms into. It is a chewed up experience of our civilization. In the times of first agriculture, people were not aware or not fully aware of animism and its qualities and had no idea of the coming monotheism, specially not pantheism, metaphysics or the scientific discovery of DNA. For me it sounds more like returning to Eden, which is biblically impossible. That leads me to the conclusion that you were not an atheist. Atheism is by clean definition a "no return" path, same as monotheism can not return to polytheism, because once you put things into a rational perspective you alienate yourself from perceiving concepts through their symbolism. Once you rationalize what lightning is, you can not spiritualize it beyond the rational impediment and without recurring to academic poetry. The "higher meaning" is lost despite having followed you ever since, giving you a sense of belonging to "Mother Earth". You can not return to childhood once you matured out of it. Atheism is not the "I do not believe in". It is not the negation or alternative. Atheism is the binary, the tomorrow's AI. Perhaps today's atheists just worship rationality and don't bother with anything beyond the tools of science. lol

    Atheists do discover that there are concepts beyond their reach and recur to mysticism and metaphoric language when they need to grasp all that into sense, rediscovering the warmth of candles and, that there are virtualities in form of representations of existing functions which may materialize through evolution, or rather say that the form has a push and pull which we could factorize to the "meaning of life". That would make them New Age ;)

    I personally believe that this alienation is logical maturing of Life toward leaving Mother Earth. When I use concepts like "Mother Earth", "God", "Eden", etc., I do not give it supernatural connotation. The supernatural is for me within the natural. Simply said, we are integral part of it as much as everything else is.

    We only have a rational perception of our true inner quality which we define through religious terminology. So, think twice before defining yourself as "hard polytheist" or as anything.

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  • 1 decade ago

    I sometimes call myself an eclectic pagan. My path draws on a number of different strands, including Taoism, pantheism, Zen Buddhism and a dash of Discordianism.

    I'm quite happy to accept deities, though personally I view them as archetypal, and magick (as opposed to magic). I'm a rather soft atheist in that I don't believe in 'personal' 'transcendent' or 'manifest' god/dess/e/s but I wouldn't go as far as saying such things do not exist. Possibly for others, they do. If there is a 'god' it makes most sense to me that s/he is everything and we are all facets of the divine.

    I'm not claiming that my beliefs really make any sense, they are just beliefs after all. And generally I find labels of limited value. They sometimes help us identify commonalities or provide a shorthand for our belief structure, but in the end words can't express everything IMO.


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  • 1 decade ago

    I am an atheist with pagan tendencies. The "pagan" part comes in with my love for nature and observance of the changing seasons.

    On the first day of spring, summer, etc., everyone in the family gets a new toothbrush, and we usually go out for dinner. I don't always tell the hubby and kids that "the Season is the Reason," but it is.


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  • 1 decade ago

    I chose to believe in a Supreme Being, but not the one of the Hebrew people.

    This being is all around and penetrates every aspect of life like sparkling intelligent dust. That every cell of every living creature is made up of it. This soup of god is what we live in. This is how we are connected. Some individuals are better suited in connecting ,and using the pathways, but all of us have the ability. It is the reason why you turn your head and look back at a person ,who is looking at you. You felt it.

    How we live our lives is reflected here,its a journey of discovery. Some are here to live any type of life that is their choice to experience.Then return to a place of rest and peace idyllic with every pleasure you can want.

    There is no retribution, no reward for good or punishment for bad only gathering knowledge.

    Life is meant to be enjoyed, not dwelling on archaic thoughts of what is sin, of course in our social environment we need boundaries and sets of values, What Im talking about is the guilt ridden teen who is struggling with following his natural body and pleasuring himself ,or constantly worrying if he is going to hell ,what a torment time in life.It is all the fault of old ways of life, and laws set forth by men not a god.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    My belief:

    The Goddess is the only deity, but different

    cultures recognized Her in different forms.

    Later a false male god was introduced by

    people seeking wealth and power, and after

    that a lot of combination deities resulted...

    they are only valid to the extent that they

    contain genuine elements of the Goddess.


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