Morality and the Gods

One of the greatest strengths of the heathen religion, I think, is our concept of morality. It is unlike the way that morality is viewed in many other religions. We did not get our moral code engraved on stone tablets by a burning bush, or anything else of the sort. Our morals are not given to us by the gods. Instead, the heathen view of morality has always been far more pragmatic.

We do not waste time on rarified and abstract concepts like good and evil. We do not attempt to interpret the divine will in order to find out how we should be living our lives. Instead, we ask ourselves one simple question: “What harm or help does will be the result?” A deceptively simple question, this is a much firmer basis for morality than wondering about divine will or the nature of good and evil. We simply try to do as little harm and as much help as possible. It is not as easy to wiggle out from under the constraints of this standard as it is to ignore morality handed down from above.

You see, worrying about what the divine will is, or what the nature of good and evil are, is too far removed from the real world and its consequences. Need proof? Just look at the Big Three religions: Christianity, Judaism, and Islam. Their history is rife with committing murder, even genocide, in the name of a god that explicitly forbids killing. Abstract theories are easy to pervert from their original intentions. Codes of morality that are divorced from real world considerations such as harm and help too easily lead to incredibly immoral actions.

To the heathen mind, morality is not given by the gods, it simply is. The gods are as bound by it as we. And that’s the way it should be.

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2 thoughts on “Morality and the Gods

  1. Amanda says:

    I’ve noticed that, at least with the most fundamentalist sects of Christianity and Islam, “good” is defined as “what God wants” and “evil is defined as “what God doesn’t want”. Take the same-sex marriage issue. Some Christians believe that their God is against same-sex relationships, therefore they want legislation that enforces that view, regardless of whether same-sex relationships actually cause society any harm.

    However, if you separate morality from the gods, then things get more complicated. One implication that I think even modern Heathens find troubling is that it means the gods can sometimes be wrong, and it means that we humans don’t always have to agree with the gods.

    I’ve gotten into arguments with other followers of Odin about this before, so this may be a minority opinion, but if Odin ever asked me to do anything that I thought was morally wrong, I would refuse to do it. Maybe that makes me a bad Odinswoman, I don’t know, but I don’t think I have to blindly obey him.

    Luckily, it’s never come up. Odin’s never asked me to do anything like that before. In fact, knowing him, if he ever did, I have a feeling it would be a test to see if I would say no to him, and I’d fail the test if I didn’t. But that’s the kind of relationship I have with him. He’s more a father to me than a master, and the job of a good father is to get your child to be independent.

    • I’d agree. Unlike a lot of the more unreasonable, authoritarian deities of other religions, our gods will likely smile and nod with respect when you go against their will. Including Odin. Indeed, some of the Sagas mention even heroes who had actively rebelled against him going to Valhalla.

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