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Author Topic: Practicing Paganism as an Atheist?  (Read 11390 times)
joelmac
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« Topic Start: November 10, 2008, 07:19:30 pm »

So I'm in a transitional period right now and I've been reconsidering my 'spirituality'. I have been for several years an Atheist and that is unlikely to change. This has left me somewhat empty however. Christianity, through prayer, offered a means of self awareness and reflection which has been lacking. I've therefore been considering taking up the ritualistic and ethical aspects of Hellenismos.

Ritual offers a vehicle for trance (a heightened state of focus) and the Greek Gods represent fundamental archetypes (I don't mean any disrespect to those who worship them as Gods) which combine to form a complete human being. The last while I've been acting out the motions of prayers to them and my psychological state has improved because of it. Its given me a chance to reflect on aspects of my life as if I were speaking to something that represents perfection in that area. So before playing guitar I 'pray' to Apollo beforehand, prior to study I 'pray' to Athena and so forth; as well as at the end and beginning of the day.

This is also giving me the chance to study and practice part of what made Greece such an innovative and important society. Their virtue, love of life and introspective spirit are something that I would love to evolve towards. I feel like I'm connecting to people who were in many ways superior to ourselves and in so doing maybe getting closer to the virtues they possessed.

Are there other Atheists who have found themselves drawn to Pagan practice for similar reasons?

Have any previously non-religious members find they developed belief because of the practice?

If you are reading this as a Pagan, or specifically a follower of the Hellenistic tradition, how do you feel about an Atheist adopting some of your practice?

Also, does this represent a fundamental character flaw on my part? Wouldn't someone who knows himself have no need for this?



PS - Apologies for the way the post is written, I'm sick as heck but really, really wanted to get this out there.
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« Reply #1: November 10, 2008, 08:07:29 pm »

If you are reading this as a Pagan, or specifically a follower of the Hellenistic tradition, how do you feel about an Atheist adopting some of your practice?

*shrug*  I feel like there's some expectation I should be offended, but I'm not.  You're not making any attempt to tell me I should follow these practices but not believe in gods-as-gods (as opposed to gods-as-archetypes), and that would really be my big concern.  Hellenism tends more toward orthopraxy (right practices) than orthodoxy (right beliefs); I suppose that's helping me out here.  If it works, it works.  Belief not required.

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Also, does this represent a fundamental character flaw on my part? Wouldn't someone who knows himself have no need for this?

When did not knowing yourself become a character flaw?  Look, I'm just a couple of years older than you are, and I'm telling you, I think it's completely normal not to be sure of who you are yet at that point in your life.  I know that's more stereotypically a teenage way to be, but I think it carries through for a few years even after that too.  Especially when you get past the basic "who am I as a human being" and into complex stuff like religion.

Even aside from that, I actually don't think that what you've described (which makes a surprising degree of sense to me, btw, even if it's not the way I personally go) necessarily points to a lack of self-knowledge.  It seems pretty self-aware, actually, to have tracked down something that works for you like that.  Perhaps this is me not understanding something about the atheist viewpoint, though; if you could explain more about what makes you feel like that lack of self-knowledge is indicated, I might be able to comment better.
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« Reply #2: November 11, 2008, 12:11:59 am »

Also, does this represent a fundamental character flaw on my part? Wouldn't someone who knows himself have no need for this?
Supplementing what Star said:
Self-knowledge isn't about not having needs, it's about identifying the needs you do have.  Anything like that is a process, not an instant revelation; sounds to me like you're going about the process in a sensible, effective (and self-knowledgeable!) way.

The phrase "fundamental character flaw" bothers me a lot, but I'm not so healthy myself (my head is full of cold <blows nose>) and I'm not sure I'm up to tackling it.

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« Reply #3: November 11, 2008, 07:10:00 am »

If you are reading this as a Pagan, or specifically a follower of the Hellenistic tradition, how do you feel about an Atheist adopting some of your practice?

Also, does this represent a fundamental character flaw on my part? Wouldn't someone who knows himself have no need for this?

I'm not a Hellenist, but I personally say if bits of my religion work for you, have at.

And a flaw - I can't see why it IS a flaw, honestly.  If you knew everything, or thought you did, that would be a flaw.  Realizing what you don't know and exploring is what life is about.  It's a good thing to explore knowledge about yourself, as it's good to explore the world around you.

You might see it as a flaw - in FlameKeeping, it's a high virtue.
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« Reply #4: November 11, 2008, 08:48:28 am »

Ritual offers a vehicle for trance (a heightened state of focus) and the Greek Gods represent fundamental archetypes (I don't mean any disrespect to those who worship them as Gods) which combine to form a complete human being.

I've met a number of atheistic Pagans over the tears -- most follow generally Wiccaish paths and believe that the Gods are only forms of their "higher self"/"superconscious." It would not work for me, but it works for them. Greek religion is othropraxic, so correct belief isn't necessarily all that important -- although I doubt most of the Gods would be very likely to actually grant requests from people who do not actually believe in them.
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« Reply #5: November 11, 2008, 10:10:34 am »


The only stupid question, is that which is never asked...

The one thing that strikes a chord, is the fact that I can relate to transitioning by testing waters from one end of the spectrum of Paganism to the end on the opposite side.

There are two types of Paganism in my opinion, Theistic and Non-Theistic. I have known those who were professed atheists follow some aspect of Paganism as a "craft" and not a "religion." "One can practice hoodoo and be any religion," is what Cat Yronwode of Lucky Mojo & Lucky Mojo Curio Co. told me on the phone one day when I called to find out about the Correspondence Course. She herself is Jewish and does focus on the Jewish God but has a practice, a "craft," that works for her.

I'm not a Hellenistic Pagan, but I am seeking the Druid/Celtic Reconstructionist Path. If you were to want to adopt some of those beliefs, help yourself... There's no law or rule against it...
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« Reply #6: November 11, 2008, 12:40:01 pm »


If you are reading this as a Pagan, or specifically a follower of the Hellenistic tradition, how do you feel about an Atheist adopting some of your practice?


It doesn't bother me in the least.  I have a good friend who is Christian but who practices Kitchen Witchery right along with me.  And when we get together to talk herbs or whip up a brew Wink there's no awkwardness or anything.  She just called me the other day and asked about smudging her house...I'm happy to share what I know.  I think she probably adapted the process to opt out of the part where I ask the Goddess to enter and bless the space, but it doesn't matter to me.  I don't consider her hypocritical because of her beliefs and I don't think that a person's religious beliefs and their "craft" practices have to me mutually exclusive.
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« Reply #7: November 11, 2008, 01:16:09 pm »

Are there other Atheists who have found themselves drawn to Pagan practice for similar reasons?

Yes. I consider myself atheist, at least, in terms that I do not accept many concepts including deities or imaginary/mythological beings. Yet I felt attracted to "paganism" because in this highly industrialized society that seems to worship science..I felt something was missing in my own personal life.

For one thing I do not feel connected to this world in any meaningful way and I suppose I felt some aspect of paganism could help me truly feel that my life and my existence here matters somehow beyond being a slave to the monster machine of commerce. I also feel that there are other aspects to life beond the physical, I have even delved a bit into the so-called "metaphysical" including divination and dreamwork.

However I have found it difficult because instead of feeling more connected and more like I am a part of something I feel even more minscule and irrelevant. I guess I tried to use some aspects of paganism as a sort of liferaft to hold onto but still, even when I apply logic, reason and science to it all..I still feel that there is something fundamentally and substantially missing.

Also, does this represent a fundamental character flaw on my part? Wouldn't someone who knows himself have no need for this?

Myself I would think that such ventures are simply one of many ways to try and discover more about ones own "true" self..if such a concept is even applicable.

I hope I do not sound too vague here. My mind wanders a bit and I get a bit derailed.
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« Reply #8: November 11, 2008, 02:06:04 pm »

If you are reading this as a Pagan, or specifically a follower of the Hellenistic tradition, how do you feel about an Atheist adopting some of your practice?

I’m not a Hellenist, and since I have no right to call myself a recon anymore, all I can give is a Kemetic Pagan’s opinion. I was about to say, “Yeah, go ahead, doesn’t bother me…” when I realized that it’s easy enough to say that about someone else’s pantheon. So I asked myself if I would feel differently if you were going to do the same thing within my faith. Truth is, no, it still wouldn’t bother me. Even though my personal faith focuses on the relationship with deity and considers it integral to daily practice. If you wanted to assume the worldview of Kemetic morality and help maintain the universe through acting in accordance with Ma’at, it would be both irresponsible and immoral for me to object, whether you believed in the Netjer or not. Hey, when the flood waters are coming you don’t do background checks on the people offering to help put down the sand bags. So, yeah, go ahead, doesn’t bother me!  Smiley
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« Reply #9: November 11, 2008, 05:40:47 pm »

So I'm in a transitional period right now and I've been reconsidering my 'spirituality'. I have been for several years an Atheist and that is unlikely to change. This has left me somewhat empty however. Christianity, through prayer, offered a means of self awareness and reflection which has been lacking. I've therefore been considering taking up the ritualistic and ethical aspects of Hellenismos.

Ritual offers a vehicle for trance (a heightened state of focus) and the Greek Gods represent fundamental archetypes (I don't mean any disrespect to those who worship them as Gods) which combine to form a complete human being. The last while I've been acting out the motions of prayers to them and my psychological state has improved because of it. Its given me a chance to reflect on aspects of my life as if I were speaking to something that represents perfection in that area. So before playing guitar I 'pray' to Apollo beforehand, prior to study I 'pray' to Athena and so forth; as well as at the end and beginning of the day.

This is also giving me the chance to study and practice part of what made Greece such an innovative and important society. Their virtue, love of life and introspective spirit are something that I would love to evolve towards. I feel like I'm connecting to people who were in many ways superior to ourselves and in so doing maybe getting closer to the virtues they possessed.

Are there other Atheists who have found themselves drawn to Pagan practice for similar reasons?

Have any previously non-religious members find they developed belief because of the practice?

If you are reading this as a Pagan, or specifically a follower of the Hellenistic tradition, how do you feel about an Atheist adopting some of your practice?

Also, does this represent a fundamental character flaw on my part? Wouldn't someone who knows himself have no need for this?



PS - Apologies for the way the post is written, I'm sick as heck but really, really wanted to get this out there.

You're not the first atheist I've met who is still drawn to pagan ways.  So no, this isn't foreign to me.  And I have to say that it doesn't bother me either.  Then again, I have no real connection to any pantheon or deity besides Diana, so I guess that sort of biases my view.
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« Reply #10: November 12, 2008, 01:23:29 pm »


Have any previously non-religious members find they developed belief because of the practice?

I'm still classifiable as an atheist. In my view deities don't exist, but spirit/energy beings do, which can manifest as whatever we concieve them to be. I'm still learning not to saddle them with my preconcieved notions of who or what they are.
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« Reply #11: November 12, 2008, 02:22:15 pm »

In my view deities don't exist, but spirit/energy beings do, which can manifest as whatever we concieve them to be. I'm still learning not to saddle them with my preconcieved notions of who or what they are.

this is interesting. i believe that spirit is energy. i also *know* (yeah...no facts, but i still *know*) that there is god (which is the spirit energy at the center of all things). i believe that humans compartmentalize this god into several manifestations (dieties) in order to better focus on those aspects with which we feel most connected. i am not an atheist. how is it that you are and i'm not?
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« Reply #12: November 12, 2008, 03:37:02 pm »

this is interesting. i believe that spirit is energy. i also *know* (yeah...no facts, but i still *know*) that there is god (which is the spirit energy at the center of all things). i believe that humans compartmentalize this god into several manifestations (dieties) in order to better focus on those aspects with which we feel most connected. i am not an atheist. how is it that you are and i'm not?
It's just a different interpretation of the same perceptions. We filtre all sensations through our own perspectives and experiences. No two witnesses to an event see the same thing, or experience the same reaction.
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« Reply #13: November 12, 2008, 03:57:03 pm »

"One can practice hoodoo and be any religion," is what Cat Yronwode of Lucky Mojo & Lucky Mojo Curio Co. told me on the phone one day when I called to find out about the Correspondence Course. She herself is Jewish and does focus on the Jewish God but has a practice, a "craft," that works for her.

Are you talking about paganism (the term that covers a great number of not JCI religions, only some of which involve magic/"the craft") or witchcraft-as-religion?  I agree that someone who practices witchcraft doesn't need to be religious at all, but things become markedly fuzzier when you talk about "paganism".

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« Reply #14: November 12, 2008, 06:34:11 pm »

Are you talking about paganism (the term that covers a great number of not JCI religions, only some of which involve magic/"the craft") or witchcraft-as-religion?  I agree that someone who practices witchcraft doesn't need to be religious at all, but things become markedly fuzzier when you talk about "paganism".

Brina

You could probably view it as both paganism and witchcraft, depending on how you define them.

To me, witchcraft is a part of paganism, but paganism doesn't have to be witchcraft.

I do see what you mean by it becomes fuzzier... but I guess I have a habit of using the two interchangeably. I'm going to have to stop that because I notice that a lot of people get confused on my terminology. Embarrassed However, I was referring to the witchcraft aspect of paganism, not the non-JCI aspect.
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