A Homily Upon Spiderism
There are many religions in the world. Most have gods; some have revered teachers. Some have both. The gods and the teachings differ from one faith to the next. There is agreement: most faiths have some form of Golden Rule. There is contradiction: some faiths prohibit killing while others mandate it. The Aztec gods demanded human sacrifice to keep the year rolling along its appointed ways. The Thugs held off the end of the world by religious murder-sacrifice to Kali.
It is not easy to see how both Quaker and Thug can be right. That, indeed, would pass all understanding. I can see at least three possibilities:
1) All religions are equally right. We can worship YHVH, or Kali, or the Horned God, and if we do it well, we'll end up rewarded in whatever manner our faith deems appropriate.
2) All religions are equally wrong. It doesn't matter who or what we worship -- perhaps God doesn't exist, perhaps all faiths are so far out of touch that NONE of their prescribed modes of behavior and worship will please God.
3) Some religions are closer to "right" than others, and it matters which we choose.
If (1) or (2) are correct, we can believe and worship however we please, with no problems arising. Either we're right, or (with no way of being right) we're irrelevant.
Most people go for (3). They feel that their God is the best, and that we should all worship Him. Knute agrees that Dan and Bill have a good God, but Knute feels he has more recent information on Him. Avatar, on the other hand, seems to feel that this particular god is a false god, and best avoided. While I opt for the Great Spider.
I'm quite serious about the Great Spider, you know. There aren't many Spiderists, but I am not alone. While we're outnumbered by even the leanest mainstream denomination, when was Truth decided by a popularity contest?
There is much to be said for a minimalist God: I can assert connectivity without having to defend some of the rococo accretions of more elaborate religions. (Transubstantiation? Am I seriously expected to indulge in symbolic ritual cannibalism?)
All things in this world, myself included, are connected across space and time in a pattern easily understood as a web. And what kind of God would design that kind of world? A Spider! To that extent, the Argument from Design works. If there is a Creator, that creator must have many of the characteristics of a Spider, as reflected in the Creation. I do not think the argument from design goes much beyond that; it can suggest a Creator with spiderish traits, but cannot prove Him, any more than it can prove YHVH and all his angels.
(If one wants a full-service Spiderism, I am told by a Buddhist friend that one of the sects of Buddhism is very Spiderist in tone, Web and all.)
We have the Argument from Design; but the Argument from Proximity seems to have more power in the real world. People worship the God(s) of their fathers and/or mothers -- or they reject same.
That's not a bad start. There's nothing like growing up with a deity to give you an idea of (his) behavior and characteristics. But if we take our religion seriously, we cannot assume that the God we grew up with is the True God just because we grew up with Him. That's the sin of pride. Why should I be the touchstone? Why isn't Buddha the true Enlightened One? Millions grew up with him as well, and they well may be equally worthy in the eyes of the Divine. (We do have to watch out for inverted Pride: we can no more assume somebody else's god is True than we can assume our own is. If the Buddhist is as worthy as I, I am as worthy as the Buddhist.)
In the end, all we can do is see what gods we see, listen to what gods speak to us. We may end up with the God(s) we were raised with; we may end up with another. But most faiths approve of adult choice. That's why there are ceremonies such as adult baptism, where people who have reached the age of consent -- consent.
The god I see is the Great Spider. No revelation is required, nor searching of the inner heart --just attention to the world around me.
As for the god that speaks to me: well, I have had some arguments with YHVH, or perhaps with somebody else putting words in His mouth. That may or may not be true. Lord knows, my wife is an eloquent enough spokesman for YHVH to occasionally give me pause. But too many people have tried to compel my belief in this particular God, and I do not react well to compulsion. I give my fealty freely, or under strong threat. Love, or the sword, may do it; soft words and occasional punches in the nose make me balk. And if the punches are delivered by toadies rather than by YHVH Himself -- deities as well as people are known by the company they keep.
I like Thor. He has humor, honor, and justice, and he's not stuck-up. But I don't like his family. You can honor Odin, but you cannot trust him; and Loki is just plain dangerous.
The Horned God and the Triple Goddess speak to me, and seem the sort to get along well with the Great Spider. I rather hope, if I end up in an afterlife, that they turn out to be in charge.
As long as we are talking true worship of the heart, you see, there is a problem with Proofs of all sorts: to worship properly, a god must not only be believed in, but loved (or maybe feared). Proofs can compel belief, but love is a thing of the individual soul. There are people I love and those I do not. In a few cases I feel it is a matter of their soul, but in most, a matter of the match between my soul and theirs. So it is with gods.
When it comes to arguing Thor against Damballah, for example, I think most third parties would agree Thor was the better. A choice between Krishna and Christ depends more upon the affinities of the worshipper than the objective superiority of the god.
I neither believe in nor like YHVH and his family. I have lived with their supporters for too long, had too many arguments with them; and the ones that made the biggest noise about their God usually were cranking up to trouble. Just look at Jimmy Swaggart or Jim Bakker. The Bible has some deep insights, some profound silliness, and enough contradictions to prove and disprove anything desired.
I like Thor, but don't believe in him.
I like the Horned God and Triple Goddess, but my belief isn't strong enough to have a major effect on my life.
But the Great Spider -- hey, I Believe. And I get along with him quite well. Consider we Spiderists to be an early sect of Gaia-worshippers; which I hear is becoming quite the New Age religion. I understand that most of the Spider that I like is a projection of myself; but religions are supposed to help us learn to get along with ourselves, as well. All Gods are accused of being fashioned in their worshippers' image; at least Spiderists are up-front about it. (You can run that analogy into a hall of mirrors. If I am created in YHVH's image, my recreation of YHVH in my image is merely a reflection of a reflection of the original.)
And if you should happen to marry the God next door, my blessings on you; but remember, a lot of people worship other gods. Next door is next door only in relation to your house. Claiming your house is the center of the universe is the sin of Pride.