Over the past few weeks, I’ve seen very disturbing articles coming through my news feed, articles like this one wherein a Hindu temple was attacked by Muslims because its presence, its very existence “disturbed” the Muslim community; (you know what? Monotheism disturbs me too but I don’t feel the need to raze churches and mosques.) or this one where a village was denied permission to hold a Durga Puja because a handful of Muslim families might be disturbed (there’s a bit more to this last case.
Apparently the Muslim community was also denied a right to practice some of its ceremonies too, which I also object to. (link) I was discussing these incidents with colleagues and several urged compromise. I had to disagree. In land belonging to the Hindu Gods first and foremost, there should be no compromise. The Gods deserve better than our attempts to compromise on Their behalf.
Polytheists have for generations been expected to “compromise” in the name of tolerance. We are expected to hide our practices because they might offend outsiders.
We are expected to allow missionaries to do their work unimpeded in our communities, despite the fact that their “work” involves attempting to tear people away from their ancestral traditions.
We are expected to smile and allow the colonization of our language by monotheistic ideas (every time you say “God” instead of “Gods” to make someone feel more comfortable, there’s a problem).
We are expected to elide the core of our traditions: the multiplicity of the Divine and to do so quietly and without question or objection to avoid challenge to others.
If we don’t do these things, skulking in the ideological shadows as though our traditions and their polytheistic foundations were shameful, we’re accused of intolerance, superstition, racism, or worse and slowly but surely our tradition suffer.
On the one hand they’re pressed and attacked by monotheists (in the case of the Hindu examples above, Muslims) and in the other, by a secularism that picked up where missionary Christianity left off wielding the club of “modernity” and the myth of “Progress” as it battered and continues to batter our religions into the ground. See (link) What the spread of monotheism around the globe didn’t accomplish, the dogged demands of secularism just might. Preserve your traditions!
I am a polytheist. My ancestral polytheisms were destroyed by the spread of Christianity across Europe. Sometimes that destruction happened by way of the sword and sometimes it happened when kings and leaders decided to compromise with this new religion or worse to give in and convert, dragging their people with them.
My ancestors saw a time that makes my heart bleed, a time when they had to bury the statues of their Gods in order to preserve them from desecration; a time when sacred groves and temples were pulled down, burned, and then that land turned into ground for Churches; a time when it was a death sentence to honor one’s native Gods on one’s native soil. I bear the burden of that debt and the obligation of righting that wrong.
My life is devoted to the slow restoration of these polytheisms, to retracing and reweaving what was lost, taken, sacrificed. The resistance faced is tremendous even now.
I beg you, all my Hindu Readers, don’t let this happen to your traditions. Your religious practices are gifts the Gods have given you. They are an ancestral inheritance passed down from generation to generation. Do whatever you must to preserve them. Every temple is precious. Every puja holy and sacred. The Gods deserve the best we can possibly give them.
If we sacrifice our traditions what are we? Modern? Or rather rootless and lost. What will you fill the void with? Empty consumerism, trash culture, pseudo liberal politics? After all, give a monotheist an inch and they’ll destroy your entire world.
By Galina Krasskova