Here Come the Atheopagans!

When I first wrote an essay outlining the rationale, Principles and practices of Atheopaganism, I did it for myself, to sort out my thinking and decidedly mixed experience of the Pagan community. That was in 2008-2009. After it was done and I was settling into my new practice and approach, a handful of people I talked with about it expressed curiosity about it, so I threw the essay up on Scribd. It wasn’t long after that people started coming to me at gatherings and conferences and expressing like-mindedness, and Atheopaganism as a movement was born.

As the founder, I was naturally the central figure in creating materials, resources, analysis and liturgy. That’s inevitable at the beginning of things, and so I haven’t worried about it much. I have no intention of setting myself up as the head of some “church”—and I had learned from some ugly examples of what happens when a founder does that in the Pagan community—so I was okay with doing most of the writing and resource creation and event organizing. I knew I wasn’t going to get carried away.

But the snowball has continued to roll, and with now thousands of participants, this largely one-man show is starting to change.

And I couldn’t be more delighted.

The Atheopagan Society has incorporated in the state of California, and is now a tax-exempt religious organization. The Council (or board of directors) of The Atheopagan Society has been convened, and guess what? I’m not the head of it. I’m not even one of the officers. We are a community now, and leadership is a shared responsibility. It is time to have more minds and voices involved in helping to build and support our path, and I am pleased to say that our council is smart, warm, and up to the task.

Meanwhile, on Atheopagan Facebook, there is now an Atheopagan Book Club group, created by a member of the Council entirely without my participation. A Sunday Zoom mixer is being organized by another community member, to add to the mixer we hold on Saturdays.

The upshot is that this community is up on its hind legs and moving on its own. With thousands of members in the online community and a growing culture of interaction and engagement, Atheopaganism has become much more than just one dude’s idea.

I am wowed to see so many who are adopting the Atheopagan Principles, a naturalistic, science-based cosmology, and these Pagan religious practices as their own. And I invite you to add your own voice, by submitting guest blog posts, creating your own (currently, online) events, and adding your special something to what we are building together: thought, art, music, lore, whatever it is.

From an idea to a movement, we have come a long way in eleven years. I expect we will go much further in the next eleven.

In any event: you have my deepest thanks for being a part of it.

Here we come!


Shown: Edinburgh Fire Festival at Beltane.

That Shameful Secret

For some, it’s the atheism.

For others, the Paganism.

And for others still, of course, both.

There is a lot of prejudice and delusion out there, and people jealously guard their beliefs. When confronted with someone who believes differently, many of them…well, not to put too fine a point on it, freak out.

I wish I could advise you all just to tough it out, to let your rational, Earth-loving flag fly. Because it is definitely something to be proud of. You embody Principles and Values that are honorable and meaningful, and stand for a better world.

But unfortunately, some of those prejudiced and closed-minded people are prone to violence. At least in some parts of the U.S., people can be made to pay dearly for being what we are.

So some of us have to be careful. It’s not right, or just. It’s just true.

Myself, I live in a liberal area, work in the nonprofit sector which is generally left-leaning, and am surrounded by a community of Pagans and tolerant folk who are more curious than critical if and when we get to talking spirituality. I am “out” as an Atheopagan, and it costs me little, socially. At worst, for some it is “that weird thing Mark is into”.

All of that is privilege—or at the very least, good fortune—relative to others not so lucky.

So I’m not going to lecture anyone who lives in a community or family dominated by religious conservatives about how they should be “braver” or “stand by their conscience”. When it comes to personal danger or potential loss of treasured relationships, you have to make your own decisions.

What I hope, though, is that over time there are moments for those of us who must be solitary or quietly sequestered in a small circle of confidants: moments where we can not only show who we are through our acts, but also to state explicitly what we believe in and care about.

I wish you the company of fellows on the journey, Atheopagans, not only online but in physical presence in your lives. I wish you deep and fascinating discussions about beliefs and practices and how we know what is real and what is unlikely to be; about values and what we hold as Sacred.

But if this is not to be, I commit to providing as much support and fellowship as we can muster in online forums.

You are not alone.

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.