Recently, I asked the Atheopagan group on Facebook for suggestions of some topics they would like to see addressed here at the Atheopaganism blog. Given that non-theistic Paganism is a minority element of a minority religion, it’s no surprise that several people suggested writing on how to have a solo practice, or how to build an Atheopagan community.
First of all, you’re not alone. There are thousands of us who believe as you do. You can connect with them through the Facebook Atheopaganism group, through the Humanistic Paganism website and other spiritual naturalism sites. You’re not alone.
It’s true: we’re new as a recognized group, and you may not have others around you who also identify as Atheopagan. On the other hand, since going public in the San Francisco greater Bay Area Pagan community as a non-Believing Pagan, I have had literal dozens of people come to me to confide that they, too, don’t literally believe in gods. That they see gods as metaphors and archetypes created in the human mind, for human psychological purposes. Without “outing” anyone, this includes some well-known names in the Pagan world.
So look around for people who call their practice “naturalistic Paganism” or “Humanist Paganism” or “spiritual naturalism”. Atheopaganism is one flavor of these broader categories.
If you know other Pagans, you may be able to have a conversation with them about gods as metaphors and archetypes, rather than literal beings. There’s nothing to be ashamed of here: you’re allowed your beliefs as much as anyone else is. If your local Pagan community is ideologically narrow and insists on “belief” or conformity to a particular way of looking at the world, you may want to start a conversation about diversity. When asked to take part in the rituals of others, when opportunity presents itself you can make your own part of the ritual Atheopagan in nature; if asked to “call a direction”, for example, you can invoke Qualities you would like to bring into the ritual, rather than a traditional “direction and element” kind of invocation.
I strongly encourage you to organize your own rituals. Develop an Atheopagan Sabbath gathering and invite atheist and/or Pagan friends to join you. Rituals can be meaningful and life-enriching, and even those who aren’t accustomed to them can come to see this.
But if where you live is truly devoid of people who share your skeptical, critical-thinking approach to spirituality, you may have to practice alone, at least for awhile. Remember, Atheopaganism is something we do, not just something we believe.
Here are some suggestions for how to do that:
First, give yourself permission. Go into the woods–or the desert, or the tall grass, or up the mountain, or to the river, the lake or the ocean–to perform your rituals. Know that they are as meaningful and legitimate as any that might be done with a group.
Second, set up a Focus. Have a symbolic place where your Atheopaganism lives in your home, which reflects your interests, values, aspirations and passions.
Third, do something every day. Whether it is simply drawing a Tarot card to contemplate, spending a few minutes in meditation, saying your Atheopagan Rosary or lighting candles on your Focus in the evening and setting an intention for the next day, make your Atheopagan practice a regular part of your life.
Fourth, observe the eight Sabbaths somehow: perform a ritual, go for a hike, host a gathering, something. Make each station on the Wheel of the Year a special day.
Finally, stay connected online with the broader Atheopagan community. Post your experiences and questions to the Facebook group, ask for support when you need it. Stay in touch!
Do these things and you will have a rich and meaningful Atheopagan practice, even if it is practiced alone. As you find others to share it with, it will only grow and deepen.
Let us know how it’s going in the comments or on the Facebook group!