Blog Roll: “Atheist” Pagans, Mormons, and more

Blog Roll: “Atheist” Pagans, Mormons, and more March 9, 2013

There’s just been too much cool stuff to write about lately.  So I’m going to hit several items rapid fire, and maybe I’ll get around to more detailed posts in the future.

1.  Care and feeding of “Atheist Pagans”

While I prefer the term “non-theist”, this was a much needed post.  I am so tired of hearing certain theistic Pagans cry victimhood while simultaneously demonstrating the same level of contempt for non-theistic Pagans that they accuse non-theists of.  (Not to pick at old wounds, but if you want a good example, take a look at the recent comment of Scirocco Cross-Jones to an old post by M.J. Lee at Humanistic Paganism that caused plenty of controversy last year.)  Anyway, Jeffrey Flagg’s post was a breath of fresh air.

You should read the whole post, but here’s the highlights of Jeffrey’s advice (my favorite is the third one):

Do not challenge your atheist Pagan about why he or she doesn’t believe in your gods/deities/spirits/etc.

Don’t tell your atheist Pagan that he or she isn’t “really” an atheist or “really” a Pagan.

Don’t presume your atheist Pagan is less spiritually capable or fulfilled.

Don’t presume that being an atheist means rejecting all magick, all religion, or all new age thought.

Do understand that your atheist Pagan is attracted to Paganism.

Do invite your atheist Pagan to your rituals, ceremonies, and festivals.

Do ask your atheist Pagan about his or her story, and be open to sharing yours.

Do feel free to compliment your atheist Pagan from your own worldview.

Recognize atheism as a philosophy that shapes, rather than contradicts, spirituality.

2.  At some point, you need to stop leaving a religion

This advice comes from newcomer to Patheos, Aliyah bat Stam.  She writes about the anti-Abrahamic sentiment in the Pagan community:

“At some point, you need to stop leaving a religion, or you’ll be stuck there forever. If you talk about a deity every day, even in the negative, then they are an important part of your life. If you talk about the deity more than their followers do, then, in a strange way, you are closer to them than their followers.”

This observation is fascinating from both a hard polytheistic perspective and from a Jungian perspective.  If some hard polytheists believe that they create the gods (or “thoughtforms”) through mental action (consider this post by Gus DiZerega), then what happens when they spend so much mental energy thinking about (albeit in a negative way) the Abrahamic God?  Aliyah’s answer?  They end up giving him more power.  What we pay attention to grows in power.

From my own Jungian perspective, I see this as well.  Of course, Jung would say that just ignoring the god is not going to help either.  What we ignore also grows in power too.  We have to discovery a way to integrate these gods.  I see it in my own life.  It’s not for nothing that I included the god of the Old Testament in my biography told in deities post.  He’s still with me.  Catharsis is important, but when it becomes a way of life, there is a problem.

Speaking of ongoing hangups with the my faith of origin:

2(a). The Mormon Church announces changes to its scriptures.

There’s at least 3 important changes to the Mormon scriptures, including (1) a new heading to precede the now-canonized 1978 announcement of the end of the LDS Church’s ban on Black priesthood ordination, (2) the recharacterization of the pseudographical Book of Abraham as an “inspired translation” instead of “direct revelation” of Egyptian papyri, and (3) changes to the introduction to the now-canonized official announcement of the end of institutionally-sanctioned polygamy. Three comments:

1.  The change regarding Blacks acknowledges that Joseph Smith ordained Black men, but goes on to say: “Early in its history, Church leaders stopped conferring the priesthood on black males of African descent. Church records offer no clear insights into the origins of this practice.The last change is insignificant.”  The “origin” of this practice, folks, is racism.  It will be a great day when the LDS Church admits that!

2.  I’m not sure what the difference between “direct revelation” and “inspired translation” is, but if by the latter the LDS Church means “it has nothing whatsoever to do with the original papyri“, then I guess that would be accurate.

3.  Regarding the last change, they changed “plurality of wives” to “plural marriage”.  So what?  Another missed opportunity to state that this is not an “eternal principle”.

This is the illusion of progress.

2(b).  Cognitive Dissonance and Mormons

I came across this awesome podcast on the Mormon Therapist blog at PatheosThe podcast included the Mormon Therapist herself, Natasha Helfer Parker and Jennifer Finlayson-Fife, both of whom are active Latter-Day Saints and marriage and family therapists.  The conversation was moderated by Micah Nickolaison who runs the A Thoughtful Faith podcast.  It was a fascinating discussion, especially about 20 minutes in when they moved on from speaking about cognitive dissonance generally to cognitive dissonance in Mormons.  So much they said resonated with my own experience, both in and out the Mormon Church.  I think much of what they described could be appreciated by those who left other Christian denominations as well.

3.  Walking in the woods with Molly Remer

One of my favorite contributors at the Feminism and Religion blog, Molly Remer, has a wonderful site entitled Theapoetics and her Woodpriestess series is definitely worth checking out.  She talks about her practice of regularly visiting a place that is sacred to her,

“to really, really get to know this space deeply. To notice that which changes and evolves on a daily basis, to see what shares the space with me, to watch and listen and learn from and interact with the same patch of ground every day and see what I learn about it and about myself. I want to really come into a relationship with the land I live on …”

She mixes spiritual insight with real, everyday life and a dash of theo/alogy:

“I really do feel like the relational context of our lives is the fundamental core of the human experience. We cannot not be in relationship to the things around us, not just in terms of other humans, but plants, trees and animals. We are even in relationship with the sun, the wind, and the rain. And, the net that holds the whole, is what I name as divinity.”

It’s the kind of reading you want to take your time with — no speed browsing!

5.  Teo Bishop talks about atheists and synchronicity

Teo writes a review of Chris Stedman’s book Faitheist: A Quest for Meaning Within Reason.  In the book Chris tells the story of making his way to El Salvador on a pilgrimage and experiences a series of synchronistic events and how we wanted (but resisted) to believe that the events were “orchestrated” for him.  Teo responds:

“One needn’t believe in a god that is authoring your life in order for you to see the meaning inherent in a series of events…. or even to recognize that there is some kind of authorship taking place.

“When Chris says that ‘things matter because there is an implicit reason behind their occurrence, and it is our job to discern the organic meaning within,’ I shout YES! But I also recognize that this story — a story that he, himself, told by unpacking events that were strangely, clearly connected — was, in a way, a story being told to him.

“It might not have been God doing the telling, but it was certainly not a story that he wrote all on his own. I wanted for Chris to see was that the people on the bus, the tour guide, and even the memory of his fallen idol were themselves the ones telling and authoring this story to Chris, about Chris.”

I have yet to read a more beautiful explanation of synchronicity, and without any appeal to some mystical woo-woo or invoke quantum mechanics.

4.  Demons in our midst

I was contacted by Sibylla/Abgeneth who maintains a bi-lingual blog, Blindtextchens Reise.  Here’s a link to her English posts.  I especially enjoyed her 2-part “Demons in Disguise” series, a satirical look at Pagan characters like Here’s a link to part 1 and part 2.  My personal favorite is the “Rabid Reconstructionist”, but that’s probably because I’m a “Relative Revisionist” (a mere imp).

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