The State of the Path: Atheopaganism in 2019

Atheopaganism is a particular spiritual/religious path: a subset of both Paganism and atheism. There are other atheistic Pagan paths, so ours isn’t the only one, but our particular path has now existed for ten years and has been steadily growing for five. I thought that for my first post of 2019, I would talk a bit about the current state of the Atheopagan path, and where I think we’re going.

The primary theme I can see trending within the Atheopagan path is growth. We are growing in numbers, in visibility, and in recognition.

Both in followers of the website and in membership of the AP Facebook group, we continue steadily to add new members from all over the world. In the Facebook group, now nearly 1,300 strong, we initiated the practice of holding “Virtual Fires” for convening and fellowship on most Fridays, and these have been popular. The tone on the FB group is remarkable for the Internet: kind, supportive, interesting and lively. I’m hoping to host more guest blogs on topics of interest this year.

We have presented panels, talks, mixers and rituals for Atheopagans at Pantheacon, the largest indoor gathering of Pagans in North America, each year since 2015, and will again this year. Although I was disappointed that our offerings were not selected for the official program in 2019, we will present talks on Atheopaganism in a hospitality suite, as well as our annual Nontheist Pagan Mixer.

Resources available to practitioners have expanded. The website offers guidance on getting a practice started and observing/tailoring the holidays of the Wheel of the Year, commentary on each of the Atheopagan Principles, a Ritual Primer, event planning guidance and materials, and a “hymnal” of poetry, benedictions, food blessings, and songs. We launched a YouTube channel in 2018 with both its own content and links to other videos which may be of use to Atheopagans, and a GoodReads shelf with recommended reading.

In terms of events, we have had mixed success. Moon Meet, our annual summit, was sparsely attended in 2018, and we held some Sabbath celebrations in the East Bay region of the San Francisco Bay Area, with varying success. It is always a challenge to draw people forth from participation in an online community to “in real life”; we’re working on it.

In the broader atheist and Pagan communities, our visibility has increased, and there seems to be (sometimes grudging) acknowledgement that we exist and are a part of those communities. We were fortunate this year in that the Reddit sub r/paganism opened itself to nontheist Pagans after previously banning us on sight.

Particularly in the Pagan community, there is always a ferment of controversy going on; I generally avoid getting entangled in that unless it has a real relevance to how Atheopagans are likely to be perceived or treated. 2018’s most popular blog post was on the #MeToo movement and consent culture as they relate to the Pagan community, which stirred up strong feelings on all sides.

Plans for 2019 are somewhat linked to our Patreon goals–presuming that we reach $500 per month this year, which is not far off, I will be able to start an Atheopaganism podcast; if we reach $1,000 per month I will compile the book, The Atheopagan Reader. I am currently unable to devote as much time and energy as would be required for these projects but could do so if my quest for income were made less pressing.

In short, Atheopaganism as a path is going strong and growing. I’m doing what I can to help people with resources and ideas supporting getting started and building a personal practice, as well as to host their own celebrations and Sabbaths, and I hope that you, reader, will help me by suggesting anything I may have missed.

We’re all helping each other along this path, and your participation is critically important! I welcome guest posts, guest videos for the YouTube channel, and other creative material on your Atheopagan practice you may choose to offer.

In the broader sense, Atheopaganism’s future appears likely to be bright. The most recent generation appears to have little use for religious credulity, and as it ages, is certain to be looking for community, values to present to their children, and observances which will make life meaningful. These are fundamental human needs and if we can present them in a non-credulous context, they will be attractive.

This, in my opinion, is the mistake of mainstream Paganism. Credulity in gods and magic simply doesn’t square with what we know today about the Universe, and most modern people will never subscribe to these ideas. With every passing year, mainstream Paganism winnows out sensible and knowledgeable people and keeps the fanciful and ungrounded… plus that huge cohort of people who find value in the practices, but understand clearly that the cosmology is metaphorical. Those who say “Goddess” in ritual, but know they’re talking about a fictional figure.

Those are us. They are the next wave of Paganism: beyond gods, beyond magic.

But that’s as may be. We are not a proselytizing religion. If people want what we offer, they are welcome to it; if not, they are free to move on to something else.

I believe that what we have to offer is the religious survival kit for the modern, educated person. It offers meaning, purpose, values, principles, community and ritual observances that frame a meaningful life.

The core point is that we are building a spiritual path that is consistent with the evolving trends of the developed world. What we are doing fits well in an information society, in a world of educated people, in a world of science. It connects those elements to the good life-giving dirt and Sun, reminds us to notice what is changing around us, to pay attention and find the aching beauty of this magnificent small, pale blue dot. To feel both the humility and the grandeur of being products of this amazing Universe.

To feel the soil between our toes and gaze high to the stars, knowing: I am this. We are this.

It is a miracle, and yet it is absolutely true.

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