Corporations are [not] people

I’ve been trying for months to write about why corporations are not people. The reason this is such a struggle, I fear, is because corporations actually are people. They are treated like people by other people; what more is there to know?

When the Citizens United case was decided, it resulted in an outcry of, “corporations are not people!” Other than that specific tag line, however, there’s little to suggest that this is true. Mind you, I do not believe that corporations are people (despite being legally a “body”), but the notion that they are is thoroughly embedded in our language, therefore in our thinking. If we wish to separate personhood for corporateness, we need to start with the words that shape our thoughts.

A few examples of language that empowers faceless entities to be treated as people:

  • Someone taking over a local business in my community posted in a social media group, “We are a newly renovated laundromat in town which offers a variety of services.” I’m familiar with the storefront in question, but wasn’t aware it had signed up for Facebook, or even that the building was the requisite 13 years of age.
  • How did NASA see the space station cross the eclipse? Had the organization become self-aware, or was it actually the dedicated workers there who deserve the credit?
  • With what mouth does Exxon state a thing, or the White House deny an allegation?
  • As a friend of my library, should I invite it over for dinner sometime?
  • Exactly how does a legal fiction, possessing neither hands to write or a mind with which to think, make a decision about my medical coverage, and then notify me about it?
  • How does an organization show pride?
  • Discrimination is terrible, but can a bank really discriminate? Maybe it’s actually people doing all the discriminating?

Isn’t this all getting a bit personal?

Despite this purported personhood, corporations are not like humans. They cannot die a natural death, for one, and it’s awfully difficult to throw them in jail. Corporations, the name of which means “body,” have become in effect bodiless bodies, which Webster likened to golems]. In that insightful column, Webster commits the very same personalization to which I am referring: referencing a long-neglected automotive recall, he writes, “Rightly, many are horrified but few have the magical insight or the systems theory to understand how GM could be so stupid.” To wonder “how GM could be so stupid” is to presume that GM has sentience, is it not?

It’s language through which we grant agency, and through language that we ask spirit to enter what has been created. There’s a reason that corporations are compared to golems: we give them power, we give them life. What most of us fail to understand is that we don’t do that through law at all. It’s language which shapes thought to grant agency to corporations.

It was listening to Rush Limbaugh that got me thinking along these lines. (I highly recommend this as an intellectual exercise, especially for those of a different political bent than the man. Limbaugh is a slick debater, and understanding how to uses logical is instructive.) One of his ongoing routines at the time was about sports-utility vehicles. His intention was to salvage the reputation of the gas guzzlers, but his words planted a seed that took years to germinate in my mind.

What Limbaugh did was collect headlines about tragedies involving SUVs. They all had headlines which suggested the vehicle itself was responsible, such as “SUV plows into unsuspecting family.” Drawing upon the “guns don’t kill people, people kill people” mindset, he drily proclaimed that these renegade vehicles needed to be stopped. I’ve never been a fan of SUVs, but I came to appreciate his point regardless. If it’s the SUV’s fault, then that means the SUV is a person.

Can humans create spirits? I suspect not, but they appear to be able to influence them by creating attractive hosts for them, the same way I can attract hummingbirds by putting sugar water in an attractive container, or ask that my patron deity dwell in a sacred image formed by my own two hands. Corporations, even more than SUVs, appear to be excellent hosts; they are all but accepted as having the same agency human persons possess. Given the varying ways humans treat other beings as commodities or property, that’s a big leg up.

When I think of corporations, I am actually imagining a wide variety of frameworks which are given rein to act in ways that humans do in our society; anything that has a corpora, or body, is a corporation. Nonprofits, churches, governments, committees, quilting groups, and cat-rescue operations fall into this broad definition, as do many forms of organizing that I know nothing about. If it’s conceived as an entity and is given agency through language or law, that’s all I need.

This isn’t just about the legal status of corporations, any more than enslaving a human being is entirely about laws that permit such an abomination. In his definitive work Animism, Graham Harvey presents the idea that what makes that particular worldview different is simply who is regarded as people. On a related note, in Debt: the First 5,000 Years David Graeber posits that slavery is only possible when the individual’s social connections are cut, thus rendering that individual a non-person It is the culture that permits humans to be treated as if they are property not people, and it is the culture which permits a collection of paperwork to be treated as if it were a person. In short, we are the ones feeding the golem.

Sometimes, when I try to articulate this problem in a conversation on the internet, I can all but see the eyes rolling as people dismiss the notion. Oh, it’s just a figure of speech, they say, and not the problem at all. Really? Is the idea that language shapes thought suddenly alien, then, or is it more difficult to accept one’s own culpability for this terrible situation we have created?

The figures of speech I’m referring to are the shorthand we use when referring to companies and other organizations. Exxon releases a statement, or the White House denies involvement in this week’s political dust-up. We like being considered a friend of our local library or NPR affiliate, perhaps, and get angry when an insurance company denies coverage for a procedure. When we learn about an unfamiliar corporation in the news, we immediately want to know who they are, and whether or not they’re evil.

I get that these are figures of speech, convenient shortcuts because we all know what they mean. I also get that when we look at the words of those who came before us, we do not necessarily know what they meant, and incorrect assumptions are frequently introduced due to a lack of context. In addition, I understand quite well that as much as language represents thought, it also shapes thought, and the evidence of that shaping culminated in the Citizens United decision. Corporations are people because we forgot that our figures of speech didn’t mean anything, and suddenly they did.

This convention is used as shorthand simply because it’s awkward to say that Exxon executives released a statement, a presidential spokesperson denied the allegations on his behalf, we donate regularly to support the library, and it was an insurance company employee who actually denied my Viagra (okay, that last was a bit ridiculous; I don’t think Viagra is ever denied). I know it’s awkward, because I’m a reporter and I have been trying for three years now to avoid personifying in prose that which is not a person in my mind. It’s not only awkward, it’s bloody difficult, too. However, in keeping with the idea that language shapes thought, I’m trying to reshape how I see the relationships in the world around me.

One tool I lean on is the passive voice, reviled because it removes the actor from the action. I prefer to talk about the people behind the veil, but if cannot ascertain their identities, passive voice reminds my readers that I’m not claiming that Skynet has become self-aware. A statement was issued from the corporate office, for example, or new unemployed statistics were simply released, actor inferred.

What I sit with is the fact that whether or not we are creating a new spirit with this collective thought process, we are creating a new way to shift responsibility — be it credit, or blame — away from individuals, and onto faceless entities.

If corporations are not people, then they are also not evil (or good, for that matter). It’s actually other people making the decisions and hiding behind that organizational smokescreen. People have faces. People live in the active voice. The lesson of history is that it’s a lot easier to commit atrocities if one has no face, just as it’s easier if the victim is invisible, faceless. If the faces of the victims cannot be erased, why do we erase the faces of the offenders?

Corporations are not people, but are we too lazy to prove it?

The invisible spirits of privilege

I’ve seen some nasty arguments erupt — or get seriously intensified by — those three little words, “Check your privilege.”  Yes, I’ve been part of some of those fights.  There is something visceral that happens when one’s privilege is hauled out for inspection, something that shuts down any real communication about substantive issues for many people.  Why is that?  What makes denial, defensiveness, and redirection so important in those moments?  Why is it so easy to feel attacked by the very idea that one has privilege?  As my self-identity has evolved, I’ve found myself sometimes part of a non-privileged minority (Republican and hard polytheist among Pagans, for example) that have given me an opportunity to step outside of that bubble.  (The ways in which I am not a participant in the culture of the privileged are all non-visual, so I can often “pass” as part of the overculture; I am mindful that this places its own limits on my awareness.)  Just as I did when examining the spirit of depression, I find that examining privilege through an animist lens is helpful to me.

Privilege is a spirit or, in my view, a group of personal spirits with attributes that vary, but with certain characteristics in common.  While elusive, there are things about these spirits which can be observed.

  • They are beneficial for the human with whom the associate, providing some level of protection from bad luck, miscommunication, and other downfalls and mishaps in life.  The physical health, economic security, and social status of the privileged are enhanced.
  • Spirits of privilege seem to be tied to blood lines, but it isn’t clear why, or how else one can acquire one.  Wealthy people who lose all their money often bounce back, while tales of poor people who win big lottery prizes and quickly find themselves with nothing again are all too common, so money does not equal privilege.  However, some people gain privilege when their ancestors did not have it, so it can be acquired, and likely also lost, by other means.
  • Privilege does not care to be examined.  I liken it to the magical talent possessed by Bink in A Spell for Chameleon, which operated best in secret, and actively protected that secrecy when need be.  That is to say, I liken the results to those in the book; I don’t know the motivations.  What I do know is that when privilege is confronted, the result is disproportionately hostile, defensive, or evasive.  That sounds like the profile of a spirit that wants to be invisible, at least to its host, and will create whatever mental images are necessary to stay that way.
  • On the other hand, privilege is quite visible to those who don’t have it, and to anyone who has pierced that veil in their own lives.
  • Awareness of privilege, whether by the privileged or those who are not, does not seem to weaken this spirit, so why it wishes to be invisible remains a mystery.
  • Privilege spirits exist in community.  One does not see solitary, privileged people.  Even if they don’t participate in society, their spirits derive some benefit from proximity.

Nothing says “privilege” quite like an ermine cloak.

I can’t see it, but I can picture privilege, and I do so as a cloak.  Because these are individual spirits, they’re not all the same.  As a cloak, my spirit of privilege is bright white, reflective and protective in the way that white tends to be.  (Side note:  for many years, I’ve heard about the disproportionate number of black males in prisons, and I have wondered if it isn’t possible that for some reason they just commit crimes more often.  Just this past week, I finally heard a data point on the radio that specifically addressed that unvoiced question;  the speaker noted that black and white youths are equally likely to be carrying marijuana at any given time, but that black youths are ten times as likely to be stopped and frisked.  That’s the invisible way that a white spirit of privilege deflects and protects.)  My privilege-cloak has other advantages, too, like the pair of hefty balls hanging from the back that keep the wind from blowing it around, and the lovely clasp, shaped like a “C” for cisgendered, which keep it from falling off my shoulders.

My cloak does not have a crucifix appliquéd across the front, but there is a handsome American flag on the shoulder.  There are cloaks with lustrous gold silk linings, hoods in the academic sense, buttons, pockets, and trim, none of which I enjoy.  Visible and invisible influences on my life each contribute to the whole of my cloak, but it’s a good thing it’s not actually a visible garment.  After all, there are places where American citizens are in danger of being killed, not celebrated, and there’s not a single factor that contributes to one’s privilege which can’t put a person at a disadvantage in certain contexts.  Perhaps that occurs when a privilege spirit is cut off from others of its kind, and that they derive their power from numbers, even as they benefit individuals.

Privilege spirits don’t seem to be malevolent, but the fact that not everyone has creates some pretty big problems.  I can’t imagine a down side to everyone being privileged, but I think its spirits resist that idea.  Do they possess a selfish nature?  Is this just vestigial reflex, like the tendency to sweat during job interviews?  Are they trying to screw with us, or aren’t they even aware?

What I do know is that while it’s good advice to tell people to keep calm and listen, there is a spirit in the ear yelling, “Panic!  Run!  Fight!” which often wins the day.  I can’t promise I will be as clear on this issue tomorrow as I am right now, and find myself reacting defensively yet again.  I don’t know if it’s possible, or even prudent, to exorcise this spirit, but being aware of its existence is probably a good start for some of us.

Privilege makes people act irrationally.  Keep patient and keep talking.

The tenacious spirit of depression

I think it’s a poverty of the English language that we use the same word to describe how a 5-year-old feels when his baseball game gets canceled because it’s raining and the way someone feels who’s about to jump off a bridge because life has become unlivable and untenable.

Andrew Solomon

I never heard of Darkness Visible: A Memoir of Madness until today, when I listened to the above-linked author interview on NPR.  Solomon’s quote brought me back to a time in my own life, soon after Darkness Visible was first published, when I attended a healing ritual led by a highly respected individual at my very first Pagan conference.  The room had close to eighty people in it, and after setting the sacred space, the facilitator performed triage to ascertain who was seeking healing, and what they needed help with, so that the energy workings could be organized.

For me to even speak the name of my problem aloud takes an incredible gathering of will, but when it was my turn, I admitted that I suffer from depression.

“Oh,” she said with a smile, “we’ll do you at the end, with ‘warm fuzzies.'”

What ‘warm fuzzies’ entailed, after a couple of hours of working to heal people with cancer, broken bones, chronic pain, and other life-altering diseases, was a group hug and a singalong, the words to which it seemed everyone in the room but me knew.

If you’ve suffered from depression, you are not surprised that I was crestfallen to have my malady so glibly dismissed.  If you’ve been depressed, which I describe as having a terrible event in your life precipitate a period of near-paralyzing negative emotion, you may be puzzled.  Being depressed, sometimes called “major depression,” is a serious affair, one that starts from a trauma like death, divorce, or something else from which we all generally heal; sooner if we have proper support.  Depression (“clinical depression” in common parlance, which already suggests it’s not as much of a problem because of the lack of the word “major”) is not something that is assuaged by support that comes from the community, like group hugs or therapy or venting to friends or being reminded that people care about you.  As an animist, I believe that’s because depression is a spirit, while being depressed is an emotional state.

Having been depressed and gotten through it, when one encounters someone in depression there is a sense that they, too, can “get over it,” and that this process can be facilitated with love (as described above) or by getting tough and explaining to the victim that you know it’s hard, but we don’t get given more burdens than we can bear, or that the person needs to stop feeling sorry for emself.  I recognize that people who have been depressed have indeed shown remarkable inner strength, and that the emotional support received by the community surely helps in recovering from tragedy, and that because the outward symptoms are similar this is not an unreasonable conclusion to draw, but it is the wrong one.

Depression is a malevolent spirit which feeds on the strength of the person it rides.  It works to undermine each and every tool which might be used to defeat it.  What a person in depression experiences isn’t exactly pain, insofar as pain is a sensation, something of the body, but reactions to it are the same as what one might do in response to pain.

  • Community values are undermined by antisocial behaviors like argumentativeness, nitpickiness, being demanding, curt, or cross.  The result is often isolation.
  • Personal strengths are sapped:  self-confidence is overwhelmed with doubt, sociability with intense shyness, concentration and creativity with a thick, mental fog.  At its worst, depression can weigh down the ridden so heavily that e cannot get out of bed.  This serves to intensify isolation and feelings of uselessness and powerlessness.
  • Together, the above can make it hard to keep any but the most solitary and menial of jobs.
  • Spiritual connections can be completely gutted.  Why perform magic if you don’t believe it will work?  Why pray or make offerings if the gods would allow you to suffer so?  Are there even gods?  Get the ridden to this point, and the spirit of depression can feed at is leisure.

What else can it be, if not a spirit?  Can a mere illness, or even a severe emotional trauma, work so tirelessly to ensure its own survival?  Victims carry a sense of shame which silences pleas for help, and that can’t be blamed entirely on society, which creates stigma by mixing personal experiences of depression with the confusion over the two sense of the word.  And yes, I lay that very confusion at the feet of depression itself.

The ridden are often given respite, which tells me that they must recharge if they are to feed the spirit.  While suicide is strongly associated with depression, I think it is not the desired goal, any more than a flea desires to kill by spreading plague.

I do not know what makes someone vulnerable to being ridden by depression, but judging by the things it drives from its victims’ lives, it does not thrive in an environment of community support, creativity, and religion.  However, therapy and medication — even self-medication — don’t seem to be enough.  And as well-intentioned “warm fuzzies” may be, they aren’t enough, either.  As we move into and through the darkest time of year for most of the human population, perhaps it is time to reimagine treatment for depression.  It must be holistic, treating the spirit as well as the mind and body, and it must never be confused with being depressed, for all it appears the same, for the healing powers of humanity are perfectly cut out for the latter, and are no defense against the former.

I can barely write this post, for even now I am convinced it will result in mockery, or pity, or avoidance.  Its spirit seethes within me, as it has for decades, but today, I shall overcome, if only for a moment.

On being the King

While I was able to strengthen ties with my gods at Laurelin‘s 2012 Lughnasad festival, I also found the universe conspiring to crown me King.

In keeping with Celtic tradition, there are always games at Lughnasad, challenging games for mind, body, and sense of humor.  This year was no exception, and as is typical there we were assigned randomly into teams.  We were also advised that each team needed to select a captain, but the only additional information we had about that role was that the captain of the winning team “would play a part in the main ritual” on Saturday night.

After sitting for some minutes with my teammates, many of whom were new friends, sharing looks that quietly pleaded, “don’t pick me,” I volunteered to be our captain.  The sighs of relief lowered the pressure nearby so much that a microstorm was created, but it dissipated in less than two minutes.

So we matched wits and memories with the other teams, and competed in much-venerated games of skill as the pudding-feeding contest, and finally, it came down to a test of wills:  two were left standing on the field of dodge ball, and one must fall.  I had long since be eliminated by a brutal four-ball attack, but our remaining teammate took the day.

And it came to pass that I was crowned King of the festival, given a sceptre and throne, and made frequent and loud proclamations throughout dinner.  Titles were conferred.  Holidays created.  Merriment was declared.

While the meal passed, attendees pondered the astrological significance of the planets, and upon colorful ribbons they wrote down aspects of themselves that governed by some or all of them, aspects they wished to be rid of.  When time came for the ritual, I donned my royal cloak; as we processed up the woodland path to the ritual space, I accepted those burdened ribbons upon my cloak.

Being King can be awfully fun, when you make the youngsters into pages and send them o’er hill and dale in quest largely for the royal entertainment.  But despite my actually saying, “It’s good to be the King,” the crown can be heavy at times.  All through the meal I knew what was to come — I was to be the sacrifice, dying to release my people of what held them back.  I swathed myself with merriment, and brought joy to the festival, because a King’s burdens must be borne alone.

That’s why I found that, even though it was just ribbons tied to my cloak, the weight grew heavier with each station.  My steps grew more labored, and when I knelt before the aspect of each planet, bracing and grounding myself with the sceptre, it was harder to arise again each time.

I can’t say exactly what words were spoken when the procession arrived at the ritual space, high above the gates of Laurelin and deep within in sacred woodlands.  All I could focus on was staying upright, and moving my feet forward when directed to do so.  When they lay me down upon the altar, I still felt every bit as heavy.

What I do recall is the priestess, haloed in fire, who lifted her arms high in proclamation.  Her hands dropped suddenly — I knew, but could not see, that she held a blade — and plunged the blade next to my ribs, but in that instant I truly was no more.

Symbolic sacrifice is part acting, but only part.  The ritual had worked its power upon me, and when the blade dropped, my consciousness may as well have been snuffed out.  It was as if the universe had paused between breaths, waiting to find out what would happen next.

Earlier I had been told that I would be resurrected as well, a plan which pleased me greatly.  I wish I could speak of the methods used, but I simply wasn’t there to observe.  What I do know is that when the universe released that breath, it went straight into me, and I found myself tumbling off the altar and back into self.

Sacred kingship is a rich and complex role, and I was deeply gratified to learn its lessons.  How fortunate I am that it was my time to serve the community.

Wiccan-Christians . . . does that work?

Portrait of Herne-Christos

An elder of my local Pagan community was pondering how someone can be a Wiccan and a Christian.  To someone who isn’t straddling that particular spiritual fence, this can be every bit as puzzling as the Jews for Jesus are to most modern Abrahamics.  As it happens I am neither a witch nor a worshiper of Jesus, but I think I can offer some thoughts on the question.

My first spiritual teacher had a print of Herne-Christos hanging over her altar.  When she was just a little girl, she peppered her Baptist minister with complex questions about the nature of their god, and was finally instructed to pray to the Holy Spirit.  Upon meeting with the preacher again, he asked if she had prayed for answers.

“I did pray to the Holy Spirit,” she told him proudly, “and she said . . . “

That little girl was tossed out of her church community not long after, and although bereft, she clung to her belief in female divinity and her desire to be a priest.  (Years later, she discovered that the Hebrew word shekinah, which is often interpreted by Christians as the Holy Spirit, is grammatically feminine.)  She eventually became a reasonably accomplished and respected priestess, but she really wanted to be a priest, and she never let go of her love for Jesus.  She told me that Herne-Christos represents the sacrificial god, who must die so that his people may live.

I’ve always found it to be a powerful image, and a natural for me as I transitioned from worshiping the Christ to praying to the Horned One.  I don’t pray to either of those gods regularly anymore, but I keep the picture up.

I think the reason why Lisa doesn’t “get” how the two faiths could work in tandem is that she’s using the most conservative definition of “Christian” out there.  In truth, many Christians don’t advocate a literal interpretation of the Bible, and the ones that do tend to gloss over the slavery and stuff.  So if you accept that, similarities emerge, like:

  • Monotheism.  The Holy Trinity is one god, and many Wiccans say all gods are one.  The “no other gods before me” clause is important here; notably it does not say “no other gods beside me.”
  • Love.  Jesus preached it, and the Charge of the Goddess explains it.
  • Rules against murder, stealing, and lying, and being a jerk.
Not all Wiccans follow every Wiccan tenet, nor do all Christians embrace every one of the commandments.   Catholics love graven images, don’t they?
A conservative Christian is intractable and would not accept this syncretic faith as meaningful, but neither would a Dianic Wiccan.  All religions have their fundamental beliefs, and people who prefer to follow them more strictly.  But those are minorities, albeit rather vocal ones.
I don’t see why this fusion is puzzling.  If indeed all gods are one god, what’s so odd about a Wiccan worshiping Jesus?

Girl Scouts vs cavemen

They look so innocent . . .

There are a couple of dozen varieties of Girl Scout cookies at most, all of which are beloved by somebody, usually a lot of somebodies.  You probably know the drill — the cookies are delicious, the salespeople are adorable (and often the daughters of coworkers or, worse yet, bosses), and the whole process is good for girls because it funds their activities and teaches them business skills.

Girl Scout cookies are also the reason we, in my family, decided that we would merely test the paleo diet, rather than simply embracing it.  The best way to switch over is to simply toss out all the food which doesn’t fit and start from scratch.  We had cookies on order and they are just too delectable to reject like that, so we knew from Day One that paleo would just be an experiment until those cookies came and went.

For me, it’s the Thin Mints which are my weakness — eaten frozen with a cold glass of milk.  In my younger days, I could put away one of those cello-wrapped stacks without even feeling any bloat.  Now, though, they are just the kind of engineered overstimulation which leads me to seek out a diet which respects my body rather than treating it like a junk food processing plant.

So many flavors, so little time.

Now I’m not one to weigh myself, but after a week of eating paleo and hearing positive reports from my spouse, I tried to get into the habit.  I was quite surprised by the first number, which was a good dozen pounds higher than I expected.  A couple of days later and I had lost more than a pound, so I know the eating plan was having some effect.

Then, the cookies.  I knew I wasn’t alone in eating them, but I also knew that they were my only chance to finish up the close to a gallon of milk we’d had to freeze lest it sour out of abandonment.  The cookies arrived Sunday, the milk was thawed by Tuesday, and by Thursday I had packed away probably a full box myself, and the rest of that milk.

First, the quantifiable:  I picked up two pounds just by giving up on avoiding the “bad foods” for a few days.  Wow.  Maybe it’s because I am not in the habit of weighing myself, but I’m really surprised at how quickly those numbers on the scale can jump up and down.  No wonder people get obsessed about their size.

But the changes have been more than the merely measurable.  I’m more aware of my body now, simply by spending a couple of weeks being conscious of my food choices.  And with that awareness, I feel pretty gross after spending a few days going back to eating crap like cookies, pizza, and MSG-laden treats.

I like that I’m finding that a binge like this makes me feel disgusting.  It tells me that my body has had a taste of something it likes better, and it would like more of that, please.  There are cookies left, but I think I’ve had enough of them, thank you.

Fate and the gods

Do the gods have free will?  It’s a question that occurred to me while I was joining my local Quaker community in silent worship this morning.  I didn’t share it with that community because my thoughts were somewhat inarticulate.

I think it’s been pretty well established that humans have free will.  Many religious scholars argue that free will is an essential part of the human condition.  Maybe it’s a gift, maybe it’s a test, maybe it’s both or neither.  However it came to be, the very need for things like a code of conduct or ethics, or laws to live by, springs forth from the free will of humankind.  Much of the evil done by our species upon itself has entailed trying to break that will, or strip it from people to make them submissive and obedient.

In Hellenismos, the Moirae, the aspects of fate, guided humans but did not bind them.  Conscious choice could lead to a new destiny, as could intercession by Zeus, or perhaps others of the gods — my research is incomplete.

But what of the gods themselves?  We know that an oath sworn by a god upon the river Styx could not be broken.  That’s a lot more restrictive than any oath ever sworn by a mortal tongue.  So too, I have not found any prophecies about the gods which they averted.

What came to me in a moment of prayer and mediation was that the gods, unlike humans, are irrevocably bound to their fates.  We, as the sole holders of free choice, drive that fate through our actions.  Gods can languish and be forgotten, as they are in the novel American Gods.  When they are honored and worshiped, the offerings and requests they receive literally shape their identities and actions.

By our worship, we create our gods, and define how they may affect our lives.

This is a new way for me to look at my religion, and I think it probably applies to any path.  Atheists give no gods power over their lives.  Agnostics and lapsed Abrahamics don’t allow much divine influence, if any.  Pagans, many of whom have consciously chosen their faith, are often swept away by the competing influences of various deities.  Some people find their way back to the faith of their heritage, or that of their childhood, or that of their heart; these are people who have unconsciously decided that they desire some divine relationship.

The paradox of belief seems to be that no god can exist without it, and close inspection quite easily brings all the doubt needed to dispel a god’s power.  Sometimes.

I still don’t know fully what I think of what I’ve written here, but I’m putting it out to the Universe for consideration.