Long has it been since Halstead sought to smite Beckett for putting the Gods first. Many moons have passed, long has been the campaign, and many the warriors who rose up to the challenge. From Patheos, to personal blogs, even unto Reddit has the battle of Atheist vs Theist been fought. And lo, though I personally declared my victory, Halstead remained fighting onwards. And, by all accounts, kept getting his ass handed to him. Which brings us to his latest article: I’m Done.
So sit back, we’ll have ourselves a bit of a last laugh, ponder some things, and perhaps at last say goodbye to this chapter of our lives.
1. I’m done arguing with people about whether I am Pagan. I’m not going to convince them anyway, any more than they are going to convince me. And we all just end up looking like asses.
Did we really though, end up all looking like asses? For certain Halstead did, and perhaps if I did not at least look like an ass, I am guilty of being a smart ass. Certainly, after a while, everyone did start to feel like assholes, or at least that the other people were. But still, as far as I am concerned I’m going to take a page from @Nero as to how it appears when it comes to me looking like an ass.
I don’t think being a Pagan is a matter of words anyway. It doesn’t matter if your or my Paganism fits the Webster’s definition or anyone else’s. It’s fun to discuss definitions, but they can become weapons. Whether or not it makes sense to us intellectually, what matters is if we feel Pagan … in our blood and in our skin. And no one can gainsay that part of us.
Let us just take a moment to ponder the fact that Halstead, who has insisted he is a “rational” person is bowing out by saying “facts don’t matter, it’s about feels.”
In which case, I could gainsay that part of him. But you know what? I’m not going to. Halstead expected a triumph and instead found the barbarians too well armed and to well skilled for an easy victory. Definitions were the weapons used against him, facts and reality did the gainsaying. I have no need to pour salt into a wound that is already so salted it would be pointless effort.
Still though, I have always held it is not my place to doubt or question another man’s faith, regardless of what he actually believes. If Halstead wants to call himself a pagan, that’s fine. Never said he couldn’t. I just held he couldn’t define it for anyone else or deny their practice’s validity.
I will still continue to waive my atheist Pagan flag, so that other people who think and feel like me will know they have a home under the Big Pagan Tent if they want one — right along side Polytheists and pantheists, animists and agnostics, Hellenics and Heathens, and all the rest — but I’m done engaging those who have already made up their minds.
And you will forever be looked upon with confusion by everyone else, Halstead.
But truly, this is a victory. Halstead here admits that we polytheists have as much a right under the Pagan tent as he does. And certainly, he has said before that polythiests were welcome (if they were small “p”) but here he has not put any qualifiers. His own words state that the battle we Theistic Pagans have waged shall be marked henceforth by victory. We belong, because we fought for what was ours by right, and our strongest detractor now bows his head in acknowledgment and defeat.
2. I’m done with engaging people who preach the New Pagan Orthodoxy or their personal version of the One-True-Way. I want to talk to people who will help me see beauty in diversity and in ambiguity, people who are interested in the fuzzy spaces between the bright lines.
Of course, he has to get in his parting shots, but these to me are weak. Though there has been much talk of orthodoxy as of late, no orthodoxy has been ordained (unless it has been in this battle?). And indeed, the orthodoxy Halstead championed lies broken. But let Halstead believes as he will.
The thing is though, Halstead will never find those who would help him see the diversity and ambiguity, for his own views teach that all is a collective thing. Those who do in fact have a diversity of beings, he has mocked and derided in multiple places as having “invisible friends” or “irrational thinking” and so forth. He will only find those now who believe as he does, because he insists on his own “one true way” like everyone else.
3. I’m done engaging with people who only want to tear down or to mock. I want to talk to people who feel joy in other people’s growth.
All of this started because Halstead decided to tear down and mock devotional polytheism. But, as ever happens when one goes to battle, there is the risk that what you believe in and have built will instead be torn down and mocked. This is what happened to Halstead, a destruction brought upon himself by his own deeds.
But perhaps he has learned. Perhaps, hence forth, he will not tear down and mock the beliefs of others. And in turn, perhaps, his own beliefs will not be torn down or mocked.
4. I’m done engaging with people who want to debate rather than discuss. I want to talk to people who are interested in genuine sharing and deep listening.
You will never find these people, Halstead.
Because you, yourself, cannot discuss. To Halstead, discussion is a way to change the other person’s views to match his own. Discussion is all about flexibility of thought and…Halstead has none, but he expects it of others. Halstead is as guilty of debating during this whole mess as he claims his detractors were. At no part did Halstead begin to accept or even understand Polytheistic ideals. Even unto his last articles fighting, about how Paganism became Toxic to non-theists…it came up that he had run around insisting on calling the gods “people’s invisible friends.”
In a true discussion, Halstead logically should have at least gotten to the point of seeing the perspective of polytheists about the gods, even if he didn’t practice it. But to the end, they are still “imaginary friends” existent only in our own minds. Halstead would not budge, could not budge…so Halstead will never find a discussion, because he might have to change his mind as well.
Ultimately, what Halstead desires is not a discussion, or a debate, he desires a conversion. To bring others to his way of thinking, by changing their minds and their views to match his. Because then he doesn’t have to change his mind, no matter how much he talks with another person. So I fear he will never find the happiness he seeks.
5. I’m done adding to the noise of the echo chamber. I want to bring something new to discussion, rather than always responding to the latest controversy.
Which brings us to this point, sadly. Halstead will never escape the echo chamber. He wants to bring something new to the discussion…but he doesn’t want anyone else to bring something new. He wants a diversity of opinion, but when faced with a diversity of opinion (for no polytheist voice was the same in this whole battle) he cried out in anger and fear.
Ultimately, he will also never be able to escape responding to latest controversy either unless he completely retires from writing. There is a diversity of opinion in Paganism, and these will always clash, there will always be a controversy, and Halstead’s views have been put forth so far and wide that he has little, if anything, new to bring to the table or the discussion.
6. I’m done with meta-discussions — talking about talk. I’m done critiquing other people’s choice of words and defending my own. I want to bring something of substance to the discussion.
But perhaps there is hope. This all started because he critiqued someone’s choice of words and then got called out by misrepresenting those words with his choices. And if he ever wants to bring something substantial to any discussion from here on out I would recommend to Halstead that he do what I and so many others did: Use the dictionary.
Facts are substantial things. Appropriating words to mean something else in order to support your argument is an insubstantial thing. But then, perhaps Halstead will not realize his dream of substantial contributions for the same reason he shall never truly find a discussion.
7. I’m done hammering out responses on my keyboard and hitting “SEND” without pausing and taking time to consider whether I even should respond.
Words spoken in anger are often true, but rarely kind. They often carry one further into battle, rather than away from it. That’s why I tend to try and read over my stuff sometimes, if I am unsure of what I have said.
Sometimes it is better to walk away from a fight, if what you believe is not worth the risk and violence you will face.
8. I’m done talking about Other People’s Paganism (“OOP”). As fascinating as I find what other people are doing, I started this blog to talk about what I am doing and feeling, and I want to get back to that. “… and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started and know the place for the first time.” (T. S. Elliot)
This is good to me. I didn’t start any of my blogs to criticize the practices of other pagans. Indeed, with Halstead or anyone I write a post about it’s more either to defend my position or illustrate it. So I hope Halstead keeps to this. I doubt there are any who will really care to go after him harshly if all he does is speak to his own path and not try to call out others anymore.
9. I’m done writing about my Paganism as a way of unconsciously avoiding practicing my Paganism. Writing is easy for me; practice is harder.
This too is good. Religion is best when it is lived, rather than when it is spoken. I think perhaps that is one of the reasons Halstead has grown unhappy with theistic paganism and it’s growth. We all live it, deeply, in a way that he does not seem to often live his own paganism.
Our joy is apparent, where as his is hard to come by, compared to his ease in writing about other paths or his own.
But I wish him well. Time spent on his own practice is time not spent attacking mine or that of other theistic pagans. Which frees up my time to work on my own religion as well.
And that brings me back to point #1. As one friend recently wrote to me: “Our authenticity lies not in our responses to baseless criticism and personal attacks, but in the depth and sincerity of our practice.”
I want to thank the person who wrote that and all of my other critical friends and friendly critics who have gently (and sometimes not so gently) guided me to this point.
You are welcome, Halstead. I’m glad I could help you get here. I hope this new, peaceful path of respecting the other Pagan religions carries out well for you. I hope you find some fulfillment in your path as well. You were not the greatest foe I have ever fought, or the most cunning, but you did at least try to stick it out, and I can respect that at least.
I hope this is no false flag, but a true awakening.