The horizons of a religious view

Marrying a deity isn’t inherently religious, some people will say. Atmosphere incense-drenched, heaving sea wedged deep in their heart, kettle-grove boiling, wind-stolen words, the numinous chewing their heels, breath charged with shared awareness – no, none of it religious.

What then, I ask, is it?


God-spouses and those that love to watch us are not, by and large, religious studies scholars, and so it’s disingenuous of me to demand a certain degree of fluency with the subject matter. For most people, “being religious” is defined as behavior. You put up an altar, you make some promises, maybe you self-publish a book; there – religious activity. You behave in a religious manner, you are therefore religious. You exist in a religious paradigm. If you do none of these things, you do not exist in a religious paradigm and thus you are not religious. Therefore, someone could be married to a deity and not religious.

That’s fair. That’s fine. You get to self-describe.


Religiosity is more than behavior. Marrying a deity is more than behavior. A relationship involves changing self-conception, shifting positionality relative to other active agents in your life (embodied or not); maybe it only involves a sense of “what do I do now?” even if no additional action is taken regarding this question.

Is any such hypothetical relationship non-religious? Is someone who makes such a statement of non-religiosity removing themselves (and their relationship(s)) from any paradigm that assumes numinous infusion in any corner of creation? Are they at any point rejecting ecstasy, stating that never once have they been carried away by love? Are they even rejecting the possibility of ecstatic affection, even the desire thereof?

Not being religious, does such a person desire nothing from their God?

I think this is where the root of my question comes. Sometimes I’ll pass this question (let’s be honest, usually on T*mblr) and I’ll just pause and wonder – no ecstasy? no desire for presence? no desire for acknowledgement? Because it seems like a rejection, or at least a negation, of religion is a rejection/negation of religious sentiments…such as ecstasy, a desire for sacred presence, and so forth. Can religious sentiments exist in a context that is explicitly non-religious? What do these sentiments become if they are not-religious?

[And see – I know people are going to say, “Um duh people can have so-called religious sentiments and still self-describe as non-religious, don’t tell people they can’t do that Silence,” and I’ll have to say, “This is an elementary conclusion, and you’re missing my point. My point isn’t to tell people what they can or can’t do (it never is); my point is questioning the out-and-out rejection of religiosity in the first place, especially if religious alignment vis a vis sentiment is such a commonplace part of pagan religious identity-building in the first place.” And then the hypothetical person in my head might say, “but you already told us that we shouldn’t have to be religious scholars to keep up with this line of thinking,” and I’ll have to say, “I know I said that but I’ve edited this about 10 times already and I’m tired, but I don’t want to give up on it.” And the people I imagine talking to will then say, “Your constant hesitation in work is why nothing is ever produced,” to which I’ll have to agree but reluctantly persist in an increasingly shitty blog entry.]

All the same, I have to acknowledge – I don’t know the nature of other people’s relationships. I don’t know what they’re up to, what caused them to agree to marriage, to choose one form of relationship over another; I don’t know any of that. All I know is that, for me, ecstasy is inherent. Not joy, not happiness; real, deep, life-changing, soul-busting, standing-outside-the-self, *religious* ecstasy.

I understand Mahadevi Akka’s scorn of mortal husbands.


As usual, I imagine that there’s not any actual disagreement between me and anyone who might be talking about the subject in this way (as usual, it’s never a single voice, merely a tendency observed over time – again, generally on T*mblr, where ideas are not always at their freshest). I suspect it’s a matter of semantics exaggerated by text and not by actual ideology; I suspect we all want the same things, which is for people to have happy, healthy relationships with the disembodied partners they’ve found. I think we’re probably all supportive of different ways of having relationships, ecstatic or not. For me, the experience of religious sentiments is part of what makes something (in this case a relationship) religious; however, we’re back to the circular question of what is religion, and what is religious, and what sentiments in particular are religious. Others no doubt feel differently about their relationships and so will self-describe accordingly.

As in all things, I have to own up to my personal background – my life has been saturated by the complexities of spirituality, both the study and the experience but I’m not any kind of formal -ologist. I rather wish I could be, but I’m not. Instead, I’m fundamentally cracked, broken, and so I understand the poems begging for the return of a bangle, asking for even rough handling, proclaiming the loss of shame.

Maybe it’s better to not be religious, after all.


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