Atheism and Paganism

Question photoYay! You have clicked on my thread so I’m hopeful I can get a good conversation going. I have tried reaching out to pagans before about this topic and it was a horrible disaster. I’m hoping the people here will be much more open to a conversation.

Ok, a little history on yours truly, PanSoka. You can call me Pan. You can call me Soka. I respond to any pronouns. I’m a pretty easy going person….most of the time. I’m 31 and I live in Virginia. I was raised Baptist throughout my childhood and by high school, I began to have doubts. I started researching other religions, mostly pagan religions as they appealed to me. I attempted to start practicing something similar but not entirely Wicca. But soon, life just happened and any religious or spiritual learning took a backseat. I slipped into being an agnostic, looking into things like Buddhism and Hinduism from time to time, but nothing really stuck. Fast forward to my late 20’s and I was having a good hard think about what I believed. It hit me both like a ton of bricks and fresh air at the same time. I did not believe in God. I did not believe that gods existed. It suddenly did not make sense to me. I struggled with it for a bit, but then it settled and I was very comfortable and felt as if a weight had lifted. The world made more sense.

Now, I know what you are thinking. Is this atheist seriously on our forum trying to convert us or insult us. NO! I am most certainly not. I’m just giving you the story how I feel it and experience it. This is not to insult you or belittle your religious beliefs at ALL. Please hear me out.

Ok, so some time went by. I’ve been an atheist for a few years now and for a while I’ve been quite happy with it. Recently, I’ve been feeling this pull. To give you a visual to maybe better explain it. Imagine religion sits on the side of a hill. Doubt and questioning are the side of the hill. The point of no return is the apex of the hill and it drops off to a cliff, at which sits yours truly. The valley is atheism. Its nice there, but the religious side of the hill is nice too (with the exception of a few extremists, but hey my valley has those too). Recently I’ve been feeling this tug. A gentle pull to the cliff face. I look up it and almost, for the briefest of seconds miss the other side. I miss that sense of community. I miss the “magick”. I miss belief. There are a few people at the top of the cliff throwing down ropes but none of them are long enough to reach  me. I cannot climb the cliff.

And so here I sit, at the bottom of the cliff, comfortable in my valley, but kind of missing the hillside. Does that make sense to anyone? Anyone still with me so far?

Ok, so maybe you are wondering. Pan…what DO you believe? Well…that’s kind of simple but yet complicated. I do believe in a universal energy that is within everything and everyone. It is the energy that holds atoms together. It is the energy of fire, and the energy of rain. Potential and kenetic energy. Emotions. Planets and suns. Its all part of a vast flowing network of energy, all feeding into each other. Never ceasing, always existing. In a way, I guess you could call that “god”. But I don’t believe this energy to be sentient. At least not as a whole. Parts of it can be sentient, in the way you and I are sentient. My cat is sentient. Plants are sentient. Anything with life, is sentient. But potential energy doesn’t know that it will become kenetic energy. It doesn’t make that conscious decision. Wind, for me at least, is not consciously trying to blow my house over (though sometimes I swear its trying). Wind is just wind. It just is. And because this is how I view this energy, I don’t think, other than life forms, it can be influenced. I don’t feel it can be manipulated in any way except a physical one (redirecting water with a dam, picking a flower thus cutting off its nutrient supply, shielding your eyes from the sun). I do believe it can be experienced through physical and spiritual means, but not necessarily influenced.

Ok, sorry for the book. I’m just trying to set it all on the table. So what it all comes down to is, I have this urge to come back to paganism, but I just simply cannot reconcile my disbelief in god figures. I can’t climb back up that cliff and no one has been able to throw me a rope long enough. Its a switch I can’t turn back on. Trust me, I’ve tried. But again, I still have this urge to come sit at the bottom of the damn cliff, looking up and wondering what it would have been like if I hadn’t slid down into the valley.

If anyone has gotten this far, I thank you for at the very least, hearing me out. I attempted to get some feedback from a reddit group and was met with only hostile responses (save for like two people, one of whom directed me here).

So, anyone want to chat with me here about this here cliff and what I should maybe do about it? Anyone kind of in the same boat want to come sit by the cliff with me? I’m just lost here.

Tarot vs. Oracle Cartomancy

For those of you who have read with both, how do they differ for you? What do tarot/oracle each have that you look for? Are there ideas in tarot decks that rub you the wrong way, but work in more freeform oracle decks and vice versa?

Personally, I like the structure and the “story” of tarot, but its that same structure I often find to be a limiting barrier to my ever developing an intuitive reading style. Unfortunately, on the other hand, the vast majority of oracle decks I’ve encountered seem… incapable of giving you an answer you don’t want to hear lol.

Thoughts?

Non-Wicca 101 Books

It is not hard to find Wicca 101 books. However, I am also interested in other traditions and I’m not sure what sources to use for, say, general paganism or druidry or shamanism.

What are the best first texts in these areas?

Or do most non-wiccan pagans start with Wicca 101 and then depart from there/develop their own path?

How do you make and keep altars and shrines?

We’ve had a thread for showing off our altars and shrines for a while, and we’ve had several threads asking for help with altars and shrines. How about a thread digging into the specifics of how you use these magical/ritual concepts in your practice?

I recently set up a new desk that has a separate platform off to the side from the main one; I’ve been using it as an altar, on which I keep a few specific things. One is a speaker for playing music; another is a fountain through which I make water libations to my gods; and the rest are tools and magical items. It’s been satisfying to keep it clean and perform a simple cleansing ritual before it. I’ve also noticed that it serves a distinctly different purpose than my shrine, which is simply to house beautiful things and idols in honor of my Powers.

But the process of setting up this altar and starting to practice at it has gotten me thinking about just what purpose altars and shrines serve for modern pagans. For me at the moment, my altar is serving the purpose of helping me organize my changing practice and anchor it in simple rules and rituals at all times. As such, I have clear rules about what I keep on it versus what I keep on the shrine, and I make sure to perform a daily ritual of cleansing and offering there.

But I know that other people have different experiences, and I’m interested in learning about them. If you keep altars or shrines in your practice–what purpose do they serve? On what principles do you construct them? What rituals do you perform at them regularly? How do you take care of them? Do you merge them into one altar/shrine, or keep multiple separate spaces for different purposes and Powers?

May the 4th be with you: practices of the Jedi?

The Star Wars franchise has a lot to say about the philosophies of both groups, but what about their practices? I mean, we see bits of their teaching methods and martial arts, but what about religious practices? Are there any?

The Jedi are sometimes called a religion, but do they function as one?

What do you imagine Jedi spiritual practices would be like? How about the Sith?

How Do You Describe Your Religious Identity In Public?

Identity photoA lot of us following pagan and otherwise non-mainstream paths find that we have to tread carefully around the topic outside of pagan spaces, or even outside of our own personal mystic spaces. How do you navigate that? What descriptors have you taken to using for your faith in various non-pagan circles?

As a bonus question: how are you able to interact with those of other faiths outside of pagan spaces using that presentation?

“Working” with Deity vs. Worshipping Deity

Goddess photoI must confess that I’ve always been a bit…confused by the tendency of pagans to say they “work” with a deity/deities. I always assumed that “working” with a deity related to working magic with the help of a God/Goddess, but I’ve seen pagans who do not practice magic use this expression.

What, exactly, does it mean to “work” with a deity? Is this a reference to prayer/reciprocity? Or something else?

What is the difference between “working” with a God and worshiping him/her?

Personally, I don’t claim to “work” with the Gods as that, to me personally, would imply some kind of even-footing. However, I think others may be using the term in a way I am not familiar with and perhaps I am misunderstanding. What are your thoughts on this semantic difference?

Modern Mythology: Trains to the Afterlife

Trains photoWhat is with the association between trains and death? Why, out of all vehicles, are trains the most common choice of afterlife transportation? (TVtropes has a whole page of examples).

What have trains got that, say, a bus doesn’t?

This has been on my mind because I recently got my hands on some model railroad supplies, and was undecided about whether to shell out for the expensive part (ie a locomotive) until it occurred to me that I could make it into an ancestor shrine, partly due to this trope.

Technology and Your Craft

Technology photoThis past weekend I bought a new phone (Google Pixel 2 for those interested) and I have noticed during my commutes that nearly every person has a piece of powerful technology in their pockets that can be used for different purposes: financial; musical; educational; medical; informational; and the list goes on.

These different purposes have me thinking as I was researching my different deities: how does one incorporate technology into one’s practice? And how does one balance that technology use with off screen time?

I’ll post my personal practices shortly.

Signs of Spring, Rays of Hope

Spring photoSo today it has barely cracked the freezing mark in New York City–another cold day in a brutal winter. And yet I’m finding signs of hope: When I walked out my front door today, I noticed there were buds on the street trees, waiting for their moment to bust open…the male mourning dove has started his rhythmic cooing…when I went to the gym this morning, it was dark, but for the first time in months, when I left the sun was up and light was everywhere (and, if I leave the office on time, there’s still some light in the sky now)…even I’m getting into the act, overwhelmed the past few days with a need to play my favorite “spring summoning” music, as if it might coax things along.

Any signs of impending spring yet where you are?