In contemporary Paganism, theism generally means polytheism. Some polytheist Pagans view the various gods and goddess of different traditions as merely facets of an archetypal God and Goddess, enabling them to validate all traditions equally. Both frameworks contain echoes of colonizing Christianity. Collected mythology summarizes content by removing the original voice of the text. The recounted stories are filtered through the Christian worldview, and in some cases no pre-Christianized examples exist. Abstraction opens the way for the reductive collapse of a diversity of symbols and archetypes into two, a single binary around which the world turns.

One might frame theism as belief in the divine as framed by a specific tradition. A strong theist not only believes in the existence of the divine but can also describe the object of their belief. Weak theism would require only the belief, allowing that one may be open to different views of the divine. Christian theists tend to be strong theists as their specific concept of “God” serves as the object of their belief. While potentially open to different views of their “God”, Christian theists all agree that the object of their belief is “the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, who sent his son to die for all sins and be resurrected.” Pagan theists tend to be weak theists in that they embrace theological pluralism. The Pagan community remains unified in part by admitting multiple, sometimes mutually exclusive, concepts of the divine.

Both strong and weak theism make an ontological claim about the divine. They claim that at minimum one concept of the divine refers to a real entity that exists in the world. An atheist would deny that ontological claim, rejecting as epistemically invalid all personal experience of the divine. If the divine exists, one can infer that experiencing the divine is likewise possible. If the divine does not exist, purported experiences of the divine cannot be more real than dreams.

Ontological claims concern existence and the kinds of entities that exist, but the limits of ontology are not also the limits of truth. Phenomenal claims concern experience and the contents of experience. A phenomenal claim of the form, “I experienced X” would be true if and only if I had indeed had experienced X. An experiencing subject can make true claims about ontologically false entities insofar as they are phenomenal claims. One who believes that experiences of the divine are phenomenally real but does not take any position regarding the ontological status of the divine could be called a “phenomenal theist.”

While phenomenal claims may not or may reveal any ontological truths, they may still be intensely meaningful for the experiencing subject. Ecstatic states of consciousness can help the subject reorganize their view of themselves and their place in the world, their aesthetics, and their morality. An individual’s experience of the divine can clarity their values, their understanding of beauty and good, and change the course of their life. Phenomenal claims may not have a bearing on ontology, but they can have a bearing on self-knowledge and value, both key facets of the human experience.