Many people come to Paganism out of a longing for the old Gods, to find community where they otherwise would not, and to reach their own unique sense of purpose and achievement. Most people find the Gods, their purpose, and equally important, themselves. These are all fantastic things.
But perhaps in an attempt to raise people above the levels they came from, or out of delusions of grandeur, or perhaps even out of actual belief, there are Pagan systems that tell people they are Gods, equal to Gods, work with Gods, and are the same as Gods.
Whenever I hear someone say they are a God, or that some other person is a God, if prompted I always say, "Oh, yeah? Make it rain." I don't respond this way to be a jerk, but to wake them up to an important reality that can become dangerous to neglect.
Our religious and social ancestors had no problem with worship or religion. In fact, to the Greeks, there was no word for religion because life was religious. They were not Christians nor Abrahamic, and yet, they still realized that their Gods were greater than themselves. They still prayed, worshiped and sacrificed to them because they held status, power and wisdom far above their own.
Humans are not the same or equal to the Gods. If we were, we would not be called humans. We do not take their places nor work with them, because we are not on the same levels at all. We are mortal, we hurt, we bleed, and we die. Gods do not.
The idea that Pagans did not worship is simply incorrect at best, and a lie at worst. However, it did not mean they saw themselves as degenerates. Quite the contrary, they could be Heroic to the point of eternal glory. Simply put, the Gods had their place and mankind had theirs. Nothing deplorable about any of it.
There are many reasons humans should not consider themselves Gods, but here are the core ones to my mind.
1. Humans simply aren't. Truth has a place in human life.
2. It gives a false sense of achievement; people don't have to do anything else in life.
3. It can create dangerous self-righteous authority over other people and things.
4. Self-harm can follow from thinking you're something you're not.
5. To not give the Gods their proper place is an affront to the sacredness of Divinity.
It does not matter how big, strong or successful you are, you are not a God. But you also don't have to be. Who in the world ever thought or assumed that human beings couldn't be great as a human?
Ikaros was, mythologically, among the first two men to achieve flight. That in itself was greatness. But because Ikaros failed to understand his proper place and tried to soar higher than a mortal should, he fell and drowned.
It was not that he didn't reach greatness, but that he didn't acknowledge what greatness was for a man. He had achieved all a man could, filling his cup of glory to the top, if only he hadn't tried to make it hold more than it naturally could.
Imagine it. He could have brought the knowledge of flight to mankind, made himself rich, loved and admired for eternity. There would have been nothing inglorious about his life. If only he had understood the difference between Gods and men.
"Didn't some of the Heroes become Gods after death?" Yes, but it was after they had transcended the physical realm, and many of the Heroes were part Divine to begin with. And not all Ascended people are Gods either. They are more powerful than physical humans, but still not Deities.
In closing, I will say that when it comes down to personal belief, should others really concern themselves with that? I'd say normally not. If someone believes they are Superman, who cares? But if they put on the costume and go to jump off a building, should we as a community tell them that they are indeed Superman and to go ahead?
In the Goodness of the Gods,
I'll see you at the next Herm down the road,