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.