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!

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Why Naturalism? Because This.

Yet another example of a Pagan in a leadership position using that position for sexual misconduct, citing woo-woo “spiritual” reasons involving disembodied entities and “magical bonds” as “explanations” for his abuse.

How far would such hokum fly in a naturalistic Pagan community?

Not.

At all.

Willingness to take someone’s word about supposed supernatural processes and invisible beings is a formula for being abused. Healthy skepticism would have tossed this creep out on his ear long ago, but the conventions of many Pagan communities which take at face value highly improbable assertions about the nature of reality create safe contexts within which abusers can operate.

Say what you like about naturalistic Paganism, one thing is clear: a naturalist thinker isn’t going to be lured or cajoled or strongarmed into being abused with “magical” explanations.

This happens too much in the Pagan community. A healthy dose of skepticism is the cure for the problem.

And here’s a rule of thumb: any time a “leader” or “teacher” of any kind suggests that to “advance” you need to do something sexual: RUN.

 

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.