Recently, the usually calm and civil tone of conversations on the Atheopaganism Facebook group has been roiled a bit by some contentious subject matters.
Particularly, the subject of “woo”—scientifically unsupported beliefs—and whether or not it is okay for us to poke fun at these beliefs in the group provoked some very strong responses. Opinions ranged from those who felt that these beliefs should be taken seriously as possibly yet-undiscovered, real phenomena, and those who feel that in the safety of our Atheopagan space, we should be free to laugh a bit at the kinds of things non-skeptics can get up to believing.
I find the Facebook group a deeply satisfying place, by and large. We have civil, thoughtful conversations, we encourage one another in development and implementation of our individual Atheopagan practices, and we have fun! But now seems like a time when I should say something about the vision with which the group was created.
First of all, it appears that it hasn’t been clear that the Atheopagan Facebook group is primarily intended for those who are adopting, adapting and following the Atheopagan path based in the material I have presented: with its Principles, its practices and its scientific cosmology. Small-a atheist Pagans who don’t believe in gods but may believe in things like real magic-at-a-distance, spirits, ghosts and souls are welcome to join and participate, but they aren’t the target audience.
We’re happy and excited to discuss topics at the cutting edge of science in the Atheopaganism group, but not over the edge into pure conjecture about phenomena for which there is only anecdotal evidence. We draw the line there: that’s not pertinent to the Atheopagan path. This isn’t because of some kind of dogma; rather, it is because there has been a repeated pattern of subscribers to belief in such phenomena trying to change the culture of the group to normalize such belief. And that is a distraction from what we are doing.
What we are doing here is developing and practicing a Pagan path entirely free of faith-based belief in that for which there is not compelling scientific evidence. That path isn’t for everyone, but it is for us. We know with high degrees of certainly that the Cosmos and Earth we are celebrating are, in fact, materially real. And they are enough.
In relation to those faith-based beliefs—”woo”—yes, sometimes it’s fun to chuckle a bit about a humorous video lampooning belief in things like astrology and fairies, or even to be outraged by anti-vaxxers, parents who let their ill children suffer by praying or applying “natural” healing approaches rather than seeking medical treatment, and the current footholds evangelical Christianity possesses in American government.
But that’s not why we’re here: we’re here to chart a way to live better, richer lives, and to contribute to a better world. This site and the Facebook group are much more about practices than they are about beliefs. Our Atheopaganism is something we do, not just something we talk about or hold intellectually. And the last thing we want to become is like the many atheist groups whose entire content is about lambasting other religions and beliefs.
The occasional “inside joke” ribbing the credulous in the Atheopagan Facebook group is fine, but vitriol is disruptive and unnecessary. We must always remember that though ideas are not owed respect, people are. We must be sensitive in our communications with non-skeptics that we differentiate clearly between the two, even if they themselves are unable or unwilling to recognize a difference between their beliefs and their identities.
Some good things have come out of the recent dust-ups in the group: more clarity about what the group’s purpose is, and the advent of two wonderful new moderators to assist me: Rose Arkady Gerard of the UK, and Dua Özbilenler of Turkey. I have great confidence in this international team and look forward to working with them going forward.
As we grow the Atheopagan path and community, it is inevitable that once in awhile we will come to these moments of reflection and reevaluation. That’s a healthy thing.
What we’re seeking to build is somewhat fragile, and radical: religion without faith, rooted in the real. It isn’t a path for everyone, but it is a valid and meaningful one. For those who choose to take and co-create this journey with us, I hope the Facebook community continues to serve as support, resource and sounding board, and I welcome participation, commentary, and guest blog posts.