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Polytheistic Apologetics

Discussion in 'Polytheism' started by The Hammer, Jun 18, 2019.

  1. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    I am curious if anyone has any information or resources they use in defense of (apologetics) a polytheistic worldview? I have done some searches on a few different websites and seem to come up dry, and John Michael Greer's "A World Full of God's" is the only book I've had the pleasure of reading.

    Has anyone ever defended their polytheistic views to someone who did not hold your faith in the Gods? How did you do it? What approaches did you take?

    I usually try to use something along the lines of mentioning that plurality (multiples) seems to be the go to of the universe (many planets, stars, bird types, bacteria, tree types, etc), therefore multiple deities would be more intrinsic then a singular deity.
     
  2. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    It's been a problem I've not really faced over the last couple of decades, since I realized that I'm an animist. Part of that is because I don't really get questioned about it much, and that's because I don't do much to make it publicly visible in the first place.

    If someone asks, I'm willing to explain what I believe, but I don't 'defend' it, other than to stress that my beliefs and practices should be granted the same protection as everyone else's. On several occasions, I've had various missionaries appear at my door. Most have been satisfied with "No thank you." Others have expressed interest in my beliefs, but when it turned to them trying to convert me, I invited them to leave, which they did.

    Pretty much when people have tried to preach to me, or having heard what I believe to try to convert me, I say something to the effect of, "Okay, do you want me to criticize your religion now?" With a smile. That seems to work.
     
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  3. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    Posted too soon: I recommend Graham Harvey (don't confuse him with Graham Hancock) as a place to start on animism, which in inherently polytheistic, even for one who doesn't find deities to be particularly useful, such as me...

    He's a good source of references to other sources...
     
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  4. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    I'll take a look at his work, and see what he has to say. While I have never "needed" to defend my views, I am still curious about how others have, imagined or otherwise, done so. It seems most polytheistic discourse went away with the Greeks.
     
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  5. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    If there's one defence of polytheism I have to engage in on a semi-regular basis, it's something along the lines of, "No, that particular criticism of a specific branch of monotheism doesn't apply here."

    Beyond that, I've really not had much call to engage in apologetics. Most people are happy enough to live and let live once they're satisfied that I'm not looking to convert them.
     
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  6. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    Most people are content with live and let live, but how does one know ones beliefs, truly, if they can't defend them through discourse? This is how we learn, and grow. The unexamined life is not worth living.
     
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  7. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Why should anyone question? My faith is my faith and your faith is yours. Monotheists cannot prove one God, polythiests cannot prove their many Gods. Both are in different but similar boats, but with the same name - "it is not a matter of proof'.
     
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  8. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    But one could be more likely or less likely to be true over the other. I am not asking for proof that Zeus and/or Shiva exist, but for discourse on why this concept (multiple deities), is more likely/probable than a singular deity concept. That was the purpose of this polytheistic apologetic thread. It is not about who's gods are right, and more on the nature of reality.
     
  9. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Oh, the reality is totally different (for me). It is a phase changing energy/space/time/matter, existent at one time, non-existent at another, very much Quantum like. We Hindus term it as 'Brahman'. It is not a God. It is the substrate of all things in the universe and the universe itself. It is beyond existence and non-existence, which are limitations of human mind. Generally we can't think beyond the two terms and take them as separate.

    "Sarvam Khalu Idam Brahman" (All things here are Brahman) - Mandyukya Upanishad
    "Eko sad, dwiteeyo nasti" (What exists is one, there is no second) - Anonymous
    "Avyaktādīni bhūtāni, vyakta-madhyāni, bhārata; avyakta-nidhanāny eva, tatra kā paridevanā?"
    (All created beings are unmanifest in their beginning, manifest in their interim state, and unmanifest again when annihilated. So what need is there for lamentation?)
    BhagawadGita 2.28
    "sato bandhumasati niravindan hṛidi pratīṣyākavayo manīṣā ll"
    (Sages who searched with their heart's thought discovered the existent's kinship in the non-existent).
    Rig Veda: Rig-Veda, Book 10: HYMN CXXIX. Creation.
     
    #9 Aupmanyav, Jun 20, 2019
    Last edited: Jun 20, 2019
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  10. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    This is an interesting point and I think there's some truth to it. It's certainly true that over the course of my stay on RF, I've refined my own beliefs through discussion, debate and research. I'm not sure that actual debate is strictly necessary (though it can certainly be helpful) for this though. If you're capable of honest introspection, you can examine and challenge your own views in a way that others can't. Nobody knows your own mind better than you.

    What I do think is a necessary part of this process is a willingness to explore the views of others. Again, debate can be useful here but I think there's just as much good to be had from research and discussion. Other people can come up with ideas that never would have occurred to you after all.

    From a more practical viewpoint though, polytheism is in an awkward place when it comes to debate. Firstly, most criticisms of theism in my experience are centred on monotheism. Secondly, polytheism is an incredibly broad spectrum with a variety of understandings, making criticisms of specific types of polytheism scarce. Both of these contribute to a climate in which polytheists have very slim pickings when it comes to external criticism. This is also why I personally place so much emphasis on introspection.

    A final thing to note is that there's one criticism of polytheism that just makes me glaze over. That's the one that goes something along the lines of, "You're an idolater who can't see the truth of God." This one strikes me more as mudslinging than honest debate and I have very little patience for it.
     
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  11. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    I tend toward polytheism because, while everything may be One (one dreaming deity, one fairly short equation that encompasses all our observations of gravity, electromagnetism, strong force, weak force, dark energy, etc./whatever), our--or at least my--day-to-day experience is one of plurality. Even if it is all one, we're here where we experience not-one.

    Also, while I have experienced 'oneness,' that has only been at a few, unusual instances...and I realize that what I experience is only a limited part of what there is. Someone proposes that there is a universal deity...well...that's simply beyond my comprehension, beyond my ability to perceive, or conceive. I liken this to being exposed to two spotlights from about a foot away...one is a million candle-power, the other is a billion...which one is brighter? I cannot tell, because both are painfully blinding. I can understand that one is three orders of magnitude brighter than the other, but there is no way I can tell which is the brighter.

    So, that's a lot of my rationale...it is an explanation of why I don't do deities, even though I'm pretty polytheistic in my thoughts and beliefs.

    Is that helpful?
     
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  12. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    I do not disagree with this concept of Brahman, in fact I embrace it, but I do not name it. I've found that my one experience with this "Source", is that it is formless, timeless, changeless, and powerful, but it is ultimately "unknowable" mere energy/power, a kind of chaotic order; not a Deity in any sort of way. I find that through reading various traditions and myths, that all Gods are really man filtering this "Source" through the stories they know, and interacting with the Gods in this way (mankind is ultimately a species of storytellers). When we reach out/touch this source, our minds fashion Gods, in order to keep us in touch with 'this' reality.

    Now, in my opinion this does not disprove any deities, but ultimately proves all of them. Our limited brain capacity to comprehend this Source, makes us only able to tap into small aspects (Gods) of this Source at any one time. In other words, in order for us to interact with this Source in a positive (even negative) way, we have to anthropomorphosize it as Spirits/Wights, Human-Gods (Thor), Animal-Gods (Anubis), Plant-Gods (Green Man), etc. This allows us to sense the True values and morals innate within us, and gives us the option to ignore it/change it/solidify it.

    Also, this same Source is what Mysticism, Magick and the Occult derive from, conscious contact with this power, while suspending all beliefs in an attempt to interact with it in a pure (intentioned) manner.
     
    #12 The Hammer, Jun 20, 2019
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  13. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    While I do not find debate is necessarily the best way to strengthen and explore one's views, it's why I specified "discourse and apologetics", over "debate" per se. I was thinking more along the lines of a conversation, like what was done in "De Natura Deorem" by Cicero. And why I posted in Theism Concepts thread over a Debate thread.

    Introspection is a wonderful tool for examining ones beliefs, but sometimes it is nice to converse with like minds, no?

    That idolator bit is almost always just mudslinging, it is a cop out of actual conversation usually. I try not to converse with people who act like that.
     
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  14. The Hammer

    The Hammer Well-Known Member

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    I agree that this sense of Oneness, which I have experienced a few times as well, is definitely blinding to mans monkey brain, this is why we have Gods. It is how we rationalize and interact with the illogical, we force a sense of order onto it, even if it is the claim of pure randomness (like with Tarot reading and other forms of divination). We were born with one purpose and that is to seek patterns in all around us.
     
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  15. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Polytheism is inclusive, monotheism is exclusive.
     
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  16. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    Sorry for the delayed reply, I've had a busy few days.

    You're quite right and I'll confess I somewhat misinterpreted your OP there. Once you get past the initial misconceptions about polytheism (such as the criticisms specific to Christianity for example) there are some interesting questions that crop up. Questions like, "what do you consider a god to be?" is a good one as "god" is such a nebulous term that it becomes necessary to have a clear understanding of what it means to you.

    Reflecting on this, some of the most thought-provoking questions I've faced have come from people without much general knowledge on the intricacies of theism. Getting right back to basics can sometimes do a lot more good than thrashing out the details.
     
  17. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    I missed this thread earlier because it was during a busy time for me. The list of available works on polytheistic theology is, unfortunately, pretty short:
    • Greer, John Michael. "A World Full of Gods."
    • York, Michael. "Pagan Theology: Paganism as a World Religion."
    • Paper, Jordan. "The Deities are Many: A Polytheistic Theology."
    • Hardy, Michael. "Ascendant: Modern Essays on Polytheism and Theology."
    These works deal directly or indirectly with topics related to what is sometimes called "apologetics." However, I think it is important to point out that in many respects apologetics isn't necessary in polytheism because our traditions do not proselytize. We have no need to defend anything when we aren't trying to coerce people into following what to us is some non-existent "one true way." If anything, I find myself engaging more in clarification that no, theism isn't preachy monotheism, and no, theism isn't preachy Christianity, and so on.
     
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  18. Aupmanyav

    Aupmanyav Be your own guru

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    Where is the need for apologistics? Polytheists are free to believe or deny in whichever Gods or Goddesses they choose, and whatever theories they believe about them.
     
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