Reviving Religions vs. Reviving Cultures

So I gave this post, Atheism and Asatru, by Jön Upsal a read.  Then, I sat back and thought.

He raises some interesting points, but I don’t think any polytheist is about shunning or ushering out the non-theists.  Hell, I’m not even all about ushering out the atheists at this point from the Pagan community.  That boat sailed a long time ago; they’re given equal, if not more standing than polytheists, and it is easy to see where many have cast their lot.  I don’t and won’t agree with it, and I’ll speak against it, but there’s been a din of silence from everyone except those on the atheist or polytheist side, and those few voices from in between have been unhelpful “Let’s get together and sing kumbaya” without actually addressing issues, grievances, etc.

I will need to reread some of his points here, especially in regards to the lore.  Non-belief may have been accepted, but it was not the norm to be so.  I get the feeling that Hrafknell’s story has context missing or something.

I think he is right, in that our religions are orthopraxic, but I think we dismiss orthodoxy at the peril of the former losing meaning and weight without the latter.

Here’s the crux: what I think is missing from the analysis here is that these were intact cultures with room for non-believers, whereas, for our purposes, we are strictly reviving our religions, and the culture will follow after.  We simply have a different demographic makeup.  Americans don’t have the investment in anything like an Althing culture, Gebo is practically nonexistant as a feature of regular life here, and that is with contracts and contractual reinforcement. I think there’s room for non-believers in our culture, but there’s also a reason I don’t invite them to my Northern Tradition Working Group or Study Group.  These are polytheist religious groups.  It’s a whole other story if I and my family start a permaculture-oriented community.  I have dear, dear friends I would be inviting, at least one of which is agnostic/atheist.  Depends on the day; sometimes he sounds like he believes in something, others not.

That’s a whole other ballgame though.  The difference between a polytheist religious group, and a group like a permaculture-oriented community, is the former is strictly a religious group, and the latter is a pluralist community.  Belief need not be required to be a permaculturalist, but in order to be part of the Northern Tradition Pagan community, you do need to be a polytheist of some stripe.  I think that much of the talking past one another takes place right here, and this is something worth thought and exploration.

17 thoughts on “Reviving Religions vs. Reviving Cultures

  1. Yes…there’s a lot more to be said along these lines.

    Given my “truce” has not been accepted on the part of a certain someone, I don’t know that I have to uphold my end of the truce any longer either. That whole post on atheopaganism and cultural appropriation might have to be written, after all…


  2. The thing is, a lot of Heathens don’t see it as a religious revival. They see it as cultural reconstruction, and I’ve had them argue that religion is either a minor part of it, or a simple outgrowth of the “Heathen mindset”.

    That’s not my Heathenry. I’m far more interested in religion than ADF ofshoots. I’m only bringing it up because I do know atheist Asatru (as contradictory as THAT phrase is – true to Gods you don’t believe exist.)


    • *nods* As I mentioned above, I wouldn’t actually mind non-believers in our midst were we a culture, but the fact of the matter is, we’re not big enough nor separated enough to where such a thing would be possible right now. Hell, the only way I see such a thing actually working is hiving off from society intentional-community style.

      I don’t understand *at all* how one can argue that religion is minor in a culture where the homes themselves were understood to have spirits or be spirits, and that landvaettir had to be taken care of lest they destroy your crops, luck, your cattle die or be driven off, etc. That, and naming conventions, and the establishment of chief, earl, and king lines.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. I keep seeing again and again “atheist Heathens” make the argument that atheist Jews are just fine, so they should be too. I think you expressed well why that’s not a good comparison, because Judaism is still an intact culture.

    (I don’t think we even can revive ancient Heathen culture. The world has changed too much. The best we could do is make some kind of new Heathen culture.)

    On the other hand, I have some empathy for nonbelievers because I’m sometimes one myself. My parents were atheists and raised me to believe that religion is for stupid people, and it’s hard to undo something you were raised with.

    I guess I feel like if you’re trying to do Heathenry without the gods, it’s like you’re only wading into the shallow end instead of jumping in the deep end, if that makes sense. Even though I have my doubts, I behave as if the gods are real, because I feel to do otherwise means I’m not getting the full experience.

    And I also think that it would be good if Heathenry (and modern paganism in general) survives for future generations to come, and that’s not going to happen without people who are really serious about it. People who just think Vikings were cool? No.

    Liked by 1 person

    • ” My parents were atheists and raised me to believe that religion is for stupid people, and it’s hard to undo something you were raised with.”
      I don’t believe any child should be raised with ANY type of belief system, that should be their choice. My father is a Christian who doesn’t interpret the Bible as literal (meaning the seven days of creation aren’t 7 days by our standards, but rather millions and millions of years) and believe in evolution, but he never encouraged his religion in me and instead catered to my interest in science. As for my mother, I would say she only fostered an intense love for Nature in me. In that vacuum though I was able to go about researching religion on my own and coming to my own conclusions. The problem with some of these atheists is that they are willing to scoff at the existence of Gods, but have no problems believing in the multiverse with it’s different physical laws. Who is to say that one of those universes in the multiverse didn’t give rise to the Gods to bleed their influence over to our universe? No one can not until our technology and science is progressed further. Militant atheists are no better than monotheistic fundamentalists.


      • I think a lot of militant atheists, my mom included, are reacting against monotheistic fundamentalists. They’ve seen the damage that religion can do, and have decided that all religion is horrible and society would be better off doing away with it completely.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Being someone that has been interested history and the cause and effect of human behavior, that’s the conclusion I’ve come to. Which only means that the militancy of militant atheists will most likely have the same effect on later generations leading to a reversal of their “utopia”. The one positive aspect of that is that perhaps humanity will find that middle way between all these different types of theisms. Who knows, maybe I give humanity too much credit.


    • I’ve written here on my feelings in regards to teaching kids about religion:

      To put a long post short, my view is that if you hold a religion, raising your child without religion is abdicating a bit of moral responsibility to your kids and to your religion. Kids are raised in a worldview whether or not we actively bring one to them. I would find it far better to raise my child in a worldview that respects the Gods, Ancestors, vaettir, the world, themselves, and others, as I believe that animism and polytheism do.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. One of the problems I see here is the assumption that the cultures you’re dealing with have died out- while the religious aspects of the culture have been broken/disrupted, the Germanic cultures have continually evolved. I think one of the problems is Heathens have gotten too hung up on debates over race & ancestry, and have missed the cultural side- as in traditions that have been handed down in diasporan communities, or that you can discover if you travel to Germany, Sweden, Norway et al. You still have a lot more to work with, as compared with Celtic cultures. Various Germanic countries conquered each other, but no one tried to wipe out any of the cultures that I’m aware of- the Nazis were in fact the ones to do the most damage!

    Liked by 1 person

    • You raise a good point: we have more to work with, and I agree that Heathens are too hung up as a collective whole over race and ancestry. Hell, even in my family hospitality tradition still carries on. We’re expected to offer food and drink to guests, guests don’t do the dishes, etc.
      My great grandfather came over from the Netherlands around 1910, and lost most of his language in tge process. We speak a smattering of German and Dutch in our speech. So I am living what you’re talking about! Funny, reflecting on it. It took me a year or so being in Heathenry to see how some of the culture still hangs on despite oceans and languages being between myself and elder Ancestors.


  5. Pingback: A Response to Jön Upsal’s Freedom of Conscience and | Sarenth Odinsson's Blog

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s