What If It Really Is the End of the World?

You know you’ve been thinking this. I have, too.

These are times that make hopeful optimism a serious challenge. The effects of global warming and climate change are accelerating, and it is becoming less and less credible to believe that we are going to policy-and-technology our way out of them. Meanwhile, fascism and authoritarianism are on the rise even in the places that have historically been most resistant to them.

Atheopaganism is, more than anything else, a religion of reality. We don’t tell ourselves reassuring stories about gods bailing us out of our problems or having a plan for us. We don’t pretend that we have magical powers which will enable us to navigate the hardships of a world in upheaval.

That said, Atheopaganism is about creating a better world: a more tolerant, more just world, populated with kinder, better connected and more reasonable people who revere the Sacred Earth and seek to build a society that respects the tolerances of the biosphere. And there are reasons to believe that, despite recent setbacks, those values are on the rise.

But this post isn’t an argument that things will get better. This post is about the worst case scenario: what if it really is true that we are entering a period of global collapse, wherein biodiversity and liberty both crash, sea levels soar, hundreds of millions are rendered climate refugees, and the wheels just generally come off human civilization?

Why should we bother being Atheopagans if that turns out to be true?

Well, let me tell you.

First of all, humans aren’t going to go extinct (yet). I mean, we will, but not in the foreseeable future. Many of us may die, and our life expectancy may plummet, but we are ridiculously adaptable creatures. Between the tools we have created and the knowledge we have amassed, the livable areas of the Earth will continue to be colonized by homo sapiens…and even those which don’t seem livable are likely to continue to have sparse, tough populations of our kind. Short of a massive meteor strike and years of ensuing blacked-out skies, we’re going to be here.

However, many things we take for granted may very well go away. The Internet. Global trade–including of food. Telecommunications. To name a few.

And what is going to help us to survive in this scary New World?

Community. And a clear-eyed willingness to look at reality without the distortions of wishful thinking. Both of which are facilitated by Atheopaganism.

The Earth is still Sacred, even when it is undergoing radical change. The biosphere has been disrupted before. The result? The magnificent paradise that was Earth before human technology. Such a time will come again…whether or not we are there to witness it. It is worth holding in our hearts the love we have for the Earth, even in times when it is growing increasingly hostile to our kind.

Atheopaganism is the kind of practice that can draw like-minded people together in communities of love and mutual support. With our embrace of science, knowledge and life-affirming values can be preserved in these communities, passed on to children. And we can stand together for those in our communities who are targeted by racists, homophobes, misogynists and fascist authoritarians.

If all we are to have is each other, a shared value set, vision, and set of practices are the glue that can create true communities. That can sustain those values through times that discount them.

So I encourage you to reach out to like-minded friends and relations now. Invite them to a Harvest feast. Think about starting some kind of community project: perhaps a vegetable garden.

It’s still going to matter what kind of people we are if everything goes to hell. It’s still going to matter what kind of values we embrace, and what vision of the future of humanity we carry.

I don’t believe it’s going to get as bad as the scenario I have described. Not for quite awhile, anyway.

But even in the worst case scenario, Atheopaganism is still a way to a better life.

Whatever happens, we have only this one, miraculous life to live. Let’s do it the best way we know how.

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When the World Feels Icky

It’s particularly bad where I am right now.

We are experiencing a heat wave that will drive temps up over 110° F today, and even higher tomorrow. In addition, smoke from the wildfires in the northern part of the state has been blown down here, casting a pall over everything and bringing a sharp, unpleasant taste to the air. The sunlight itself is a nauseous yellow, pounding down heat in a creepily still, hotbox environment of smoke.

We even had a little earthquake yesterday morning.

All in all, it feels like disaster is everywhere.

Of course, that’s kind of how it’s been ever since November 8, 2016, when the worst and most unsuited person ever to rise to the American Presidency seized office through a combination of voter ignorance, vote suppression and foreign interference. The daily news is ugly. We have Nazis in our streets, and white “supremacy” is now actually under debate. Decades of progress are under siege. And while the corrupt and incompetent appointees of the demogogue-in-chief deny global warming, catastrophic weather continues to hammer humanity across the globe.

Yep. The world feels icky right now. Step outside, or turn on the news: yuck.

What do we do, in times like these? When it’s bad, and it just looks like it’s going to get worse, at least for awhile? As Atheopagans, how do we negotiate a landscape that appears so hostile?

First, I would say, we have to take care of ourselves. Need a news diet? Ratchet down that political-junkie flow of information. Take a break from Facebook if it depresses you, as it often does me (is there anything else in the world but Twitler and street Nazis? You wouldn’t think so from looking at my feed!) Eat well. Take a walk (when it doesn’t threaten heat stroke or an asthma attack). Get out into nature, especially near some running or tidal water. Go to a museum. Read a book. Watch a guilty-pleasure movie. Cry when you have to, but find opportunities to laugh.

Secondly, express. Don’t just bottle up the horror and exasperation and fear and sorrow that are so easily found these days. Talk with friends, or write in a journal, or write a song, or a poem, or paint a canvas. Get your creativity going. Creation is a powerfully self-supporting activity which can make a real difference when traversing hostile waters.

Next, get some perspective. The Fascist rise of the 1930s was followed by steadily growing progressivism that brought much-needed change to the world. This phase, too, shall pass. And while global warming does, indeed, threaten much of humanity and the biosphere, Life is tenacious as hell. Mother Earth isn’t done yet, by a long shot. And there will be plenty of time for new biodiversity to rise after humans are long gone, whether that is in 500 years or a million. Because all things pass, and that includes us.

But we are living here, now, and that means the fourth step:  pick your battles, and get active. When everything is on fire, it’s hard to narrow your focus enough to be effective, but narrow it we must. If your issue is LGBTQ rights, do that. Speak out on it. Educate others. Help to build the cultural shift that is inevitably coming as the Boomers and their predecessors die off. If it’s climate change, find out how you can reduce/offset your carbon footprint. Enlist your friends to join you. Advocate for alternative energy and voice your support for those states and municipalities that are defying the Twitler administration to persist in their pursuit of carbon reduction goals.

Finally, don’t forget to do your religion. Our Atheopagan practices and rituals and Sabbaths can sustain and replenish us, help us connect more deeply with friends. Talking and thinking about it isn’t enough. Explore the symbols of those Tarot cards. Dust off that Focus and get started again with an actively maintained practice. Harvest is coming up: plan a feast with friends and neighbors, and don’t forget to start with a food blessing and expressions of gratitude. Enjoy the taste of the Harvest, of the sips of wine. Remember that you are alive, and this is a great gift.

Planet Earth keeps turning, folks. We have to get through this, and together, we will. Know that I deeply value each and every one of you who reads this blog, comments on the Facebook group and considers the thoughts and ideas we bandy about here.

YOU MATTER. You matter to me and you matter to the world. So be very good to yourself, and find your niche for helping history along to a better place.

Stay strong. You are loved.

Live.

 

 

 

 

 

On Freedom

In the United States, we lionize “freedom”. We make much of how “free” we are, boast of it. Our national narrative is filled with reinforcing stories about liberty and the struggle for freedom.

But what is it?

If freedom means anything, it must be the freedom not just to believe as one wishes, to think as one will, but also to act as one will. To be treated as an equal. And that freedom is in danger in this country at this time.

We are, in reality, one of the most authoritarian states of the developed world. We have a higher rate of incarceration even than China or Saudi Arabia or Russia. Offenses that might warrant a police warning in other nations routinely result in prosecution of Americans; particularly, Americans of color. Police here are militarized. And as we have seen, they get away with murder.

A lot.

Currently, freedom of speech, of the press, and of religion are all under attack by the right wing in this country. Radical conservatives want us to be a nation where we are “free” only to express what they believe, what they want others to think. The abominable person currently occupying the White House does his best to freeze out legitimate journalism, castigating it as “fake news”. And so-called “Christian” conservatives press calls for “religious freedom” measures to authorize discrimination against religious minorities and LGBTQ people under color of law, and to oppress women through control of their medical choices.

We have a very long way to go before this nation is “the land of the free” by comparison with other developed nations. And we appear to be moving in the opposite direction at the moment.

Let’s not even get started on the checkered history of this country’s support for tyrants elsewhere, nor its military belligerence.

Here, on “Independence Day”, we have a bloody flag to contemplate, and a country becoming more rigorously repressive by the day.

Still, there are bright spots. Throughout the country, for example, decriminalization of marijuana—bans on which have been used particularly to oppress people of color and the poor for nearly a century—is becoming widespread. And the culture is changing such that within a generation, LGBTQ people are going to be widely accepted no matter what the “Christian” right has to say about it.

Finally, our judiciary appears—for the moment—to be defending principles that the neofascists of the American right hope to destroy.

The right would have us believe that “freedom” is a flag-waving, chest-beating boast, and a license to be as cruel and terrible to others as one wishes. The right does not believe in the common good so much as the individual whim.

We, I hope, Atheopagans, are a countervailing voice to those for whom bigotry, oppression and destruction of the common good at the behest of personal greed constitute “freedom”.

Ours is a vision of an expansive world, where difference is celebrated. Where the Great Commons—the Sacred Earth itself—is treasured and stewarded as the birthright, progenitor and carekeeper of our species, now and into the future.

Where “freedom” means the freedom to be individual, to believe and practice as we like without the structures of government telling us otherwise, and a general principle of kindness to one another as we each explore our individual paths.

Freedom is something we hold in our hearts, regardless of what happens out in the world. It colors our behavior, and is a beacon we aspire to in our personal struggles: to be free of the internal oppression of our wounds, as well as to be free of the external constraints of injustice.

We are Atheopagans. We will not be what those who boast and brag about “freedom” while they try to take it away from others want us to be. We believe what we do, we practice as we do. We sing and ritualize and observe our Sabbaths and strike a new path into the future without fear. And we stand for the freedoms of those who are oppressed.

We are free.

Happy Independence Day.