I was attending a Catholic high school when I encountered what I have been thinking was a proverb, but I guess it’s more of a philosophy, and I thought it was Chinese but I was wrong – apparently it’s Hindu. “There are many paths to the same summit” refers to the world’s religions – many ways to worship the same God.
But is it the same God for everybody?
Is the Netjer of Kemeticism, who wants to punish the evil by having Ammut eat their hearts, and thus cause them to not exist anymore, REALLY the same as the Christian God, who wants sinners to suffer an eternity of hellish torment?
I’m not so sure about that anymore.
In a practical sense, does it matter? I don’t think so – it shouldn’t affect our actions toward each other; we still should respect each other’s beliefs.
Now, I get that for some people, “many paths to the same summit” represents an easy – perhaps their only – route to tolerance: If it’s all the same deity we worship, what does it really matter how we do it?
And yet, there’s something a bit blasé about the tendency to say, “Oh, it’s all just the same god,” something a bit disrespectful.
But if it’s NOT the same god – if multiple gods (from multiple pantheons/systems) exist – then you get questions like, “Why didn’t the Catholic God come to help me in 2006, rather than Aset?”
It’s something I’ve been wrestling with ever since 2006. Because if there’s anything that would have brought me back to Catholicism – maybe not in actual churches, but the faith – it’s the Catholic God (or Mary, or St. Elizabeth of Hungary, whom I picked as my patron saint when I was confirmed) showing up to help me that night. It absolutely would have brought me back.
And he knows it. HE KNOWS IT. So why didn’t he come?
Was my temporary atheism the unforgivable sin? Maybe. Maybe he was mad that I spent so many years dissing him. (I get it; that’s fair.) But then why did Aset, whom I’d spent my entire life dissing, show up? (Are you kidding? “The Egyptian gods? OF COURSE they don’t exist!”)
Maybe more importantly, why does this bother me? Why should I care? Does anyone else ask themselves stuff like this? (Probably not.) Aset (and Hathor and Nephthys, in supporting roles) came to help me, I’m Kemetic, boom. What else is there? And why can’t I just be happy that I’m Kemetic now? (I can be a priest if I want! WITHOUT divorcing my husband! For a woman, that’s HUGE.)
The thing is, when I was (as my dad recently reminded me) “fervently Catholic,” I’d had experiences with God, Jesus, Mary, and probably others I don’t remember. They seemed just as real to me then as Aset and Hathor and Nephthys do to me now. Was I hallucinating then? (Am I hallucinating now?)
And there’s something else. A few of my followers are Christian – devoutly Christian – and it’s hard for me to read their blogs. I know, it’s not fair, I shouldn’t have a problem with reading about other people’s devotion (especially if I blog about my own), but I do. It’s unfair and wrong, but there it is. Someday, when I’m ready, I’ll get past it. In the meantime, I have to wonder: Am I jealous? Resentful?
On the night of January 22, 2006, I admitted that I’d made a mistake, that my atheism was not working for me. It was selfish of me to come at it like that, but it really was the worst night of my life, and I wasn’t really thinking in terms of niceties or political correctness. I asked for help, from anyone that wanted to help me. I was open to anything (anything!) at that moment. If the Catholic God or a female representative thereof had come to my rescue, I would have spent the next few days apologizing to them for my atheism, instead of apologizing to Aset (“I’m sorry I didn’t believe in you. I really didn’t know. I’m sorry”).
Meanwhile, I’ve got my dad saying stuff like, “Maybe on my deathbed you’ll come back to Catholicism,” like it’s all my fault I’m not a Catholic right now. The Catholic God apparently doesn’t want me back.
It would be infinitely easier on my brain if I could just write off my childhood/adolescent experiences with Catholic beings as hallucinations – more convenient, but not right. I’ve never been one to take the convenient road. (Seriously. Ask anyone who knows me.)
And I know, when I open this up for discussion, what Christians are going to say: “You’re imagining things now. God was there to help you, you just didn’t recognize him at the time.” You know, in retrospect, it really was egotistical of me to write off the faith of millions of people just because it was in the past, and not a faith I was practicing then. “Polytheism, how foolish and backward. Mass delusions, all of them.”
Okay, let’s discuss. But keep it respectful.
3 thoughts on “Multiple gods and multiple questions”
Some Gods seem to care more about being worshipped than others. I admit I don’t really know anything about Aset (except what I’ve read here). My take on your experience is that she didn’t feel particularly dissed by your not believing in her up to that point; at some level she understood your logic, was okay with it, and knew things would get more interesting for her in the future. She reached out to you in a way that she knew would work for you, when the time was right. She respected your path and your journey. IMO, any God or Goddess worth worshipping would act that way.
My relationship with the Christian God, when I had one, was complicated. There was a time when I was very upset that the Christian God seemed to have abandoned me. Then it was acting like a bad boyfriend: codependent, manipulative, and petulant when it didn’t get its way. None of these behaviors were worthy of a God, let alone one that was supposed to be an all-powerful source of unconditional love. It seemed more likely to me that that God didn’t exist. At this point I’m an atheist about all Gods who act like jerks. Any God worthy of the name would understand and forgive my not believing in it.
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I can’t tell you how much I love what you’ve written, Karen. 🙂 I agree; the Christian God was not behaving in a way consistent with his image (what about that unconditional love, anyway?). And I like the way you’ve decided to approach “Gods who act like jerks,” as you put it, and I completely agree with your reasoning. I’m sorry you’ve had your own experiences with badly-behaved deities. Thanks for your comment.
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