Why Naturalism? Because This.

Yet another example of a Pagan in a leadership position using that position for sexual misconduct, citing woo-woo “spiritual” reasons involving disembodied entities and “magical bonds” as “explanations” for his abuse.

How far would such hokum fly in a naturalistic Pagan community?

Not.

At all.

Willingness to take someone’s word about supposed supernatural processes and invisible beings is a formula for being abused. Healthy skepticism would have tossed this creep out on his ear long ago, but the conventions of many Pagan communities which take at face value highly improbable assertions about the nature of reality create safe contexts within which abusers can operate.

Say what you like about naturalistic Paganism, one thing is clear: a naturalist thinker isn’t going to be lured or cajoled or strongarmed into being abused with “magical” explanations.

This happens too much in the Pagan community. A healthy dose of skepticism is the cure for the problem.

And here’s a rule of thumb: any time a “leader” or “teacher” of any kind suggests that to “advance” you need to do something sexual: RUN.

 

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Why is Naturalism Radical?

One of the hottest points of contention between Atheopagans and both theists and hard-antitheist atheists has to do with naturalism. Naturalism is a philosophical position which holds that there is nothing which is not of the physical Universe: that there is nothing which is supernatural, and that such claimed supernatural phenomena as gods, spirits, souls, ghosts, and magic are fictitious.

Theists dispute this out of hand, of course. It makes sense that nontheist Pagans have friction with theists over this point.

But adamant antitheists like David Dennett and Richard Dawkins have conflict with it, too–because they insist that if you are a naturalistic tradition, you’re not really a religion.

This is frankly silly. The only reason that we assume you must believe in the supernatural in order to be religious is because our society unthinkingly adopts the paradigm of religious traditions for whom Belief is a Big Big Deal.

Think about it. If you were going to create a religion today*, there is no way you would start from the standpoint that much of what science tells us is untrue and that instead, fantastical and completely unverifiable anecdotes are the true accounting of the nature of the Universe.

The only reason such anecdotes and beliefs are sewn into the fabric of Bronze Age religions is because they didn’t know any better back then. They were grasping for answers and they made up stories to fit their cultural values and what little they could verify for themselves.

Clearly, cultural inertia is a thing.

I grow frustrated with the likes of Dawkins and Dennett because their arguments against Religion writ large are always REALLY arguments against supernaturalism.

But religion doesn’t have to be supernaturalistic. So their arguments “against religion”—entire books’ worth—come down to straw man fallacies.

Why is it considered so wild an idea that religion need not contain a supernatural component? The only answer I have is that it is because the religions we see around us have not been doing it that way. For centuries.

The insistence that Belief in that which requires Faith is a necessary prerequisite for a religious tradition is basically a monotheistic holdover from the Abrahamic religions, in my opinion. We’ve been steeping in the assumptions of the Judeo-Christian worldview for so long we can’t even see how they have stained us.

Religion isn’t just what you believe about the Universe. It’s also about your values, and your morals, and your religious practices and observances.

And that really isn’t such a radical idea.

 

*And if you’re an Atheopagan, you actually are, by the way.

 

Looking Forward

So, Gavin Frost died.

And several writers I respect have weighed in on his shameful legacy.

I can’t say any better what they have, and my rule-of-blog is not to repeat what’s already out there.

What I can say, though, is that the death of this awful human is an opportunity to speak about what it is that makes Atheopaganism different. Or potentially so.

Atheopaganism is a forward-looking religion. We don’t claim to derive from a lineage or tradition, and as such, we are neither beholden to nor reverent towards so-called elders.

Did those who helped to create Paganism help to pave the way for where we are here? Yes.

Did those who helped to shape modern Atheism help to pave the way for where we are here? Yes.

Are prominent figures in both camps kinda…screwed up?

Yes.

So to those of us who are Atheists becoming Atheopagans, yes: some of the people who started the modern Pagan movement were loony, and a few were delusional to the point of evil.

We learned from that. We’re getting better.

And to those who are Pagans embracing their Atheism, yes: the dogmatism of the New Atheists moved them from speakers of truth to evangelistic zealotry. They over-generalize about religion and throw the baby out with the bathwater.

Still, their assertion of naturalism as the most reasonable cosmology for a thinking human is absolutely compelling.

We are fortunate in that we have no “high priest/esses”, no hierarchs, no cult leaders. We’re just a group of people working together to create something that works for us.

My hope for Atheopaganism is that we can draw forward elements of value from what has been in the past, while firmly leaving behind the dysfunction through a firm commitment to our values and Principles. And then, from there, to build our own culture, our own shared traditions sprung from our own creativity.

Let us enshrine history and legacy in the form of actions of integrity, rather than the lionizing of problematic people. If that is the practice, the likes of Gavin Frost will be forgotten soon enough.