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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Summer’s End, New Beginnings

The “cross-quarter” Sabbath between Midsummer (the solstice) and Harvest (the autumnal equinox) is a bit of a stepchild Sabbath for many Pagans. This is High Vacation Season, and many are off on adventures or otherwise occupied with the social season of summer. Not only that, but it marks the beginning of the autumn season, and in most places, that just doesn’t square with what is actually happening.

Here, I detect the signs of Summer’s End at this time, but they are subtle. Blackberries have ripened, ready for cobbler and pie and all the wonderful things. The climate is firmly in the fog/heat cycle of coastal California: hot days which persist until the low-pressure zone formed by heat inland draws the cool, moist air in from the ocean, at which point we have foggy mornings which burn off to perfect, temperate afternoons. Acorns and grapes are ripening, but not quite ready, yet; they will be when Harvest rolls around. But the seedtops are full in the hay meadows, and they are being mowed and bailed now.

And there is something in the angle of the light, in the hard blue of the skies that says to me the days are shortening, the darkness is coming. It is no longer June.

Sometimes, I like to celebrate this harvest traditionally, by making bread, or perhaps creating a “Corn Man” of woven grain stalks or corn husks which can preside over the Summer’s End ritual and be saved for burning in the Hallows fire.

This year, I prefer a very special kind of First Harvest.

Since 2010, I have been sowing and tending seeds in the form of the Atheopagan community. Developing my thinking about religion and Paganism, writing my essay, launching the blog and Facebook group, presenting at Pantheacon have all been steps towards building a viable, well-resourced community of nontheist celebrants of the glorious Cosmos and generous Earth.

So this year, my Summer’s End will be something’s beginning: the first in-person gathering specifically for nontheist Pagans. Moon Meet.

It’ll be small. Beginnings usually are. I’m not worried about that; I think it’s much more important that it be heartfelt and joyful and creative and fun. Those are my targets for the event and I’m confident we will attain them.

Summer’s End in northern California is, like every Sabbath, also a beginning: a beginning of a season of hot days, the grape harvest, abundant vegetables, inevitable wildfires, and growing darkness. And for me, this year—hopefully, for our broader community and movement—a beginning of a new chapter in our evolution.

I can’t wait!

Pantheacon 2017 and a Growing Community

You know all those friends you have on Facebook who are really dear to you, but you never see?

Imagine if there were a place you could go, once a year, where hundreds of them showed up at once.

A place full of interesting conversations, and great parties, and meaningful rituals, where hugs abound and laughter is in the air. Real love. Real talk. Real people.

That’s Pantheacon, the largest gathering of Pagans in North America. Every year, 1,800-2,500 Wiccans, Wicans, Witches, Heathens, Devotional Polytheists, Animists, Pantheists, and Atheopagans attend.

This year’s was particularly sweet. The conference itself ran smoothly, with little drama. I work as volunteer staff, and everyone seemed in a good mood.

John Halstead and I had two events accepted as presentations this year: a discussion group on non-theist Paganism, and a ritual, the Living Earth Devotional. Additionally, I threw a non-theist Pagan mixer after the discussion group. All went splendidly!

The discussion group, “Dancing Without Divinity”, was attended by about 50 participants (fortunately, in a much larger room than we had last year). We had an excellent conversation, sharing experiences of being non-theists (Atheopagans, agnostic Pagans, and those for whom the question of whether or not there are gods is unimportant) in the broader Pagan community, and discussing the relative merits of ecstatic experience versus contemplative experience as the goals of rituals.

The mixer afterwards, generously hosted by the Spark Collective‘s hospitality suite, gave some of the discussion participants a chance for more informal conversations, and went on for more than an hour. I met some new friends and reconnected with others I hadn’t seen since last year’s discussion panel.

On Saturday night, John and Ruth Halstead and Venee Lotusfire and I co-led the Living Earth Devotional, a ritual of dedication to service to the Earth. It culminated in a Knighting ceremony wherein those who chose to take the oath were sworn as Knights of the Earth. It was genuinely moving, and feedback was affirming and heartwarming. My co-leaders did a fantastic job; it was a real pleasure working with them.

At several points during Pantheacon, I found myself having The Conversation with excited and grateful (and in one case, genuinely spiritually confused and questioning) attendees who were thrilled to have confirmed that they were not alone, that it is perfectly normal and okay to be an Atheopagan. That we exist.

We’re still at that point, as a movement that is a subculture of a subculture. But that’s okay: things have already changed a lot. Whereas in 2015 we had no events on the schedule at PCon and there was a lively debate in the Pagan blogosphere over whether we were really Pagans or not, now we are represented as just another flavor of our diverse community, and most appear to have accepted that we’re in the big tent like everyone else.

Religious naturalism is on the rise. Various traditions of it from naturalistic Buddhism to Atheopaganism are becoming more popular and more visible all over the world, just as we are becoming more recognized and respected in venues like Pantheacon.

And why not? The natural world is awesome.

Like the time I had at Pantheacon this year. And the people I spent it with.