Poverty and Piety

With Christmas here, I get a lot of time off from work, and so have a little extra time to find out more of what’s happening in Pagan-land. The farce I just stumbled across seems to deserve a word or two, so that will be the topic of my blog post today. I’ve never read Tess Dawson’s blog before, but she seems like a clear thinker of a pagan, and she has recently written a valuable piece on how to interact with a god when you are not sure of the god’s identity. She offered the very traditional and level-headed suggestion that you leave out offering of food or drink that are not to be consumed, but devoted wholly to the god.

Totally traditional. This is how the ancients did it. Totally respectful and pious. Giving something to the god, something that you have to give up yourself, is a sacrifice, it is an act of devotion. Yet despite these facts, this simple commonsense recommendation has released a firestorm of petty bullshittery from a crowd of people with some serious cases of recto-cranial inversion. I’m not even going to bother addressing their complaints about leaving offerings you don’t consume, although I will mention that offering food to a guest and then eating it instead yourself would usually be seen as the very height of rudeness. No, I am going to have to address the comments made about poor people and religious devotion.

The worst offender seems to be this Aubs Tea person. She had the incredible effrontery to say a lot of insane things about poor people. But before I get started on that, let me mention: I’m dirt poor. Always have been. I am pretty much as poor as they come in this country. I sometimes go to sleep hungry. I often must choose between buying food or buying medicine. I cannot afford a car. I have spent a few weeks homeless, sleeping in some rough and dangerous places. So I know what I’m talking about when I talk about being poor and religious.

Basically, this Tea person is claiming that poverty makes it impossible for poor people to make any religious offerings at all, therefore having the expectation that the gods should receive offerings somehow classist and religiously inappropriate. She then goes on to declare that poor people are so emotionally beaten down that they cannot even be expected to perform simple devotional acts that do not require sacrifice. Apparently, in her view, poverty destroys the soul, so that things like prayer and temple cleaning are too much effort. This is, in her view, so endemic amongst the poor that even expecting religious people to be pious, and to devote some of their time and effort to the gods, is incredibly classist and offensive to the poor.

Seriously? Seriously??? WTF? I am calling bullshit on that, Ms. Tea. I am poor. I find your words to be incredibly freaking offensive. Not all poor people are beaten down, whipped curs who cannot even find enough spirit to honor the gods. Seriously, Ms. Tea, f*<& you. I have struggled all my life with poverty, and with keeping a devout religious practice in the midst of poverty. So have many others. Your lame attempt to paint us all as victims belittles our struggles.

Nobody but a poor person has the right to say this, but I am, and I do: poverty can be a great source of inspiration and strength. A terrible one, to be sure, but useful and even enlightening nonetheless. I am an Odinist. I use my religion to help me meet the struggle of poverty. Odin, my patron, teaches that hardship is valuable and I have held onto the teaching during those hard hungry times. I have seen it as a form of testing. I have used it to learn to do without unnecessary fripperies. I have used it to find enjoyment and beauty in even fleeting, small things. I have used it to find a center of spiritual equanimity.

I thank my gods for this. And as I love them, as I am grateful to them, I show them honor and respect. Even when I lived in the homeless jungle, as such encampments are called, I managed to pour out a little drink, or leave part of my own food for them. If this meant I went a little hungrier, then so be it. Wouldn’t be much of a sacrifice if I didn’t suffer a little. Indeed, I took PRIDE in this, I felt it made my sacrifices MORE valuable because they cost me so dearly.

Ms. Tea, poverty can beat a person down or raise them up. I am terribly sorry that it seems to have done the former to you. But don’t you dare go painting us all as having failed, like you, to cope. We are not all victims. We are not all weaklings. We do not all hide behind our poverty as an excuse to get out of doing anything meaningful for the gods we claim to love.

And seriously, you really think this: “If your heart isn’t in it, then don’t do it,” is good advice for poor people or, indeed, anyone? This is frankly the worst religious advice I ever heard. It is when your heart isn’t in it that devotional activity matters MOST.

6 thoughts on “Poverty and Piety

  1. […] From Wayland Skallagrimsson: […]

  2. You might want to read Aubs tea again. She was quoting Tess.

  3. Aubs Tea says:


    I don’t think we’ve met. And that’s okay. I don’t really need to meet up with everyone on the Internet. My name is Aubs and I wrote the post that put you in a tizzy!

    I strongly suspect that you failed at basic reading comprehension and that is what caused the bug to crawl up your butt. I never implicitly stated “that poverty makes it impossible for poor people to make any religious offerings at all.” I’m not sure where you pulled that information at all?

    I said that being poor can make it difficult to provide offerings that many people believe are proper or good enough because being poor can and does impact the mental and emotional faculties of people. If you are not one of the people so impacted by your situation, then congratulations! However, there are plenty of other people who do feel that being poor drags on them in both a mental and emotional way. Just because you do not feel thus doesn’t mean it doesn’t exist.

    Another problem is that many poor people feel that they cannot provide proper offerings. And I addressed that with the whole, “if it doesn’t feel good to you, then don’t do it” bit towards the end? Again, I’m not sure if you just failed to actually read the entry or are just assuming what was said or what have you, but in many instances, poor people will just give up or not do anything because they cannot meet the expectations of others. And really, the only expectations that matter are the gods that they’re providing these things to.

    So, in closing, you suck at reading comprehension; I didn’t say that; and if you had an issue with it, you should have probably been better about complaining about what I wrote. Frankly, I was pretty sad that the only dissenter I’ve had in this whole mess – outside of the Piety Posse – talked in circles and clearly didn’t read what I wrote.

    Have a great night!

    • How surprising. No, Ms. Tea, I did not miscomprehend you. Your explanations here are the same “pity us” victimhood crap I complained of in your post. I stand by my words, and I stand by my opposition to the way you portray our people in public.

      “”that poverty makes it impossible for poor people to make any religious offerings at all.” I’m not sure where you pulled that information at all?”

      That was your post. You named so many specific instances of how poverty made it impossible, and offered such flaming criticisms of people who suggested even minor minor offerings, that it essentially ended up being a claim that it was totally impossible. If you do not like the characterization, I suggest you go back and reread your own words, including those you posted on the many blogs you trolled around insulting people on.

      Poverty can beat a person down or lift them up. Yes, many are beaten down, I do not argue that. What I do argue is that that should be the default assumption made about us. I argue that most strongly. It infantilizes us. It makes us weak. It is dead insulting. It dishonors the struggles of many brave and noble poor people who DID keep their heads up, such as my parents. I actually do respect and love poor people, so I always stand by to offer them real help. I offer priestly aid in keeping a strong spirit. I do not offer meaningless easy pity and a crown of victimhood.

      If you want to engage in a meaningful debate on the subject, just telling me I am wrong and then saying exactly the same stuff again does not count. That is not debate, it is repetition. I have neither patience nor tolerance for the victim mentality, nor do I have any patience or tolerance for passing off repetition as debate. Good day to you.

  4. psbey says:

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