Posted by: aediculaantinoi | March 4, 2014

An Amusing Turn of Events…!

I had my final Religion 101 class this evening at one of the colleges I teach for; their term is eight weeks long, with a five-hour course once a week each of those eight weeks.

It was a good class–in fact, in my summary statements about religion, I went over a number of things I often find myself doing, but then there was a point where I took a slightly different direction, and ended up making some statement that was actually really profound, and I saw lightbulbs go off and waves hitting people across the room…and now, I can’t remember what in the world I actually said, and almost as soon as I had said it, I forgot it. I made what the class thought was a joke about having been inspired and temporarily overcome by “something,” but I kind of think that must be what happened, because I usually remember things that I say pretty well…

So, thank you Antinous, Hanuman, Hermes, Brigit the Poet, and Thoth for whatever it was that came through me earlier tonight! 😉

One of the other things that happens at the end of every one of these classes is I tell people what my own religion and religious history is, because usually by the end of the first class, they’re dying to know. However, I have them use their critical skills and information to analyze what they think my religion is based on what they’ve learned of each one. The answers on these days are always interesting to hear. I often hear “You must be an atheist or agnostic,” because they don’t think it’s possible to present a view of so many different religions in as unbiased a fashion as I am usually able to maintain (though certain religions involving a bad sci-fi writer are hard to be unbiased on!). I once got the answer of “Irish Jew,” because I obviously went to Ireland “for some reason,” and then the person in that case said I was more eloquent about Judaism than any other religion–and, it’s true, I do get fairly deep into Judaism when we cover it to distinguish it as strongly from Christianity as possible (because it is quite distinct from it, even though a lot of Christians–and even pagans!–don’t know enough about it to know the deep differences it has with Christianity, down to being neither creedal nor monotheistic!). People also often guess Shinto because of my deep involvement in the Shrine, and often the amount of knowledge I have on it and the obvious respect and esteem in which I hold the Shrine’s priest and the Shrine itself when we visit it.

Variations on the above (except for atheist/agnostic) were all stated tonight; and also, “liberal Christian,” “Buddhist” (you obviously do some kind of yoga”–which is amusing because I’ve never done any other than the approximation of bhakti-yoga that I do as a devotional polytheist!), and–this amused me–Pastafarian. 😉

I also have had one student in the past say “syncretist” and “polytheist,” and because she was right, she wanted to know if she could get extra credit. Nope, sorry! 😉 I did have one student say “modern pagan,” and I kind of gave away the game at that point–not meaning to–when I said, “Ah, you’ve done research!” (Sort of…)

However, one that I didn’t expect to hear, nor to hear the evidence for, was “Wiccan.”

I asked, “Why do you think I’m Wiccan?”

The student answered, “Because of all the religions you’ve talked about in this class, Wicca is the only one where you just said something about the religion, and then didn’t say anything negative or critical about it.”

I then replied, “Well, in fairness, the only reason that I didn’t is because we didn’t have the time–if we had another half hour or three hours now, I could fill it with reasons that I might be critical of Wicca.”

But, imagine that! I, who was involved in this on the “polytheist ‘side'” (!?!), was thought to be Wiccan because I was not critical of it and simply presented it fairly.

It kind of makes you think, dunnit? 😛

[Note: though this post is in the “humor” category, it’s because I find it funny–EVERYTHING in the above is entirely true, and I am reporting it as correctly and completely as I can remember and as I have felt warranted in this discussion. There is no irony or sarcasm in anything above. It’s just funny in that sense of “unexpected” and even “uncanny,” I think, in my own mind, and something I never would have expected in a million years, given that we hardly discussed Wicca in the class at all this time.]


  1. No one guessed Unitarian? or Bahai’i? I’ve had Jewish (or non-Jewish) people ask me if I was Jewish simply based on me knowing things about it – which to me is a sad statement on how little so many non-Jews know about Judaism. (Why do you say it’s not monotheistic BTW?) I also give tours of the St Paul Cathedral, and many people (unsurprisingly) think I am Catholic- explain Unitarianism to them (haven’t tried discussing polytheism yet- but they are strangers, and this is my job, so it’s a bit tricky)

    • I don’t mind the Judaism associations–I do respect that tradition greatly, and my ancestors two or three generations back were Jewish, so that would be “good enough for Hitler” (and others, alas) to persecute me.

      But, no, ancient Jews, and many modern Jews who have not assimilated Christian and Islamic hegemonic theology, are not monotheists, they’re henotheists. The Ten Commandments (in its various versions within the Pentateuch) never says “I am the Only God,” it says, “I, the LORD, your God, am one God; worship no gods before me.” It never says there aren’t any other gods, and in fact at other points (in Psalms, for example), it calls the Jewish God “great amongst the gods,” etc. And, as I said, many modern Jews still freely admit that’s the case. It’s only Christian and Islamic monotheistic assumptions that there is/can be only one “real god” that have appropriated and re-interpreted Jewish teachings and distorted them into sounding as if there’s “only One God.” But in any case…

      My students never suggest Baha’i or Unitarian because when I talk about those religions, which are universalist/universalizing religions, they tend to be selective in their universalism. The Baha’i, for example, believe that “all religions are true” and that there is progressive revelation, but only insofar as it fits their conceptions of what is true and useful religion and fits their framework and their interpretation (e.g. that Krishna was a historical person who lived in something like 2000 BCE, then next was Moses in 1500 BCE, etc.). It’s the “All Your Religion Are Belong To Us” meme, unfortunately…

      Now, of course, Pagan UUs are a whole different story, and all of them I’ve met have been lovely folks. But, non-Pagan UUs, to a person that I’ve met, have asked me “What’s your religion?” and I tell them, and they say “I’ve never heard of that–what is it?” and then I explain more, and after I’m done explaining, they say, “Oh–you sound like a Unitarian to me!” I suspect in these cases they didn’t hear anything of what I was actually saying, alas…! 😉

      • “I do get fairly deep into Judaism when we cover it to distinguish it as strongly from Christianity as possible (because it is quite distinct from it, even though a lot of Christians–and even pagans!–don’t know enough about it to know the deep differences it has with Christianity, down to being neither creedal nor monotheistic!). ”

        I’m so glad to hear you do this in your classes. And I agree, there is not even remotely enough education on this subject how very different Judaism is from Christianity. Kudos!

        The guesses of your students to what religion you are: fascinating!

      • It’s always eye-opening to me to hear how things are interpreted and understood by a (somewhat) informed audience like the World Religions students are by the end of the course.

        Also: I owe you a short e-mail. Will do that soon…

  2. You ARE the “reasonable polytheist”, after all . . .😉

    • …With an emphasis on the “THE,” of course. 😉

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