Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism

This is a guest post by Eric Steinhart, Professor of Philosophy at William Paterson University.

I’m planning a pretty long series of posts here.  Mainly, I’m going to be arguing for several theses.  I won’t do posts that present them one by one; each post will typically deal with many theses.  Here they are:

The first thesis is that as Christianity declines in America, two communities will be growing: an atheistic community and a neo-pagan community.

The second thesis: Since Wicca is the largest and most coherent neo-pagan community, the neo-paganism will mainly be Wiccan.

The third thesis: As the atheistic community grows larger, social and practical pressures will compel it to begin to develop rituals and ceremonies.

The fourth thesis: The rituals and ceremonies collectively practiced by atheists will become socially recognized as an atheistic religion.

The fifth thesis: As the Wiccan community grows larger, cognitive pressures will compel it to get rid of the woo and to seek greater scientific legitimacy.

The sixth thesis: Underneath all the woo, which is indeed offensive to reason, there are core structures in Wicca which are highly rational.

The seventh thesis: Wicca is neither Christian nor Abrahamic.  Wicca is immune to the strategies atheists have developed for attacking Abrahamic religions.

The eighth thesis: As the result of all the pressures, the two main post-Christian communities, that is, the atheists and the Wiccans, are going to be increasingly blended together.   This blending will be messy.

The ninth thesis: The common meeting ground of these two communities will be a kind of religious naturalism.

Many of these theses are sociological.  And since I’m a philosopher, I’m going to focus on the sixth thesis (I’ll also deal lots with the seventh and ninth theses).  My focus on the sixth thesis has two parts: Part one involves stripping away the irrationality of Wicca; part two involves revealing the rational structures underneath.

You might object: but doesn’t this amount to endorsement of Wicca?  On the contrary, I reply that it amounts to nothing more than the endorsement of reason.  As a philosopher, I am committed to rationality.  If something is irrational, I will attack it as such; if something is rational, I will support that rationality.  I try my hardest to avoid partisan loyalties: if I find irrationality in atheism, I will condemn that unreason; if I find rationality in Wicca, I will support that rationality.  My only loyalty is to the sovereignty of reason.

You might wonder: why should atheists care about this?  I reply that atheists should care about the forces operating to shape the future religious landscape of America.  Failure to think about those forces entails the risk of being overcome by them.

Other posts in this series:

Atheism and Wicca

The Wiccan Deity

The Theistic Deity and Atheism Defined

The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis

The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy

On Atheistic Religion

Atheistic Holidays

Criticizing Wicca: Energy

Atheism and Beauty

Do Atheists Worship Truth?

Some Naturalistic Ontology

Criticizing Wicca: Levels

Atheism and Beauty

Do Atheists Worship Truth?

Some Naturalistic Ontology

Criticizing Wicca: Levels

Atheism and the Sacred: Natural Creative Power

Atheist Ceremonies: De-Baptism and the Cosmic Walk

Atheism and Possibility

The Impossible God of Paul Tillich

Atheism and the Sacred: Being-Itself

Pure Objective Reason

Criticizing Wicca: Rationality

The God and the Goddess

Wicca and the Problem of Evil

The Wiccan God and Goddess: Reality and Mythology

On Participation in Being-Itself

Criticizing Wicca: God and Goddess

The Increasing Prevalence of Woo

Wiccan Theology and Sexual Equality

Revelation versus Manifestation

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • Aaron

    Interesting set of theories, and I see where you are going with them. But only one thing: You mean Rick Perry won’t convert us all?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      I thought the Muslims were going to.

  • http://florilegia.wordpress.com Ibis3, denizen of a spiteful ghetto

    I dunno. I was a practising neo-Pagan for several years & they aren’t really inclined to consolidate (I know you didn’t explicitly say that they would but by taking “Wicca” as a stand-in for neo-Paganism, that’s how it comes across). It may appear to be the largest and most coherent faction (though not really because there are many “denominations” and interpretations of Wicca, and a good number of Wiccans are solitaires, not belonging to any tradition), even then, there are probably as many, if not more non-Wiccan neo-Pagans as there are Wiccans–at least in my experience.

    Also, I think you might be lumping in (or neglecting?) spiritual New Age types & westernised oriental religion, which are both increasingly popular as well. There’s some overlap between neo-Pagans and those groups, but not a lot.

    I do agree that there’s probably more in common between neo-Pagans (especially among certain strains of it) and atheists than most people (either Pagans or atheists) are aware. The woo tends to be a lot less wooish than New Age woo (e.g. magic & ritual is often viewed as a metaphor or a way of altering your consciousness rather than something *super*natural). There is a lot of mingling of the two groups in spec-fic & comic book fandom. Pagans tend to be fairly well-educated and support the search for scientific knowledge, and “techno-Pagans” are quite common in the community.

    In essence, most neo-Pagans are pantheists or panentheists, so the main difference ends up being attitudinal: do we treat nature/the universe as something sacred or not? is sex just for recreation, intimacy, and procreation, or can we also treat it as a spiritual/mystical experience? do we join the Sierra Club because we practically need a sustainable planet to live on or also because we want to protect something holy?

    I’m also unsure about the idea of atheists wanting more ritual and ceremony in the future. I think that what could happen with the waning of Abrahamic religion is a division into three groups:
    1. Secular atheists and agnostics (don’t believe in anything sacred, don’t participate in rituals except for secular ones). Mostly humanists. By far, the largest group.
    2. Neo-Pagans (pantheists and panentheists who practise rituals but who otherwise agree on most political and philosophical issues with the atheists).
    3. New Agers and followers of a westernised Hindu/Taoist/Buddhist mysticism (into “spirituality” and self-actualisation/enlightenment and don’t really participate much in political issues because that’s worldly and irrelevant to them).

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      I’m mostly just ignoring the New Agers. I don’t think they really have much in common with any neo-paganism. One of the functions of a naturalization of neo-paganism would be to push out any New Age incoherence that has crept in.

      I wish I could find some accurate social statistics on neo-paganism. Alas, since so much of it is hidden, it’s tough to get any real data. But I’ll be focusing on philosophical issues anyway.

      Of course, I don’t know if what I’m saying about the future will come true. It’s not my point to make predictions. I’m just looking over the landscape here.

    • http://amongmiracles.wordpress.com Erik

      Eric,
      Check out the work of sociologist Helen A. Berger… at the bottom right of the linked page is a link to the data behind her book “Voices From the Pagan Census” that you might find interesting.

  • sawells

    Thesis 7 fails because one very effective strategy vs. any religion, Abrahamic or not, is to insist on asking how its practitioners know what they claim to know.

    The other theses are also pretty ropy. For example you seem to assume that all atheists will develop one set of rituals and ceremonies. That’s ludicrous. And Wicca as the big winner? Any sociological data to suggest that’s remotely likely?

    Really, this is very very weak. Please philosophise better, if possible.

    The success of atheism will be marked by the term “atheist” covering as wide a range as the term “does not believe in leprechauns”; it will tell you nothing about people other than that they are minimally rational.

  • sunnydale75

    Sawells:
    -I agree. It may be safe to say that Wicca is a far better religious option than Christianity, Islam or Judaism (given the snippets of information I just looked up on various sites, I would prefer if every Christian converted to Wicca; in fact, the idea that we share a connection with nature and as such should respect it to some degree is a concept I wish more people would adopt). At the end of the day, however, I keep seeing statements about a Deity. An immanent god/ddess. The divine. Whether this/these beings are part of the material universe or apart from it doesn’t matter. These are still entities/beings/powers/things that are being treated as real by Wiccans yet they haven’t been proven to be real. It seems that many practitioners of Wicca do believe in some sort of immanent deity(-ies) (and not in the metaphorical sense, as some here have suggested) and as long as that remains a significant part of that belief system, Wicca is no more enticing than any other mono or polytheistic belief system.

    Tony

    • sawells

      Frankly at this stage I’m less worried about the Wiccans, who are mostly harmless, than I am about Eric Steinhart, who appears to absolutely intent on pushing Wicca at us regardless of relevance or plausibility. This is really strange behaviour, and I can’t understand why it’s being put on FTB. Did we really need a lengthy demonstration that hey, there are non-Abrahamic religions? We knew that.

    • grung0r

      I’m less worried about the Wiccans, who are mostly harmless, than I am about Eric Steinhart, who appears to absolutely intent on pushing Wicca at us regardless of relevance or plausibility.

      Seriously. The “there are core structures in Wicca which are highly rational.” is no different then your typical Christian’s “you can’t disprove my conception of god, therefor he exists” argument. After all, there are plenty of “rational structures” that are both highly unlikely and contradictory to other “rational structures”. Why does this particular one matter? As far as I can tell, it’s because Eric Steinhart has thrown himself into a giant theological word salad the likes of which haven’t been seen outside of Oxford since the ontological argument for god was first introduced, and he sees no escape other then to declare his undying fealty for the non-thing with a vagina, which of course is derived from the immanent, ultimate source of…something something.

      I keep hoping maybe this Wicca series is some kind of meta-experiment designed to show the true inanity of theology. I’m starting to think it isn’t, but regardless of it’s design, it certainly appears it’s succeeding at that goal none the less.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      Where, exactly, have I ever declared an “undying fealty for the non-thing with a vagina”? Please provide evidence to back up your claim (I take it you regard evidence as important).

    • sawells

      That was, I think, a hyperbole based on your rather ridiculous theses 8-9: that atheism and Wicca are going to merge into some kind of religious naturalism. Consider us unmerged. Also, once again, why are you pushing all this Wicca at us?

    • grung0r

      Where, exactly, have I ever declared an “undying fealty for the non-thing with a vagina”? Please provide evidence to back up your claim

      I inferred it from the following statements:

      “If I’m right that the Wiccan deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being…”

      Which appears to me to be a positive statement of belief regarding the Wiccan deity. I’m sure you will spout off here some Karen Armstrongish “diffrent ways of knowing” nonsense, but that’s just what it is: Nonsense.

      “The Wiccan deity is not a thing;”

      Which I take to mean that is a non-thing, and since some aspect of it is a Woman, therefor, it is a non-thing with a vagina(and a penis, I suppose, but the goddess form seems more popular).

      I’ll admit I guessed on the undying fealty part, but it’s what I would do if I believed in such a thing.

      Evidence enough?

  • sawells

    Re. the “connection to nature” part, isn’t it interesting that the common-descent aspect of the theory of evolution that every one of us is, literally, a relative of every other form of life on earth? Everything – every bird, beast, tree, microbe and virus – is our cousin in some degree. That’s more impressive than any religious mystical oneness, plus it’s true.

  • Gregory

    I don’t have a problem with your third thesis. I’ve done work as a celebrant, which is basically a non-religious minister. I have done mostly weddings along with a few other things: a few funerals, a celebration for a friend transitioning gender, and an open adoption.

    Humans are a social animal, and ceremonies are a part of what we are. I believe that developing a body of celebratory occasions would be a good thing. The challenge would be to keep these celebrations from becoming blind ritual: “We do this because we have always done this.” Tradition is fine, but it can devolve into mindless adherence all too quickly. Your fourth thesis, I would have a problem with.

  • Steve Schuler

    I, for one, very much appreciate Eric’s series of posts on these topics. However it does not surprise me to see that many commenters here are entirely opposed to, and dismissive of, the veins of enquiry Eric has so kindly, and perhaps courageously, undertaken here. It has been my observation that there are no shortage of dogmatist in the “atheistic” and “freethought” communities. Yes, you are free to think and free to inquire, as long as you don’t deviate too far from certain parameters of a variety of conventional atheistic orthodoxy.

    I came upon a link to a paper by J.L. Schellenberg entitled “SKEPTICISM AS THE BEGIIG OF RELIGION” at a blog called “ex-apologist”. I found it to be a very interesting read and thought that it was somewhat related to the topics that Eric has been exploring in this series. If you would like to give a read it can be seen at:

    http://philpapers.org/archive/SCHSAT-25.1.pdf

    For my part I think that there is sufficient mystery in the universe, including the minds and ways of humans, to warrant multitudinous avenues of enquiry both ‘scientific’ and ‘philosophical’ for the duration of our species. But what do I know?

    Peace Out

    Steve

    • sawells

      Because a series of “this is what Wiccans think” does not constitute enquiry. Enquiry implies analysis. For some reason Eric is staunchly refusing to actually subject Wiccan ideas to critical analysis and instead is piling them up on this blog while making vaguely approbatory gestures. We would like to know why.

    • Steve Schuler

      Hey There sawells!

      I haven’t perceived Eric’s posts, so far, as promoting Wicca. Earlier in this series he indicated that he has negative criticisms about Wiccan ideas which he intended to discuss and I presume that he will in time.

      While I am generally interested in religion in all of it’s varieties, I really haven’t looked into Wicca. Frankly this has been due to an uninformed prejudice on my part that the ‘woo factor’ would be far to high for me to tolerate and I think that is still probably the case. I did discover very recently that the Air Force Academy has constructed a “worship area for followers of Earth-centered religions” on their campus in Colorado Springs. See article at USAFA website:

      http://www.usafa.af.mil/news/story.asp?id=123187157

      As someone who cannot even self-identify as an “atheist”, for all the right reasons, I think it is very unlikely that I will soon begin to think of myself as a “Wiccan”. And I doubt if that will disappoint Eric. Still, I think that as a general proposition it is better to be informed than uninformed, so I appreciate what Eric is doing here. I take no offense in Eric raising questions, even provocative ones, that might challenge my mindset. After all, isn’t that a crucial aspect of free inquiry?

      Peace

      Steve

  • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

    @Sawells – You claim that “Eric is staunchly refusing to actually subject Wiccan ideas to critical analysis”. Please provide evidence, based on quotes from my posts.

    You will note that in the post “The Wiccan Deity: An Initial Philosophical Analysis”, I do provide critical analysis. You will further note that in the post “The Wiccan Deity: Related Concepts in Philosophy”, I point to similarities between the Wiccan deity and the concepts of atheistic philosophers like Spinoza, Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, and Crosby. All atheists.

    So what’s your complaint? Are you complaining that these atheistic philosophers aren’t atheistic enough for you?

    • sawells

      Well, e.g. you went through the whole spiel about the creative power of being and conatus and natura naturans, and isn’t this idea kind of like this idea and this one and aren’t these big names of clever people terribly impressive… but never actually addressed whether the concept under discussion is real or not, or how we would know.

      IOW, your idea of what constitutes analysis is radically different from mine.

      This is what Bacon refers to when complaining about the scholastics: your mind is working on words rather than matters, and so you produce a filigreed spiderweb of infinite complexity but without substance.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      I’m still waiting for you to offer evidence, quoting what I’ve written, to back up any of your claims about what I have done or have not done.

    • sawells

      I stand by the case I just gave: you drew a parallel between the Wiccan deity-as-fundamental-creative-force and various concepts such as “conatus” or Leibniz’s assertion that things strive to maintain their own being. Fine but – is there such a thing as a fundamental creative force, is “conatus” actually a valid concept, was Leibniz right and does his assertion even make any sense, and fundamentally, how would we know one way or the other?

      This is what you’re not giving, and I am very happy for any other readers to go back over the posts you’ve made and see if they agree with me or not.

      Or do I have to give verbatim quotes of things you haven’t said? That would be a neat trick.

    • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

      Correct: I drew comparisons between Wiccans and atheist philosophers. How does that constitute “pushing Wicca at us regardless of relevance or plausibility”, which is what you claimed I’m doing? You wrote that I “never actually addressed whether the concept under discussion is real or not, or how we would know”. You’re right. That was not the intent of the post. And you’ll note that I’ve never said either the Wiccans or the atheist philosophers are correct. In this post, I’m just cataloging and comparing views. So I’m not at all clear what you’re objecting to.

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Eric’s purpose of drawing the parallel, as I understood him, was to show that even though Wiccans talk about an “ultimate deity” we need not interpret this as a collapse back into Abrahamic theism. Philosophically they are actually interested in nature and the natural, not the supernatural even despite their conceptualizations of “ultimate deity”. Eric is showing that the structure of their thought goes the same way that speculative atheists have gone. That’s it at this point. That’s all the relevance there was claimed for pointing out the parallel between Wiccan though and the Leibnizian/Spinozistic/Schopenhauerian/Nietzschean line. It’s showing that conceptually they avoid just reproducing theism and instead are reproducing atheistic philosophies.

      If you want to attack the ideas of conatus or will to power, etc. of course you are free to do so, but it’s not a distinctly atheistic position to reject them. Attacking them is to take a metaphysical position against them that is distinct from anti-supernaturalism and atheism. Atheism does not strictly equate to hostility towards all metaphysical concepts or discussion. Empiricists do not have a sacred claim to speak for all atheists. If you want to argue for a deeply gutted, empiricistic metaphysics, then you’re doing something different than atheism. It’s compatible with atheism, of course, but it’s not the essence of atheism.

      Of course, none of the above is to imply that the only options are to accept the conatus or the will to power, on the one hand, or to be a radical empiricist metaphysically. One can have a non-empiricist metaphysics and yet still reject the concepts on metaphysical grounds too.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=153100784 michaelbrew

    I find discussion about non-Abrahamic religions like NeoPaganism and/or Wicca interesting, though I have to say I do find a couple of those theses a bit… suspicious, I guess. I think I–and likely others who have a problem with this series–just have this underlying paranoia that we’re being ninja!proselytized or something. I know many of us have had that happen, so maybe we’re being overly sensitive, but that doesn’t stop the fact that some of the things Steinhart says strikes a bad cord.

  • jackd

    As the atheistic community grows larger, social and practical pressures will compel it to begin to develop rituals and ceremonies.

    There is a core of reasonable observation and extrapolation here, but I think it’s not expressed well. There is not, and I believe never will be a monolithic “atheistic community” with anything like a recognizable set of practices. But I do think that as atheism gains more social acceptability and more people self-identify as atheist, there will emerge particular communities who will develop ways to mark significant occasions in a non-religious manner (particularly the Big Three – birth, marriage, death). But these rituals and ceremonies won’t need to be atheist in the sense of god(s)-denial. They only need to ignore or leave out the supernatural.

    And #4 – really? An atheistic religion? Well, stupid things happen all the time, so I shouldn’t say this one can’t. But I hope not.

  • http://www.ericsteinhart.com Eric Steinhart

    @grung0r – In the very first post of this series, I explicitly denied that there are any theistic deities, or that there are any idols. The Wiccan God and Goddess, if thought of as real persons, are clearly theistic deities and as such are idols. Thus I reject them, as my writing plainly indicated. And I have rejected every theistic deity in every post in this series. It is odd therefore that you would think that I swear “undying fealty” to things that I explicitly deny exist, and that I have denied exist in every post in this series. Additionally, your crude sexual imagery is inappropriate.

    • grung0r

      In the very first post of this series, I explicitly denied that there are any theistic deities, or that there are any idols. The Wiccan God and Goddess, if thought of as real persons, are clearly theistic deities and as such are idols. Thus I reject them, as my writing plainly indicated.

      Yeah, I know you’ve denied it. Unfortunately, as I point out above, you also said:

      If I’m right that the Wiccan deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being…

      What exactly is there to right about if the Wiccan deity isn’t real? Is this akin to saying “if I’m right that Luke Skywalker blew up the death star…”, or is it a theological word game to define your god into existence? It seems to me that either: like a child,fiction and fact are a blur to you, or you have in fact made a pledge of fealty to a theistic deity.

      Additionally, your crude sexual imagery is inappropriate.

      Was it the word “vagina”, was it “penis”, Or was it perhaps an evil, sinful combination thereof? Are you a child and believe they are dirty words? Perhaps it’s something deeper. Maybe you are just a privileged essentialist(your repugnant endorsement of religion regulating sex could certainly lead one to this conclusion)and you are just offended that I suggested that when an entity is defined as gendered, that genitals will usually be involved.

      In any case, I don’t give a shit what you think is appropriate. I do think it’s fascinating that your theocratic tendencies are already stating to surface though. In at least one your posts, you have asked “why would an atheist object to that?” If nothing else, it’s because of this. It’s because of people like you, the theocrats in waiting. Ready and willing to spring up and tell us what is or isn’t appropriate to say, what holidays to celebrate and how, and of course, to remind us of the irreplaceable value of religion. Without it, after all, how could we keep woman as rape-slaves or keep the poor under control? Without religion, people might just be forced to live in the world of..(gulp)reality. We can’t have that, now can we?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      Eric is a theocrat? Where in the world does that come from? Are you that fundamentalist of an empiricist that anyone who goes so far as to analyze and interpret the philosophy within a religion to which he is not even an adherent is suddenly a theocrat who is worthy of apoplectic rage and accusations?

      Unfortunately, as I point out above, you also said: “If I’m right that the Wiccan deity is the ultimate immanent creative power of being…” What exactly is there to right about if the Wiccan deity isn’t real?

      What exactly is there to be right about? How about his interpretation of what Wiccan theology is positing?

    • grung0r

      What exactly is there to be right about? How about his interpretation of what Wiccan theology is positing?

      If this is the case, then Eric’s statement amongst the most vague and terribly written of all time. If I said: “If I am right,and the baby Jesus is The son of God…” then, regardless of the context(and the context does not support your reading, in any case)you would assume I was a Christian, and rightfully so. I could have made that sentence read as an analysis instead of a profession of belief in 3 words, namely: “If I am right, and Christians believe that the baby Jesus is the son of God…” If “he is just reporting what Wiccan’s think” is the only defense you can muster for this statement, I think it’s time for you to bite the bullet: Eric is either a Wiccan, or he is a truly terrible writer.

      Eric is a theocrat? Where in the world does that come from?

      First of all, I didn’t say he was theocrat, I said he had theocratic tendencies. And I was quite clear as to why. He tells people what is and isn’t appropriate to say, he tells people when and how celebrate holidays and rituals, and he demands the irreplaceable importance of religion. Seems like he qualifies to me.

      Are you that fundamentalist of an empiricist that anyone who goes so far as to analyze and interpret the philosophy within a religion to which he is not even an adherent is suddenly a theocrat who is worthy of apoplectic rage and accusations?

      Ignoring your characterization of both me and Eric’s analysis(which is off on both counts) I will answer your question. Yes, I am a “fundamentalist” empiricist when it comes to an ‘Immanent’ being. My(admittedly limited)understanding leads me to believe that “Immanent” means something demonstrating itself in the material world, at the very least. If it shows up in the material world, then I want evidence. I want investigations and studies. I want to know this isn’t just a redefinition of an already defined phenomenon(as is so popular with post-modern theologians these days). It doesn’t seem so much to ask, does it?

    • http://freethoughtblogs.com/camelswithhammers Camels With Hammers

      First of all, I didn’t say he was theocrat, I said he had theocratic tendencies. And I was quite clear as to why. He tells people what is and isn’t appropriate to say, he tells people when and how celebrate holidays and rituals, and he demands the irreplaceable importance of religion. Seems like he qualifies to me.

      You have no idea what a theocrat is apparently.

      A theocrat wants laws to be made based on the presumed will of a deity or religious authorities. Where has Eric proposed a single law? Because he found something you said to be vulgar? Because he is suggesting that rituals are good for people? WTF? That makes him someone who wants to usurp government power to mandate everybody follow his (non-existent) Wiccanism?

  • sawells

    So one minute it’s “I am too doing analysis” and the next minute it’s “I’m not doing analysis, I’m just cataloguing”. Eric, do you even know what you’re doing here?

    Look, let’s take a little look at your set of theses and see how they stand up to scrutiny, shall we? Let’s put it this way: Martin Luther, you ain’t.

    “The first thesis is that as Christianity declines in America, two communities will be growing: an atheistic community and a neo-pagan community.”

    Criticisms: two communities and only two? No. Under any circumstances multiple communities will be growing and others will be declining. We’d hope that many of those communities will be atheistic, but the growth of “an atheistic community”, singular, is not to be expected. Similarly we might expect multiple neopagan communities. But if the driver for the decline of Christianity is an increased public interest in rationality and science, you may not get growth of neopagan communities at all.

    “The second thesis: Since Wicca is the largest and most coherent neo-pagan community, the neo-paganism will mainly be Wiccan.”

    Unfounded assumption: that Wicca is a coherent community.

    “The third thesis: As the atheistic community grows larger, social and practical pressures will compel it to begin to develop rituals and ceremonies.”

    Continuation of earlier error: you shouldn’t expect one atheistic community. Also, there are already lots of important ceremonies (weddings, funerals, birthdays, Christmas/New Year midwinter celebrations) which are available in fully secular forms. So, there’s very little need for atheists to invent an entirely new year to have parties, dinners and meetings.

    “The fourth thesis: The rituals and ceremonies collectively practiced by atheists will become socially recognized as an atheistic religion.”

    Holy fuck. No. Performing plays by Shakespeare will become socially recognised as an amateur-dramatic religion? I don’t think so.

    “The fifth thesis: As the Wiccan community grows larger, cognitive pressures will compel it to get rid of the woo and to seek greater scientific legitimacy.”

    As is so obvious in the case of fundamentalist Christianity in the US, which is constantly seeking to get rid of their woo about gods and angels and to seek scientific legitimacy… oh, wait, no.

    “The sixth thesis: Underneath all the woo, which is indeed offensive to reason, there are core structures in Wicca which are highly rational.”

    I’m sure once you get rid of all the actual Wicca, you’re left with a bunch of people who are minimally rational enough not to try to walk through brick walls. Big whoop.

    “The seventh thesis: Wicca is neither Christian nor Abrahamic. Wicca is immune to the strategies atheists have developed for attacking Abrahamic religions.”

    Bullshit, because a major and increasingly successful strategy is skeptical enquiry, which is applicable any time anyone makes a knowledge claim. Case in point: if Wiccans are pointing to some creative force as their non-theistic deity, we immediately need to ask (i) is there any such “force” as described and (ii) if there is, is there any good reason to call it a deity?

    “The eighth thesis: As the result of all the pressures, the two main post-Christian communities, that is, the atheists and the Wiccans, are going to be increasingly blended together. This blending will be messy.”

    Continuation of error about the number of communities and their coherence. The claim that atheists and Wiccans will be increasingly blended together is not based on evidence. They’re already as blended as they’re going to get in that you can find both on college campuses.

    “The ninth thesis: The common meeting ground of these two communities will be a kind of religious naturalism.”

    Another round of holy fuck. No, the common meeting ground of completely different systems of beliefs is secularism, where everyone gets to believe their private woo but it’s impolite to shove it in other people’s faces.

    So, in sum: you’ve given us a parade of unfounded claims, poor reasoning and bizarre leaps of logic, and you act all innocent and surprised when we ask you where’s the beef. Colour me unimpressed.

    • http://infinitegames.tumblr.com infinity

      I realize I’m way behind the times here, but I just have to say……seriously, sawells? Maybe I’m completely confused, but I’ve always thought of a thesis as something that is later proved, not something that is obviously true or proves itself. So going through Eric’s list of theses and pointing out holes in his argument is irredeemably ridiculous — wait for him to make his argument before trying to rebut it. Obviously, most of these theses need detailed philosophical and empirical arguments to prove them. Obviously those are missing because this is just a list.

    • KG

      OK, but when there is clear evidence that “theses” are highly unlikely to be true, it’s quite reasonable to point that out. Not one of the sociological theses is borne out in those European societies in which de-Christianisation has gone a lot further than in the USA: followers of Wicca or other forms of neo-paganism remain a small and uninfluential group. This whole series just looks like a bee in Eric Steinhart’s bonnet.

  • http://goaweamenawi.edu gjaioweajo

    Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism | Camels With Hammers I was suggested this web site by my cousin. I’m not sure whether this post is written by him as nobody else know such detailed about my problem. You’re amazing! Thanks! your article about Nine Theses on Wicca and Atheism | Camels With HammersBest Regards Agata

  • http://www.livingearthcolorado.org Joy

    As a Wiccan who is married to an Atheist, I found this article refreshing and a bit startling. These are things that for some time now I’ve been seeing happening, but never guessed someone not intimately connected to the Wiccan community would perceive it, or even bother to ponder it. There are quite a few non-theist Pagans out there, and atheists are always welcomed in our community and rituals (because, well, we’re married to them! Or they are our kids, friends, or parents). There’s a lot more overlap and points of mutual agreement between the atheist and Wiccan perspectives than a lot of people would realize. (I suppose that can also be said of Wiccans and Christians, Wiccans and Buddhists, and so on.) Our last Beltane festival (www.beltania.org) even had classes on Atheism. What I read in the article would lead me to suppose that the author knows more about Wicca and Wiccans than just what’s in books or papers. Very perceptive. While I could go on for some time about the finer points of things and areas where I would partially disagree with certain assumptions about Wiccans and predictions on the combined future of Atheism and the modern Pagan movement, I would like to express appreciation for the forum, for the ideas, and the openness to discussing our small but growing religion with a respectful and scholarly tone and a good amount of accuracy.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X