Atheopaganism at Pantheacon 2017

John Halstead and I have two events on this year’s Pantheacon schedule—plus a social gathering! This conference/convention, held in February each year, is the largest gathering of Pagans in North America and an important driver of cultural development in the Pagan community: four days of workshops, panel discussions, rituals and performances. It is held at the Doubletree Hotel in San Jose, California; in 2017 the dates will be from Feb. 17 through 20.

It’s also lots of fun! Much socializing and many parties. It’s an opportunity for people who don’t get to see one another often to catch up and work together, as I am looking forward to doing with John.

I hope that as many Atheopagans as possible are able to join us for these events. They are:

  1. Dancing Without Deity: A discussion of non-theist Paganism. Held at 3:30 on Friday in the Silicon Valley Room. We welcome you to join us for a conversation about non-theistic Pagan beliefs and practices. Both curious theists and non-theists are welcome. Moderators John Halstead and Mark Green will discuss the different paths to and within non-theistic Paganism, and will invite others to ask questions and share a little about their paths. This will be an opportunity to foster greater understanding about this increasingly visible part of the Pagan community in an open and mutually respectful environment.Following this event will be a Non-Theist Pagan Mixer, in the Fire Family Suite (room number 241).  Come say hello!
  2. Living Earth Devotional: A Non-Theist Ritual of Commitment and Connection. Held at 11 pm on Saturday in the San Jose/Santa Clara rooms. Devotional rituals can be some of the most powerful forms of rituals. But ritual devotion is not limited to theists. Join us in a rite of devotion to the Earth itself, to the life-giving miracle of the soil, water, air, and sun which sustains us all. The ritual will culminate in an opportunity to take a vow — simple or life-transforming — in service of the Earth and the living beings to which it is home. Both theists and non-theists are welcome. This will be an opportunity for those curious about non-theistic Paganism to experience non-theistic ritual in a non-confrontational environment.

I’m so excited and grateful that the Programming staff at Pantheacon saw these events as worthy additions to the con! There’s a lot to do between now and then, but it’s joyful work and I look forward to it.

Your input is welcomed! If you have ideas for the devotional ritual, use the Contact page form to drop me a line. No guarantees that we will use all ideas, of course, but we will consider all of them.

I hope to see you there!

Report: Atheopagans at Pantheacon 2015

I’ve just returned from Pantheacon (PCon), the largest indoor gathering of Pagans in North America. Running from Thursday through Monday over Presidents’ Day weekend in February each year, PCon attracts 3,000 members of every conceivable tradition to conduct and attend workshops and rituals, to share information and fellowship, and to discuss issues facing the community as it evolves. I have attended it perhaps a dozen times since the early 1990s, and for the past two years I have worked the convention as a staff member.

My overall experience with this year’s PCon was splendid! I saw and visited with many friends and loved ones, met new friends, attended fascinating discussions and moving rituals, and had a marvelous time rolling out Atheopaganism to the broader Pagan community.

It was particularly exciting to me to meet Esther Bamberg, Lupa Greenwolf, Jon Cleland HostJohn Halstead, and others with whom I had interacted online but never met in person: great people all of them, with sharp minds and good hearts.

Over the weekend, we held three Atheo/naturalist/humanistic Pagan events, all hosted by the generous agreement of the Pagan Scholars’ suite, a wonderful group of very welcoming and interesting people (thanks, friends!)

Our first Atheopagan event was an open house/meet and greet on Saturday afternoon: well attended, with a wonderful convivial atmosphere and great discussions among attendees. It was particularly moving to me to have members of the Atheopagan Facebook group introduce themselves and tell me how much value they were getting out of Atheopaganism and the material we are developing for practices and rituals. Exciting! Though the gathering ended in the mid-afternoon, apparently there were people coming by the suite to ask about “the atheist Pagans” well into the evening and a tall stack of Atheopaganism brochures was distributed to the interested and curious.

On Sunday afternoon, we held a panel discussion with standing room only. Moderated by Lupa, the panel covered interesting topics such as how we see our atheism and Paganism fitting together, how we arrived at our current paths and perspectives, challenges and opportunities we see in how naturalistic/humanistic Pagans are currently accepted in the broader community, and where we think our paths are going as they develop. There was plenty of opportunity for questions and comments by the attendees, and a collegial and friendly atmosphere resulted in continued conversations and socializing for a half-hour after the panel ended.

I then held a workshop on Atheopaganism which was also fully attended, and managed to give my talk despite having left my outline at home. Discussion with the audience gave me new ideas to ponder and suggested books to read. A wonderful feeling in the room.

We took a short break after I talked about the origination of Atheopaganism and its values and principles, and then conducted a short ritual to demonstrate the praxis of the religion. Jon, John and Selene Vega helped with the ritual, which we closed with singing of a hymn from the Atheopagan Hymnal led by two musicians who had downloaded it and learned the song even prior to the conference. Very cool!

The ritual itself was engaging and effective even though the attendees mostly didn’t know one another and the enacting group was working together for the first time. The God-Mask technique worked very well, for many attendees it was a moving and significant piece of ritual work. As we have said so often, ritual techniques work for bringing us into the liminal present and creating growth and shifts within us!

Afterwards, several people sought me out to thank me for creating the Atheopaganism tradition and helping to get the word out about it, saying that they were finding deep meaning in the materials on this site and the discussions on the Facebook group. “I finally found out what I am!” said one, “I’m an Atheopagan!”

Meeting people who are using ideas found through Atheopaganism in raising their children and living their lives was profoundly affecting to me. I feel honored and humbled by it.

I also had a great conversation with Jon, John and his wife Ruth, and Rhyd Wildermuth over lunch in the cafe, in which Rhyd (a theist) and the rest of us came to greater mutual understanding after having had some conflict online. I was reminded again of how Internet interaction can undermine our sense of the Other’s humanity; while his cosmology is different than mine, it’s clear to me that Rhyd is a thoughtful and impeccably intended activist for a better world, and we need all of those we can get.

There are many more stories to tell, but those are the high points. Pantheacon 2015 was in many ways the Atheopagan “coming out party” to the broader Pagan community, and I could not be more pleased with how it all went. My deepest thanks to everyone who was a part of it.

I’m already starting to mull over what we might do there next year. I hope to see many of you there!

Photo from Selena Fox’ Twitter feed.