Atheopaganism and Learning to Love

As humans, we can’t really help but view many of our relationships as transactional: I give you X, and you give me Y. If I’m extra-good/nice/obedient, you may give me Z. It’s how we learn to relate to our parents, and sadly, many adult relationships are still based on a transactional model. If they were not, there would be no such thing as diamond jewelry.

As Atheopagans, we understand that we are part of the broader Universe. We thus have relationships with one another and with the Universe as a whole. But we know that the Universe isn’t listening to us, judging us, expecting us to “evolve” or develop “wisdom”, or anything of the sort. The Universe simply IS, churning along through its myriad processes insensate and utterly uncaring about the fates and desires of little old us.

Yet we love it anyway. We revel in its beauty and intricate wonders, in the delightful surprises that come as we discover more about it. We watch the stars and planets, and wait for the comets. We revel in sightings of wildlife, in the rich displays of sunsets and autumn leaves even though they are mostly the same, year after year. They never grow old to us.

In our rituals, we celebrate the turning of the seasons and the meanings they evoke in us. We mark the passages in our lives, celebrating, hoping, grieving, giving thanks, committing ourselves to the values and principles that we believe will make us better people, and our lives richer and more beautiful.

We love the Universe.

We love because it makes us happier to love. It makes us better to love. Even knowing that there is nothing coming back but the simple fact of existence: air to breathe and time to live, for awhile. This gratitude and love is not only good for us, it contributes to a better world, and it shows us the way to something closer to unconditional love…love that isn’t based on the assumption of getting something back.

And that is good practice for our human relationships. The truth is that expectations can be poison in a relationship; far better for us simply to love another because of who they are than for what they can give us. Far better to be generous and giving not because we expect something in return, but because there is pleasure in it of itself.

Loving the Universe—loving being alive—is a way to practice the art of love without expectation. It’s a rare discipline, a lifelong effort to master, and a key way station on the road to a life lived in the fullness of kindness.

Atheopagans don’t have the psychological bolster of believing in invisible, powerful entities which might respond to their entreaties. But what we do have may in the long run be something better: a guide to a way beyond worship, beyond bargaining, beyond prayer.

A guide to love itself, for its own sake.

2 thoughts on “Atheopaganism and Learning to Love

  1. Erin Lund Johnson

    Hi there. I’m just learning about atheopaganism as an outside party; I am a devotional and animistic polytheist myself. I wanted to comment on one of your passages here–

    “Atheopagans don’t have the psychological bolster of believing in invisible, powerful entities which might respond to their entreaties. But what we do have may in the long run be something better: a guide to a way beyond worship, beyond bargaining, beyond prayer.”

    This passage tells me that your brand of atheism might speak more to rejecting the religious orientations of monotheists than those of your fellow pagans, sounding like there may be an assumption that pagans and polytheists conceive of, and engage with our gods the way monotheists do with their god. For example from my animistic perspective, my gods are very visible, like Land, Sun, Fire, River, Moon, etc. I’d also note that the ways in which I engage with them have very little to do with entreating or bargaining, nor does my prayer involve asking for things. I would say it actually seeks beyond those things, as this states that atheopaganism does, albeit we may be seeking beyond in different directions with differing methods and purposes. From my devotional perspective, my worship and prayer seeks to honor, thank, and mystically commune with my gods, and work with them to bring their many blessings into the world. I’ve also recently talked with atheist pagans online who talk about embracing ideas about spirits, magic, and reincarnation, even while they don’t embrace a reality of any gods, so they do not wholesale reject anything popularly referred to as supernatural. You have a sticker to the right that reads, “Nature is enough.” Nature describes to me the All That is, even those aspects of it we don’t readily perceive with our five senses, like spirits, or dark matter, so in such a construct there cannot be anything outside of or beyond Nature, so I’d certainly agree that Nature, the All That Is, certainly is enough. Many indigenous cultures feel similarly about Nature. While I happily embrace a variety of worldviews among us all, I am concerned about what some of us reject by stating assumptions that other parties embrace those very things. In the case of atheism, it seems to often claim to reject what it assumes *all* religions believe/express/embrace, and not discern enough the varieties of what various traditions actually espouse. Perhaps this was not your intent here, and if not, I hope you’ll forgive my little rant, lol. If it was your intent, then maybe this might serve to highlight some distinctions among religious orientations which you might find useful going forward. Thanks for your time.


    1. Hi–thanks for your thoughtful comment. No, I don’t assume that “all” Pagans relate to their gods with bargaining or entreaty, but I know there is a lot of that going on. I’ve been in the Pagan community for more than 25 years and have seen far too many rituals the upshot of which was about “getting something” from the gods. Certainly there is tremendous diversity in the community, but particularly in what is now calling itself the “devotional polytheist” camp, which is growing in visibility, militancy and–in my opinion–fundamentalism, worship is very much a central practice.

      I don’t believe in gods, nor spirits, as no evidence I find credible has ever been presented for their existence. That is not true for such phenomena as dark matter. Your mileage may vary, of course. I thank you for the comment and for visiting the blog. We’d be happy to have you around for discussion.


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