I consider myself to be a deeply religious person, but unlike those annoying televangelists you see on the Trinity Broadcast Network, I don’t claim to be 100% certain of my beliefs. I try to be as logical as possible about the things I believe, and I work hard to distinguish between “facts” and “faith.” I don’t know for a fact that Gods are what I think They are, and I don’t know for a fact that there’s an afterlife. All I know is that I’ve had certain experiences that lead me to think these things exist. Sure, there are any number of possible explanations for my experiences, and I leave it for other people to decide which explanations they like best. For my own part, I prefer to treat these things as real and to act accordingly. If it is all real – and I believe it is – then hopefully I’ll make Seth and Ishtar proud enough to keep me around with Them long after I buy the farm. But even if it’s all in my head, the prayers and the offerings and the rituals still have intrinsic value. If nothing else, they enrich my life and help me cope with the insane things that happen in this world. Whether the magic comes from outside or inside of myself, it still works.
Now of course, there are some people out there who’ll read this and who’ll think it’s “offensive” that I’m “compromising” with those who think Gods are just archetypes or mental delusions. If I were a truly pious person, they’ll argue, I’d have no doubt about the objective reality of the Gods whatsoever. Well in my opinion, I think those people are dicks. I can only go by what the Gods Themselves give me, and They give me pretty much the same as They give everyone else, which is absolutely nothing that would prove Their objective existence as real paranormal superbeings in a U.S. court of law. All I have are eldritch dreams, weird impressions, bizarre synchronicities, deeply emotional experiences, and moments when my hair stands up on end for no apparent reason. Let’s be honest with ourselves here; if the Gods want everyone to be absolutely 100% certain that They exist, They’re doing a pretty terrible job of selling it to us.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I think the people who have this attitude are really thinking more like monotheists and less like polytheists. Ancient polytheists didn’t care what anyone believed; for them, religion was all about how you treated the Gods, not what you thought about Them. There was no concept of “orthodoxy” or “heresy” at all. We continue to see this in many contemporary polytheist religions today, including Hinduism. Yes, there are many different theories as to what Deities are and which ones are more or less important than the others; but at the end of the day, you can burn incense for Shiva or pour libations for Kali Ma without really knowing who or what They are. You can show respect to Them, capitalize your pronouns when you talk about Them, and refrain from vandalizing Their shrines without knowing for sure if They exist apart from your imagination. Granted, if you do these things, you’ll probably come to believe that They’re real…but what does it actually mean to be “real,” anyway?
Even here in LV-426, we don’t really care what anyone thinks about Seth. I think He’s a sentient force of nature; Patrick thinks He’s some kind of interdimensional alien; Tony seems to think He’s just an archetype; and I don’t think Tina’s decided what she thinks just yet. She never has to, either, and any one of us can change his or her mind on the subject at any given time. What keeps us together is the fact that (1) whatever Seth is or isn’t, life just seems to make more sense for each of us when we keep Him at the center of things; and (2) we’ve had many strange and wonderful things happen to us as a direct result of doing so. For example, Tony and I would have both committed suicide in the early 2000s if we hadn’t met and started having Sabbath together. This would have prevented me from searching for other Typhonians to talk with in a Pagan discussion forum several years later, which is where I first met my wife. And if I hadn’t met my wife, I would never have met Patrick (since he was friends with my wife’s little sister) or Tina (since she’s my wife’s adopted cousin). And joining me for the Sabbath helped Patrick break free from a terrible depression over time, while finding Seth has helped Tina stand up for herself in ways that she previously felt she couldn’t. It goes even deeper than just these examples, but hopefully you get the idea.
Of course, none of this “proves” anything; Christians will continue to think we’re worshiping the devil, and atheists will continue to think we’re worshiping nothing at all. But the fact is that we wouldn’t all be here and we wouldn’t have pulled through so many things together if it weren’t for Seth; He is the bond that’s transformed us from being four totally unrelated strangers to being family. So whatever Big Red is or isn’t, you can bet your britches that we won’t stop praying to Him or making offerings to Him any time soon – and if anyone thinks that’s “silly” or “superstitious” of us, they can take a hike. THAT is the basic definition of faith as I understand it, and it’s the basic definition of piety too. We may not know what’s really “real” when it comes to theological matters, but we know what works, and that ought to be good enough for other polytheists. (If it isn’t, then they can take a hike too. “I against my brothers; my brothers and I against our cousins; then my cousins and I against strangers.”)