It’s been awhile since I wrote just generally about Atheopaganism: what is it, why does it exist, and what does it stand for?
Atheopaganism is a religious/spiritual path I envisioned between 2005 and 2009, which led to publication first of an essay and eventually of the book Atheopaganism: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science. In this path, the worldview and approach to learning of science are combined with progressive values and Pagan ritual practices celebrating nature, the diversity of humanity, and our passage through the seasons of the year and of our lives.
This not the first time that scientific/naturalistic cosmology has been combined with Pagan practice. If I had done a better job of researching when I began my search for a new way to do Paganism that wasn’t rooted in belief in the supernatural, I might have discovered and ended up following the path of Humanistic (now Naturalistic) Paganism, or Ehoah, or PaGaianism, or another form of spiritual naturalism. Others went before me in the direction I would eventually go.
Still, Atheopaganism is uniquely its own thing. Our Four Sacred Pillars and 13 Principles articulate a vision for humanity and for the world that is aspirational, inclusive, and kind. And we claim no “lineage” of history from antiquity: Atheopaganism the spiritual path was invented in the early 21st century and, although we incorporate some old folk customs like Yule trees and Maypoles, we are not a descendant of any culture. We avoid cultural appropriation, choosing instead to invent our own rituals and begin our own modern traditions. And every Atheopagan is encouraged and empowered to do so, by designing and naming their seasonal celebrations around the Wheel of the Year (itself invented in the mid-20th century) in response to what is happening in nature where they live.
Ours is a path of celebration of this one, incredible life we have been so remarkably fortunate to be granted: of the beauty of the world and the many experiences of joy within it, of the learning that even our sorrows bring us, of the love of friends and family and the opportunity to creatively express who we are.
The point of Atheopaganism is to become the best and happiest people we can, and to help the world to be a kinder, more ecologically sustainable place. We view political activism as a natural outgrowth of our spirituality, and understand that we have responsibilities not only to ourselves and our loved ones, but to our societies and to the fabric of life itself.
Our growth path is to become wiser, kinder, freer and more joyous, and to develop the psychological tools that help us to move in these directions through daily, seasonal, and as-needed rituals which tap into our subconscious minds and change our internal narratives. We understand the transformations that can occur through such rituals as “open-label placebo effects”, and not literal magic.
We care about issues such as inclusion and consent, and have community conduct standards to help our gatherings (be they in person or online) to be safe for all but the malicious.
Our values are in many cases squarely opposed to those of the dominant Overculture, with its shame-filled, body-denying and destructively capitalistic understanding of the world. Atheopagans celebrate all consenting forms of sexual behavior and relationships*, and believe in the primacy of bodily autonomy to choose for ourselves our medical and health care except under the most extreme circumstances such as the current pandemic, when public health concerns outweigh the desires of some not to be vaccinated or masked.
Although we have Atheopagan “clerics” who are legally ordained at the website of The Atheopagan Society, our nonprofit religious organization, this is viewed as a role of service to the community rather than elevated status. We reject the idea that in order to thrive we must have hierarchy that tells us what to do.
We recognize that religious practices can have many benefits for people, but that these can be offset by harms caused by false beliefs and cruel values. Atheopaganism is a response to this: we kept the baby but tossed the bathwater of Bronze Age beliefs and values which currently dominate our society.
So there it is: Atheopaganism in a nutshell. Obviously, there are a lot more things to say to fill in the subtleties of this broad framework, and that is why this blog has more than 500 posts. But particularly because we have new folks coming in all the time, I thought I would lay out the general concepts in one simple post.
*Between adults, obviously: children are not capable of consent.