Imagine

Ours is a vision of a better world. So let’s imagine it.

In the world we seek to build, kindness is paramount. None are “Other” or “lesser”, be they queer or disabled or poor or differently colored in skin tone. And those who are unfortunate are helped: our society leaves no one behind, guaranteeing a minimum, livable standard of living in all the ways that matter, including housing, food, clothing, health care and access to transportation and education.

Because we care about one another.

In our world, intellect is valued and thinking and reason are considered to be good things.  Expertise is respected, and all learn to think critically as they grow up.

In our world, the sacredness of the biosphere is not subject to debate. We rely on it, we come from it, and it is to be cared for with the deepest of scientific rigor and reverence. We celebrate its many magnificent creatures, and cast our eyes up to wonder if up there is more Life Up There, among the stars.

Needless to say, we have left fossil fuel production far, far behind.

In our world we celebrate the passing of the seasons, not least because we have a relationship with our food and with food production. We understand that our food comes from the Earth, and we watch for the changes and ritually acknowledge them. Our rites are joyful and happy, most of the time, saving our solemnity for times of sorrow and grief.

Happiness is a value in our world: it is how we measure our society’s success, and meant to be a baseline for human experience. We actively cultivate happiness and wisdom in ourselves and in others, and we appreciate one another for how we help to bring it about. In our world, people will simply be warmer towards one another.

Now, by not exploiting poor labor, this means that consumer goods will be more expensive. So we will have less stuff. In fact, consumption will reduce such that we will come into harmony with our planet’s carrying capacity. But that’s okay, because we do not measure people by their affluence or their accumulated possessions. We judge them by their character, with compassion and understanding to as great an extent as possible. We understand the desire to pile up money or possessions as a pathology, and meet it with both compassion and firm economic rules against too much of such hoarding.

Those who are too damaged, cruel, or sociopathic will be cared for kindly but firmly, ensuring that they are in no position to hurt others.

Our lives will be simpler, and we will spend more of them in contemplation, in enjoyment, in creativity, in exploration, and in celebration.

We will look to one another and see love shining in our eyes. We will look to the Earth and see abundant generosity and miraculous processes that keep us alive.

We will look to the stars and know that, tiny though we are, in this Universe we are unbelievably blessed.

The Magic of a World Without Magic

Atheopagans are what is called in philosophical circles naturalists. That means that we believe that everything is a part of nature, is composed of natural material, and is subject to the laws of physics.

Everything.

Accordingly, barring the arrival of a substantial and compelling body of evidence in support of the idea that rituals and mental effort can and do affect physical events at a distance in time or space—i.e., “magic”—we don’t believe in that, either.

There are some in other Pagan paths who express pity for this position (not to mention resentment, but that’s another matter). As if living in a world without gods, without ghosts or demons or fairies or hocus-pocus is somehow a disappointment.

But here’s the thing: for those of us not looking for such things, there is so much in this world—this tangible, unarguably, physical material world—to knock us out with wonder and joy that we don’t need more.

Sunsets. Moonrises. Rain and snow and lightning. The morning mist rises and the dew bejewels everything. Clouds. Mountains and forests and deserts and rivers and lakes and oceans. And on, and on, into the infinitude and eternity of that starry sky.

As the great naturalist poet Robinson Jeffers has it:

The beauty of things was born before eyes and sufficient to itself; the heartbreaking beauty

Will remain when there is no heart to break for it.

There is so much more here on plain, mundane Planet Earth, on our precious bejeweled home than we can ever experience. There is so much more to love than our hearts can ever stretch to encompass.

And it unrolls before us daily. The sky is an endless wonder. Contemplation of a single tree blowing in the wind can bring a surge of recognition and joy to those who know how to look. The mountains rise on the horizon; the trees breathe oxygen and lift their broad arms in celebration. The mist kisses our faces.

And then there are the animals. Not the least of which is the confounding and magnificent hairless ape, homo sapiens.

Ours is a world so rich with wonders, so rife with gifts that no amount of travel and adventure can scratch the surface of its abundance. None of us, in the space of a lifetime, can truly know what a gift it is to have arrived in existence on the multiply blessed third planet from this Sun,  one of quadrillions in this, the only Universe we know to exist.

We need not gild the lily with imaginings. We need not kid ourselves that we have powers we do not have.

While we are reeling with the sheer WOW of being alive, others chase ghosts and gods.

They are welcome to them.

For us, this life is enough.

This Sacred Earth is so, so much more than enough.

 

Towards a Spirituality of Responsibility

Paganism is fun.

It is: it’s playful, humorous, creative, sexy, joyous, and results in communities which are often wonderful to belong to*.

Atheism isn’t so fun—often, it’s stuck in fascination with being “right”—but it is grounded in reason and evidence and, thus, in what we can say with confidence is reality and not fantasy.

Putting them together can result in a cross-pollination that imbues the combination with joy, exploration, groundedness, wonder, reason and humor.

It can also help us transcend some of the inherent flaws in each approach on its own. Paganism can be self-indulgent, consumeristic, credulous, reflexively hostile to any suggestion that Pagans should be accountable to others, and—while it may protest its adoration for the Earth—environmentally and socially irresponsible. Atheism can be cold, humorless, dismissive of both emotional realities and the importance of the Earth, and in some of its more extreme “transhumanist” forms, may believe that humans can and should transcend being a part of the biosphere altogether.

In Atheopaganism, we embrace values and Principles which are life-affirming and which stipulate our responsibilities not only to ourselves, but to one another and the Sacred Earth. Walking this path can manifest in many ways, but in each case, the hope is that we live rich and happy lives and we spread that happiness through service to one another and to the Earth. We are political: we recognize that the decisions that are made by our societies have real impacts, and that we can have a voice in helping to change them.

Our path is alive and embodied—we live out loud and in color, celebrating the turning of the seasons and the wonders of the magnificent Universe of which we are a part. But beyond the joys and glories of the Atheopagan path for our own sake, we turn our eyes to the needs of others, and of the planet.

Because we are not just fun-loving and sexy and kind and adventurous and creative and reasoning.

We are responsible. We care. We make effort to improve things.

And that makes our path a complete one. Not only for ourselves, but for our societies and for our world.

So be proud, Atheopagans. Be proud of who you are and what you do. We are modeling a way of being that may well reflect how humans need to be as we continue to evolve.

 


*There are exceptions, of course. I don’t mean to imply that abuses of power and privilege don’t happen in Pagan communities—they do.