There hasn’t been much conversation on my blog itself, but elsewhere, I’ve seen a bit, about what I’ve had to say. Thank you to those who took the time to read, and to comment. I was writing very early in the morning after a long week with a death in the family. This is not an excuse for places where I left out important parts of my argument, in any way. It is an explanation of why that happened, and why I’ll write some more here, in the form of response to very good questions that were raised.
But Agi, monotheists do rituals too.
This was the most common response to the article, both from monotheists and from Pagans and/or polytheists. It seems there is a difference, and it still seems like that comes down to whether or not said Pagans are living in the proximity of the monotheistic black hole; nobody’s broken that theory of mine (yet; I’m secretly hoping someone will). And it is true. Some monotheists are exceptionally good at rituals. Islam and Catholic Christianity are excellent examples of monotheisms with an intense ritual focus. The main difference is that those rituals come from two places. Either they are pre-monotheistic rituals that were folded into monotheism as it took hold (now there’s a subject for its own blog for the next, oh, 5000 years), or they are rituals provided for the monotheism’s use by the instructions/scripture given by the god to its people, as in the case of Islam’s five pillars.
The difference between polytheistic ritualizing and monotheistic ritualizing is that the former is done to participate in the same world with the gods: to celebrate with Them, to ask Them for help, to acknowledge Their presence at all levels of the world, seen and unseen. Polytheistic ritual is done explicitly to reinforce both the gods’ presence in creation, and to deepen a two-way relationship between the gods and humans in the created world. It does not require belief to be effective. It does not negate the existence of other gods who might not be served by a particular ritual, and while it can have personal benefit for the individuals who practice it, that is neither its main purpose nor its focus of existence.