In Which I Have Nothing of Value to Say

As I have noted previously, I am a white guy. Really, really white. 23andme.com tells me that I am 99.4% northwestern European in derivation. I get that this limits my perspective in a variety of ways, and so the following may be of no value other than for the questions.

I lead with this acknowledgement because often, the perspective of (straight, cis-gender) white guys is considered the “baseline” from which all other perspectives are variations. And that’s just nonsense.

It isn’t logical and it isn’t moral. Even in Anglophone countries, those people aren’t even in the majority; it makes zero sense that their views should be considered the norm.

Recently, we had a bit of a dustup in the Atheopaganism Facebook group, in which one (white, male) person exhibited a lot of cluelessness about the nature of racism (protesting about “racism against white people”), which he fortunately later copped to and expressed openness to learning more about, and another (white, male) person expressed an actual profession of racism.

The former was suspended for 24 hours to think about what he had said. The latter was simply banned immediately.

We do not roll with that shit at all.

We don’t have many people of color (as we label such folk in the U.S.) in the Atheopaganism group. Some, but not a lot. And this reflects what I see in both the Pagan and atheist communities: lots and lots of white people, and not much else.

And I wonder: why?

There is a ton of conventional wisdom on this topic: suggestions that atheist circles don’t contain many people of color because churches have often been key organizing principles in their communities.

But that seems to be changing, and fast. Though Black Millennials are less religious than in previous generations, for example, they are still the most religious subgroup of Millennials. And some of those who have left Christianity have gone directly into a non-Euro-centered witchcraft rooted in their ancestral heritage.

So: is it just that some people of color* who are leaving mainstream religions but pursuing other paths are avoiding Pagan circles because they are creating their own, non-Euro-dominated circles?

Maybe.

But what about atheism? I was at the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference last November and it was white as a pile of Richard Spencer’s tendons, preferably carefully rendered from his body in as painful a manner as possible.

What about the PoC who are leaving mainstream religions and becoming “nones“? Why aren’t they joining atheistic groups and communities much?

Could it simply be that they don’t find a big crowd of white people to be a go-to choice for where they want to explore their spirituality?

Or could it be that there is a Euro-centric subtext to the culture and operation of such spaces–including the Atheopaganism Facebook group–that they find off-putting?

Or both?

I. Don’t. Know.

I can see merit in any of these theories.

What I do know is that I love my PoC friends, some of whom are Atheopagans. And it would be great, in my view, to have the perspective of a more diverse range of backgrounds and ethnicities inform our conversations and the unfolding of our constellated religious paths.

So…what can we do to invite and encourage that?

I do what I can to be as ardently and visibly anti-bigotry as I can in our community. It seems to work in relation to LGBTQ folk, of whom we have many.

Not so much with people of color.

I have no answers to any of these questions, and if I did, they wouldn’t be worth anything, because I have the aforementioned pile of Richard Spencer’s tendons problem.

So I don’t know. I mean I really don’t, and it’s entirely possible that I can’t. But I’d sure like to hear from people who do, and can.

PoC readers, do you have recommendations, wishes, or analysis? I’m not asking that you “speak for your people”, just for yourself: what would help you to feel comfortable and welcomed in Atheopagan spaces?

 


*And let’s be clear: “people of color” is a YUUUUUUUUUGE category which includes far more than people of African derivation. What about those of Asian and South/Central American or Mexican origin? Not seeing tons of those folks in atheist, Pagan, nor Atheopagan circles, either.

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Towards a Culture of Happiness

Yes, the world presents us with tremendous challenges.

Yes, there are many reasons for sadness and anger and grief.

Yes, there is urgency in addressing crises that threaten our very existence.

So why, then, does Atheopaganism put a premium not only on being activists, but on being happy people? On having lives that are fulfilling adventures of growth and discovery?

Well, I’ll tell you why.

First of all, there is inherent justification in it. As Atheopagans, we know that an afterlife is highly unlikely. This is a one-time, one-way trip for each of us. Surely we should enjoy that journey as much as is reasonably possible. Pleasure is our birthright, as the tenth Atheopagan Principle so explicitly tells us.

But secondly, happy people are effective people. As psychologist Shawn Achor explains in the (very funny) video below, people who are affirmed, engaged, and appreciated are also more motivated, more productive, and perform at a higher level.

Now, Achor’s TED talk is rooted in some pretty capitalistic biases (such as “higher productivity = good”). But for our own purposes, we can learn from what he has to say when it comes to our sacred charge to work to make the world a better place, as articulated in Atheopagan Principles 2, 8, and 9: Reverence for the Earth, Legacy, and Social Responsibility.

Being demoralized and hopeless isn’t conducive to the kind of effort we’re going to need to transform our societies and economies. Wallowing in the horrors of the world not only makes us miserable…it makes us helpless. And that is the farthest thing from what is demanded of us in these times.

No, we shouldn’t be Pollyannas who insist on “always looking on the bright side”. There is horror in the world, and we must confront it. But that doesn’t mean we need to be morose, or dejected. Rather, let us do what we can also to see what there is to be celebrated, and to draw continual joy and uplifting from the beauty of our spectacular world.

Our cultures are deeply prejudiced against this. “The news” is always, overwhelmingly bad news. Good news just isn’t seen as that important.

In my new job, I have been fortunate enough to come into an organization which is just at the beginning point of formally developing systems of leadership and culture which are explicitly about the happiness and affirmation of every person involved with the organization: staff, volunteers and clients. While the culture there has already been kind and compassionate, we have now grown to the point where it is necessary to enshrine such values in our policies and procedures, and in how we manage meetings, performance reviews, and supervision. We are starting to emphasize celebration of accomplishment as much as problem solving.

I’m learning a lot, and I’m glad to have arrived at this transitional moment. The potential feels almost unlimited.

As Atheopagans, I think we are uniquely positioned to embrace happiness and its effectiveness-boosting nature in the course of our religious practices. Each of us has things to be grateful for, things to celebrate, things to be proud of. We don’t have to be shackled by some leftover Abrahamic urge to shy away from tooting our own horns when we deserve it: better to say, “I did that WELL!”, and bask in the good feeling for a moment before moving on with your day. And to tell others what you appreciate about them, as well.

Much has been made about the scale of the challenges before us, and this site’s assessment has been no exception. Yet we are mighty. We are resourceful, strategic, kind, and committed.

Lasting revolutions are joyous ones.  So be of good cheer and stout heart, and go forward into the world, sharing the light we know belongs to all of us.

Welcome Home

I’ve written on this subject before, but I want to say to the hundreds who have joined our Atheopagan online community since: welcome home!

Welcome to a place where deep spirituality of Nature meets reason and critical thinking. To wild, naked dancing around a bonfire (real or imagined), and the wonders of science’s understanding of our Sacred Earth and Cosmos. To ritual, and meditation, and cognition and analysis and art and music, and the fullness of what we can be, we humans.

It happens every week, online.

It happens every year, in person at Pantheacon.

People—strangers, yet family—come to me and say, I had no idea.

I thought I was alone.

I was shunned by my community. Or, I can’t tell my coven.

For the simple sin of being a rational person who understands standards of evidence and burdens of proof. Who is filled with the wonder of reality, and needs not more than that.

Beautiful people. People full of magic and wisdom and intellect.

Seekers. Askers of Pertinent Questions.

And I say to them—to you—YES.

You belong.

You are the kind of person we were meant to be, we humans: thinking and feeling. Dancing and questioning. Making rituals and art, solving problems. Using tools. Building relationships. Loving. Giving. Making change.

Toes in the dirt, eyes on the stars.

And I see you. 

I see you out there, in the insistence of your thinking mind. I see you seeking, I see you alive and unfettered by conventions. I see that you’re looking for what is Actually True, instead of a pretty story. And for how you can be a part of that vision of a better world we share.

I see you lighting candles and incense. I see you titrating reagents. I see you factoring equations. I see you weeping at sunsets. I see you hiking the high ridge. I see you breathing the cold stinging air. I see you paddling the hole, and climbing the far pitch, and skiing through the pines. I see you singing to the heavens and dancing in the club. I see you laying out Tarot cards. I see you diving the deep reef. I see you.

I see you, in the magnificence you are.

Welcome home, Atheopagan. Welcome to your path.