Why Atheopagan Principles?

I am excited to announce that a new Facebook group has arisen for Atheopagans in the UK! Congratulations to Debi Gregory for starting the group.

Those applying to join the group are asked to answer a short questionnaire, which originally asked for a commitment to abide by the 13 Atheopagan Principles. Some were puzzled by this, or felt they are too restrictive. So I thought I would unpack the issue a bit and discuss why ethical principles are a necessary part of a functioning religion.

Obviously, everyone has their own moral compass. We act according to what we view as right and proper; even when we are breaking our own supposed values, there is always a rationalization for why this action meets some higher good (even if it’s just personal benefit). Atheopaganism isn’t trying to supplant the internal moral landscape of its adherents, nor to establish arbitrary “commandments” that supply an external moral dictum, as do the Abrahamic religions.

What the Principles are intended to do is to spell out the moral landscape within which Atheopaganism makes sense. If the four Sacred things are truly held as Sacred, if the Earth is revered and Love is honored and Truth is pursued and Beauty is cherished, the result is a set of principles for living very much like the 13 Principles as I have articulated them.

Atheists are often accused of having no morals, because the dominant culture is unable to conceive of morals and ethics that arise from the will of the individual, rather than enforced by threats by an external god. That accusation is nonsense, of course—atheist and stage magician Penn Gillette famously says “I rape exactly as much as I want to. And that amount is zero.” But it is a canard that persists in polling on public views on atheism, and one with which we must contend. The Atheopagan Values and Principles are a way of spelling out what most who love the Earth believe anyway: that we must be kind, that we must be people of integrity, that we must apply critical thinking in our assessments of what is likely to be true. They are meant to be stars to guide us along the way of our lives, to help us live as well and happily as we can.

That said, following or being a part of Atheopaganism doesn’t decree that you have to do anything. It is available to you as a path and a set of guidance and an opportunity to incorporate practices and observances into your life that will add richness, color and joy. Adapt and tailor it as you see fit, holding in mind that the path was created with the intention of holding Sacred those four Sacred Values.

For myself, I find that the Atheopagan Principles are qualities that help me when I feel uncentered or angry. I don’t always live up to them. But I’m glad that they’re there, and that the 13th Principle spells out that no one will meet all those qualities all the time, and we must be compassionate with ourselves and others when we don’t.

I hope that you find value in them, too. But if not, all anyone can ask is that you be a person of kindness and integrity by your own lights. Because it’s not about asserting “rules”. It’s about cultivating ways of living that increase happiness, both in yourself and those around you.

What do you think? Comments welcome.


On Mirth

As I have referenced before, these are challenging days.

Much  is at stake, and fools are at the wheel. For someone prone to depression like me, it can be hard to keep my chin up and headed forward.

This is why Atheopagan Principle 5 is so very important. Because it reminds us that the world of humans is not only tragic: it is absurd. And absurdity is hilarious.

I’ve never heard any—perhaps they do not survive—but I guarantee that German Jews in the mid-1930s had Nazi jokes: not only because Jewish culture is generally lively withh humor, but because this is what humans do. We make the unbearable bearable, we knock our problems down to size, even if only for a moment, by making fun of them.

And for the freest and happiest of us, this includes mockery of the greatest “problem” each of us confronts: ourselves. By willingly being silly, making jokes at our own expense, we embrace our delightful, flawed humanity, warts and all.

There is a time for dignity, don’t get me wrong. There are times when seriousness is and should be the order of the day. But honestly, those are few when compared with the number of occasions when tension-easing humor is both appropriate and welcome.

Humor brings humanity and perspective into moments that we would suffer through without it. It reestablishes the relative importance of things. It is not frivolous or trivial. It’s important.

April Fools’ Day is coming up (April 1, for those of you in other countries—I’m not sure how widespread the tradition is), and I encourage you to be as big a fool as you can get away with: to dress outrageously, make silly jokes and go for the guffaw.

This world is serious enough. Even if our humor is of the gallows variety, I’d rather go having inspired a grin and a chuckle.

Wouldn’t you?


It’s On Us Now

As an Atheopagan, I have Principles. They are a set of values about what is Sacred and how we should conduct ourselves in the world.

Those values are about to be severely challenged as the far-right government of Donald Trump threatens the world with environmental, economic and military cataclysm and gives tacit permission to racists, sexists and homophobes to assault, threaten and intimidate people of color, LGBTQ people, religious minorities and women. The last is happening already with disturbing frequency.

Those of us with a naturalistic worldview already understood that our world is under deep threat. We knew that creating a better future wasn’t going to be easy.

It just didn’t seem we were going to have to fight along so many axes at once.

But here it is. The angry public of the United States has made a stupid, petulant choice, and we are saddled with it. And our role now is clear: we must resist.

When we see bigotry expressed, we must come to the support of those who are its victims. We must provide aid and comfort and solidarity with those who are its targets, even if we are also its targets. We must come together as a movement and as people of good and true hearts.

We must not be silent. We must not be invisible. Although at times it may be dangerous not to be.

Donald Trump and his voters are not what this country is about. They are not about the future of humanity, either. They are atavistic throwbacks to values and motivations that are on their way out. They are a knee-jerk backlash, nothing more.

And most of his voters will be victims of his policies just as much, or nearly so, as the rest of us.

We are entering a period when working within the legislative system, while necessary, is not going to help much at the federal level. It’s going to take a lot of litigation and some straight-up grassroots oppositional organizing to slow or stop some of what is coming.

And much of it, we will not be able to stop.

Before election day, we did not really know whether it was possible to stop some of the tremendous challenges facing our world.

We still do not know that, but we know the next few years are going to be very hard. They are going to appall us and oppress us and demoralize us on a regular basis.

But here’s the thing: we’re right.

We’re on the side of the angels. And while there is no guarantee that history will continue an overall arc towards justice and sustainability, it has moved in those directions in recent years. The next four will be an anomaly, not the new normal.

Take heart, friends. Take one another’s hands. Understand that what is coming is going to demand that each of us works our tail off in service to what we love.

Breathe and prepare. They’re coming.