Building Atheopagan Community

As I referenced earlier, Atheopaganism as a named path is new. That means that those of us who are a part of it are rare, and far-flung (the Facebook group has members from across the globe). That said, Atheopaganism has something precious to offer both atheists and Pagans, and those are quite a bit more common. Atheopagan community is therefore likely to be ecumenical community: at first, at least, we will gather with both those who share our worldview and those whose cosmologies differ.

Pagans are rare enough in most places; expecting to find a broad community of atheist Pagans may be unrealistic. However, most Pagans are pretty tolerant–they will joyfully be a part of your community so long as you will be a part of theirs, and they will participate in your rituals if you, in turn, join in theirs. And the point of ritual is the doing, anyway, not the philosophical underpinnings of it. Atheist Pagans have been circling with theist Pagans since the Neo-Pagan revival began, and there is no reason for us to stop doing so just because we have now come forward to declare our way of believing to be a legitimate alternative to theism.

In the atheist community, as well, there are those who are seeking ways to make their lives more meaningful. If you know such people, you can invite them to a celebration, hold a short ritual and see how it sits with them.

Unitarian Universalists and liberal Christians and Jews may also enjoy Atheopagan ritual; don’t rule them out if you know some. UU “churches” are good places to advertise for atheists/agnostics looking for meaningful celebration of the seasons, as well. If you are inviting strangers, you may want to hold your first ritual at a park rather than at your home—that’s up to you.

My encouragement, as always, is just to do it. The best times of the year to hold an “introductory” Atheopagan ritual are at the solstices and equinoxes, as these are objective astronomical events which even the staunchest atheist must recognize as real. Have your friends over for a solstice or equinox meal and tell them that you would like to do a short ceremony to celebrate the season. Be sure to include that in the invitation: inviting people over and then “springing” it on them will not go over well.

Say a brief gratitude prior to the meal (my usual one is, “This food, swelling from the Earth by the breath of the Sun, is brought to us by many hands. May all be honored.”)

Focus your ritual (the Atheopagan ritual primer will help you to design one) on the metaphorical meanings of the season passed and the one arriving, and on connection to the broader processes of the Universe: that we are a part of all this, and are grateful for all the many ways in which the biosphere and the broader Cosmos enable us to live.

These are themes which are pertinent to all humans. They have—or should have—meaning for all of us.

Keep the ceremony short. Make it participatory: each celebrant can say what she is hoping for in the coming season, for example, or what he is grateful for. You may want to have some sort of takeaway: a token of having been a part of the ritual, a symbol of what the coming season means. You would be surprised at how meaningful such objects can become for people; for some, the item may become the beginning of a Focus.

Feel free to tell your guests that you are exploring something called Atheopaganism: a science-based, god-free, woo-free practice to enrich your life by celebrating the seasons, life events, and personal transformation. Don’t keep it a “secret” from them—that’s always going to be counterproductive in the longer term. If they’re curious, point them to this website and let them find out more for themselves.

When the next Sabbath rolls around, invite the same folks again, and any others who seem like they might enjoy or find meaning in what we do.

It’s in this way that community begins: with a few friends sharing something wonderful.

 

 

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