I have been plagued by doubts about the existence of the gods since I first came to Asatru in 1989. When these doubts overwhelmed me, I would walk away from Heathenry, slap a Darwin fish on my car, and proudly bear the label of Atheist. But always, invariably, I would come back.
I’m not going to go into my reasons for coming back – they should be obvious to anyone who cleaves to a Heathen faith (or really any faith). But it’s worth exploring the reasons for my doubts.
My most recent crisis of faith happened this past summer, when Dan Halloran, my friend of more than twenty years, former New York City Councilman, and leader of the Normannii Thiud, to which I belonged at the time, was convicted of masterminding a bribery scheme in New York City. Not only was this a black stain on his own honor, and the final jolt to see him thrown out of the Troth in disgrace, but it had a profound impact on my own spirituality.
The reason is simple; years ago I asked Dan, in his capacity of leader of our tribe, to ask the gods to speak to me, so that I would know they were real. And they started to do so. And then, when he was revealed to be a common criminal, a disgrace to his faith and his men, I wondered if he had really done anything, or if it was all in my head.
And the gods had stopped speaking to me. It was, I thought, my imagination. Just my wish-fulfillment to finally have the certainty that I craved for nearly 30 years. Dan didn’t do anything except play into my own hopes and insecurities, and lied to me, as he had so many other people, including those who had voted for him.
So I decided that if the gods weren’t real, and once more I “went into the woods” as the Theodish are wont to say.
But now that I’ve had a few months to process everything that happened, I realize that I had made a serious mistake. Just as I had hung my hopes for proof on Dan’s ability to get the gods to listen to him, so too had I hung my disappointment on his personal failings. Nowhere did I take into account the simple fact that just because Dan was a failure, that did not make the gods he (and I) believed in any less real. My decision to believe had to come not from Dan Halloran’s good offices, but from within myself.
And you know what? I still have doubts. And I’m okay with that. Priests and popes have doubts, swamis and rabbis have doubts. Faith is not a matter of certainty; if it were, we would all share a single one, just as we all share a single mathematics. I will continue my search on my own, rather than looking for someone outside myself to give me the certitude my intellect craves, but which cannot, by its very nature, happen in any objective sense. Faith and belief is inherently subjective.
And I’m okay with that.