Elitism and Polytheism


Alternative Title: You Are Enough

It’s so awesome that polytheism is making itself into its own diverse community. With things like Many Gods West happening, I have bright hopes that in the future there will be a booming community of polytheists where we can discuss, share ideas, and grow together. This gives me hope for things like my own dream, the Polytheist Community Center. And I’m excited about that. But I am realizing that my position on what it means to be polytheist and what it means to have a polytheist community seem to differ from some other bloggers. So this post is my attempt to define what I want from the polytheist community at large.

And that is one thing: stop the elitism.

To be a polytheist, I believe firmly and unwavering that it requires one thing: the belief in more than one deity. I don’t even think worship is required, contrary to the image I have above. If someone says they are a polytheist, that to me says one thing and one thing only: “I believe in multiple deities.”

What is a deity? Does one actively worship, or passively observe? Does one spend more time reading than practicing, or vice-versa? Do you have a day job? Do you only do religious studies? Which deity is all important? Are you a soft or hard polytheist?

…Those questions? Aren’t answered in the label “polytheist.” Those are answered in discussion and theological inquiry and blog posts and books.

I want the identifier for polytheist to be as uncomplicated as possible. I fear that it’ll slowly morph into how the word “pagan” is treated–where what one means when they call themselves “pagan” is so varied on who is saying it and where. I’ve rejected the label of pagan for various reasons, but one of them is because it doesn’t mean anything concrete. Whereas polytheist? Polytheist means one thing: belief in many deities.

So don’t take this word away from me, Polytheist Bloggers. Don’t take away my term for myself.

Don’t make polytheist to be a title one has to earn through nights and days of study. Don’t make polytheist mean active worship. Don’t make polytheist mean more than it has to. That does us more of a disservice, for we alienate people who are different voices of polytheism when we put up barriers like that. I want to hear about the soft polytheist who only worships on the full moons. I want to hear from the hard recon polytheist who has an entire room dedicated to worship. I want to hear from the plasma polytheists who are trying to make the phrase “plasma polytheist” a recognizable label. I want to hear from the polytheist who doesn’t know what anything I said means but is eager to discuss their devotion. I want to hear from all of the voices in the community. I want to welcome all of them.

So if you believe in multiple deities, congratulations! You are a polytheist. And if anyone gives you trouble, they’ll have to answer to me.


6 thoughts on “Elitism and Polytheism

  1. Agreed- elitism is not cool. There’s many ways to do polytheism & ways to define- here’s my attempt from a while ago-
    Anomalous Thracian defined it as “religious regard for & relationship with many gods & spirits”
    I like “worldview involving many gods/spirits” There are various historic as well as modern examples of people who lived/live in a polytheistic culture and engaged with it but may or may not have actually believed in gods. Religion was (and is in many cultures) customs, “ways of our people” duty etc. the emphasis on belief is more of a Christian/Muslim mentality. But I’d much rather be inclusive of anyone who is interested in discussion & community, than play theology & piety gate-keeper.

    • I also like ” world view involving many gods/spirits.”

      I basically don’t like any definition that involves a heavy emphasis on devotion or practice, because ” polytheism” shouldn’t be regarded as a verb.

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