This is a follow-up piece to last month’s essay, “Preparing A Ritual”. Before Something always seems to die around Lammas. Last year it was our pet fish, Inky. The year before it was a raccoon under the house. This year…
In this time of accelerating environmental change, we feel a sense of urgency to help transform humanity’s relationship with the Earth. Lend your voice to our call to protect all life in this historic moment by signing “A Pagan Community Statement on the Environment.”
If there is one thing about my own spiritual calling that is the most inspiring to me, it’s that moment when someone goes deep and awakens. When we are singing together in a ritual and I see them crack open, I see them connect to that something larger, touch their fingertips to that mystery they are seeking.
What is required is another way of knowing, a Sacred Ecology that moves beyond the cerebral to bring us to a direct experience of a wholeness rooted in the body.
When we think of the gods of nature, we almost always anthropomorphize them. But what of nature deities that have never, and will never, take human form? Who are the gods of the salmon and the slime molds, of pine trees and fig wasps?
In my place-based, Naturalistic Paganism, I relate most often to nature powers. Humans around the world share the old, great powers: the abundance of the Earth, the strength and direction of the Wind, the Sun’s relentless fire. Other powers are younger and local: the bluebonnets that push up through the soil each spring, Central Texas’s many limestone creeks and springs, and even the water that flows through the tap of my own kitchen sink. I am always in relationship with these powers, whether I will it or not. My goal as a Pagan is to cultivate mindful relationships with these nature powers. I do not believe that the springs in any sense needed or wanted my offering, but I was different for having made it.
Atheopaganism provides the fulfillment benefits of a traditional religion, yet is rooted in what is true and open to learning, change, and constant reconsideration of itself. While it does not make promises of eternal existence, a cosmically-determined plan or magical powers, it also does not ask us to sacrifice the unique and marvelous capacities of our cognitive minds in the name of living with a pretty story.
My experience of the divine is not grounded in some external personality or authority. But the values I came to hold in Pagan community and the energy states I experienced in Pagan practice thoroughly pervade my spiritual experiences. In their eclectic circle, I learned reverence for the earth, the interconnectedness of all beings, a deep love and for the wisdom and beauty of the life cycle—of birth, growth, death, and decay. In circle and in meditations guided by my mentor, I felt the warm peace and ecstasy that comes from the experience of union with the universe. I may have given up on finding the goddesses and gods. But I have reclaimed and rediscovered those values and experiences that I think most importantly capture the spirit of Paganism through a naturalistic, Earth-based practice.
Evolution gives my life incredible meaning and purpose. I marvel at my family tree, which goes back though innumerable life forms, through amazing stories of survival, hope, courage, and parental love. It includes the tiny mammal, surviving through the freezing, yearlong darkness after the asteroid impact by eating, and likely hiding in, a frozen dinosaur carcass. It includes the first mother to produce milk, and the first blurry view through a newly evolved eye. I’ve grown from a long line of survivors — noble creatures of every sort, who conquered deadly challenges billions of times over. What other origin could possibly give my life more meaning?
All of this is to say that I find the question of the gods being “real,” and indeed discussions of their ontological nature in general, somewhat silly. It doesn’t matter if they’re “real” if they’re meaningful. So, yes, I am an atheist because I don’t believe in the existence of a deity. I’m also, however, a Pagan, because I have a personal relationship to the same things that Pagans have relationships to. Once you get past the word games of ontology, being an atheist Pagan isn’t so silly after all.
I don’t take many leaps of faith intellectually, everything is based in reason. In this way I am a naturalistic Pagan. Where I do take those leaps of faith is in the emotional sphere. By engaging in this spiritual practice, I open myself up to experiencing things beyond the mundane. In many ways, it is in exercise in allowing myself to feel without judgement. My spirituality is my way of allowing my pantheism a space in my life.
Carl Sagan, an agnostic who made a career of exploring – and marveling at – the wonders of the universe. His philosophy was that no concept of a creator or overseer could possibly match the awe-inspiring grandeur of nature itself. This is the way the Pagan atheist views the world, and the universe at large. It’s not some dry, clinical and bitter philosophy. It’s a vibrant, dynamic view of life and the environment that births and sustains it.
Humanistic Paganism is a form of Religious or Spiritual Humanism. Religious Humanism includes any religion that takes a human-centered ethical perspective, as contrasted with a deity-centered ethical perspective. A humanistic ethic is one that begins with human beings and defines the good…
Contemporary Paganism is a general term for a variety of related religious movements which began in the United States in the 1960′s, with literary roots going back to the mid-19th century Europe, as attempts to revive what their founders thought were the…
“Humanistic Paganism” has come to be used more or less synonymously with “Naturalistic Paganism.” Naturalistic Paganism is a form of Religious or Spiritual Naturalism. A “naturalistic” religion or spirituality is one which seeks to explain the universe without resort to supernatural…