I am a polytheist. Not all people under the “Pagan Tent” are, but I am. The idea of a unified godhead seems intuitively wrong to me. There is nothing that I can see or have experienced that implies a single intelligence that controls the universe, the earth, or even the project of being a human. There are multiple powers that are greater than humans, and they may or may not work together. I see the spiritual world as a complex swirl of interactions between powers, large and small. Think of one of those giant dynamic weather maps of the world, where storm systems and pressure cells interact and combine to form constantly changing conditions. Some areas get slammed and others stay calm, and tiny variables can set off a whole chain of events. No one is “in charge”. Everything is in flux.
The idea of an all-powerful, beneficent God is fraught with major logical contradictions to anyone who is paying attention. The idea of a single book, or set of books, as “the word of God” is deeply problematic. Books in particular, and language in general, are culturally specific. Without negating the power of a message given by a particular writer or prophet to their audience, they can hardly be expected to provide precise advice and messaging to people in other cultures and in other times, facing specific problems the prophet couldn’t even imagine.
As someone who was raised in a monotheistic religion, namely Christianity, and who moved away from it, I really have no interest in spending time learning about any monotheistic religion at this point in my life, particularly not one that 1.) is based on everyone following one text, 2.) compels people to proselytize, 3.) rejects my identity as a man who loves men, and 4.) treats women as a secondary class, prohibited from equal opportunity with men.
Further, I will not put myself in the position of defining or defending Islam, whether to Christians or Atheists. It is not my place to inform people that “Islam is about peace” as the decidedly non-Muslim President George Bush once did. I am not the person to define the purpose of Islam or the goals of Muslims, whether in this country or in another.
I do not think that Islam is significantly worse or more dangerous than other forms of monotheism. It includes a broad range of people with a broad range of beliefs, most of whom are simply interested in pursuing their own interests with their own families and friends. In terms of proselytizing, they are far less aggressive around here than the Christians. Within the last week I had two different people attempt to engage me in conversations about the Bible. I don’t think I’ve ever had that happen with Muslims and the Koran, and yes, there are Muslims in the area where I live.
Islam is traditionally hostile to LGBTQ people, treats women unequally, allows slavery, and has aggressively converted people, even with the threat of death. Every single one of these is also true of Christianity. Of course, many self-professed Christians today in America don’t endorse any of these traditional views. The same can be said of many Muslims.
If Islamic groups from around the world consider the United States and Western European powers evil, that has everything to do with our foreign policy and very little to do with religion. For many decades, the United States has been playing chess games in the Middle East, supporting oppressive and unpopular regimes, toppling other regimes and leaving power vacuums filled by warring factions that destabilize areas. We are pulling strings and sending bombs and then we’re surprised when the people on the ground living with the results resent us.
But for those living here, one of this country’s greatest strengths is the Freedom of Religion. As a member of a small minority religion, it is extremely important to me that this freedom applies to all, and not only to certain Christian sects. The rights to believe in varied religious traditions (or none at all) and practice religious rites within the confines of the private spaces are and should remain protected. No government, Federal or local, should favor one religion or exclude any one religion in terms of participation or benefits.
We should be free to display religious symbols on private property and wear religious symbols and dress on our bodies without being harassed or attacked. No books should be banned based on religious beliefs.
And specific to recent proposals that are being discussed in our political sphere, there should be no religious test for immigration or asylum seekers into this country. There should be no religious registry based simply on religious belief.
I am not interested in Islam for myself, but I will defend the rights of Muslim Americans and those of any tradition to live without any extra restrictions and persecutions in this country. The increase in harassment and physical violence against Muslims (or people perceived as Muslim, even if they aren’t) in the country is alarming and should be confronted wherever it happens.