Paganism: The Little Religion That Could Have Been

We’re going to lose the fight against climate change

and we’re probably going to lose badly.

(The fact that we think about it as a “fight” probably has something to do with why we’re going to lose.)

If you look at the numbers and you consider the realities of human nature and the intertia of late capitalism, the conclusion seems inevitable:

Human civilization will collapse and the human species will be lucky to survive.

Continue reading “Paganism: The Little Religion That Could Have Been”

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)”

Naturalistic “Pagan” Books You Won’t Find in the Metaphysical Section

What naturalistic pagan books have been an inspiration to you?

Humanistic Paganism

I love bookstores and libraries.  Honestly, I feel more at home surrounded by books than I do surrounded by people.  But since becoming a Naturalistic Pagan, my trips to the bookstore have become a lot more complicated.

Every time I go into a bookstore, I visit the Paganism section, or rather, the Metaphysical/Occult section that Paganism is grouped with.  I don’t know why I still do it.  Hope springs eternal, I guess.

Each time I approach the Metaphysical with the hopeful expectation that this time I will find something that speaks to me.  I stand there for a while, feeling embarrassed, afraid someone might see me.  I look for an escape route.  The Philosophy section is close by.  The Psychology section even closer.  Once I establish that I have plausible deniability, I relax a little and quickly peruse the books.  Inevitably, though, I discover that I have once again wasted…

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Pagan with a small “p”

Pagan-Adjacent?

I recently met someone who described himself as “Pagan-adjacent”, which I thought was an interesting self-designation.  He was a (self-described) “angry atheist” who followed atheism to its logical end and was left wanting. He intuited that there was something else–something bigger and/or deeper–but no one seemed to be writing or talking about it. Then he discovered David Abram’s Spell of the Sensuous, which he experienced as revolutionary.

He told me that he knows “in his bones” that “the sacred is in the soil and the wind,” but he is turned off by a lot of what he sees in the Pagan community.  By way of example, he told me about an encounter with a Pagan group where he heard one person talking about how great the divination app on her phone was.  I know what he is talking about.  What has a divination app to do with the sacred soil?

I’ve felt pretty much the same way for 15 years, for as long as I have been calling myself “Pagan” in fact.  I came to the Pagan community because I thought here was where I would find that something bigger and deeper.  But almost everywhere I look, I see the small and shallow.  Almost everywhere I look, I see Pagans reproducing the disenchantment of the mainstream culture. Continue reading “Pagan with a small “p””

The Fairies Have Left the Building: Enchantment is an Experience, Not a Belief

“Once upon a time Gods and heroes walked the Earth. People encountered dragons and faeries often enough that no one would think of questioning their existence. Most importantly, magic was a part of everyday life. The world was enchanted.”

So begins John Beckett’s recently review of The Myth of Disenchantment: Magic, Modernity and the Birth of the Human Sciences by Jason Josephson-Storm.  Josephson-Storm’s thesis is that “Disenchantment is a myth. The majority of people in the heartland of disenchantment believe in magic or spirits today, and it appears that they did so at the high point of modernity. Education does not directly result in disenchantment.”

In his review, Beckett briefly discusses belief in the supernatural among icons of modernity like Freud and concludes that, rather than “reenchanting the world”, we need “to maintain our commitment to the enchanted lives we already have”, by which he seems to mean: Keep on believing in magic … and apparently fairies and dragons too. Continue reading “The Fairies Have Left the Building: Enchantment is an Experience, Not a Belief”

Is UU Atheism a Form of White Privilege?

A recent article by Mark Morrison-Reed in UU World, the Unitarian Universalist Association magazine, about the “black hole” in UU history, got me thinking about the connection between UU worship and race. According to Morriso-Reed, for all our proclaimed progressiveness, it seems we UUs have not really ever taken the lead in the fight against racism–internally or externally. I’ve been thinking about this history a lot lately, as my own UU congregation is discussing whether to display a “Black Lives Matter” sign on the church property.  One part of Morrison-Reed’s article in particular jumped out at me: Continue reading “Is UU Atheism a Form of White Privilege?”

5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up

Paganism is at a turning point.  It’s been 50 years since contemporary Paganism got its start.  It’s time for Paganism to grow up.

Stages of Faith

Note that I didn’t say that it’s time for Pagans to grow up.  Different people are at different point in their life’s journey.  Childhood and adolescence are important stages of development.  There are stages in a person’s religious or spiritual development as well.  And, as much as most of us would have liked to skip adolescence, it’s not possible to skip stages.  The same is true of spiritual adolescence. Continue reading “5 Ways Paganism Needs to Grow Up”

My Religion is Rooted, Literally.

To polytheists, the gods are sacred.  But atheist Pagans don’t believe in gods.  What is sacred to an atheist Pagans?  Some polytheists mistakenly assume that an absence of gods must mean an absence of sacrality.

I’ve had polytheists come right out and say that, because I don’t believe in gods, then nothing is sacred or holy to me. Implied in that statement is the belief that there is nothing sacred or holy in the world except the gods.  I would have a hard time imaging a less “pagan” statement than that.

Now, as far as I am concerned, you can be Pagan and a polytheist, or a duotheist, or a Goddess-worshipping monotheist, or a pantheist, or an animist, or a non-theist, or an atheist—if you want to call yourself one.  I’m not interested in trying to push anybody out of the Big Tent of Paganism.  But I do not understand a Paganism which cannot find the holy or the sacred in the earth or our bodies or in our relationships.

Continue reading “My Religion is Rooted, Literally.”

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