It’s Atheopaganism Day! In honor of the tenth anniversary of the Atheopagan Facebook group, which really launched us as a movement and a community, here are some statements from members of the community throughout the world on what their practices mean to them. They reflect the range of approaches, perspectives and practices of our diverse spiritual community.
Atheopaganism means I can be my authentic self. It means I can have a deep and meaningful religious practice without having to compromise my core belief that truth matters, and that critical thinking and the scientific method are the best means we have to ascertain truth about the universe we live in.
Finding Atheopaganism –both the book and the broader movement/ community of practice it’s tied to– was deeply meaningful to me because it put a name to what I had long felt as a skeptic/nonbeliever who finds beauty and meaning in the natural world.
As someone raised Catholic but educated in the Arts and Sciences, there has always been a tension for me between Religious thought and Scientific and Skeptical thought. Atheopaganism has dissolved that binary. Atheopaganism allows me a sense of spiritual and psychological play without subscribing to the supernatural and the unreal. Instead of a choice between arid Atheism and false Theism, I have a middle path of vital Atheopagan Practice. Atheopaganism has helped me reconcile two formerly conflicting aspects of myself and has created a happy integration of those different aspects.
“The whole is greater than the sum of its parts.” Atheopaganism means mixing identities that don’t commonly go together but ultimately complement each other and create a novel approach. This concept echoes my experience of having disparate identities that I sometimes struggle to make cohesive. I experience existential dread, often best dealt with by creating your own meaning, which I find to be a vital component of Atheopagan practices. I highly value Atheopaganism’s celebration of autonomy alongside communal effort among like-minded people. The experience of fellowship is not something I’ve had before, and I find it very special to connect to others with a wide range of identities and ways of living. I love the feeling of learning from one another, uplifting each other, and working towards good, especially as we live in a very tumultuous time.
What Atheopaganism means to me is different from what it means to someone else and that right there is the beauty of this path. We’re all taking different steps on the same trail. My Atheopagan praxis has evolved for me through the years in ways I didn’t expect it and it’s brought me closer to nature than I ever thought possible. I’ve met some amazing human beings on this path and it’s pushed me to really press my feet deeply into the soil of my own bioregion and rekindle my connection to the Earth in its natural and beautiful form. It’s taught me to slow down and pay attention to the natural rhythms, to look closer at the plants under my feet and the fruits growing in my garden. Atheopaganism was the missing link I found in connecting me to a spiritual practice that is rooted in nature and science, it’s perfect symmetry for an Atheist who wants that spiritual connection without the woo and supernatural. I’m grateful to have stumbled upon this path and I’m proud to call myself an Atheopagan.
Being a part of Atheopaganism means that I am not alone in my atheism plus enjoyment of ritual and meditation. Without Atheopaganism, I would be too pagan for the atheists and too atheistic for the pagans. I have not found full community in either group because of my beliefs plus practice. But in Atheopaganism, I feel like I fully belong. Although I have not yet met another Atheopagan in person, we have a thriving community online that I value greatly. I really appreciate the feeling of connection I have with Atheopagans across the US and beyond. When I meditate or do ritual alone in my apartment, I do so knowing that there are others like me — so I am not really alone.
I’ve always been interested in “magick” but could never bring myself to fully believe, because I’ve always had a deep love and respect for science. Atheopaganism, to me, means being able to align science with magick, rather than pit them against each other. Through Atheopaganism, I’m learning that the magick, though psychological and metaphorical in nature, is within ourselves. I enjoy the freedom to practice with what resonates with me, without the strict confines of organized religion.
Atheopagan practice gave me a way to actively reject shame. Shame over experiences I could only describe as spiritual, shame that I can be overcome with all aspects of life: with the joy, the beauty, the pain and the anger – shame that indeed, I’ve always sought out such experiences and cherish them as much as any monument to the part of myself I artificially fenced off and labeled rational. Finding a community of the like-minded, I was able to finally believe what I had always suspected, on some level: that those who believe in the supernatural do not possess a monopoly on spirituality, that there is nothing incompatible about being skeptical and being fully human, just as knee-deep in the mystery and awe that some theists seem to think belongs to them alone. By rejecting the shame and the assumption that my spirituality was somehow not authentic, I’ve been able to cherish and cultivate these parts of my being that have always been fundamental to me, but which I lacked a framework with which to engage. It’s been an incredible gift, that I can only hope to honor by continuing to explore this path and share my thoughts and feelings with others who might have their own set of assumptions they’re struggling to escape.
Robin Marie Averbeck
Atheopaganism has been several things to me, but the most important of these is that it has become a community for me. This doesn’t describe how impactful it is though; when I walked away from evangelical Christianity, the thing I missed most was a sense of community with people who were not necessarily my family, close friends, or colleagues. I feel accepted at a core level within Atheopaganism and Atheopagan circles. I can safely and freely talk about my lack of belief in deities, about my learning journeys, about feeling wonder at observing the world around me, and about meaning-making with people and in a context that feels like “they get it”. I also feel like there’s space to explore those things more fully with others who are learning as well.
I came to this spiritual place by stepping away from the assumptions I had as a younger person and those I had grown up with. I stood at the edge of those ideas and looked at them as though they were new to me. And they made no sense. I saw no evidence of a Deity (male or female) intervening in people’s lives or bringing peace to nations or answering those who prayed to him. I didn’t exactly understand the idea of a Deity who took on human qualities, like anger, love or desire.
I do see a spark of Deity in other people, in the sparkle of the stars, in the the majesty of trees, in the roar of the ocean waves. These bring my spirit to wonder, to awe, to an uplifting of my spirit.
Atheopaganism to me is a chance to practice a craft I love without having to grapple with my religious trauma. I grew up being told by church leadership that demons, and other supernatural beings existed to do me harm. The supernatural aspect of much of witchcraft kept me away for years even though the craft intrigued me. Atheopaganism gave me a place of safety to explore paganism further, it is also a place where I can feel proud to practice a craft without harming any other communities.
Am I an Atheopagan?
Well, I’m not an atheist. I need ‘spirituality’ in my life. For me to negate all spiritual feelings just doesn’t feel right. It’s like I was born with a natural propensity towards it.
But for me, ‘god/dess/spirit’ only exists within. It is not ‘out there’, it’s immanent.
(Although I’ll happily accept that there are other truths that people hold about this.)
So, existing within me as a mental construct, I do ponder this ‘spirituality’, and live by a code of appropriate reverence and respect. The 13 Atheopagan Principles (as identified by Mark Green) resonate very comfortably with me; no alterations required for me to follow these guidelines.
Praxis: I guess, there are tangible outward signs that I might consider myself to be Atheopagan. I do believe that a sense of Gratitude is fundamental to being happy. I do mark the 8 festivals of the Pagan Year, – with quiet inward reflection and by sending cards to my family members. I do look at the Moon, the clouds, trees, flowers, the seasonal changes, insects, birds more than most people seem to. I do have a ‘shrine’ of sorts where I put bits and pieces that I find along the way – it includes a microscope as well as candles and flowers but no models of deities.
(I do really enjoy the myths and legends that surround deity. I do think these myths are genuinely important methods of inquiry that help to grasp ideas. But that’s as far as it goes for me.
Again, I do appreciate that other people find different truths about these.)
So, am I an Atheopagan?
I think the reason I am ‘an Atheopagan’ is mostly because I feel I can soak up strength from time in Nature, – sometimes by sitting and watching, listening, feeling, – and sometimes by walking with a certain mindset that means I can breathe it in and feel refreshed.
Duncan Thomas MacBean
The Atheopagan pillars and principles really resonated with me as someone seeking an inclusive spiritual path based in science as well as a wonderful community where I feel safe being myself. These have been invaluable to me as a queer, disabled woman. My daily practice has helped immensely in enriching my life, experiencing more joy, and coping with my disabilities. Regular mindfulness practice, ritual and symbolism can be very powerful tools, in my belief. I appreciate the freedom to create my own practices that work well for me and exchanging ideas with others has been worthwhile! Another important quality of Atheopaganism is being part of a community that will speak out against the injustices of the world and uplift the voices of the marginalized. This has been paramount, especially in the world we live in today.