What, exactly, is the appeal of dangerous deities?

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At the risk of sounding like a broken record:

If there was an adult who was “not safe” for children, we would strive to keep children away from them. No one would brag about being friends with that kind of person. We would understand that an adult is more powerful than a child, and that using that power differential to hurt a child is nothing to brag about.

If there was a human who was “not safe” around pets, who, in their fury, beat pit bulls with iron bars, or poisoned wild foxes on purpose, we would have no issue labeling that person as unfit for human society.

No one would use the word “powerful” to describe such a person. Hurting beings who are weaker than yourself is, itself, a weakness. It is a sickness. Violence against the helpless is what a person does when they feel utterly powerless and lack the emotional maturity to deal with it in a healthy way.

Now, I get that some deities, like Thanatos, just scare people due to their assigned task. And maybe some mortals are trying to work through their fear of death by identifying Thanatos, rather than their mortality, as the thing that scared them.

And I get that there are some deities, like the Moirai, who are impartial and impossible to propitiate, because their job demands impartiality.

But if you are bragging that your deity is hurting you, or worse, trying to kill you, there are only three options:

1. The deity hates you.
2. The deity is ignorant of how human spirituality works.
3. The deity is a broken person who feels powerless and doesn’t know what else to do with their anger.

If the deity hates you, you should probably not work with them.

If the deity hasn’t troubled themselves to learn about how human spirituality works, they probably don’t want a cultus, and if they do, they’re not really prepared to handle one.

If the deity feels powerless enough that they need to find someone weak to abuse, maybe they should get their shit together before working with humans.

I don’t know what the hell is going on in the Polytheist community that we are even having a discussion about what to do with “dangerous” deities, but can we all agree that abusers are bad no matter what plane of existence they live in? And that the appropriate response to abusive behavior is NEVER treating the abuser with respect?

But I suspect I know what’s going on, here. Forever and always, the people who get most offended by the argument that celestial abusers (if they exist at all) don’t deserve human respect, are always the ones using the idea of dangerous deities to control others.

This tactic was very successful with controlling the Christian masses.

“God is going to hurt you because he loves you so much,” is a familiar sentiment. And it’s one that deserves to stay in the past.


  1. Do you have a specific tag for posts you’ve written that touch on this subject? I know you’ve written quite a few and I’ve enjoyed them thoroughly!

  2. I suspect some of this is folks emulating online personalities from a place of confusion.

    I’ve read a number of people out there who talk about the pain or terror of serving a particular Deity; but, when I scratch below the surface, they’re talking about good kinds of pain- difficult exercise that makes them stronger, being forced to work through old trauma, overcoming fears, that sort of thing.

    But I suspect there are plenty of people who read those at a surface level and think, “if my Gods don’t abuse me, it’s not real.” This is of course reinforced by preexisting Jonathan Edwards bullshit that teaches us humans suck and so Anyone Divine automatically hates dealing with us.

    1. A part of it is also the philosophical legacy of the Puritans and Evangelical Christianity that impacts our culture in more ways than we realize.

      Puritans definitely had this idea that a person needed to have their will broken in order to grow spiritually. So they beat the snot out of their kids.

      Many flavors of Christianity have this idea of a narcissistic “god” who sets aside a good place for those who serve and obey, and a place of torment for anyone else. A large number of people in our culture are like, “Oh, yes. This jives. A deity who loves me and therefore wants to terrify me with the threat of eternal torment. It makes perfect sense to me. That’s not emotional abuse at all! I will do my best to not ask questions and tremble in terror before my loving deity so that I can go to be with them in their afterlife pocket dimension.”

      And then turn around and “love” their children in a likewise fashion. So that even if the religion vanishes from a family, the idea that authority figures should behave in this way, and by extension, deities, persists.

      1. Yarp. Too much of this garbage:
        “The God that holds you over the Pit of Hell, much as one holds a Spider, or some loathsome Insect, over the Fire, abhors you, and is dreadfully provoked; his Wrath towards you burns like Fire; he looks upon you as worthy of nothing else, but to be cast into the Fire; he is of purer Eyes than to bear to have you in his Sight; you are ten thousand Times so abominable in his Eyes as the most hateful venomous Serpent is in ours.” – Jonathan Edwards, ‘Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God’ (1741)

  3. You know that I concur 100000000%, but I just had to say thank you or differentiating between abusive deities and “scary” deities.

    Just because the realm of some deities is frightening does not make the deity in question evil or unworthy of worship and respect.

    1. Right. And here is the thing. If a god like Thanatos has you on his “to do” list, there is no sense in discussing how to protect yourself. Wards won’t help. Spiritual hygeine won’t help. It’s your time. You gotta go, or some real bad shit is going to happen to the cycle of nature. And, imo, if he’s coming for you, death is probably a mercy at that point.

      I think about a story I read once where Thanatos had been captured by a well-meaning mage. Or the Torchwood “Miracle Day” miniseries.

      What happens when we can become grievously ill, or greusomely injurred, but are denied the ability to die, is horific even to contemplate.

      It’s reasonable to honor gods who make sure things we resist at all costs happen in their due course.

      And in an age where, very soon, the ultra wealthy may be able to purchase immortality as a commodity, praying to Thanatos seems like a Good Idea.

  4. Totally agree.

    And yes, like you said, important to distinguish between abusive gods, and humans who describe them as abusive to prop up their own power, and gods whose job is scary.

    Poseidon, as god of the ocean and earthquakes: scary power. Does he use it to “punish” or abuse humans? No. He’s the embodiment of big scary waves and gentle lapping waves; big scary earthquakes and slight earth tremors.

  5. You raised some excellent point here. It’s equally important to note that some people are in a D/s dynamic with their deity and can forget that these things are red flags. Safe, sane, and consensual applies with deities as much as with people.

    1. Am I wrong to feel like ALL Polytheists should read The Topping Book and The Bottoming Book?

      Anyone who knows good BDSM from bad, and who is engaged fully in the community is bound to eventually come to understand what a good versus bad Dom/Domme looks like. Or they will at least have it explained to them some several thousand times.

      Is it weird that I created a whole goddamn ritual for the purpose of putting the “play” of Deity/mortal on pause to be like, “Hey, this scene is not working for me, let’s unpack that and process”?

  6. This is a great post.

    Being a Filipino former Catholic who has now become the most iron-closeted pagan ever regarding 99% of my family, I keep running into situations where I feel like the gods are being too nice and they may be figments of my imagination, or spirits who are pulling one over on me–or relatively benign spirits who play along with my delusions, for whatever reason they have. But then they just look at me with the O.O face and go “WHAT DO YOU MEAN WE’RE *TOO NICE???* THAT’S WHAT WE’RE *SUPPOSED* TO DO!!!”

    And Loki of all deities laughs at me and goes “bahahahaha, we got some Catholic bullshit!”

    Like… the deity who I couldn’t stand for a few years (and I still frequently say that I hate him), who tells me that most spirits I work with are “too nice” and he’s here to shake things up, and who constantly does reckless shit without warning? He still acknowledges that Catholicism is fucked up, and it needs to get its shit together and address all the trauma it’s caused.

    Also, the tangent in the comments on BDSM and tops/doms is hilarious in how accurate it is for me. There’s a lot of times where I roleplay with the gods or just vent to them with the possibility of lashing out, then I freak out about something and ask if I was too extreme. They just go “honey, you are mortal and we are gods. GO WILD. WE WILL TELL YOU IF SOMETHING’S WRONG.”

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