It’s okay to doubt

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.

One thought on “It’s okay to doubt

  1. I've been posting here a lot if you'll forgive but a piece of advice from one who has been in the woods many times and eaten many ashes as is also said.

    The Old Gods weren't always nice or even honorable themselves and did awful things

    One example, in the oldest version of the tale of Balder it mentions Odin being kicked out of his kingship for a dishonorable act

    Daniel Updike discusses it at length here.

    Odin's titles included Bölverkr (Worker of Evil) and Glapsviðr (Fast Trickster) and even Yggr (the terrible one) Our folk weren't always nice either, Beware the Fury of the Norsemen was not hyperbole

    So while your friends petty corruption certainly dishonored his family to a degree and hurt his troth and did something less than honorable doesn't mean the Gods didn't hear him at the time or let him be the vessel for their voices and that they aren't real. For that matter, he may have been perfectly honorable at the time and as such his later failings, which are in context petty bribery , a rather venal offense matter little to who he was,

    I won't tell you the the Old Gods are real I don't know either but nothing in your teachings should discourage you from believing in their presence.

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