And So We Fight On

We believe in a better world
We believe in justice
We believe in a better world
We believe in peace
We believe in a better world
We can heal our planet

We won’t bow down.
We won’t bow down.                 –An Atheopagan ritual chant

It matters now to hold a vision.

It matters not to think this moment is forever.

It matters now that we are good people, and we uphold kindness and simple human decency as a value. It matters that we love the world with all our hearts.

The deathgrip of white male capitalist supremacy will not persist. It will not. Women’s rage and the fury of the oppressed and the sheer raw power of the systems of the Earth itself will break it and sweep the pieces away.

It will happen in increments. It will not happen soon enough.

But it will happen.

Hold in your mind the flame that knows: it will happen.

Live in hope. And act from it.

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Requiem and Invocation

Friends and Allies, let us grieve.

Let us grieve that an era of progress and forward thinking appears to be drowning in a sea of ignorance, hatred and fear.

Let us grieve that reason has been swamped by credulity, and science by superstition and willful ignorance.

Let us grieve.

Let us tear the words from the walls of our bodies, howling: we have lost so much.

The children suffer. The good green Earth bleeds. The water is sullied, the creatures die, the air itself stifles the living of the world. The people are punished for being themselves.

Our leaders are dupes and psychopaths. They hate this good world as much as they must, at some deep place, hate themselves. And they seek to destroy what they hate.

Yes, let us grieve.

Let us wail our sorrow, and weep our tears for the children so cruelly treated, the creatures who are no more, the people who will be poisoned.

For our kindred who are without shelter, warmth, clothing, food. In this, so wealthy a place.

Light a candle tonight, and weep.

Weep now, because we cannot keep the awfulness of this bottled up inside us. We must vent it out. We must empty ourselves so we can go again to the palisade, so we can again clothe ourselves with what armor we have and struggle mightily against the coming of the wrongness, of the evil.

We are threatened with triple poisons.

With overwhelm, unto paralysis.

With shock, unto paralysis.

With outrage, unto paralysis.

Let us cast these poisons out. For we are mighty.

Friends and Allies, let us wash ourselves.

Let us bathe in the warm, soft waters of the world as it should be. Of freedom, and kindness, and caring for the magnificent living Earth.

Let us be clean.

Let us be clean.

Let the cooling balm of blessed water revive us, reinform us, restore us.

Let us grieve, and wash, and be reborn.

And let our power be a force in the world. Let our voices rise to the skies. Let our votes and our word of mouth and our phone calls and our letters and our lobbying visits and our canvassing visits speak truth and kindness into the world.

May we be heard.

May we be heard.

Friends and Allies, let us see ourselves.

Let us know and love each part of ourselves. May

We bear ourselves honorably

May we celebrate joyously. May we

Know pleasure and wisdom and love

And may the better world come.

(So be it, so be it)

So we say in reverent observation

Of the Holy Universe

It is done.

(It is done, it is done, it is done,

it is done)

Atheism, Paganism, and Agreeing to Disagree

I’ve been thinking lately about the crossroads where Atheopaganism lives: straddling lines between atheism, Paganism, and activism.

In the atheistic world, skepticism is a given. There, when you propose something—a policy, a factual claim, a strategic approach to problem solving—it is assumed that you will have both material evidence and cogent argumentation to back your position. Others are welcomed to interrogate, prod at, and refute the position as best they are able. This is a process by which we can arrive at a position which is more likely to be correct than if we did not so critique the initial proposition. The process is central to the operation of science and has been deeply successful in identifying everything that we have learned with high degrees of certainly over the past five centuries or so.

In the Pagan community, it is generally considered to be bad form to interrogate the beliefs of others. It would be rude to ask someone why they believed in a given goddess, for example, and whether they had considered the possibility that the experiences which led to that belief had arisen from some other cause. Daring to suggest that supposed gods aren’t literal beings, for example—or that we should at least be up for discussing whether or not they are—is rejected by some as “non-Pagan”, or even “scientism”.

And yet Atheopaganism exists with a foot in each of these worlds. It is no surprise that we sometimes cause uneasiness in each of them.

When I communicate in atheist forums, on the other hand, I often get strong pushback from people who dismiss the desire for rituals and holiday observances as pointless and superstitious. Even after I pony up the science that shows the human benefits of these religious practices, their value is generally rejected: an example of how confirmation bias is a human characteristic even among those who are working hard not to be subject to such fallacies.

Too much reason for (some of) the Pagans, and too much ritual for (some of) the atheists.

But here’s the thing: I have spent more than 30 years circling with theists. Until the past ten years or so, they mostly haven’t known I was an atheist, but it didn’t make the rituals any less powerful one way or the other. And I stand with them when it comes to freedom of religion, and resistance to discrimination against ANY flavor of Paganism*.

And I have stood with other atheists as they rallied against the cultural discrimination we also suffer, and for rigid separation of church and state, and for science and critical thinking education…and the talismans in my pocket and the symbol around my neck didn’t cause any harm there, either.

Which brings me to that third country Atheopaganism lives in: activism.

I think about the above…and then I think about the vehemence, the vitriol of recrimination and mutual finger-pointing around political issues I see over differences among people who share 90% of values in common. The so-called “circular firing squad”.

The bitterness with which people who are agreed on so many important issues can attack one another is shocking and demoralizing.

It is the viciousness with which Hillary Clinton was attacked by people who agreed with nearly everything she stood for, for example: viciousness not only completely out of proportion to what would have been reasonable, but which was far less intense than the attacks the same people leveled at Donald Trump.

I have no patience for purity politics. No one is pure. No one is perfect.**

The political organizer in me says that we need ALL of us who care enough to act in the coalitions to help achieve goals like progress on climate change and social justice. That to refuse to ally with those we disagree with on one issue drags down the chances of success on many issues.

I have been trying to have conversations about this. They haven’t gone very well. The level of moral outrage displayed by people over points of disagreement clouds the deeper point, which is about all the ways we agree.

At times, I have made common cause in political struggles with people who make me grit my teeth. I’ve done so because my focus was on the goal at hand, rather than on the degree to which my comrades agreed with me on other issues.

And then, I have gone right out and fought those same people on the issues where we disagree…in exactly the same way I have celebrated theist rituals with theists, and then gone on to advocate for Atheopaganism as a valid Pagan path.

All of these issues are intensely personal. They have to do with whether or not we feel personally included, safe, respected, seen, listened to, acknowledged. As such, they stir powerful emotions.

And disagreements about some of them are at root unresolvable. People of good will can—and do— differ on them. In some cases, differences are simply about education: if everyone were operating under the same understanding of the facts, they would probably draw similar conclusions. But in some cases, they are genuine differences of opinion.

Plenty of good people are theists. Plenty of them are atheists.

If—as we say—diversity is a value in our communities, we will have to find ways to coexist alongside those with whom we disagree.

Atheopagans, as a minority within a minority culture, do it all the time.

I hope that in our passion for positions that define difference between us, we do not leap to the presumption that those who mostly agree with us but disagree on a particular issue—or who find themselves caught in the middle—are our enemies.

Being ‘right” is intoxicating. We’re all somewhat prone to its charms. We all want to be in the “correct” moral position.

But there is far more that should unite us than should divide us. And I hope we can remember this as we debate those issues where we disagree.


 

*With the notable exception of racist “folkish” Heathenism, for which I will not lift any finger save my middle ones. There are positions that are just too extreme to make common cause with.

**I don’t have any patience for those who make no effort on behalf of the causes that define our times, either. They might be in our community, but I don’t consider those “allies”—I consider them dead weight. Particularly when they have high visibility and large audiences and could, if they wished, use them for good instead of mere self-promotion.