Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Why Don't the Gods Ask for Turds?

I continue to hang around the Catholic Answers Forum occasionally, mainly to help field discussion such as this one, and because it lets me indulge in theology. In this round, someone was asserting that if the Gods were 'real' they might occasionally ask for repugnant things, rather than just things that mortals like. Here's a shot at an answer:

Originally Posted by PRmerger
Actually, the point that is being made is that one knows they are NOT true deities because they only want things that aren't repugnant for the worshipper to offer. It reminds me of the Chesterton saying, "That Jones shall worship the god within ultimately means that Jones shall worship Jones."The question I'm posing is meant to cause pagans to pause and think, ' I really worshipping a deity, or just a projection of myself?"

Sticking my schnoz back into this thread...There are a bunch of assumptions about the nature of man, the divine and religion that would need addressing to get anywhere with this.Let's start with religion. Pagan religions aren't 'revealed'. The Gods or their heralds don't generally descend and explain to mortals how to worship them, what offerings are proper, etc. Rather, Pagan religion is devised. Wise and inspired humans (called Rishis - Seers, in Hinduism, for example, and probably called 'prophets' in early biblical phases... i.e. "Saul is with the Prophets"...) discover the methods of communicating with the Gods, and aply them. Those that catch on with the people become tradition, and tradition defines the basics for future generations. At any time a new Seer or Wise One might appear, to offer new approaches, which may or may not become part of tradition. Each or any of these may produce 'scripture', or poetry or ritual text, and some of those writings may become hallowed by tradition.

This is possible because humans are understood to posses an indwelling spark of the divine. We are not different in kind from the Gods and Spirits, only in degree. Someone asked whether a human spirit could be greater than some gods. I'd say yes. There are some very small gods, and some very large heroes. In any case, our very human minds are reflections of the divine mind, and when we focus and clarify ourselves we can be inspired in many ways. Pagans don't see this so much as hearing the voice of a god, as realizing truth by our own divine discernment.

Of course it can happen in the more common way, in which a god or spirit sends a dream or vision. That's how a lot of temples and Shrines get built.

In Neopaganism, this process is just being restored. Our 50 or 60 years of invocation and seeking of the Gods is beginning to be answered in dreams, visions and inspirations. Very few of these have reached the level of tradition yet. When we get a few generations under us we'll see more of that.

In any case, this is not self-worship. Rather it is an active reaching out to the divine other. In an animistic polytheism, the divine is never restricted to one place, person, condition or name. The divine inheres in me, and in you; in trees and stones and art and music and turds and the flow of stars across the sky. To know the divine in fullness we must be open to the divine wherever it presents itself, and seek it where we might not otherwise seek. That's the mystic's work, but many people just want enough religion to get by. We see no problem in that, and the simple business of making an offering to a god and getting a blessing in return is enough for a lot of Pagans. No one is required to seek mystical understanding in order to get some good of religion.

Now as to why the gods don't ask for nasty stuff...First, understand that the practice of making offerings is based on the setting of a feast for a noble guest. A 'Sacrifice' (latin for sacred work, but RCs should know that...) is a banquet arranged for a god - incense to sweeten the air, wine poured in libation, cakes burned or buried, and a nice lamb or goat roasted, butchered and either shared between the god and the folk or given whole to the god.

Smaller offerings are essentially a scale-down of that approach. You give what you would give a friend. The gods don't so much demand or prescribe what's given, rather they graciously appreciate the small welcome most folks can give, and respond with noble gifts in turn. Of course different friends like different things, and you don't lay in reisling for your stout-drinking friend. That brings us back to inspiration, experiment and tradition, by which these customs arise.

For a spirit to ask a repugnant thing would be a strange deal. It isn't their custom to ask us to 'prove ourselves' to them (except a few folks who may have some sort of 'destiny' or something), or to require us to jump through hoops for them. Especially in these early stages of our revival, the gods are pleased to be receiving offerings again.

On yet another level, remember that the divine is infinitely multiple in form, and no one person can be in religious relationship with all of those forms. The beings that come to be part of human religion are beings that like humans, and may even be like humans, including our ancestors, and spirits of the lands we live in). They are beings that respond when we make offerings of wine and bread. Beings who want offerings of turds (divine as they may be) can mostly look somewhere besides my house for worshippers.

Can I sum up...? It's unusual to have a god ask for anything in particular. Rather, offerings are devised through inspiration, experiment and tradition. The goal is to please the deity with our gifts. Therefore, no turds.

Incidentally, that would be entirely different from asking a god or spirit to bless a turd for, say garden fertility...


Earrach said...

"TURDS"? ((Thud!))
Ye gads man... "POOP!", yes,IMO,
"Why Don't the Gods Ask for Poop?" makes for a friendlier headline, eh?
-E. ;~)

V.V.F. said...

What kind of question is that to begin with? The Christian god is pleased by the sweet odors rising from burnt offerings. By the same logic, he shouldn't exist.

Nightjohn88 said...

I don't understand where someone might get the idea that a god isn't a god because they don't ask for nasty things. When was the last time the god of Abraham asked for poop?

Anonymous said...

" It's unusual to have a god ask for anything in particular"

but when they do if it is within our means we normally oblige

*goes to give morrigan more whiskey*

IanC said...

I think if I asked the OP, he might say that the Roman Catholic God asks humans to do all kinds of things we don't like - refrain from random sex, not use strength to overwhelm weakness, etc. RCs make a big deal out of the moral quality of their god.

Being asked by a god to do something you might never have thought of is rather a good test of contact-with-the-other, I think. The 'something nasty' bit is just droll...

Anonymous said...

Then there is the point that some Gods do,indeed, ask for less that succulant offerings. House sweepings and the remains of other offerings for Hecate, for example. (I'd also be shocked if this were the only example).