And then, the more I thought about it, the more I came to the realization that the root of most all of my problems amongst my co-religionists could be traced to just that: I almost always think the bazinga is implied, and I'm almost always just gobstruck to find out that it isn't.
For example: years ago, I was (for a brief period) the moderator of a private email list for initiates of the tradition I then practiced. I didn't always scruple to hide my incredulity when people made what seemed to me to be preposterous claims, and I recall one instance when someone came right back on me and demanded "If you feel that way, then why are you here?" (My response? "Frankly, at this moment, I'm wondering that myself.") Very early in my internet pagan days I belonged to an open list and had a run-in with my first Sacred Whore; I thought that was a hilarious term and asked if that wasn't an oxymoron (bazinga!) and was very shocked when I was dogpiled as being the next best thing to Hitler or Phyllis Schafly or something. I always think I'm being trolled, always think there's a big elaborate joke, and even after nearly two decades of active practice I am still always surprised when I discover that no, in fact, people are deadly serious. Because I always think the bazinga is implied.
I'm a naturalistic pagan, a monolatrous animist type who relates to deity in ways that have led some people to mislabel me as an atheist. I'm a reality-based kind of person. When people come before me making what seem to be utterly absurd claims, my first reaction is always to think "you're testing me, you're trying to see how far you can go with me." I realize that this is probably an unusual response, but that's where my brain goes. I've encountered far too many fakers and fools to do otherwise. No, you're not a werewolf on the inside, and no, you're not possessed by demons and no, dammit, don't insult me by saying you're "aspecting the goddess" when the drivel you're spouting exactly echoes your mundane-world biases. The following gif set should illustrate:
When I have these experiences, I'm a little bit insulted and a little bit crushed every time, even though it's happened time and again and probably will continue to happen for the rest of my life. Look, I can't sit here and pretend that I've never had any weird experiences--of course I have--and I also can't pretend that I have a solid explanation for every phenomenon I've ever encountered. There are mysteries I will never comprehend; I know that, and I'm OK with that--it's part of what makes life fascinating for me. But at the same time, there is just some shit that I cannot and will not swallow, and I won't betray myself in order to play along with people who may indeed be trolling for a reaction. My spiritual practice is a grounded one, earth-based, reality-based, intellectual--more Apollonian than Dionysian, one could say. I won't go so far as to say that every person making wild and unprovable claims is a flat-out liar or mentally ill, but since I have no way of knowing a person's motivations upfront, I'm inclined to be wary. If it walks like a duck and looks like a duck it might conceivably be a platypus, but 99.99% of the time it's a goddamn duck, and I'm going to treat it as such.