Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)

Note: What follows arose out of a discussion in the comments to a recent post entitled, Religious Leave-Taking as Asking Different Questions, in which I described my growing disinterest in most Pagan discussions and the change in the questions that most concern me now. One of the commenters, Phil Anderson, challenged me to continue to be “a purveyor of sense and reason in the paganosphere”. His comment prompted a long response from me, which I have edited and reproduced here. Where important for context, I have reproduced parts of Anderson’s comment here.


For a long time, I believed that a naturalistic* version of Paganism was the most genuine expression of contemporary Paganism. When I came to Neo-Paganism, I thought it was naturalistic at its core, and I thought the supernaturalism I saw was aberrant. It seemed to me to be an unfortunate consequence of a historical accident, the infiltration of occultism into the neopagan revival via Gerald Gardner’s Wicca. And there are several academics whose work support this notion, including Robert Ellwood & Harry Partin, Joanne Pearson, and Wouter Hanegraaff. I thought these strands–the occultist and the neo-pagan–could be separated, and so I set about trying to unwind them. Continue reading “Paganism Needs a Prophet (but it ain’t me)”

Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan

1. It’s not like in the books.

Like a lot of other Pagans, I read a lot of books about Pagans before I ever actually met another Pagan in the flesh.  My first sources for my image of the contemporary Pagan came from Ronald Hutton’s Triumph of the Moon (1999), Margot Adler’s Drawing Down the Moon (1979, 1986, 1996, 2006), and Starhawk’s The Spiral Dance (1979, 1989, 1999).  The first was academic, the second journalistic, and the third rhapsodic.  As a result, my pre-formed image of Pagans was somewhat idealized.   (I once heard Margot Adler admit in an interview that the Paganism she and Starthawk described in their respective books as more of an ideal than a reality.)  I have since learned that the best way to learn about a religion is not by reading a book about it, but by going and seeing the real thing. Continue reading “Nine Things I Wish I’d Known Before I Became Pagan”

Literal Minded Atheism

Yeah, we do it too.

Yesterday, I posted an essay about literal-minded polytheism.  It’s likely to upset some polytheists (especially those who don’t read beyond the title), because they will read it as an attack on their belief.  Actually, what I had intended in the article was to bracket the question of whether or not the gods are “real” and talk about the criteria we use to call something “real.”  My thesis was that some polytheists (not all, by any means) have a very “disenchanted” way of talking about reality.  By “disenchanted,” I mean they define what is real in terms of it’s level of disconnection from everything else.

But of course, the same could–and should–be said about many atheists as well.  Disenchanted discourse is not limited to theists.  In the same way that theists insist that their gods are “really, really real,” atheists insist that the gods are “really, really not real.”  And what both sides seem to have in mind is a very objective–and hence, disenchanted–definition of reality.  The assumption that both theists and atheists make in these arguments is that objective reality–reality in which the observer is separated from the observed–is somehow more real than subjective reality.

Continue reading “Literal Minded Atheism”

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