Short answer? It’s up to you.
But this is my blog, so I’m about to share my opinion on the subject, so my answer to that question would be a resounding YES!
I’ll have it stated, for the record, that I’m loyal to those I worship and/or “work with” because they’ve been good to me. I love them fiercely, and I would defend any one of them to the death if need be. But the thing is, each of these beings knows that I have limits as to what I’m either able or willing to take from them. My religious practices focus more on personal connections, and if I’m going to be devoting not just my time, but my very soul to someone, then a certain level of trust is absolutely necessary before we proceed any further.
Arrogant as that might sound, I will not (at least, willingly) maintain a relationship with someone that is harmful to me – God, human, or animal, it does not matter. I set boundaries in my relationships, even with deities, and I trust these beings to respect those boundaries. We have an understanding that those limits might be tested now and then, if it becomes necessary to do so for my own well-being, but there are certain lines that are not to be crossed – on everyone’s ends.
I’ve never been a fan of the idea that one must give themselves up entirely to any deity, and accept whatever abuse might be thrown their way, and force themselves to change because said deity commands it.
Granted, I think the majority of the stories that I hear about abusive deities in the pagan community are bullshit. I think people, in general, place too much importance on petty issues in their personal lives, and that they tend to project onto their deities so much that they blame every little problem on them. I know mine certainly have better things to do than monitor my day to day interactions with my coworkers and customers in order to “punish” me for some petty slight. I figure, if I truly Mess The Fuck Up, they won’t hesitate to really chew me out. Frankly, I just don’t think any of the gods are really that involved in their followers’ lives that they need to be present 24/7.
There’s this sort of trend in the pagan community, and this isn’t solely a newbie thing, where people are treating their deities more like imaginary friends (and foes) than actual gods. Sure, I can believe that Loki might have visited you one day just to watch you cook dinner – he’s a curious god, and he likes his food. But I do have trouble believing that he never, ever leaves your side, that he goes to school with you, goes grocery shopping with you, paints your nails, and gossips about your classmates or coworkers with you. Similarly, I’d also have trouble believing that every negative thing that happened to you, from your flat tire to the bird crapping on your shoulder, was a result of Loki being angry because you forgot to leave poptarts out on his shrine this morning.
I can’t tell you how active the gods truly are in your life, but I can express my doubts that they’re behind every possible positive or negative thing going on in it.
That said, I’m a bit less concerned about imaginary friend type deities than I am about imaginary abuser deities. There seems to be this trend now, and it’s only been growing over recent years, of portraying one’s deities as terribly abusive overlords. The Nordic gods, particularly Odin and Loki, seem to be getting the worst of it – there are accusations of physical, mental, and psychological abuse, attempted murder, and even rape. What troubles me even more about these stories is that very often, the people telling them seem to treat their experiences like some sort of badge of honor, like they’re proud of being “tortured” by these deities. Even more disturbing still are their communities’ reactions to them.
It seems to be the “in thing” now to actively search for a dangerously abusive relationship with one’s deities, and there are a lot of “big names” in these communities jumping on that bandwagon, even going so far as to claim that humans deserve to be treated like dirt by their deities, and should welcome their cruelty.
The romanticization of abuse sickens me, and it makes me worry for younger, newer pagans.
As a community, we’re so quick to point fingers at “The Jesus People” for being too extreme in their beliefs, but I can’t help feeling like the broader pagan community is just as guilty. I’ve seen both communities disregard science in favor of faith, I’ve seen both communities display shocking levels of racism, sexism, and queerphobia, and I’ve seen both communities take advantage of young people.
I am loyal to my Deities and Heroes, and it is because they’ve earned that loyalty. They’ve shown me that they truly want a relationship with me, that they respect me, and that they are willing to fight for me when I need them to. I trust each and every one of them not to harm me. I am aware of their power over me, I’m aware that they COULD hurt me, but I feel secure enough in my relationship with them to say that they WON’T. It’d be beyond arrogant for me to say that this type of relationship is one that everyone should strive for – we’re all individuals, we each have our own wants and needs, and at the end of the day, I’m some random asshole online talking about my feelings and beliefs, just like everyone else.
I’m sure there’s going to be someone out there that’s going to read this post and think I’m not a *~*true believer*~* because I’m not *~*pious*~* enough for welcoming abuse, but I frankly do not give a damn. I respect my gods, and it’s because I respect them that I’m willing to tell them that I am not comfortable with something.