Reflections on Pantheacon 2019

I have just returned from Pantheacon, where I work as a volunteer staffer and have made presentations on Atheopaganism every year since 2015. I had a lovely time connecting with friends, making new ones, and meeting folks I’d only known before through the Atheopaganism Facebook group.

Pantheacon 2019 was significantly smaller than in previous years, but it still had 1,800 attendees. That’s still the largest indoor gathering of Pagans in North America.

It ran very smoothly, from my perspective working in the reception room for the presenters. Very few crises or miscommunications.

And I received exceedingly generous words of praise and thanks, for which I am humbly grateful. A priestess told me that she uses my writing in instructing her students. Others said my work is wise and true.

I try. i really do. If I hit the mark sometimes, I am thankful. And grateful for being seen.

I went to a couple of terrific rituals: the Dionysos ritual and the Spark Collective ritual. Both really great.

For some reason, Pantheacon felt like something that is fading this year. The attendees are definitely more predominantly gray than they used to be. The presentation descriptions often seemed stale and old-fashioned.

The world is moving on and I don’t know that Neo-Paganism as originally framed and initiated by white middle-class Americans is keeping up.

Pantheacon is overwhelmingly white. The country isn’t, any more, but Paganism remains so.

Interactions I had with people of color, some of whom I know well and love deeply, were warm and friendly. Still, I understand some people of color felt dismissed or excluded, and I have every reason to believe them and support their concerns. The programmatic offerings were mostly of European derivation, because that is what “Paganism” has meant for the past 50 years.

Probably time to let that go, and to recognize that a new reality has arrived. A lot of things need to change, like the Wiccanesque focus on a deific gender binary, and the typical presentation of “goddesses and gods” as white. Still, I imagine the conference didn’t get many submissions for presentation on topics that weren’t Eurocentric. And they can only work with the presentations they receive.

That said, although the theme of this year’s conference was “Respecting Diversity”, they didn’t select my work, either, this year, nor any nontheist Pagan material of any kind, even though Atheopaganism is explicitly anti-racist.

I made my presentations in friendly hospitality suites rather than on the official schedule. Not sure what’s going on there, but people DO get rotated on and off the schedule, so I’m not taking it personally.

We’ll see what happens next year.

So from my perspective, it was a good con: not a great one, certainly not a terrible one.

But well worth doing.

 

 

 

 

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Atheopagan Events at Pantheacon 2019 [UPDATED!]

Though we were disappointed that Atheopagan submissions for presentation at Pantheacon weren’t accepted to the official schedule this year, that’s not slowing us down! We have three events scheduled in hospitality suites this year, including the popular annual Nontheist Pagan Mixer.

The events are:

  • FACING FORWARD: A talk on nontheist Paganism: 1-2:00 pm Saturday, in the Fire Family Suite (Room 247). How is human religious behavior evolving? Where is it likely to go, and how does nontheist Paganism fit into that trend?
  • Nontheist Pagan Mixer: immediately following “Facing Forward”, from 2-3:30 in the Fire Family Suite (Room 247). Wine and snacks served. Enjoy fellowship and conversation with like-minded Pagans!
  • An Introduction to Atheopaganism: Now at 12-1 pm SUNDAY, in the CAW Suite (Room 251). What is the Pagan path of Atheopaganism, and how did it evolve? What are its ritual practices, ethical principles and cosmology, and why are these well-suited to people of today? Come here this introductory talk and ask all your questions!

I’m grateful to the Church of All Worlds and the Fire Family (Spark Collective) for hosting these events. If you’re going to Pantheacon, be sure to join us!

Reflections on the FFRF Conference 2018

So…the Freedom From Religion Foundation conference was…interesting.

It’s a great organization. Lobbying and legal work to prevent religious incursion into governmental and public spaces. Very important stuff.

I got the sense that most of the attendees felt a deep relief at being in a place where they could admit their atheism. And that seemed to be the end-all-and be-all of the conference’s message: we’re atheists, and that’s good.

Presenters were stellar (Salman Rushdie!) And their points about the deep wrong of theocracy and enforced religiosity–even to the tragic murders and forcible exilings of nonreligious people in the Islamic world–were powerful.

That said, it seemed so passive: people sitting in chairs, listening.

I couldn’t help but compare to Pantheacon, with its interactive workshops and participatory rituals, its parties and laughter.

The Freethought (atheist) community is good at thinking. It’s good at being rational and thoughtful and liberal-minded. At being serious.

But it’s not very good at creating community.

The Pagan community writ large often isn’t very good at thinking, frankly. It draws conclusions about the nature of reality based on wishful thinking, confirmation bias and purely subjective experience, and then doesn’t interrogate those conclusions, choosing instead to protect and defend them.

But it is great at creating shared love. At bringing people together in a sense of broadly shared values and causes.

Here, we’re working to wed those strengths: to create rich spiritual practices rooted in life-affirming values, contextualized in a solidly reality-based understanding of the nature of the Universe.

It’s quite strange, having a foot in each world, viewed a little askance by both. But as I experience each, I can tell that each has something powerful and essential to offer.

Thank you for being a part of our collective efforts to bring them together.

 

Thanks to anonymous donors for the opportunity to attend the 2018 Freedom From Religion Foundation conference!