In my previous post, “Thoughts on the Article that Started it All,” I discussed part of the situation that has arisen that has been dubbed “The Atheist Wars.” Originally, I was planning on writing a long series of posts to hash everything out, but I actually ended up talking to Halstead over facebook.
Since he was responding to my post via comments and he offered an apology for the insensitive comment he left on Lucius’s blog, I was willing to engage him in conversation. He linked me all the articles that others had written condemning him as well as the articles he himself had written – that’s a respectable act. He offered me the viewpoints of his opponents first. Few people will stand up and say, “Here’s what my critics say. Now see what I have to say.”
And Halstead did not attempt once during our conversation to convince me that he was in the right. All he did was link me the articles, ask me “Are you sure you want to read all of this?” and left me to come to my own conclusions. For that, I have to commend him.
Now, as I went through all of the articles, what became obvious to me was that the entire problem centered on the definition of polytheism. There was a lot of debate over what was and wasn’t polytheism. Ugh. It made me want to tear my hair out. Polytheism is the belief and veneration of many gods. That is as far as I’m willing to define it. I don’t care if you believe all those gods are one god, in the end. If you honor them separately, as far as I’m concerned, you’re a polytheist. I hate the separation of hard and soft polytheism – I absolutely loathe it.
If I have to qualify myself, however, I’m a “hard” polytheist. I don’t believe the gods are a unified being. But Hinduism, which is the oldest polytheistic tradition alive today, believes that all gods are a unified being. Yes. Let’s argue with the oldest living polytheistic tradition in existence today and tell them they aren’t “real” polytheists. Spare me the headache.
Now, as I continued my conversation with Halstead, he linked me the articles where he explains his Jungian version of spirituality. Essentially, he views the archetypes developed by Jung as being internal gods that represent the higher self, or the universal consciousness. Thus, in a way, he can be said to be a type of polytheist, in a very loose sense of the term. Here’s how he explains Jungian polytheism. He explains how he understands his gods here and here. If you actually take the time to read the articles, it becomes pretty clear that he practices a very unusual type of (soft) polytheism.
However, he is also an atheist because he doesn’t hold any belief in external gods. He believes that all the gods come from within – a unified consciousness with archetypal projections that can be referred to as gods. It’s a type of (soft) polytheism but is also atheistic in nature because there is no external source. If everything comes from within, then nothing comes from without.
Now, while I definitely don’t follow this path or believe the same things that Halstead does – not remotely – I do think it’s an interesting path. He is sitting neatly on the fringes of two vastly different groups of people, never quite fitting into either one. I think a lot of us can relate to that, and we all need to remember that the people we are criticizing are real people with real feelings. I think, sometimes, we forget that the people we are dealing with over the internet are real human beings. We should treat each other with respect at all times, even when – especially when – we are disagreeing with someone or criticizing the way they walk their path through life.