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Author Topic: Atheism and Paganism  (Read 3066 times)

PanSoka

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Atheism and Paganism
« on: May 17, 2018, 05:46:55 pm »
Yay! 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.

Noctua

Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #1 on: May 17, 2018, 07:05:36 pm »

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.

So! Don't feel alone- there are enough people like you that they've started their own branch of paganism. A google search for "Atheopaganism" should start you on the right track. And welcome to our corner of the web. :)

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #2 on: May 17, 2018, 07:15:25 pm »
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.

I was, five years ago. I found a rope that was long enough and climbed the cliff, to extend your metaphor. I was myself raised in a Pentecostal Christian household and was an atheist for several years,  before I began to feel drawn back to religion. I dabbled with Islam, Hellenic Paganism, Shinto, and Sikhism, before Hinduism finally got me and wouldn't let go. It just... made sense to me; it worked, and I stuck with it. Still here now, following my new path happily. Maybe you will find something that suits you, maybe you won't.

In my own, personal, non-authoritative opinion, if you feel drawn to religion, you should probably follow it. The human mind doesn't push people in random directions without some reason for doing so. I would keep looking at whatever path's interest you. From your post, it sounds like some form of animism or shamanism* or perhaps even looking into some of the more pantheistic organized religions, such as Sikhism, where the concept of God is similar to what you describe believing in.

Don't be surprised if, while researching, you find that some ideas you *thought* you liked turn out not to be your thing in the end, or if certain ideas you though were unlikely later seem likely to you. I know that I went through such experiences several times... I mean, Hinduism, really? If you had told me, during my "searching for religion" phase, that I would become Hindu, I would have scoffed. I didn't think a single monotheistic God was very plausible, and was interested in religions whose deities were more nebulous and impersonal. I wound up settling for the religion, arguably, with the largest number of personal deities out there, with thousands of names and faces for God. Life's weird like that. Don't resist things that feel right to you, just because you don't think that they *should* feel right. Trying to force yourself to believe something you want to believe, rather than something you actually do believe, is unlikely to be fruitful, IMO.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------
*Note: Using shamanism as a generic term is frowned upon here, and in the pagan community generally. I am using it here in the anthropological sense, to refer to certain types of animistic belief systems that have common elements. I would not recommend simply labeling yourself a shaman! Rather, I am suggesting that it would be a useful term for you to use when searching for specific religious organizations or movements, such as Northern-Tradition Shamanism, which might interest you.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #3 on: May 17, 2018, 07:29:53 pm »
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.

Hey, this is a discussion and debate forum; we don't take disagreement as an insult at all. Plus we have such a wide range of beliefs and practices here, one more won't be a problem! In fact I'm pretty sure we've already got a few atheist pagans around.

Quote

Ok, so maybe you are wondering. Pan...what DO you believe?

Not as much as you might think. A lot of Pagan paths are defined more by practices (orthopraxy) than by beliefs (orthodoxy). So ... do you meditate? Pay attention to the phases of the moon or the seasons? Do you follow a code of honor or morals? Have you ever tried divinaton or sigil magic? Are there any symbols that hold particular significance for you?

Quote
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.

That sounds a lot like pandeism, or like the ultimate reality of some Eastern religions (Buddhists and Hindus, a little help here?). Also, there are plenty of Pagans who honor the forces of nature without personifying them; plenty more who believe that gods are thought-forms, archetypes or elements of the subconscious. And some of us are "meh" on the whole question (to get nitpicky, I'm a theist agnostic and semi-hard polytheist).

Quote
Trust me, I've tried.

Tried what, exactly? Between the lot of us here, we've got an incredibly broad spiritual toolbox, and if you can tell us where you've been, we may be able to suggest some routes you weren't aware of. You may have been barking up the wrong cliff, so to speak. To extend your metaphor, why should there only be one hill? What's on the other side of the valley you're in?

Quote
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).

Yeah, Reddit is not a good place to find a supportive environment, I find. Welcome to the Cauldron! I also suggest you look through our archives for threads about similar issues to your own, you are definitely not alone in trying to figure out a path for yourself.

EnderDragonFire

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #4 on: May 17, 2018, 07:51:01 pm »
That sounds a lot like pandeism, or like the ultimate reality of some Eastern religions (Buddhists and Hindus, a little help here?). Also, there are plenty of Pagans who honor the forces of nature without personifying them; plenty more who believe that gods are thought-forms, archetypes or elements of the subconscious. And some of us are "meh" on the whole question (to get nitpicky, I'm a theist agnostic and semi-hard polytheist).

Yes, it does sound a lot like the concept of Brahman or Nirvana. I just didn't mention those specifically because I didn't want to come across as pushing my own religion or proselytizing. It seemed rude to suggest that the path I chose might be the right one for the OP, when there are other path's that fit just as well. Sikhism, for example, where the concept of Waheguru is rather similar to the OP's ideas.

I guess I was just being too cautious, but I am always hesitant to suggest Hinduism to anyone for fear of giving the wrong impression. It certainly isn't the only religion with a universal, impersonal God concept.

Within Hinduism, I would say that the Smarta sect is closest to the ideas that the OP is interested in.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #5 on: May 17, 2018, 08:55:48 pm »
Sikhism, for example, where the concept of Waheguru is rather similar to the OP's ideas.

Thanks! I didn't know Sikhism also had a similar concept. I should read up on it.

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #6 on: May 17, 2018, 10:42:30 pm »
Yay! 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.

Edit: ARGH. I typed up a big whole thing, got a 403 error, hit back and thought the form had saved my reply... only to find that it had morphed into the entirety of OP's post instead. Sorry, I thought it was mine. I'll be back later to remedy this. >:[
« Last Edit: May 17, 2018, 10:44:20 pm by keen »
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EclecticWheel

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #7 on: May 18, 2018, 12:54:53 am »
Yay! 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.

I am veering more agnostic than atheist these days.  The world is just so complicated, and some of my experiences have been bizarre.  I'm still a skeptic, but less sure of my unbelief.  However, I have always had some sort of spirituality going back to childhood, sometimes within organized religion, sometimes not.

There are so many ways to be neo-pagan.  You don't have to personify the energy force you believe in as others have mentioned.

Even if you are an outright atheist there are different approaches to religion in general that can encompass that.  As pertains to my own (cultural?) Christianity I am strongly skeptical of many of the claims and find myself in the non-realist camp and slowly exploring alternative theologies as well as building a skeletal form of my own.

Finding God i the Waves, by Mike McHargue is a book on my reading list that I believe comes from a non-realist perspective, and God in Us by Anthony Freeman definitely falls into that camp, written by an Anglican priest.  The Sea of Faith Network site can give you an idea of where non-realist religious people are coming from: http://www.sofn.org.uk/

In the neo-pagan world I have only seen the term "non-realist" used in regard to religious matters a few times, probably because neo-paganism is not usually bound up with orthodoxy, but there are similar concepts about how to relate to gods among agnostics and atheists who do feel inclined to that, and myths can be interpreted in many ways too.

There is a good article here about neo-pagans who relate to God concepts from a basically a non-realist framework: https://humanisticpaganism.com/1066/10/14/deity/

There are some references to other articles on neo-pagans who do not use anthropomorphic language in that link as well which you may find useful for your context.

I want to emphasize that you don't have to work with gods at all to be a neo-pagan and I'm not trying to persuade you to, but you might find some interesting tidbits among this information to help develop your own approach to religion in general.
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PanSoka

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #8 on: May 18, 2018, 09:10:05 am »
So! Don't feel alone- there are enough people like you that they've started their own branch of paganism. A google search for "Atheopaganism" should start you on the right track. And welcome to our corner of the web. :)

Thank you so much! I looked up Atheopaganism and I got to do a little reading last night so that you for that! Definitely helpful.

To the rest of you, I’ll be responding tonight when I get home. Replying on my phone is difficult so I’d rather be able to type out what I intend to say that trying to shorten it. I look forward to responding to your posts.  ;D
« Last Edit: May 18, 2018, 09:12:52 am by PanSoka »

keen

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #9 on: May 18, 2018, 01:40:51 pm »
Edit: ARGH. I typed up a big whole thing, got a 403 error, hit back and thought the form had saved my reply... only to find that it had morphed into the entirety of OP's post instead. Sorry, I thought it was mine. I'll be back later to remedy this. >:[

Alright let's try this again.

OP, my path has been similar to yours, excepting for the fact that I did eventually come back around to believing - knowing, really; belief is too weak a sentiment. I was raised Christian, rebelled with witchcraft as a young teenager, then lapsed into deism for a number of years. Eventually something kept pulling me back: there were experiences I'd had, feelings, instincts, that I just couldn't continue to ignore. Religion had provided me with something valuable once upon a time, and its lack hurt in some pretty deep ways. It's been nothing short of a struggle since then, not gonna lie... but the 7 years I've been at this thing again have been incredibly rewarding.

The closest metaphor I can come up with for the value placed in religion and the belief in divinity is love. Don't laugh, I'm serious. Looking to material, scientific empiricism for spiritual justification is like looking to the same to be told that love exists. All science can do for these irrational structures is forensics: a piece of a shoeprint here, some gunpowder there, a fingerprint. Or in our case, the legal and financial structures of marriage, the neurochemical mechanisms of bonding and intimacy, the day in and day out reality of continued commitment or cohabitation. But there are still plenty of people who firmly believe that real love doesn't exist. It's written off as delusion, or codependency, or a mere social quirk conferred by evolution. And that's fine. You can't really force those people to believe in love, or recognize love for what it is when they see it. Moreover, love is really only something that can be understood by the individuals party to it, and it has to be taken on faith. The signs and symptoms of love could be any number of things. Same thing for religious experience of the divine and the unseen. The two groups just speak different languages, have different understandings of the world and themselves, and different expectations. Doesn't mean they can't get along!

There are a surprising number of atheist or agnostic pagans out there. I seem to recall a prominent blogger that caused quite a bit of drama when he talked about performing Heathen ritual without believing he was actually communing with the gods. Don't let the drama scare you away. (Really, most folks will find anything to whinge about.) Just know that a lot of us theists will have a difficult time talking to you since our experiences are so central to our religious practices, and that winds up shaping a lot of the language that we use. This may be off-putting to you. Or maybe it won't be.

In either case, do stick around. You're not nearly as alone as you might think.
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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #10 on: May 18, 2018, 02:33:19 pm »
The closest metaphor I can come up with for the value placed in religion and the belief in divinity is love. Don't laugh, I'm serious. Looking to material, scientific empiricism for spiritual justification is like looking to the same to be told that love exists. All science can do for these irrational structures is forensics: a piece of a shoeprint here, some gunpowder there, a fingerprint.

Hmm. Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I was fortunate to have very good science professors at university, who taught us what science is, how science works, and (most importantly) what science is actually for.

Lots of people seem to overlook the last one. Science exist to explain how physical processes work and affect one another. It explains the mechanisms that cause things to happen in the observable universe. It does not seek, and cannot seek, to explain A) Things outside the physical universe B) The purpose or intent (if any exists) behind things in the physical universe or C) Non-testable concepts such as morality, ethics, the existence of the supernatural, or the existence of the undetectable.

As a though experiment, one of my professors positioned the existence of a substance which has no mass, no gravity, no radioactivity, and which does not interact with matter or energy in any way. He asked the class if science could test for the existence of this substance. The majority of the class said "yes" science could test for this, which demonstrates just how widespread the misconceptions about science are. Some people think you can test and prove (or disprove) any statement or hypothesis using science. That simply isn't how it works:

*You can't prove that murder, rape, genocide, or anything else is wrong using science:
-Some people claim otherwise, because they say that science can be used to prove what is harmful and what is not, and therefor what is good and what is bad. However, this requires the implicit assumption that harmful things are bad and helpful things are good, which is itself an untestable statement (and not a default axiom used by science) 1.

*You can't prove that God, Satan, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, Cthulhu, the Force, or any other magical entity or concept does (or does not) exist. Supernatural beings are, by definition, are not natural, do not obey natural laws of the universe, and therefore cannot be tested empirically.

*You cannot prove that the universe did not simply spring into existence, in it's current form, 2 seconds ago, or last Tuesday, or last Wednesday, or 100 years ago, etc.

*You cannot test whether or not other realities exist. By definition other realities are outside of our reality, and cannot be observed or tested from within our own reality.
-Other realities are fundamentally different, conceptually, from parallel universes within the same reality, which may or may not be scientifically testable at some distant future point. Multiple realities would be *entirely* separate instances of the whole of reality, not simply other universes within one, multiversal reality.

-----------

Science is not a "golden hammer," that can answer every question. Maslow's Instrument, also known as "If all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail," has been applied to everything from actual hammers, to communism, to religion, to feminism. It can also be applied to science. Not everything is a "nail," AKA a falsifiable statement of purported fact about the nature of the physical universe.

Science, fundamentally, despite what some atheists have claimed, does not contradict religion. It contradict certain myths from certain religions, yes, when those myths are taken literally. For example, the great flood from the Bible, or the battle of Kurukshetra from the Bhagavad Gita.

However, it doesn't contradict the concept of religion itself. It can only contradict claims about the nature of the physical universe made by religious myths. These claims are usually not the main point of religion anyway, and can often be seen as metaphors or allegories. Contrary to what you might think, the main point of the Quran and the Bible are not to serve as history books, but as moral guides and explanations of the supernatural.

It's perfectly possible to accept all of science and still believe in the supernatural. Choosing to believe in claims which aren't testable is outside of science, but it doesn't go against science or oppose it in any way. If this was the case, accepting any form of morality would be unscientific, which of course is ludicrous. Most atheists who accept science and reject religion, still have moral beliefs and codes they follow. That's because science doesn't seek to prevent other philosophical frameworks, such as morality, from coexisting with it and fulfilling roles that it cannot fulfill. Science is not exclusionistic of other ideas and system; it's not Batman and it doesn't need to work alone.

----

Sorry for the long, somewhat off topic rant, I just wanted to point out that science is a specific tool, for a specific purpose. None of the above statements make science bad, weak, useless, or otherwise invalidate it's utility for it's intended purpose: explaining the physical universe in which we exist.

Notes:
1. I noted earlier that science doesn't accept ethics as one of it's axioms. Science has axioms? Yep. For science to work at all, and begin testing hypotheses, one first has to accept several non-testable axioms about the nature of reality and about the nature of knowledge. This may seem hypocritical or oxymoronic, but it's actually the only way to make science work. One of these axioms is Uniformitarianism. Science wouldn't work without it. Uniformitarianism states that the laws of physics now are the same as they were in the past. This can't be tested or proven, and it's quite possible that it's untrue, but it's nonetheless necessary to assume this to make sense of out the universe using science. If gravity, the speed of light, or other important constants worked differently in the past, and may work differently in the future, meaningful analysis is rendered moot. So, scientists simply assume, on faith one might say, that physical laws are constant.

Even science itself is based on some untestable assumptions. The best science can do is *minimize* the number of these assumptions it makes to the bare minimum. This isn't a "flaw" in science, it's not a gacha, and it doesn't invalidate the usefulness of science. However, i do think it's important to know that science, itself, begins with a set of assumptions. It's a helpful starting point for understanding what science actually is and does, rather than what some people portray it as being and doing. It's a philosophy, that provides a methodology, for understanding the natural world.
"The worshippers of the gods go to them; to the manes go the ancestor-worshippers; to the Deities who preside over the elements go their worshippers; My devotees come to Me." ... "Whichever devotee desires to adore whatever such Deity with faith, in all such votaries I make that particular faith unshakable. Endowed with that faith, a votary performs the worship of that particular deity and obtains the fruits thereof, these being granted by Me alone." - Sri Krishna

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #11 on: May 18, 2018, 05:14:32 pm »
Hey, this is a discussion and debate forum; we don't take disagreement as an insult at all. Plus we have such a wide range of beliefs and practices here, one more won't be a problem! In fact I'm pretty sure we've already got a few atheist pagans around.

Not as much as you might think. A lot of Pagan paths are defined more by practices (orthopraxy) than by beliefs (orthodoxy). So ... do you meditate? Pay attention to the phases of the moon or the seasons? Do you follow a code of honor or morals? Have you ever tried divinaton or sigil magic? Are there any symbols that hold particular significance for you?

That sounds a lot like pandeism, or like the ultimate reality of some Eastern religions (Buddhists and Hindus, a little help here?). Also, there are plenty of Pagans who honor the forces of nature without personifying them; plenty more who believe that gods are thought-forms, archetypes or elements of the subconscious. And some of us are "meh" on the whole question (to get nitpicky, I'm a theist agnostic and semi-hard polytheist).

Tried what, exactly? Between the lot of us here, we've got an incredibly broad spiritual toolbox, and if you can tell us where you've been, we may be able to suggest some routes you weren't aware of. You may have been barking up the wrong cliff, so to speak. To extend your metaphor, why should there only be one hill? What's on the other side of the valley you're in?

Yeah, Reddit is not a good place to find a supportive environment, I find. Welcome to the Cauldron! I also suggest you look through our archives for threads about similar issues to your own, you are definitely not alone in trying to figure out a path for yourself.

Thank you for your response. I'm not sure how to multiquote like you did, so I'm sorry if this is all lumped together.

I do not meditate, though it is something in which I am interested. I do pay attention to seasons and cycles of nature. One of the things I love about some forms of paganism, is the emphasis on nature and working with nature. That is one thing I do feel I am spiritually connected with and would like to delve into that if I can.

I do have my own set of morals that I follow. I've never written them down or anything.

In regards to trying. I used the metaphor of the hill to describe my journey from religion to atheism. One one side of the hill, is the belief in a higher power. God, if you will. My journey over the hill was the struggle with my religious views and finally, falling down the cliff to the valley of atheism, where I do not believe in god. So the cliff represents my inability to MAKE myself believe in god again, despite my urge to. Does that make sense? Because I have no personal experience or proof that god exists, no one can lower a rope long enough for me to reach the top of the cliff and come back to belief. In times of trouble I have tried praying. I have tried seeking god, and I just kept finding nothing. The concept of a god doesn't make sense to me as a sentient being. I believe them to be personifications of phenomena and natural processes that humans did not quite understand prior to science. I can appreciate the ideas they represent, but I can't seem to make myself believe that they are actual beings that have influence over my life.

And I have definitely found that reddit is not the place to go to talk religion. I am glad I have found this group as you all have been absolutely amazing. I really do thank you for your response. This is getting my brain going and I love a good hard think.

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #12 on: May 18, 2018, 05:22:28 pm »
Alright let's try this again.

OP, my path has been similar to yours, excepting for the fact that I did eventually come back around to believing - knowing, really; belief is too weak a sentiment. I was raised Christian, rebelled with witchcraft as a young teenager, then lapsed into deism for a number of years. Eventually something kept pulling me back: there were experiences I'd had, feelings, instincts, that I just couldn't continue to ignore. Religion had provided me with something valuable once upon a time, and its lack hurt in some pretty deep ways. It's been nothing short of a struggle since then, not gonna lie... but the 7 years I've been at this thing again have been incredibly rewarding.

The closest metaphor I can come up with for the value placed in religion and the belief in divinity is love. Don't laugh, I'm serious. Looking to material, scientific empiricism for spiritual justification is like looking to the same to be told that love exists. All science can do for these irrational structures is forensics: a piece of a shoeprint here, some gunpowder there, a fingerprint. Or in our case, the legal and financial structures of marriage, the neurochemical mechanisms of bonding and intimacy, the day in and day out reality of continued commitment or cohabitation. But there are still plenty of people who firmly believe that real love doesn't exist. It's written off as delusion, or codependency, or a mere social quirk conferred by evolution. And that's fine. You can't really force those people to believe in love, or recognize love for what it is when they see it. Moreover, love is really only something that can be understood by the individuals party to it, and it has to be taken on faith. The signs and symptoms of love could be any number of things. Same thing for religious experience of the divine and the unseen. The two groups just speak different languages, have different understandings of the world and themselves, and different expectations. Doesn't mean they can't get along!

There are a surprising number of atheist or agnostic pagans out there. I seem to recall a prominent blogger that caused quite a bit of drama when he talked about performing Heathen ritual without believing he was actually communing with the gods. Don't let the drama scare you away. (Really, most folks will find anything to whinge about.) Just know that a lot of us theists will have a difficult time talking to you since our experiences are so central to our religious practices, and that winds up shaping a lot of the language that we use. This may be off-putting to you. Or maybe it won't be.

In either case, do stick around. You're not nearly as alone as you might think.

Thank you for your response. And I hope that theists wouldn't feel its difficult to talk to me. I'm a very open person. Just because I don't understand "how" something is significant to you, doesn't mean I don't understand "why" its significant to you.

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #13 on: May 18, 2018, 05:25:36 pm »
So the cliff represents my inability to MAKE myself believe in god again, despite my urge to. Does that make sense?

I think one thing everybody here can agree on is that you can't force belief - or, to frame it differently, you can't force relationships. Not with people, not with ideas, and certainly not with gods!

It either comes to you or it doesn't. In the meantime, settling into a routine, doing ritual (and I mean that in the loosest sense, anything from high invocation to having a cup of coffee in the same place at the same time every day counts), and keeping your mind open and sharp is the way to go and will be rewarding all on its own regardless.
rotwork: on devotion to lesser-known and un-known gods, transplanting genus loci, art, and modernity

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Re: Atheism and Paganism
« Reply #14 on: May 18, 2018, 05:39:57 pm »
Hmm. Yeah, I've been thinking a lot about this lately. I was fortunate to have very good science professors at university, who taught us what science is, how science works, and (most importantly) what science is actually for.

Lots of people seem to overlook the last one. Science exist to explain how physical processes work and affect one another. It explains the mechanisms that cause things to happen in the observable universe. It does not seek, and cannot seek, to explain A) Things outside the physical universe B) The purpose or intent (if any exists) behind things in the physical universe or C) Non-testable concepts such as morality, ethics, the existence of the supernatural, or the existence of the undetectable.

As a though experiment, one of my professors positioned the existence of a substance which has no mass, no gravity, no radioactivity, and which does not interact with matter or energy in any way. He asked the class if science could test for the existence of this substance. The majority of the class said "yes" science could test for this, which demonstrates just how widespread the misconceptions about science are. Some people think you can test and prove (or disprove) any statement or hypothesis using science. That simply isn't how it works:

*You can't prove that murder, rape, genocide, or anything else is wrong using science:
-Some people claim otherwise, because they say that science can be used to prove what is harmful and what is not, and therefor what is good and what is bad. However, this requires the implicit assumption that harmful things are bad and helpful things are good, which is itself an untestable statement (and not a default axiom used by science) 1.

*You can't prove that God, Satan, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, Zeus, Cthulhu, the Force, or any other magical entity or concept does (or does not) exist. Supernatural beings are, by definition, are not natural, do not obey natural laws of the universe, and therefore cannot be tested empirically.

*You cannot prove that the universe did not simply spring into existence, in it's current form, 2 seconds ago, or last Tuesday, or last Wednesday, or 100 years ago, etc.

*You cannot test whether or not other realities exist. By definition other realities are outside of our reality, and cannot be observed or tested from within our own reality.
-Other realities are fundamentally different, conceptually, from parallel universes within the same reality, which may or may not be scientifically testable at some distant future point. Multiple realities would be *entirely* separate instances of the whole of reality, not simply other universes within one, multiversal reality.

-----------

Science is not a "golden hammer," that can answer every question. Maslow's Instrument, also known as "If all you have is a hammer, everything starts to look like a nail," has been applied to everything from actual hammers, to communism, to religion, to feminism. It can also be applied to science. Not everything is a "nail," AKA a falsifiable statement of purported fact about the nature of the physical universe.

Science, fundamentally, despite what some atheists have claimed, does not contradict religion. It contradict certain myths from certain religions, yes, when those myths are taken literally. For example, the great flood from the Bible, or the battle of Kurukshetra from the Bhagavad Gita.

However, it doesn't contradict the concept of religion itself. It can only contradict claims about the nature of the physical universe made by religious myths. These claims are usually not the main point of religion anyway, and can often be seen as metaphors or allegories. Contrary to what you might think, the main point of the Quran and the Bible are not to serve as history books, but as moral guides and explanations of the supernatural.

It's perfectly possible to accept all of science and still believe in the supernatural. Choosing to believe in claims which aren't testable is outside of science, but it doesn't go against science or oppose it in any way. If this was the case, accepting any form of morality would be unscientific, which of course is ludicrous. Most atheists who accept science and reject religion, still have moral beliefs and codes they follow. That's because science doesn't seek to prevent other philosophical frameworks, such as morality, from coexisting with it and fulfilling roles that it cannot fulfill. Science is not exclusionistic of other ideas and system; it's not Batman and it doesn't need to work alone.

----

Sorry for the long, somewhat off topic rant, I just wanted to point out that science is a specific tool, for a specific purpose. None of the above statements make science bad, weak, useless, or otherwise invalidate it's utility for it's intended purpose: explaining the physical universe in which we exist.

Notes:
1. I noted earlier that science doesn't accept ethics as one of it's axioms. Science has axioms? Yep. For science to work at all, and begin testing hypotheses, one first has to accept several non-testable axioms about the nature of reality and about the nature of knowledge. This may seem hypocritical or oxymoronic, but it's actually the only way to make science work. One of these axioms is Uniformitarianism. Science wouldn't work without it. Uniformitarianism states that the laws of physics now are the same as they were in the past. This can't be tested or proven, and it's quite possible that it's untrue, but it's nonetheless necessary to assume this to make sense of out the universe using science. If gravity, the speed of light, or other important constants worked differently in the past, and may work differently in the future, meaningful analysis is rendered moot. So, scientists simply assume, on faith one might say, that physical laws are constant.

Even science itself is based on some untestable assumptions. The best science can do is *minimize* the number of these assumptions it makes to the bare minimum. This isn't a "flaw" in science, it's not a gacha, and it doesn't invalidate the usefulness of science. However, i do think it's important to know that science, itself, begins with a set of assumptions. It's a helpful starting point for understanding what science actually is and does, rather than what some people portray it as being and doing. It's a philosophy, that provides a methodology, for understanding the natural world.

I will agree with you that science does not disprove the supernatural. You can't disprove what you can't see. I can't disprove unicorns. I will also agree that science and religion can coexist just fine. I guess where my disbelief in a god figure started was prayer. I used to pray all the time when I was younger, both in a Christian capacity and a pagan one. One of the things I began to notice was people praying for trivial things and then giving god all the praise when things went their way. I prayed and prayed for something very important to me. To this day that prayer was never answered. People pray for starving children and domestic violence victims. And those prayers go unanswered. Yet, little Timmy won the football game and that's because of god? At the time it seemed to me like god had his priorities mixed up. So I kept thinking on it and thinking on it and decided that if god picks and chooses which prayers get answered, he's a douchebag. That led me to believe that prayer did not work. And if prayer did not work, that meant god had no actual influence over our lives. Then it spiraled into me just not believing in god. Now, don't take this as a "Oh, they are just mad at god because their prayer didn't get answered." In the beginning, that anger sparked the thought process, but it was not the reason for my departure from a belief in god.

I think one thing everybody here can agree on is that you can't force belief - or, to frame it differently, you can't force relationships. Not with people, not with ideas, and certainly not with gods!

It either comes to you or it doesn't. In the meantime, settling into a routine, doing ritual (and I mean that in the loosest sense, anything from high invocation to having a cup of coffee in the same place at the same time every day counts), and keeping your mind open and sharp is the way to go and will be rewarding all on its own regardless.

And I don't necessarily want to force myself to believe. When I first got into researching paganism in my teens and early twenties, I never got to get into doing ritual or celebrating the seasons. I never formed a relationship with any gods or goddesses. Everything I did was just reading. I always had something else going on that prevented me from making it a "practice" and not just something I read about.

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