The Humanist Dilemma: What Does It Mean To Be Polytheistic?

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OMGs! My partner is a polytheist and I’m a secular humanist. We’re discussing having kids and my partner wants to raise them in a polytheistic environment. How can I learn more about their brand of polytheism and square that with having a family in a secular environment?

— Even One God Is Too Many for Me


Dear Too Many,

Ask your partner. Ask because you sincerely want to understand what your partner believes; how your partner practices that belief; how that belief affects what your partner thinks and does; how that belief colors your partner’s interpretation of ethical issues; and, most importantly, how your partner envisions that belief would apply to children. Although you could do some independent research into polytheism, what really matters here is your partner’s concept and practice of it.

Don’t be afraid to question extensively and relentlessly. And don’t hold back on articulating your views as a secular humanist, explaining how you would want to apply those views to your family dynamics. Answer the same questions regarding secular humanism as you’re asking your partner about polytheism. Do your best to genuinely listen to what your partner has to say and insist that they listen to you. Brace yourself: conversations about faith and religion can be emotional for both of you.

Which brings me to a question for you: Why does your partner require your family to be raised in a polytheistic environment, and why have you agreed to that (if you have)? In other words, why aren’t you advocating for secular humanism? Perhaps by polytheist your partner means someone who acknowledges all religions and their deities, which is fine as part of a broad intellectual awareness of the myriad belief systems embraced by humans. I admit I don’t really know what the term entails in practice, and I certainly have no idea how your partner defines it. But I do know it’s crucial for you to thoroughly understand how your partner views reality (or spirituality, or whatever best describes their polytheistic ideation), and what your partner expects from you and your prospective family.

Now is the time to have these honest and vulnerable conversations—before you have offspring to raise with no gods or many (or both, if there’s some way to do that). If you have any doubts about how this will work or whether it will work for you, now is the time to address them.