Pagan Fridays here at The Druid Bird… can you tell I’m a philosophy student?
This is a theme that I’ve been wanting to explore for a while now, and I’m quite excited to be able to do it.
We’ll start with the basics for all those who haven’t studied philosophy/R.S/R.E to a decent level.
Omnipotent means all-powerful, omnibenevolent means all loving, omniscient means all-knowing and transcendent means above or beyond the range of human comprehension or understanding.
The God of Classical Theism (the God of the Muslims, Christians and Jews) has a small problem, something that is known in philosophy as ‘the inconsistent triangle’ he has to be both omnipotent and omnibenevolent- but if he is both these things, then how can evil exist in the world?
Followers of the God of Classical Theism have come up with many counter arguments for this problem, from free will to original sin- but that’s not what I want to talk about here.
What I want to talk about here is how the God of Classical Theism compares to the Pagan Gods.
So, God of Classical Theism = omnipotent, omnibenevolent and omniscient… what about the Pagan Gods?
In general the Pagan Gods/Gods of Polytheism/’gods’ (however you want to refer to them) are not omnipotent, omnibenevolent or omniscient… in fact, some of them can be downright malevolent.
So why, you may ask, would anyone want to worship a deity who might not have the power, inclination or knowledge to help you? Well the answer is very simple- they may not be all knowing or all powerful- but they’ve got much more of those qualities than we do.
The gods are ancient, they have lived through the entire life of the planet and therefore have untold wisdom. I don’t think there can ever be such qualities as omnipotence or omniscience in anything, I don’t believe there’s such a thing as perfect- everything has some flaw.
Another point is that it makes them more relatable, more human- we can see that they have flaws like we do, and so don’t feel stupid if we screw up in front of them (tripping over your ritual robe, reading out the wrong prayer, calling a god by the wrong name… you get the jist) we can see them laughing along with us as we blush and correct ourselves, not staring impassively down.
The keen-eyed amongst you may have spotted that I’ve left a little something out… omnibenevolence.
I left it until last because I thought it was the most challenging question… why would you want to worship a deity that isn’t omnibenevolent?
For me this is one of the most interesting and hard to answer questions… I worship deities that are malevolent- that would cause harm. I do this purely out of respect, the world is a cruel place- it annoys me when some people glorify nature and go on and on about its beauty and ‘returning to the land’ when actually nature can be harsh and cruel. I grew up on a farm with a grandma who was an expert at cooking offal; I’m a very down to earth woman when it comes to food and nature.
There needs to be harshness in the world- we can’t all be wonderful, lovely people. I worship gods that are benevolent and malevolent because I feel that for the world to work we have to have balance… and we have to accept that there will be darkness.
We as human beings have a tendency to block things out and try to ignore them- but this approach leads to ignorance and ignorance to fear, if we walk away from our malevolent gods then we begin to fear them and all that they are associated with.
Also, having a perfect God who can fix all our problems takes the responsibility away from us, the one thing I like about being Pagan and working with the gods that I work with is that at the end of the day I have to work things out for myself. The gods will answer if I pray- but not how you would expect. They won’t make the thing that I need pop up in front of me, instead they’ll give me the courage and resources to go out and get what I want for myself.
The gods deal with life in a pragmatic way- take Morrigan, goddess of death (and many other things, but we’ll focus on death here)- most people think that having a goddess of death is depressing and morbid- but it’s not, it’s practical and healthy. The ancient Celts lived in a dangerous world filled with courage, honour and war. They had to deal with violence and with death on a regular basis, and having a goddess that represented it helped them deal with and make sense of the emotions that they were feeling. I’d rather worship Morrigan than live in a world where I deal with bereavement and death by not thinking about it.
One of the main reasons why I don’t follow the God of Classical Theism is that I don’t believe he deals with life. His perfect qualities make him incomprehensible and unrelatable, he faces the darkness of the world with a shiny white light that we can’t hope to replicate and has a sanitised approach.
The Pagan gods get down and dirty, they make fun of you, laugh at you and cry with you. They let you swear at them when something goes wrong but blast you apart of you cross them…
But then again, deity is transcendent… so everything I’ve just said could be utter balls.