Turtles All The Way Down

When you ask Pagans where their theology comes from, you get a million answers. You hear names like Starhawk, Z Budapest, Carol Christ, RJ Stewart, and Scott Cunningham. You hear stories about secrets passed on from mothers, or revelations in the forest, or moments of clarity in the pews.

I have these stories, too, but I have something else.

I don’t remember the first time I read Small Gods, but its publication date is 1992, so I probably wasn’t a polytheist yet (that happened ten years later). But I do remember reading it after realizing that I’m a polytheist, and thinking, “Oh. That makes sense.”

Small Gods and the more aesthetically serious American Gods are the basis of my theology. The idea that gods, while real, are what we believe them to be, and take their strength from our belief, makes sense to me. It allows for the continuity of belief in ancient deities, for personal connections with them, and for the flexibility to believe in and worship them in ways that fit with our own cultures.

Sir Terry Pratchett, who died today, might have been offput by my interpretation of his work, because theology was never the point of Small Gods. The real message of that book is one that Pagans of all kinds have taken to heart: that dogma is not belief, and it certainly isn’t worship; and that strict religiosity kills religion.

I, like many Pagans, don’t have a profound commitment to my theology, which is not the same as saying that I’m not committed to my religion. I won’t fight for my theology. I got it from a Terry Pratchett book, for gods’ sake, and it might change if I ever read something better.

But that seems unlikely.

RIP Sir Terry. You touched so many of us in so many ways.

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