Theophobia is a concept that I’m *betting* not too many people are familiar with. As one can probably guess, the word means “unfounded fear of (or disgust with) gods” or “unfounded fear of (or disgust with) theists”. Theophobic can also be an adjective applied to media or communication that is used to incite unfounded fear of (or disgust with) theists and/or gods. The key word in both of those definitions is “unfounded”, meaning that the fear or disgust is based on something that either doesn’t exist or does not warrant fear or disgust.
- Fear of/disgust with someone simply for the fact that they profess a god or gods.
- Fear of/disgust with how a person relates to their god or gods in their own way, if their relationship does not clearly pose a threat to their physical or mental health.
- Fear of/disgust with someone if they engage in theistic behaviors publicly, speak about their personal gnosis publicly, or if they wear articles of clothing or accessories signifying their personal gnosis, unless their doing so poses a significant safety hazard (this is rare) or their expression is in some way harmful— i.e. bigoted or something that many people would naturally find disturbing. (The divine as a concept encompasses not just gods, but monsters as well, and sometimes monstrous gods. While such divine conceptualizations are normal, not all of them make for the best dinner conversations.)
- Fear of/disgust with followers of a particular god because of what that god represents (say, if the god signifies war or violence, like Ares) or because of what some of that god’s followers say or do. Every theist’s signification of and relationship with their gods is different.
- Fear of/disgust with someone whose conceptualization of the divine is different from yours.
- Teaching that there is one true god, or one true pantheon, or one true way to practice.
- Fear of/disgust with someone who hears the voice of a god or the voices of gods, or equating hearing divine voices with mental illness.
- Equating particular divine conceptualizations with mental illness.
- Equating theism with mental illness.
- Forbidding practices in one’s home or on one’s property, related to worship and divine communion, which do not physically or mentally harm human or non-human animals.*
- Outlawing practices in a country, related to worship and divine communion, which do not physically or mentally harm human or non-human animals. (This occurs most often in theocracies.)
Regarding point 2: It’s important to keep in mind just how weird theism is. I don’t say that “theism is weird” as a way to dismiss it, I say it because “rational” people often expect theists to prove their normalcy lest they be judged. When theists talk about things like making offerings to idols as a method of divine communion, or their personal gnosis regarding their “death arrangements” with their gods (and a lot of theists have such arrangements), that is no time for anyone to question their sanity with remarks like, “Do your gods physically take those offerings from the altar?” or “Why can’t you accept death without fairy tales?”
It’s also important to note that some of the most theophobic people in the world are theists. Having and professing a god or gods doesn’t mean that a person can’t look with unfounded scorn on the ways that other theists conceive of the divine, worship, and practice communion. Polytheists may dismiss monotheists as “invalid” theists, monotheists may dismiss polytheists as “invalid” theists, and both may look unkindly on Pop Culture Pagans.
Theophobia is not…
- Questioning the scientific validity of creationism, or the historical validity of the exodus from Egypt, or anything else along those lines, like the effectiveness of intercessory prayer as a way to cure cancer.
- Admonishing people who hamper scientific progress or put people in medical danger because of their beliefs.
- Speaking out against violence, including ritual violence, done in the name of a god or a religion.
- Advocating for laws which go against divine proclamations that marginalize people.
- Worrying about the sanity of someone who believes that if they jump off of a cliff their god(s) will make them fly.
- Trying to get someone out of an abusive cult, or trying to prevent someone from being brainwashed.
- Not wanting to set foot in any sacred space, or take part in a public ceremony, because doing so would be uncomfortable.
- Defending your own divine conceptualizations against people who claim that you should share their personal gnosis, or defending yourself against people who want to prevent you from speaking about your personal gnosis or practicing (privately or publicly) because they claim that it disgraces their god(s).
- Arguing with people who believe that creationism is scientific fact, or who advocate for marginalization of people in the name(s) of their god(s) or religions(s).
- Disrespecting people who advocate for marginalization of others in such a way. Calling such people “assholes” or “bigots” or much stronger names is warranted.
- Incarcerating or otherwise punishing people who commit crimes in the name(s) of their god(s) or religion(s).
*When I thought of this list item, I was thinking more along the lines of not allowing guests to keep idols by their bedside, or not allowing guests of different faiths to say their own prayers before a meal. I realize that this is more of a complicated matter than that, though. Nobody has to, say, inconvenience themselves to please theists if they want to perform a complex ritual in their home.