Politics and religion

I was 36 when I walked away from a lifetime of mostly-unquestioning atheism to worship the Norse gods; my political views and various values were pretty well set at that point, and had been for quite some time. As I’ve written before, my values don’t seem to conflict with my gods; in fact They seem to encourage me to keep doing the things I value (which includes more (and less) blatantly “political” things), and it’s hard to really separate those different spheres of my life, because they’re too entangled.

A few years before I converted, I had briefly – very, very briefly – taken a look at heathenry, because I’d met a heathen guy who seemed pretty cool and it got me thinking a little about it, though I think even before I turned to the internets for more information I had hesitations. And those hesitations were, for better or worse, enhanced by what I found online, because yeah, ugh, it all looked cold and rigid and then there was the racism pretty firmly attached. Nooooooooooo thank you.

I know I am not alone in that: I’ve seen many comments online from people who say things about how, the first time they looked into heathenry, the racism (and/or sexism, or homophobia, or ableism, etc.) put them off, really hard. Or that they are interested now in worshiping the Norse gods but they are worried they’ll wind up hanging out with actual real neo-Nazis (and/or less-scary racists, or homophobes, or . . . ), so how can they do one while avoiding the other? Is it even possible? Or: interested in Norse but not racism/sexism/etc. so just not going there. Which sucks but is not as bad as being someone who is a person of color, or gay, or disabled, and meeting people in person who worship the gods you worship and being told to go away or that you don’t deserve to worship these gods, or receiving threats of actual violence to yourself for having the nerve to worship the Norse gods while not meeting some narrowly-constructed shitty biases.

One of the reasons I decided from the get-go to not call myself “heathen” is that in the United States, “heathen” is, unfortunately, pretty strongly associated with all that hateful stuff. I know it’s kind of a pointless effort, because you don’t have to use that particular label to set folks’ warning bells off.

I wrote a post on Dreamwidth/Livejournal a while back talking about my conversion, and someone who commented on it remarked they were glad about the length of the post (I went on about a lot of things, including my dislike of the racism and related shit), because all they’d known previously was that I had converted and “not knowing anything more specific than ‘hey I’ve gotten interested in Norse pagan practice’ made me wonder if you were rolling with the sort of Asatru I personally would not interact with.”

There’s a lot of broader-community discussion I only catch bits of, but I do know that for months, anyway, there’ve been some pagan/polytheist people really unhappy about other pagan/polytheist people who are mixing religion and politics, and they’re being loudly enough unhappy about it again that I’m aware of it.

Sitting here with umpteen Norse-affiliated altars in the room, knowing that literally any and every day I might see one of my Norse/heathen online people talking again about the white supremacists (and transphobes and ableists and . . . ) who worship the same gods making all of us look sketchy, scaring people away from starting a meaningful religious practices or from an existing one, making people fearful to meet others face-to-face (because it can be literally dangerous) and practice in a community, and . . .

It must be awfully nice to be able to practice your religion and not have to worry about politics.


About Fjothr Lokakvan

More or less Northern Tradition polytheist.
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5 Responses to Politics and religion

  1. G. B. Marian says:

    I’m of the opinion that politics are (and always will be) unavoidable. I mean, ancient polytheists were very political too. I’m not an expert on Norse polytheism, but dynastic Egyptian polytheism at least was all about the Pharaohs and whether you went along with their party lines and stuff. The history of my God in particular is rife with politics, since He was either seen as a hero or a villain by urban Egyptians based on how Pharaonic foreign policy was going. So I think the expectation that we as Pagans should always be non-political is fairly unrealistic, to say the least.

  2. R Cawkwell says:

    “It must be awfully nice to be able to practice your religion and not have to worry about politics.”

    So very true. I’ve been vaguely following the same drama and come to the conclusion that I must not be reading the same posts as the ‘religion isn’t political’ people. I’m definitely not getting the same message from the posts anyway.

    To me, everything is political and only people who’ve benefited from their privileged status can say they are apolitical, because they don’t have to think about the things the rest of us do, like ‘how do I buy good this week?’, or, ‘is my employer going to sack me if they find out I’m disabled?’, or, you know, anything that people use as an excuse to hate people.

    • While I have seen one or two people say they are or try to be apolitical in some/all of their religious expression, I’m pretty sure the stuff about “keeping politics out of religion” or whatever is about something fairly specific, maybe multiple somethings, but I haven’t been regularly reading the anti-mixing bloggers for years, so IDK when/how it started or how it’s taken shape, or what specifically they’re angry about – other than (at present) people wanting to talk about shit like racism/fascism in heathenry at a polytheist-oriented conference (why is this a problem? really. why.). Some of it seems to be about some interpersonal politics being turned into a bigger thing; some of it not so much. Ugh.

  3. Amanda says:

    You know, I’ve been thinking lately that it’s solely because of Heathenry that I even know all that I do about the modern (mostly online) white supremacist movement. If I wasn’t a Heathen I would have been able to stay blissfully unaware of all of it, but through Heathenry, I’m always only a degree or two of separation away from the folks who think “white genocide” is a thing we should all be very, very worried about because “cultural Marxists” (a.k.a. Jews) and “social justice warriors” (a.k.a. feminists) have convinced white people to have fewer babies so that Mexicans and blacks and Muslims will outbreed us and the white race will go extinct.

    Like… I actually know what all these ridiculous terms mean now! Ugh, makes me feel dirty. These concepts that have absolutely nothing to do with pre-Christian European religion, but there’s enough overlap that I had to look this stuff up to find out what these people were talking about. (These people who kept showing up in the comments section of Heathen blogs.)

    And then I can see the dogwhistles that Trump and his supporters are using so that now I know that there’s a big overlap between Trump supporters and these “white genocide” conspiracy theorists too.

    So yeah, I would LOVE for Heathenry to be separate from all this stuff, because if it was, I wouldn’t have had to read all that crap. But at least now I know why some Heathens get so worked up about how Heathen women need to quit using birth control and start popping out more white babies, and it’s terrible that Mexicans are “invading” the Southwestern U.S.

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