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Pagan Deism: Three Views

By Margarian Bridger and Stephen Hergest

Most discussions of the variety of Wiccan beliefs start by assuming that there are two basic positions: either one believes literally in personal, named deities (‘deist’, in the common parlance), or one does not (‘non-deist’). The more we talk to non-deist Witches, the more we believe that this is an oversimplification. We’d like to suggest a new model, using not two but three endpoints, to which we have assigned primary colours for convenient reference.

The first of these endpoints is the orthodox deist position: the gods are personal, named, individual entities, with whom one can communicate almost as one would with human beings. They may or may not be humanlike. They exist in a way (‘level’, ‘plane’, or ‘dimension’) that is far beyond human comprehension, but their existence is objectively verifiable.

Deity exists. It is the Ultimate Sacred / Great Mystery / Source. It is so great, so subtle, so all-encompassing, that we cannot hope to comprehend more than a tiny fraction of it. Being ourselves human, we relate best to things that are humanlike, and so we have ‘the gods’: humanlike metaphors or masks which we place upon the faceless Face of the Ultimate, so that through them we can perceive and relate to a little of It.

The gods exist only as constructs within the human mind and imagination. They are Truths – valid ways of making sense out of human thought and experience, personifications of abstracts that might otherwise be too slippery for the human mind to grasp – but they are not Facts; they have no objectively verifiable existence. Like other abstracts (e.g. Freedom, Democracy, Love, Truth) they enrich our lives and are worth believing in, but it is naive to think that they have any objectively verifiable existence. It doesn’t matter that the gods aren’t factual; they’re true, and that’s what’s important.

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