“A 50-Year Vision for Naturalistic Pagans” by B. T. Newberg

Image Credit: NASA Earth Observatory

As the sun returns and the new year of 2016 begins, I want to look ahead, far ahead. But first, let’s review just how far we’ve come.

Before 2005, when Jon Cleland Host coined the term “Naturalistic Pagan” and moderated a Yahoo group for us, we were semi-mythical creatures: every Pagan seemed to know a friend of a friend who claimed to be nontheistic, but no one really knew what that meant or how many of us were out there.

In the decade since then, we’ve become a coherent, self-conscious, and confident community. Check it out: more than 80 naturalistic authors have been showcased here at HumanisticPaganism.com; it is now common for other Pagans to  reference us on blogs and forums; similar movements like Atheopaganism and SolSeed have sprung up, increasing our diversity; the first online course designed explicitly for naturalists like us has opened for enrollment; and the Pagan Community Statement on the Environment, which has nearly 7,000 signatories to date, was spearheaded by our very own John Halstead.

All that in ten years? That’s progress. We have reason to look back with pride.

Now let’s look ahead. The following is my vision for our future as a community. What would you add to this? Would you change anything? Let’s think big.

Where do we see ourselves in the next 50 years?

By 2017 (next year)

  • Discussion moves beyond the “Paganism 101” phase of who we are as Naturalistic Pagans and shifts toward how we deal with real-life issues and struggles, such as parenting, grief, gender issues, environmental challenges, and activism. The tone of discourse becomes less abstract and more personal, exploratory, and vulnerable. Individuals feel empowered enough to share not only how we succeed but also how we fail to live up to our ideals.
  • Naturalistic Pagans re-conceive themselves as members of a larger movement of naturalistic spiritualities, including Secular Buddhism, Humanistic Judaism, Christian Naturalism, Spiritual Ecology, and so on, and initiate joint projects with these communities. The Spiritual Naturalist Society serves as a resource facilitating exchange and dialogue between such communities.
  • Pagans contribute the Wheel of the Year and their unique emphasis on re-enchantment, among other things, to the aforementioned larger movement of naturalistic spiritualities.

By 2020

  • The first annual conference is held for Naturalistic Pagans and the first book released by a major Pagan publisher hits shelves as a result of networking and organizational efforts by individuals
  • Sustainable living is taken for granted as part of the Naturalistic Pagan way of life, and individuals publicly share how they “walk the walk” in terms of environmental consciousness.
  • The various Naturalistic Pagan groups and individuals collaborate to organize their first joint effort to address urgent environmental issues, focusing on applying naturalistic, evidence-based views to policy change, activism, and the relationship of self to nature.

By 2030

  • Face-to-face groups of Naturalistic Pagans exist in many major cities and regions, thanks to the initiative of local volunteers, especially parents wishing to expose their children to other naturalists. These groups and other local groups of naturalistic spiritualities communicate with each other, share some overlapping membership, and collaborate on public projects.
  • National galleries and venues feature artists with a new, recognizable aesthetic evoking awe and wonder for nature, including painting, music, literature, and so on. Naturalistic Pagans are among those who drive the evolution of this aesthetic, which begins to influence public attitudes toward nature and self.
  • Naturalistic Pagans join other secularists to campaign for respect, aiming to overcome the distrust underlying U.S. polls finding atheists less electable than Muslims and no more trustworthy than rapists. This movement foregoes hostility and mockery in favor of the model of successful movements like marriage equality and civil rights.
  • A new generation growing up naturalistic begins to assert itself, no longer stuck in reactionary mentalities but rather evolving more nuanced, relevant, expressive, and self-critical forms of Naturalistic Paganism.

By 2050

  • The Winter Solstice is recognized as a holiday on par with Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, and so on. There are Happy Solstice greeting cards in department stores and sun decorations in the windows of some houses on your block. People of various stripes, both spiritual and secular, celebrate the holiday as a viable alternative to traditional religious holidays.
  • Naturalistic spiritualities, including Naturalistic Paganism, go mainstream as a result of the accumulation of all previous efforts. National news media reference them without the need to explain what they are. Polls suggest the majority of Americans would vote for a naturalist or atheist presidential candidate. Naturalistic spiritualities are included in census data, referenced in witty jokes on popular TV shows, studied by academics, and welcome at the average family gathering without much more than a shrug and a smile.
  • Naturalistic Pagans proudly look back and say “We helped solve climate change.” We didn’t do it alone, and we didn’t escape some of the effects of warming, but in the end we did it. We did it.

That’s my vision.

What’s yours?

The Author

B. T. Newberg

B. T. Newberg:  Since the year 2000, B. T. has been practicing meditation and ritual from a naturalistic perspective. He currently volunteers as Education Director for the Spiritual Naturalist Society, where he created and now teaches an online course in naturalistic spirituality (including Naturalistic Paganism!). His writings can also be found at Patheos and Pagan Square, as well as right here at HP.

Professionally, he teaches English as a Second Language, and hopes to begin a PhD program in the psychology of religion soon.  After living in Minnesota, England, Malaysia, Japan, and South Korea, he currently resides in Minneapolis, Minnesota, with his wife and cat.

After founding HumanisticPaganism.com in 2011 and serving as managing editor till 2013, he now serves as advising editor, and feels blessed to be a part of this community.

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3 Comments on ““A 50-Year Vision for Naturalistic Pagans” by B. T. Newberg

  1. I share your short-term goals. I’m particularly eager for the discussion to become less abstract, and more personal, vulnerable, and grounded in real-life issues, as you say. I think this goal is clearly within our reach, along with establishing face-to-face gatherings and evolving our own nuanced, expressive, enchanted forms of art. I’ll add that I’d love to read more on this blog about how others are engaging with their places, with the very real earth beneath their feet!

    Where we diverge a bit is the long-term goals. Not sure what it would mean for NP to become mainstream. I’m always happy to talk spirituality with those who express interest, but most Pagans (including myself) want nothing to do with proselytizing. Would our stories and practices be commercialized? Yuck.

    Long-term for the NP movement, I’d like to see a cohesive set of attitudes, issues, and ritual observances develop. I think this will happen organically once we’re ready to dig in and do the hard work of consistently showing up, being vulnerable, and submitting to some concrete practices.

  2. Very interesting anticipations and semi-goals. I like the suggestion that the Winter Solstice could become a holiday, with cards and decorations; I think people could really pick up on that as an alternative celebration.

    Also, I expect–and hope–that there will be more popular presentations of science similar to Neil deGrasse Tyson’s on the cosmos and evolution–but with more discussion of how such grand scheme’s are relevant to our individual lives and our spiritual questions.

    Thanks again.

    Brock

  3. Wow, this is great – yes, there are wider discussions with each point, but that doesn’t detract from this post. Discussion is often the first step toward dragging a dream into existence. : )

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