So about a year ago I reposted this article about Richard Dawkins, Thor, and other interesting things. What I didn’t realize is that on that page someone actually asked if I believed Thor was a physical being and why it was that he and other physical Gods hadn’t revealed themselves. Below is my attempted response, but the bloody original site wouldn’t let me respond. For some reason. I’m expanding out the response in order to further explore the ideas.
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Yes, I do believe Thor and the other Gods exist as physical beings, not just the forces in nature they have dominion over. It just makes sense to me that since they are described that way, they would exist that way. A resounding point in polytheism is that the Gods are like us, just more so, so why would they not also be physical like we are? It doesn’t make sense for non-physical beings to make physical beings, or at least not as much sense as Physical beings to make more physical beings.
As for why we don’t run into Thor more often in everyday life, there’s a number of explanations, but I’ll stick with the two most simple.
1) Who is to say that we don’t, or at least some people don’t, but when they try to tell others, they are dismissed as insane? Think about it, if a random person walked up to you and said “I met Jesus” you’d probably think he was either a nut, or talking about the landscaping dude from Mexico. We as a society have been so conditioned by science and Christianity that God can’t be physical, we laugh at anyone who finds a physical God.
The sagas and eddas have stories of different Gods, Odin especially, pulling what’s known as an Angel Unaware in trope language. You know, boy meets girl, boy spends pleasant evening with girl, girl leaves, and afterwards boy discovers that girl was an angel all along. Odin is said to have really enjoyed this whole deal, and probably still pulls it to this day. Thor, I imagine, might just be that big bearded biker wearing a Metallica shirt at your BBQ spot. But who would believe that?
2) This is probably the more likely/important reason. Say you met Thor, or Thor came out and said “I am Thor and here is the proof” and then proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that he is in fact Thor Odinson, God of Thunder. What happens next?
Well, the Christians and the Muslims, already fighting holy wars over invisible and unknowable gods…would suddenly be faced with a real, physical God whose very existence not only makes a mockery of their religions, but invalidates them entirely.
How much violence and bloodshed do you think they would commit, especially against those that went to follow Thor and the Aesir? Christians already harass and attack Pagans when our Gods aren’t physically showing themselves, it would only get worse. Suddenly have the Norse Pantheon show up and a shit ton of Heathens would be more than happy to fight back against any Christians who tried to attack. But what if only the Norse Pantheon showed up, and none of the others? That probably would have an unsettling effect on Pagan religions no aligned with the Norse. So you’ve got an effect on Pagan religions, you’d probably having every Heathen and their mother asking how to do stuff (and Gods lets not even think about if they disagree with what the Gods say) and of course a bunch of Christians and Muslims suddenly faced with physical manifestations of “the Great Satan!!!!” and would no doubt bring bloody violence against the followers of Thor and the Asgardians.
Then of course, Thor and the Aesir would be honor bound to strike back in defense of their worshipers. Suddenly you have Gods waging war against up to half the human population and across at least five of the seven continents, not to mention their human followers joining in. The world is already close to global war, how badly would it tip over if suddenly in a height of religious fervor America and Russia elected hardline religious leaders, who joined with the hardline religious leaders of Iran and Saudi Arabia and then tried to Nuke the Gods? As a believer in the Aesir’s divinity I doubt nukes could kill them, but the same can’t be said for humans and Midgard/Earth would be ruined, even if the Gods could protect certain areas.
For the sake of being responsible deities, Thor can’t just go swinging Mjolnir around. This is even played with in some of Marvel’s Thor comics. There’s one story line (which I’m trying to find all of, but starts with The Mighty Thor: Lord of Asgard series by Dan Jurgens) where to protect humanity, Thor (now king of Asgard after Odin’s death) brings Asgard to Earth (it’s one they’ve done lately, but this was back in the 90’s) and Thor gets worshiped as a God by a lot of people. Then at one point those people are nearly exterminated by their nations government for sedition and blasphemy…Thor does what a good Norse god does and attacks and pretty much wrecks the hell out of that nation. The other governments insist he had no right, and he responds that he had the right and responsibility to defend those who pray to him for protection, because he has the power to do so. You can imagine where such a story line could go. Hopefully I can get all of it and look at the story further. But it is a good (if sometimes light) look at what would happen. And that’s with Asgard acting as a unified kingdom.
But, if my knowledge of Norse Mytholigy tells me anything, it’s that all the different Gods and Goddesses have their own ideals, agendas, and jobs that they do, and getting in the way of a Norse anything that feels its honor in the way is a good way to…well…
And this is something that people tend not to realize, but just because a God isn’t omnipotent doesn’t mean they aren’t insanely powerful. According to Norse mythology, Odin, Vili and Vi slew the giant Ymir and made Midgard from his body. Now, for those of you laughing, stop. Think. According to science Matter cannot be created or destroyed. Meaning that in order to create the earth in its present size all that matter had to exist and according to Norse tradition, all that mass came from one being.
According to Wikipedia, the earth has a Mass of 5.97219×1024 kg, or if you put that number out you’re looking at 5,972,190,000,000,000,000,000,000 kilograms (assuming I managed to count all those zeros out right. Since humans are terrible with numbers, the weight of your average person is probably close to 77 kg for a man at six feet in height. So you can imagine how big a Giant weighting that much would be.
Three Gods slew such a creature and then formed the world from its matter. Three.
And Odin, who is given a lions share of the credit for that slaying and shaping isn’t even the strongest God. Technically that’s Thor in terms of pure strength, and in terms of magic and battle prowess, Freya. So when you see Thor in The Avengers turning that building into a giant lightning rod, that’s pretty impressive, till you realize that the real Thor probably has enough power to throw Mjolnir straight through the earth and make it explode. After all, while most giants aren’t near Ymir’s level, they often tend to be much bigger and stronger than the Gods…and Thor hunts them for sport.
The above picture probably wouldn’t be far off in showing the scale of a Jotun/Giant to an Asgardian, who is probably bigger than a human by several feet at least. And Jotuns aren’t slow, dim beasts, they’re as clever and as powerful as the Gods. Some of them become gods, like Skadi.
So you have Gods that could literally reshape the earth dropped onto Midgard, faced with the angry hordes of Christians and Muslims, probably a lot of angry atheists, and with their own agendas. Loki probably would take of the cause of LGBT rights, since he’s a shape shifter and likes fighting for the underdog. How long would that last, though, before he got fed up with a lot of the BS that happens in Social Justice circles? Or Heimdall, who would probably push more for the traditional definitions of marriage, being a more conservative god who embraces the status quo? IF that debate is already messy with just mortals, imagine mortals who suddenly had Gods on their sides, or Gods willing to physically fight for what they believe?
What if Freya decided that no only is Female Genital Mutilation horrific, but Male Genital Mutilation was as well? Then what if she decided to do something about it? You’d have Christians, Muslims, and Jews up in arms for her trying to crush a religious practice of theirs, you’d probably have everyone who insists that circumcision isn’t a big deal raging against her as she cut a swath of destruction against those who committed such acts. Imagine the Goddess capable of ripping down the magical defenses of Asgard to rubble sweeping her way across the world striking in vengeance against those who mutilated the genitals of their own children and defending herself against those who tried to stop her.
What if Skadi decided that it was time to pay back the Christian Church for a thousand years of brutality and persecution against the old Norse ways. Imagine the two hundred years of Viking raids condensed down into the span of a week, and magnified a hundred fold in its destruction? A thousand fold, even? What if Tyr, God of Justice, looked upon the world and the internet and discovered all the evidence and articles and video footage that showed Islam not as a religion of peace, but of violence, supremacy, murder, and oath-breaking towards all that are not Muslims. Imagine a God of War and Justice deciding that with the violence Muslims were bringing against his people, he had no choice but to wage a war of complete and utter devastation? With just two Gods, you would literally see the destruction of the two biggest religions presently being practiced on Midgard, and likely the deaths of at least 70% of their followers through war, retaliations, and the devastation that follows any war in the forms of starvation and disease.
And that’s just on a super meta scale. What about in the political field with Nations either before, during, or after. Can you imagine how presidents and kings would feel having to pay homage to Physical Gods. Imagine you’re Putin, and you’re the most powerful man in Russia and suddenly Mother Fucking Odin is on the planet. You just went from the head of one of the world’s three superpowers to being…a Man.
Or say President Obama, who by his own admission really doesn’t like white people. Imagine how he and his family would feel if they had to host a state dinner to honor “White” Gods who are so strong they make a mockery of all his Presidential Power? The man with the button is suddenly faced with people who make that button look like a damn bottle rocket, and who represent everything he sometimes not so subtly hates? What would people like Obama or Putin do, to try and regain their power and show that they were not weak?
And let’s not forget, that while the Gods are wiser than we, they are the beings that gave the Norse and Germanic peoples of the per-Christian era their morals and laws. You’d have people with a modern Progressive mentality suddenly faced with people who have absolutely no problem bringing violence to the table…or with the table, for that matter. Imagine if Freya was brought in to speak to a convention of Feminists who then proceeded to say insult stay at home moms as not being women or doing enough for women. To Freya, just like my Norse ancestors being a stay at home mom was a thing of great honor, because the woman ran the entire house, from pantry to purse-strings. Freya would no doubt reveal that she was a “stay at home mom” with children and a great hall that she ran. Meaning she was just personally insulted. Modern Feminists, not realizing what an insult means to someone like Freya, mock her, insult her.
Until, by ancient law which states that two insults may be negotiated and re-payed, but the third must be settled in blood, forces Freya to draw her sword and cut down those who gave insult. Imagine the fear, the terror, and in some cases, the joy that would rise up from such an event.
Which handily brings me to a somewhat related point about Human politics vs Divine practice, and one that I’ve commented on and is actually close to my job as the Helsen. A blogger by the site Trees in the Train Station did an article called The Law and the Afterlife which I responded to and they turned into a second article talking about my response. But it all boiled down to what if the living could look into the afterlife to make sure that those they felt were guilty were receiving the punishment they deserved, but had been “denied’ in life.
Which brought up two issues. 1) What if the person wasn’t being punished, but was actually being rewarded and 2) What would happen when inevitably those who campaigned against certain punishments in life decided that they didn’t like the often horrendous punishments that happen in the afterlife and decided they needed to be changed. Like what happens if those who think the death penalty should be done away with, found that those Hel deemed utterly despicable were feed to Nithhoggr, the dragon, and devoured so their souls simply ceased to exist. That’s like the death penalty on steroids. So they would campaign against that, and Hel would most likely not like her authority and traditions being challenged, which leads to an even bigger political mess where in order to punish the Gods sanctions are put in place against their followers, the Gods defend the rights of their followers as well as their persons, and then boom, we’re right back to Gods and Politicians fighting across the face of the earth which either ends in the Gods basically having to enslave large parts of humanity in order to keep us alive, or drawing back and protecting as many of their followers as they can while the rest of the world suicides itself trying to destroy the Asgardians and their Faithful.
And on top of all that…the Asgardians are the nicest of the Pantheons out there. The Celts, I hate to say it, almost out bloodthirty the Norse, the Romans and the Greek Gods…well. All I can say is Zeus, and really I think that’s all I need to say.
So why doesn’t Thor show up and have dinner with Obama in the White House? Because the Gods are wise enough to know that humanity isn’t mature enough for them to show up yet. We’ve been under the yoke of Christianity and Islam for the last 1500 years and we’re only just now finding our freedoms from under that yoke, and it’s not even sure we’ll be able to stay free. Throwing Pagan Gods into that mix, where they’re physically there, out in the open, doing their Duty as Gods would be like dropping 40 nukes in a football stadium. Doable…but not wise.
In conclusion, I do believe the Gods are physical beings. Do I hope that they will reveal themselves in all their glory someday to us on Midgard once more? I do. Are the above reasons why they haven’t shown up? Maybe, I think there might be another reason that has to do with Divine politics as well, but that’s a story for another time. Certainly the two I’ve given already, especially the second, show why they probably haven’t’ shown up at least on the Mortal side of things, if not the Divine. Do I think they will come anytime soon? I don’t know. I’d like it to be in my lifetime. Hell, I’ would love it if it was tomorrow, but…and I hate to say it. I don’t think humanity as a whole is ready for them, as much as we need them. To paraphrase that line from the Dark Knight: They’re the Gods we need, but not the ones we deserve, so for now we get the world we deserve, but not the world we need.
And maybe things will change. Maybe they will show up and we will get to see what true, loving, righteous Gods are like and get to live with them. But it hasn’t happened yet. So we can just try to live a little better, a little ore honorably, and try to make it a world where the Gods can finally come back to us in the open.
But those are my humble thoughts. Sorry for taking so long. 🙂