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Author Topic: Atheism and witchcraft  (Read 10989 times)
Collinsky
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« Topic Start: September 08, 2010, 05:10:02 pm »

If you consider yourself an atheist - or nontheist - and practice or believe in witchcraft, can I pick your brain a bit? Or if you have some other reason to have thoughts to offer, please share!

Is your atheism simply a nonbelief in the literal existence of deity/ies, but you believe in spirits or Spirit? Do you believe in the supernatural? What is your understanding of how magic works?

I'm really interested in hearing perspectives on this... I think my personal idea of witchcraft would fit pretty well in an atheist framework, but I've never had reason to explore it. 
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« Reply #1: September 08, 2010, 10:55:34 pm »

1) Is your atheism simply a nonbelief in the literal existence of deity/ies, 2) but you believe in spirits or Spirit? 3) Do you believe in the supernatural? 4) What is your understanding of how magic works?


1)  Yes.  I've seen no evidence of any entity that would lead me (based on the experiences of others) to believe it was a god.
2)  Can you define spirits/spirit?  I sense the beating heart of a place.  I don't believe my surroundings are sentient, but I believe things exist at the corners of our understanding because I've experienced them.  Or think I have.  Or whatever.
3)  I believe in things that can't be readily/easily seen by humans.  I'm not sure they're "supernatural".
4)  Don't know, don't care.  Don't even know/care if it works.  I do it to feel a little more in control when there's no control to be had.  Even if it's ultimately just a thought exercise, it helps me figure out and relate to my world.

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I think my personal idea of witchcraft would fit pretty well in an atheist framework, but I've never had reason to explore it. 

The witchcraft I practice has little to do with my spirituality.  They're connected only because everything in my life is connected to everything else, but either could exist independent of the other.

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« Reply #2: September 09, 2010, 08:35:34 pm »

If you consider yourself an atheist - or nontheist - and practice or believe in witchcraft, can I pick your brain a bit? Or if you have some other reason to have thoughts to offer, please share!

Is your atheism simply a nonbelief in the literal existence of deity/ies, but you believe in spirits or Spirit? Do you believe in the supernatural? What is your understanding of how magic works?

I'm really interested in hearing perspectives on this... I think my personal idea of witchcraft would fit pretty well in an atheist framework, but I've never had reason to explore it. 

I probably would border on atheism, actually. Being a pantheist, seeing nature and the Divine as exactly the same thing, I do NOT believe that deities are separate entities, in and of themselves. Sentient. I don't believe that. While, I see nature and the Divine as living, I don't see them in a thinking, willing form. I think it them as energy forces only. If that makes sense. I don't believe that the Gods are willing anything, in other words.

I do indeed practice witchcraft, though. Most of it having no connection to religion at all.

Yes, I simply have a nonbelief in the literal existence of deities.

I believe that our life energy can leave it's imprint on a place. Bad memories can indeed produce bad happenings, IMO. And this comes from real life experience. I also do believe in spirits but, they're only residual energy leftovers, and can attach themselves to places and/or people.

Supernatural? You mean like spirit contact? Yes. Personal experience.

Magic is simply willing change with the power of your mind. What matters is if YOU see a difference. Magic is a way that we train our minds and prepare ourselves to beget the changes we wish. For instance, you're not going to get a job by lighting a green candle and then sitting back horking a pizza and some beer. You must initiate actions on your part, the magic is intended to prepare you mentally to make the process faster. The mind is a powerful thing, and that's how magic works. If you believe your going to get the job, you will get one sooner or later.

Hope this all made sense.
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« Reply #3: September 11, 2010, 12:07:51 pm »

If you consider yourself an atheist - or nontheist - and practice or believe in witchcraft, can I pick your brain a bit? Or if you have some other reason to have thoughts to offer, please share!

Is your atheism simply a nonbelief in the literal existence of deity/ies, but you believe in spirits or Spirit? Do you believe in the supernatural? What is your understanding of how magic works?

I'm really interested in hearing perspectives on this... I think my personal idea of witchcraft would fit pretty well in an atheist framework, but I've never had reason to explore it. 

My current take on deity, comes from the belief that the world is how it is.  It is a complex and connected system of order and there is no "right" way to navigate that order.  In my view, the practice of worshiping deity attempts to create a path through the system that is life that will validate the journey rewarding 'correct' behavior and putting obstacles in the way of or when incorrect behavior occurs.

From my experiences, it just ain't so.  It reminds me of a line from a book where the narrator is talking about speaking to gals who are just starting off in life, and they have this amazing hope and belief that if they are just good enough, then the world will be a good place, and then all this terrible shit comes down the line and they wonder what they did to deserve it - and the answer really is absolutely nothing.  They did nothing wrong but sometimes life sucks and you just do your best to survive it.  There is no placating the storm.  There is no good enough.

So I don't go in for the deity thing.  I used to.  I still do enjoy the way the time I worked towards faith shaped my character - or perhaps my personality led me towards faiths that were a bit closer to my natural inclinations.  I'd probably say a combination.  I appreciate that I'm not the only one to go through life as I do, and I've found some useful tools for keeping the roof off my shoulders in my travels.

I do believe in spirit, not in the 'your totem animal is' sense, or in the 'spirit sought me out' sense, but in something that exists within everything and that can be observed, pursued and learned from - as well as interacted with.  Whether you pursue spirit effectively depends on how well you work with it. 

Back to the complex system thing.  I think that spirit in many ways is like a web that reacts to the order that we don't always see, and through effective observation of spirit you can sometimes get some pretty good warnings and indications of what would and wouldn't be good ideas.

Magic, for me is the effective pursuit of spirit.  The steps that you take to interact with that web.  While you can interact, there's only so much you can change and the real changes come from finding the currents and knowing what roads go where you want to be and what roads cost what you don't want to pay. 

I've purged most of my magical practice and distilled it down to a lot of dream work and just knowing work.  Knowing how to ask the web for what I want and seeing the places where the roads cross.  I think that might not be practical for someone who was just starting out, because it's the culmination of all of the years of magical practice that built the connections between visceral and intellectual and later I worked to take out the carrier material. 

I struggle with figuring out how I'm going to teach my boys this, because I on one hand don't think it could be taught without all the mental sit ups and research and time in pagan 101.  I have an issue building a theistic practice with them (which they both seem to want/ need at this stage in life - they need a face that sees them to interact with spirit) because they are too young to understand the impersonal nature of nature that keeps the balance between getting spirit drunk and making yourself ineffective in tracking spirit because you can't see past what's in front of you.



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« Reply #4: December 12, 2010, 12:25:44 am »

I probably would border on atheism, actually. Being a pantheist, seeing nature and the Divine as exactly the same thing, I do NOT believe that deities are separate entities, in and of themselves. Sentient. I don't believe that. While, I see nature and the Divine as living, I don't see them in a thinking, willing form. I think it them as energy forces only. If that makes sense. I don't believe  bad happenings, IMO. And this comes from real life experience. I also do believe in spirits but,
As a mystical type i never understood this idea of energy without consciousness. The fatal flaw in science and to some extent athiesm is the inability of both to explain consciosness. Even steven hawking hypothesizes that life exists on countless worlds and its reasonable to assume, he says that concious life exists as pure energy, gaseous life forms and crystaline forms. No one can yet explain cognition, so its too early for anyone to believe in non conscious deities isnt it? On the other hand mystics and buddhists seek escape from self, extinguishing conscious, yet finding utimate truth. My point being if we can accept magic, spirits and so on, how do we discard divine with consciousness in whatever form ultimate truth reveals itself

Human life is too basic to yet claim sophisticated consciousness, as wondrous as we are. Ultimate truth is not yet knowable... Or else we wouldnt be discussing this. Yet, if we give up the quest for ultimate truth, what use is magic. It becomes illusory.
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yewberry
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« Reply #5: December 12, 2010, 01:03:24 am »

My point being if we can accept magic, spirits and so on, how do we discard divine with consciousness in whatever form ultimate truth reveals itself

Just because something logically can exist doesn't mean it does.  You've not shown a causal relationship.  Of course, it's neither here nor there, given that my beliefs are experiential.  If a god came knocking, I'd be skeptical but would eventually believe if he kept knocking.

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« Reply #6: December 12, 2010, 05:47:50 am »



Are you aware that cognition and consciousness are both pretty big areas of science, with many strands of research?
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« Reply #7: December 12, 2010, 09:38:07 am »

Human life is too basic to yet claim sophisticated consciousness, as wondrous as we are. Ultimate truth is not yet knowable... Or else we wouldnt be discussing this. Yet, if we give up the quest for ultimate truth, what use is magic. It becomes illusory.

What exactly do you mean by "sophisticated consciousness"?

I'd also like to point out that not everyone believes in "ultimate truth" - I certainly don't - or that magic is used for this search. (My beliefs on the matter are that is there is an ultimate truth, I would have to sacrifice my current human scope and limitations to understand it, and quite frankly I'm not willing to make that sacrifice for anything.)

What do you mean by magic becoming illusory?
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« Reply #8: December 12, 2010, 09:49:32 am »


So... somewhere along the line I went from being an Atheist Pagan (who practiced magic a bit) to Theistic (although Sometimes Technically Agnostic, But That's Getting Ignored Right Now). Whoops. But I still have lots of ides to share. Grin

I take a very literal understanding of the word atheist: it means "without gods." That's it. You can still believe in ghosts and spirits and ESP and all that jazz, and I'd still count you as an atheist (if you self-identified, of course). Also, there are a couple religions (some streams of Buddhism and Daoism spring to mind) where the central figure/concept might be seen to be a god to outsiders, but aren't considered as such by practitioners. I'd have no problem calling them atheist, either.

Because of this, I don't think that not believing in/working with deities is a hindrance to working good magic. I'm reminded of that Douglas Adams quote about gardens still being beautiful without believing fairies live in them. If it doesn't resonate with you in fact, I think trying to squash theism into your witchcraft will absolutely be detrimental to you and your practice. (I should know - I tried to believe when I didn't for a long time before I finally left Christianity.)

Ultimately, I think it comes down to where you think the source of energy springs from. Even as a sort-of-theist, I don't believe the gods created the universe (or are even necessary for the universe to function - or us, for that matter), or created energy, or gave to one human what another human cannot find elsewhere. I believe the energy I can (sometimes) sense and work with is very much a byproduct of the universe's existence. We can tap into it because we're part and parcel of the universe, just like the gods are. (The gods are just a little older than individual humans, so they can make flashier displays than we can. Cheesy)
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« Reply #9: December 12, 2010, 10:00:21 am »

What exactly do you mean by "sophisticated consciousness"?

I'd also like to point out that not everyone believes in "ultimate truth" - I certainly don't - or that magic is used for this search. (My beliefs on the matter are that is there is an ultimate truth, I would have to sacrifice my current human scope and limitations to understand it, and quite frankly I'm not willing to make that sacrifice for anything.)

What do you mean by magic becoming illusory?
Good questions... it's all subjective language I guess. I didn't mean any of these terms in any authoritative way. As a mystic, I just believe there's something unknowable that we can't claim knowledge of yet. By ultimate, I just meant that whatever is out there is beyond what we can comprehend currently (not that we must do anything, or submit to any authority, or sacrifice... I'm thinking adventure of the quest, not an unavoidable destination that takes away our free will)...

I didn't mean it in any religious sense, but only in the mystical sense of the quest. I do believe a quest for something yet undiscovered is really important for my life in general (and probably for many people, but by no means all). For this reason, I don't subscribe to (but this is totally personal) authoritative truth and believe no one has a lock on truth, including seekers, gurus, magicians, mystics, scientists, or atheists. By sophisticated consciousness I meant only that our perceptions of what is real is as sophisticated as it will be (we always grow, life's a journey... I know cliche, but you know what I mean). I love the idea that we're growing and have a lot to learn, and by definition this means we -- and most of the universe -- is not as sophisticated as we think we are and we will grow and never stop growing (personal optimistic belief). It's humbling, but I think it's good to be humble before the wonder of this amazing Universe.

I have total faith in my Goddess and my beliefs, yet I never stop re-interpreting my understanding of my own faith and perception of my Goddess. And I grow closer and closer to Her every day as I learn more about Her "ultimate" truth. Yet, in this lifetime, I don't believe I'll come even close. But the quest is still the thing for me.

I also didn't mean to say magic is used for the search for ultimate truth. Magic is not contained within a single mission (in fact, I kind of view magic, in small part, as a lens or filter through which we perceive our own forms or reality, which is why I believe all paths are valid and valuable). I just meant to honor the thrill and joy of life in the pursuit of what we don't know, which is why science and magic are both rather thrilling adventures. By the way, I also don't mean to imply magic is dependent on belief or gods, or has only one mission... magic is vast and wondrous and encompassing nearly every aspect of life and living and doesn't require beliefs.

Sometimes I express myself poorly, or get lazy on typing...
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« Reply #10: December 12, 2010, 12:27:10 pm »

Is your atheism simply a nonbelief in the literal existence of deity/ies, but you believe in spirits or Spirit? Do you believe in the supernatural? What is your understanding of how magic works?

I love this topic  Smiley  I think magic works because it focuses one's will on something and enables one to bring peace and order to one's intention.  I rarely practice magic, but when I do it's with the knowledge that it's mostly psychological, with perhaps a bit of something more.  I'm definitely an atheist, but I believe there might be other forces at work - local spirits for example, though I'm not convinced either way.
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