It ain’t easy being a secular theist sometimes

So I was looking through emails, trying to find a link, when I came across this email which I sent to a correspondent in a fit of anger. I’m making it public because it gives a good amount of insight into who I am as a theistically inclined person, and it also illustrates how frustrating it can be to try to be myself among both theists and atheists, many of whom think that my being myself poses a threat to them and to the world.

It’s been edited to omit personal information and to utilize some of my more current conceptualizations:

Here’s the thing: I honestly cannot tell you how relieved I was when, as an adult, I realized that I could legitimately call my gods what they were to me: gods. There was no other word to describe what they were, even from the time I was young. They found me in nature and in stories, and I’d wanted to call them gods even then. I was stifled from doing so, for years and years, and I honestly think that inability and denial led to a lot of confusion and a lot of bad choices.
When I finally began to treat them as gods things began to clear up. You’re probably familiar with the idea of personal gods, so it’s going to be no surprise to hear that these gods spoke to me. I would talk; they would talk back. They would say amazing things which helped me to understand myself. I don’t know why, but seeing myself in them, interacting with them, and striving to delve into their mystery turned night into day. I grew as an artist, as a creator, and as a person, like I’d never before grown.
It was life-changing. It was illuminating.
And then, imagine my surprise when I began to look at the literature on the subject of divinities through the ages, and saw that what I was doing was probably such a natural thing for people to do…  It seems like people always had this inclination— to relate to aspects of life by way of divinities. And so much baggage has been attached to it, which is understandable. The experiences are so powerful, and people have always wanted certainty, so of course they’ve attached unnecessary objective value to them. But without all of that it’s one of the easiest and most innocent things in the world to do, this whole experiencing and relating to the world through divinities thing, at least for me. For me it made all the difference.
I have gods. I’ve always had them. Even before I understood what religion was I had them. Even after I left religion I had them. This is me. This is natural. I’m not anti-scientific. I’m not claiming absolute knowledge or anything. I’m just being myself.
But I can’t be myself in rational circles without being subjected to some of the most infuriating dogma that completely invalidates me. People don’t need divinity? People who turn to divinity are unscientific or stupid? Divinity has to be something that runs counter to science? Divinity is just something invented by societies? Divinity is just something that people “believe in”?
Where the hell do these so-called scientists get off anyway???
I’ve barely scratched the surface with regard to this moronic bullshit and I’ve already had it. I want to put forth my ideas about personal divinities, and the evidence that experiencing such things is probably natural, and such experiences don’t have objective implications sure but goddamn are they ever helpful. I want to do all of this. I’ve spent decades trying to figure this out.
What I really want is help. I want more allies who get this, and I don’t know where to look. I’m hoping you do. I’m hoping that I can find more people who understand, so that I can try to hone my views without having to deal with being treated like a child by supposedly curious scientists.
And so that I don’t have to swallow people pushing absolute divinity.
I’m just feeling very isolated and angry…

2 thoughts on “It ain’t easy being a secular theist sometimes

  1. Chris Highland

    I think what you are attempting–the connection of secularism and theism–is understandable, but not really possible. Secular is usually understood as non-supernatural. Theism is by definition supernatural. The urge toward something “transcendent” may indeed be a natural urge. That of course doesn’t make supernatural beings real. Maybe what you seek is simply a grounded, earthy pantheism? I can’t join you with that, but I respect the choice.

    1. ardagale Post author

      I don’t want to deal in supernatural concepts, and I don’t think that gods, by definition, have to be supernatural. God concepts are widely varied. Atheists will still speak of “guitar gods” or “tech gods” as a way of characterizing people as god-like. Sometimes people will proclaim themselves to be their own gods to signify that they follow themselves as opposed to other figures. Just the other day FFRF tweeted a quote that proclaimed humanity to be the only true divinity in the universe. The concept of “god” informs a lot of our ways of relating to the world beyond supernatural implications.

      Furthermore, while I think it’s a given that people seek out transcendent experiences through a variety of ways, its important to not forget that one of our longest standing methods of transcendence has been to invoke divine or numinous figures. For people like me, those methods of touching that subtle perfection which largely eludes us is actually the most effective way. Antitheists encouraged me to find it elsewhere growing up, or by other means, but in the end I had to return to the altar and to divine faces to find what I was looking for.

      I have personal gods, I find considerable meaning through that. Pantheism doesn’t even come close to cutting it for me– my gods have faces, names, likes, dislikes, personalities. They do things; they aren’t wallflowers.

      I don’t know that they exist in the natural world, and furthermore I’ll never proclaim that without proof. I don’t proclaim them to be supernatural– transcendent, sure, but not supernatural. I just don’t know what else to call them. Furthermore, I don’t know what else to call me.


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