Blue-Skying Under Quarantine

We are the people of the future, and we are organizing.

 

So, there is going to be an Atheopagan religious nonprofit.

As the working group (composed of Atheopagan scientists, Facebook group moderators, and other key supporters) comes together to work on this, I’m trying to dream really big for what the organization can do and be.

I know a lot of what I don’t want it to be. I don’t want it to be a “church”, with a hierarchy and a doctrinaire approach to spirituality, and a rapacious thirst for money. You won’t have to “join” it to be an Atheopagan. It won’t even have a membership. Or membership dues. Or tithing*.

So I’m trying to think big about what this organization can do and be, even understanding that we aren’t likely to have tons of money to work with.

Here’s what I’ve come up with thus far:

  • Provide “clerical credential” to Atheopagans wishing to conduct weddings, etc.–for free, by registering through website and affirming support of Atheopagan Principles (sim. to Universal Life Church)
  • Copyright holder/publisher of Atheopaganism.org (or possibly a new website at new domain name) and the book Atheopaganism: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science (I will bequeath my copyrighted works relating to Atheopaganism to the organization upon my or my wife’s death, whichever comes later)
  • Book publication, including e-book and audio book projects
  • Update and publish and/or provide for download resources such as the Ritual Primer, Hymnal, an “Atheopagan starter kit”, activities for kids and families, etc.
  • Opinion papers on social issues relevant to Atheopagan values and Principles
  • Events production, including possible periodic conferences (live or virtual)
  • Grants to/sponsorship of Atheopagan projects and local gatherings, if resources are available
  • Digital newsletter (free to public, possibly quarterly or once per Sabbath, sent to email list gathered from clergy registrations (opt-out on request, of course))
  • Trainings/workshops in ritual skills, leadership, and naturalistic Pagan cosmology/values (either live and “approved) by org or done by org directly online)
  • Atheopaganism U. would move to the org as a core survey course (I would take a part of the tuition as the instructor,  but leave the rest with the org)

There is SO much more that could grow out of this. I hope to present to local UU congregations about Atheopaganism over the next year (virtually or in person) to spread the word; one day, who knows?

We who embrace the spirituality of reality are growing. There are more of us than ever before. We know that kindness, and decency, and welcoming, and respect, and loving the good green Earth are the way forward for humanity.

We are the people of the future, and we are organizing.

 


*But it will have to fundraise to do its work. It will have Internet fees like hosting and MailChimp, insurance, publication costs, etc. as minimal expenses, and if it has more resources it will be able to do more. Presumably, there are members of the community who won’t mind throwing in some cash occasionally to support its activities.

UPDATED: A Concept for Your Consideration: The Atheopagan Foundation (or something)

We have a discussion thread right now on the Atheopaganism Facebook group about “institutional religion”, and in it, I have made very clear that I don’t ever want to see Atheopaganism incorporated as a “church” or a legal religious institution. Atheopaganism is for everyone who wants it, and it is fundamentally free. It is a set of IDEAS, and religious ideas cannot be owned.

That said, I’ve been thinking for awhile that it is becoming cumbersome and perhaps somewhat inappropriate that pretty much all of the Atheopagan materials production rests with me. I’m gratified that people are finding my ideas helpful and compelling, but I’m only one person and we’ve become much bigger than that.

So I’ve had an idea, and I’d like to run it past you: The Atheopagan Foundation.

This is an effort to “thread the needle” between having no legal structure at all, which is problematic in several ways, and trying to become some kind of legally recognized religious institution, which…well, over my dead body.

Please take a look at the concept outline below and post your comments. I really want to hear from you about this! There is no rush on any of it–I wouldn’t get started on it for some months anyway. But the community’s opinion really matters to me, so let me know!

This post has also been posted as a thread in the Atheopaganism Facebook group, and I am collecting input there as well.

The Atheopagan Foundation: Concept Paper

  • A nonprofit educational organization whose mission is to support, develop resources for and promote the visibility of Atheopagan practice and practitioners. It is a religious “think tank”, NOT a church.
  • Legal status:Incorporated in CA, 501(c)3 tax status. It is NOT a membership organization and Atheopagans do not need to interact with it in any way, but can take advantage of the resources and events it produces for free or (in the case of events, books, etc.) at reasonable costs.

Programs:

  • Atheopaganism.org (I would give permission to the Foundation to print my copyrighted materials)
  • Future book publications, including e-book and audio book projects
  • Events production, including possible periodic conferences
  • Grants to Atheopagan projects such as THE WONDER podcast and local gatherings, if resources are available
  • Digital newsletter (free to public, possibly quarterly)
  • Trainings/workshops in ritual skills, leadership, and naturalistic Pagan philosophy

Benefits:

  • Board of directors rotates membership over the years, maintaining fresh ideas and perspectives and dispersing decision making power from one person to a group
  • Contributions tax-deductible
  • Possible access to foundation grants for research, events and other activities
  • Legal protection for “Atheopaganism” as a concept
  • Possible access to more resources so we can do bigger things like conferences
  • Expenses and income offloaded from Mark Green to a separate, transparent, accountable institution

Steps:

Test idea with the community.

IF there is support, then…

  • Recruit and convene working board
  • Develop Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
  • Raise money for application fees (about $1,000), and file.

UPDATE MAY 10, 2020

This concept has evolved and gained momentum!

The response from the community has been unanimously positive; people both see the benefits and the appropriateness of making this move at this time. So I’m moving forward with it!

However, there are concerns about the name. “Foundation” doesn’t sit well with some people, seeing it as too concerned with money. There are other options, but in the draft documents I’m just using “The Atheopagan WIDGET” as a placeholder.

I’m compiling the information needed to present draft Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws to a small working group, which is still in formation. Fortunately, I have very good examples available to me to crib from and adapt, so I don’t think we’re going to need to hire an attorney at all!

I have also decided to change my will so that after I and my wife Nemea are dead, copyright to my book and the contents of the blog will move to the new institution.

I am so happy and grateful for the enthusiastic reception this idea has met with, and I look forward to keeping you all in the loop as the organization takes shape!

 

Two Thousand and Counting

Atheopaganism started out with me talking to myself.

Fifteen years ago, after two appalling experiences in the Pagan community, I quit. I retreated from the community and my friends, I let my altar gather dust, and I abandoned my rituals and observances. But soon I missed my ritual life, and so I began an exploration into the meaning of religion, how it serves the various appetites of the human brain, and how a religion can be based in the real world as described by science, and yet still meaningful, moving, and life-enhancing.

The story is told in the essay that grew out of that period of exploration, and in my book.

Long story short, I created a description of Sacred Pillars, ethical Principles, and ritual practices rooted in reality as described and verified by scientific investigation: a Pagan practice that didn’t ask a practitioner to subscribe to fanciful and unverified claims.

It worked for me. And some friends asked me about it, so I sent it to them, and I stuck the essay up on Scribd in case anyone else might find it interesting.

Flash forward to today.

Now, first of all, one of the things I learned in short order was that I wasn’t the first to connect a naturalistic worldview with Pagan practice.

So I make no claim to that innovation. I know there are at least 20 people out there who came up with their own versions, and wrote about them online, and if only I had done a better job of research, perhaps I would have found and subscribed to one of those.

But mine appears to have caught on in a significant way. And today, we celebrate the growth of the online Atheopagan community (on Facebook) to more than 2,000 members, with more coming every day.

By every metric—Facebook members, blog followers and visits, and most recently., downloads of THE WONDER podcast—Atheopaganism is growing in apparent appeal and scope.

And a part of me is still floored. I just did this for myself, not to start a movement.

And yet, here we are, we Atheopagans. More and more by the day.

We believe in the Sacredness of the world, of the great Cosmos as they are. They need no invisible intelligences or woo-woo forces in order to be so. And we, humans, a product of cumulative evolution, are flawed to be sure, but also magnificent.

We believe in the power of mythic, poetic, ritual behavior. We know it can help us to be happier and better people, to foster a better world.

That’s enough. The rest is details.

I think about those thousands of people scattered across the world, building their practices, celebrating the Earth and the turning of the seasons, committed to kind and progressive values, working to make a better world, and my heart could just burst with the love I feel.

Thank you for joining me on this journey.

I’ll close with the dedication from my book:

This, nonbelieving seeker, is for you.

It is for you in your search, in your intellectual integrity, in your joy and your frustration.

You’re not alone.

There is a way to marry the spiritual urge and the rational mind.

Let’s talk about it.