So, I suppose I never thought I’d even consider this. I suppose it’s a particularly modern-day kind of issue anyway. After all, I think that “god bothered” is a fairly modern notion in paganism.
Or rather, I think this whole situation stems from a highly Christian view of the world. (Fair note – I’ll speak about Christian-perspective in Western culture, specifically in the United States, as that is where I live, and it’s what I know best of all. I am not comfortable enough to speak about other perspectives on religion/culture, as I do not want to over-generalize anything too much. As it is, speaking as a woman raised outside of a “Christian” society, but still within the broader framework, I sometimes will make errors in my assessments of Christianity. If I do so, please let me know about that so I can correct any misunderstandings I have.)
See, the Christian God listens, directly interferes (or as most see it, acts) in people’s lives. He is directly involved in his worshiper’s lives. In Western culture, especially American, people expect that their gods will answer their requests/prayers/rituals and will be involved in a recognizable way. The Christian God is highly entwined in everything that Christians do. If he doesn’t answer in some way, it’s a sign of something not going as planned, something wrong. Or, that you’ve asked for something you are not meant to receive. No matter what, God somehow communicates with his worshipers. So I think most pagans, when they leave Christianity, they carry that notion with them. Even pagans like me, who were never raised Christian, absorb some of that world-view just from constant exposure. Still, it must be stronger in those raised in a religion that teaches that one must have a very personal relationship with God to have salvation and fulfillment from the divine. But, it gets carried over into paganism.There’s also the other problem of the very outspoken online and visible pagan communities. Those people that speak most vocally are the ones that have the “strongest” experiences. What I mean by that is, the ones who seem to speak the loudest are the ones who have the strangest experiences. They’re the ones with the stories that are sensational, the ones you remember far after the fact, the ones you can remember vivid details to tell friends about later. I can call to mind minimum 10 different people who blog online on various platforms that claimed to be either god-spouses, possessed by gods, or spokespeople for various deities that they knew nothing about. They had fallacious ideas about these deities, painted them as all light and rainbows – figures like Loki, Kali, or Hecate, who all have their more dangerous sides, or tried to mash a figure like the Morrighan into the role of “loving, harmless mother-figure” while ignoring all lore and history of the deities in question. My problem with these people lies in the sheer fact that above all else ignored lore, history and culture of the deities they were worshiping, just trying to force gods into little pre-packaged boxes with no regard for the culture that formed the worship of the gods. And yet, these people had massive followings, and people loved to follow their writings, but also, they were the loudest speakers of their experiences of how the gods touched their lives.
Now, I mentioned god-spouses, a few people who claimed they were possessed by gods and spokespeople for gods as examples. I do not think that all who say they fall under these categories are wrong or lying. My problem with my examples was, as I stated, their disrespectful treatment of the deities they “worshiped”, not their claims of relation. I do suspect that the proliferation of god-spouses is suspicious, because there is a mass amount of them, especially for certain deities with absolutely no historical reference to that kind of worship (however, I will admit that there is a lack of historical proof for quite a few practices in paganism. Especially if you go into non-recon practices, and I don’t condemn that either. And, some people consider god-spousery to be a type of neo-paganism to be considered without historical context). Still, I will not say that I believe that every person online is exactly what they claim to be. But then again, I’m a skeptic by nature. I don’t expect that every person who reads this blog believes my every word. After all, my experiences color my perceptions, and that does color how I write. Still, I do admit, I try to be open-minded about what people claim they are. As long as the written words from people do not contradict lore, historical perspective and general consensus of the community at large, I’m willing to accept the general position of most online bloggers, at least until they get into territory where I find factual errors. In all facts though, I do not automatically disbelieve a blogger/writer that claims to be a god-spouse, or a spokesperson, or to be possessed by a god, as long as their writing conforms to the written/accepted lore of the god they write about.
There’s a trend on Tumblr (especially from those who have just “discovered” their connection to their deity), of people who claim their god – and it’s always a god, never a goddess – is constantly talking with them, constantly playing with their things…interfering in their daily lives. That cannot be normal, and I somehow suspect that a huge part of a lot of this is people superimposing a lot of imagination onto dealings. And, when there’s such a huge media attention within the online pagan community on deity interaction with humans, I suspect it isn’t unusual that a lot of new pagans feel pressured, that they must have this intense interaction level for it to be real. Because, if god X isn’t constantly chattering away in my ear like he “is” for pagan A, B, C and D on this forum all the time, then I “must” be doing something wrong, or I’m just not “dedicated enough”. Or, I think that’s the subconscious attitude a lot of pagans have.
I think there’s a media perception-problem, and a huge issue, with this idea. After all, I think that there are far more Christians than would ever admit it that do not have nearly as close a relationship with God as everyone else assumes. And so, I think, in paganism as well, and in all the different denominations that we find today, there are probably quite a few people who do not really have god X chattering away as often as they claim. I think that, since we hear so often about this stuff happening, there is all this pressure to feel/hear/experience the same thing ourselves. So people will say they experience the same things, no matter whether they do or not. After all, no one wants to feel less connected than anyone else in their path.
It seems to me, somewhere along the line we’ve forgotten that there are different types of connections. Some people are “god bothered”. Some people do have the bothering constantly, or at least more frequently than most. Others rarely feel anything from their gods. I think some people never feel a particular deity, even if they worship that deity their whole life. There’s nothing wrong with any of these situations, nothing at all. They’re all valid situations, all valid paths, all valid experiences for deity-interaction/worship. No one should feel less for not being “god bothered”, but, there’s a perception that they are less. That’s media, and to some extent, community’s fault. Because I think, on some level, there are some of the more vocal pagans who claim to be constantly in contact (this type is the “newly discovered” their deity, highly immature, and yet have quite a few followers, and seem to be highly popular online) who are quite vocal about how anyone who does not have contact with a god should just “meditate” on it for a while. And if people are just “patient and wait it out” they’ll “receive” signs, which will tell them who their gods are.
All of this matters to me though, because I’m one of those pagans who has never felt “bothered”. I’ve never felt a real tug towards any god or goddess. I’ve been interested in different pantheons and cultures for research, but that’s always been correlated to the historical research I’ve been doing at the time. Never have I had a pull to look into something just for spiritual sake, when it comes to a specific pantheon or god. Sure, I made a deliberate choice to look into Celtic, Anglo-Saxon and Slavic based on my heritage, and Norse has always interested me, but I chose to dig deeper with a dual interest for a history essay I was going to write…but never a spiritual reason.
I don’t think I feel less than any other pagan. However, every so often, I do wonder if perhaps I’m doing something wrong. I’m sure that’s normal, even for those who have gotten clearer signs in their path than I have. But, I wonder on occasion as to exactly how little sign I’ve ever gotten. It’s not that I have no faith in myself. I figure, if I were on the wrong path, something drastically wrong would have happened to me. But still, with the constant claims of communication, it does make even the most confident person wonder. And I am by no means the most confident person out there. Not in any part of my life, let alone my spiritual path. I’m always learning, as I’ve said, and learning means I’m no expert, a state that I’m not ever comfortable with. I like being knowledgeable. So this is something I’m working on.
However, lately I keep getting minor signs. It’s no doubt a type of bothering, I’m sure of that. But, since I’ve never dealt with it before, I do doubt my own self as to whether that is the truth of the matter. And, with what I wrote about just earlier this week, I’m not really sure I fully trust my own mind in all of this. So, even if I were finally realizing some “nudging” to research something in particular, I might not be able to trust it fully, given my own mental problems. Above all though, I think my problem is that I’m a skeptic. Even if I was fully “sane”, I would be skeptical.
Most important for me is that I’m coming to realize that I may not be “god bothered” like most pagans, but I’m just as good as any other one. It’s an interesting thing, something I’d never thought I’d even consider twice, since I thought I was fine with how I dealt with my spirituality…but, it seems that I’ve even got deep-seated issues with comparing myself to the greater “community” of pagans. So, I’m working on learning to disassociate myself fully from what the “community” does/thinks is normal and just being fully myself.∗