On Authenticity

Many religious people and paths—including many Pagans and Pagan traditions—place a great premium on claims of authenticity: that their mythologies, traditions and practices are, for want of a better word, “real”.

“Real” ancient lore or rites. “Real” narratives about god/desses. “Real” translations of “real” ancient texts. “Real” rituals, real traditions, real teachers, real magic.

“Real Paganism”.

There are those who will go on about this at great length, opining about what they believe is authentic…and, as often as not, why you’re not it.

But here’s the thing about authenticity: it has nothing to do with any of those things.

Authenticity in relationships has to do with what is in your heart. If you truly embrace and adore something, your relationship with it is authentic. And that is as true if what you adore is the Cosmos as it is if it is a given god or goddess.

As for “real” religious paths, well: either all of them are “real”, or none of them are. Because the only thing that could possibly divide them is whether or not they work for the people who follow them, and you can find somebody to follow pretty much anything.

I mean, check out Scientology.

I’ve never claimed that the religious paths of others aren’t real. If they’re following them, well, then, those paths are real. Their cosmologies may stipulate belief in things which don’t actually exist in objective reality, but the paths themselves most certainly are authentic if their followers embrace them in their hearts.

Atheopaganism is a new Pagan path. Depending on when you start counting, it’s about ten or fifteen years old. I don’t pretend it is anything other than that, though we do draw forward some old traditions that please us, like Yule trees and Maypoles and Hallows fires and celebrating the solstices and equinoxes. And yes: while there certainly are many other nontheist Pagan paths, I launched this particular one. I invented it.

But here’s the thing: all religious paths were products of human invention at some point.

Some accreted over centuries, and had dozens or even hundreds of contributors. Others were invented all at once by individuals. But every last one, from the deepest wells of antiquity, was a human creation.

The antiquity of religious traditions doesn’t really matter. Just because ideas are old does not mean they are worthy or valid. There are plenty of discredited ideas that are centuries old: astrology. Alchemy. Aether. And that’s just a few of the “A”s.

We do not assume that ancient medical knowledge is better than the modern. Nor technology, nor morality. Humans have evolved, and continue to evolve and innovate.

Why is it “normal” to scoff at a ten-year-old phone as hopelessly outdated, but to dutifully and unquestioningly embrace a Bronze Age belief system? Isn’t that a tad inconsistent…particularly given that a belief system is a lot more central to a given person’s life and experience than a phone?

Atheopaganism is a real religious path. It is as genuine as any other. The awe, celebration and wonder that we feel as we contemplate the natural world and Cosmos are as true and authentic as the worship and reverence others feel for gods. The Sacred pillars and Principles of Atheopaganism are informed by the evolution of modern and progressive values, not the (often cruel and bigoted) ones of some bygone civilization. And our rituals, even as we create them afresh, are as meaningful as any others.

We do, however, have one thing going for us that most other religious paths do not: while the existence of gods is subject to debate, what we revere demonstrably exists.

As the bumper sticker says, “I worship Nature. Don’t laugh: we can prove it exists.”

 

 

 

3 thoughts on “On Authenticity

  1. And, on a related note: things become a tradition because they work for a group of people, and that group of people pass them on to their successors.

    Later on, another group of people find that the passed-on traditional practice does not work for them so they seek to change it. Then a bunch of other people shout at them for changing it.

    This is bizarre, because it only became a traditional practice because it worked for some reason — if it stops working, or doesn’t work for a particular group, then it needs changing.

    Liked by 1 person

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