What’s This Atheopaganism About, Exactly?

So, we’re doing this Atheopaganism thing.

What’s its purpose? What are its goals?

I think we talk around the edges of this question a lot, with discussions of Sacred values and Principles that clearly point their way to a vision. But it would be better to articulate that vision straight-out, so people are clear about where I come from, and so we can discuss and refine it if it doesn’t work for the Atheopagan community writ large.

My vision for Atheopaganism is a nested set of Russian matryoshkaIt exists on scales from the personal to the societal.

Personally, I pursue my Atheopagan practice as a modality for healing my inner wounds, navigating my life, and cultivating more wisdom and joy and awe and celebration. To be a better person.

Interpersonally, I hope my Atheopagan practice helps me to become more kind, less acerbic, and closer in my relationships, even if they don’t share my cosmology. Success is mixed on that one, but to some degree that’s because I don’t always succeed in bringing my best self forward. Working on it.

In the Atheopagan community—those who read this blog and/or belong to the Atheopagan Facebook groups, mostly—my goal is one of service. I provide resources, ideas, projects, personal reflections and lore meant to help others to develop their own practices, so they can enjoy the personal benefits I have and shape and adapt Atheopaganism to their own needs.

More broadly, in the Pagan and Atheist communities my goal is to hold up a lantern: to offer a pathway to those who may find value in it, and help to ease their entry to what may be unfamiliar and strange. My goal within those communities is not to convert anyone, but rather to ensure that this path is given room to exist, and to support those who are interested in it.

Finally, societally my goal is a better world. Where people are happier, and kinder, and more critically thinking, and more awe-struck, and more fulfilled, and more tolerant; where the human relationship with the Earth is resacralized; where diverse paths of religious expression are welcomed and allowed to flourish.

So that’s all: my vision is nothing short of total societal transformation. But it starts small, and quietly, in the heart.

For Pantheacon 2018,  I proposed a discussion group on the subject, What is Paganism FOR? Unfortunately, the proposal was declined. I think it could have been a fruitful and illuminating conversation. Because I think that when you strip away a lot of pomp and frippery, these are the goals of many, if not most of the Pagan community.

I have learned, however, that my proposed ritual, “Arming the Earth Warriors: A Ritual for Activists”, was accepted, so for the fourth year in a row, nontheist programming will be available there. I will also convene the annual Nontheist Pagan Mixer, so we can socialize with one another…news on that soon!

I’m really interested in the take of those who follow this blog on the vision articulated here. Please comment below, or on Facebook. Thanks!


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?