Favorites, Religion, The Great Adventure

Purpose: Meet the Gods

Arise, awake, and learn by approaching the exalted ones,
for that path is sharp as a razor’s edge, impassable,
and hard to go by, say the wise.

Katha Upanishad 1.3.14

As June 21 draws near I confront my motivations for the journey ahead. This is Part II of a three part series on why I’m going on the Adventure. See Part I here.

Why the Gods?

Here’s the world I live in. We are on our own; we make our own Fate; the world is good or bad as we create it.

But it’s a haunted world.

Around us are the sources of wonder. Things so grand and vast that we remember how small we are. We remember that the quest for dominion is a doomed sortie, a fight against a superior force, Eternity. In quiet moments we reflect on this, and voices whisper to us the greatness of the living universe where we struggle.

Myth tells us these voices are the sound of the gods.

The gods did not make this world, and not one of them rules it. They are its executors, its functionaries, more to the point its soul and its face.

I am not convinced that’s wrong.

Can awareness be transferred, recycled, disembodied, left in the rain? If so, it can dwell in world around us.

The Value

The language of religion is one of humanity’s best technologies.

Classical philosophers saw fit to retain and use the language of myth + religion. They encouraged people to treat it as metaphor. This is because the language of myth, even when explicitly stated to be nonliteral, speaks to the core of the human spirit. It’s exactly why I just used “spirit” and not “the core of the human mentality.”

Meeting the gods isn’t about proving whether they’re real, though the quest may give me some insight into that.

The reason I want to meet the gods is because they represent what’s highest and best in us. To pursue them necessarily spurs the pursuit of our own divine nature.

I want to meet them because they inspire.

And most of all, I want to meet the gods because that’s the stuff of myth, and wherever the journey takes me that’s how I want to live.

The Form

Is prayer the right way to do this? Possibly. But prayer seems a lot like talking to yourself in the dark.

The object of the Great Adventure is to meet them in person. Knock-on-Mount-Olympus-style meet them. Oh Zeus isn’t here? No worry, I’ll grab a seat meet them.


Whatever sounds impossible is fertile ground for adventure. I’m putting the ideal over the acceptable. When Gilgamesh set out to find a cure for death, he failed—but what he achieved is epic.

If there are gods to meet then the mere act of living mythically, of following the quest to its final end, is the way to attract their attention.

If there are gods to hear us, I wish to be heard.

More: I wish to listen.

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Religion, Spotlight

My Chosen God

I don’t usually use this space to talk about worship of the gods. In fact, I’ve written that we shouldn’t ask for their help. The gods don’t fix the odds for the faithful, nor against the bastardly.
Divine intervention is best seen as a literary device used in very exciting sagas.

That may not sound very devotional, but that’s how I opened up an essay about my patron deity, Lugh.

Read it here.

Atheism, Religion

A Priest Without Faith

I don’t understand faith.

Faith is not important in my religion. We don’t have much use for it and, as far as I know, it wasn’t even a concept in Celtic polytheism until Christanity showed up and started converting Celts.

Even so it seems to be a Really Big Deal to a lot of people, so there should be something there. There must be something beautiful and/or useful about faith that I just wasn’t getting.

We Can’t Tell You

I’ve always understood faith as relating to belief. If you asked me to define faith I guess, in my ignorance, I would say it’s believing in something without evidence. However every time I invoke this definition people get upset. People who had faith told me it has nothing to do with that. It’s something totally different.

Unfortunately, when I ask people to explain what it is, they have a hard time doing so.

Sometimes people even tell me it can’t be defined. I don’t believe that for a second. The most complex abstract concepts in the world can usually be defined in a few sentences. Even if they can’t, a list of examples will do the trick. Even if faith has to do with the ineffable, it doesn’t mean faith itself is ineffable.

So it’s been very frustrating to me. If you have a straightforward definition of faith I’d love to hear it. I’ll even accept a roundabout one.

Anyway, I decided to just suck it up and read the Wikipedia entry on faith. Among about 10,000 other theories, it has this to say:

Some religious epistemologists hold that belief in God is more analogous to belief in a person than belief in a scientific hypothesis. Human relations demand trust and commitment. If belief in God is more like belief in other persons, then the trust that is appropriate to persons will be appropriate to God.

That’s… incredible. If you aren’t floored, take a second to re-read it. Humor me. If you still aren’t floored, okay, you have more ranks in faith-talk than I do. But still.


Trust is the basis for any healthy relationship. In this theory, “faith” doesn’t mean you believe the gods exist, it means that when relating to the gods, you trust in them.

Personally, I don’t believe the gods exist. I’m not convinced they don’t, either. I see no external evidence for the gods so I maintain a neutral opinion on whether they are objectively real.

But, because their guidance has been helpful to me—whether it is divine communion or my own psyche—I continue to make offerings, pray, and talk to them.

I always thought “faith” would mean I have to believe they exist. Which I think is silly because there’s no evidence for it. But this version of faith says I don’t have to believe at all—as long as I treat “them” with respect and trust when I interact with them.

Which is exactly what I do.

I suspect this version of faith would be unacceptable my humanistic pagan friend. He’s convinced the gods don’t exist and worshipping them is just a useful psychological exercise. I don’t see any better evidence for that than the idea that they exist. I treat my relationship with them as real, and separate from my epistemological doubts.

So, I guess I might have a backwards-ass version of faith, if you use “faith” in a way that no one ever uses it. Pretty neat I guess.

I don’t have any profound questions to ask you at the end of this post, but I sure would love to hear your thoughts on faith. Also, tweeting this post makes me happy. Please tweet this post.