What is Naturalistic Paganism?
Naturalistic Paganism is a unique Pagan orientation for those who are uncomfortable with or skeptical of the supernatural or metaphysical elements of contemporary Paganism. Individuals may use other self-descriptors, such as “Atheist Pagan”, “Atheist Witch”, “Pagan Humanist”, “Druid Naturalist”, etc. Naturalistic Paganism has been described as Paganism without the “woo”. In affirmative terms, Naturalistic Paganism is Paganism that is firmly rooted in the empirical world.
Many people come to Paganism after leaving Christianity or other monotheistic religions. Many are drawn to Paganism, or Neopaganism particularly, because of its “this-worldly” orientation and the impulse to find the divine in the “here-and-now”. Neopaganism is often described as a religion of immanence, in contrast to religions of transcendence. This is manifest by the concept of a pantheistic Goddess, the seasonal Wheel of the Year, and a pro-body ethic.
But a person drawn to Paganism by its down-to-earth orientation may be disturbed by other aspects of Paganism, such as the belief in instrumental magic (the belief that thought can cause change in the physical world without corresponding physical action), New Age trappings like crystals, or the literal belief in gods as sentient beings. For some, this kind of Paganism too closely resembles the other-worldliness of the transcendental religions we left behind. These Pagans may find a home among Naturalistic Pagans who share a love of the myth and ritual of Paganism, but not what we see as its irrational credulity and superstition.
Others come to Naturalistic Paganism not from theistic religions, but from non-religious backgrounds. Atheists may come to Naturalistic Paganism looking for a spiritual practice to help them celebrate the natural world or experience a deeper connection to the Universe without abandoning their rational faculties.
Pantheists dont believe in ghosts or spirits. This goes against any
Druidic or witch belief.
Why be Pagan if you wish to explain Paganism rationally? Spiritual belief is not rational. Belief is emotional and a feeling that one has, Belief may be founded on the ethereal or the most commonplace of experience. As a Wizard, I show people how to experience what seems to be rationally impossible given science as we understand it today. But rationally impossible experiences are not the foundation for beliefs for most of us, since anything experienced is far more likely to shatter beliefs than create them. It seems that most religions have been founded on magic (or the translation of magic into acts of gods). People believe these acts of gods without ever experiencing them and without rational evaluation. People believe because they believe that others believe. Humanistic Paganism therefore seems to be an oxymoron or a catchall for the failure to believe in something else. Regardless, this is a wonderful web site full of much richness. I hope all enjoy wandering through it’s pages.
That’s a good question Lawrence. I have my own thoughts, but I think it would make a good discussion. Would you be interested in doing a “challenge piece” for HP?
I’m not being argumentative, but I don’t really view my spiritual practice as a “belief” system. Belief implies “unprovable”. Feeling reverence for an old tree doesn’t imply that I believe it is an old tree. I know that. I don’t believe I can communicate with the tree. I just think that it is a good experience for me to take note of the tree and honor its age.
As an atheist, I find freedom in rejecting the notion of a god or gods having control in my life. I get to make the rules and I do not surrender an ounce of my power to the “control” of another. For me, magic isn’t a spiritual pursuit or something that requires the need of the supernatural or otherworldly influence. It is a perfectly natural, normal process that anyone has the means to utilize. I’m a woman who is guided by logic and reason (yeah, I know that doesn’t seem possible). But I’m also a dichotomy and a highly passionate woman. For all of my reason, I never really lost touch with my inner child or inner eccentric aunt. That said, I am intrigued by the inner workings of nature. We are walking, talking chemical reactions taking place by the trillions every second. We’re a bunch of atoms connecting with other atoms constantly. Even our thoughts and emotions – the very essence of who we are is made up of chemical reactions that respond to other reactions. I know that isn’t very romantic sounding but I can’t rewrite how our bodies or nature works. A good example of a grand reaction is the respiratory cycle. The sun helps plant life turn CO2 into food and the byproduct is oxygen. Animal life takes in oxygen to survive and the byproduct of that is CO2. I’m not hugging the tree or the weeds in my yard, but we’re interacting non stop. Another example on a different scale is pheromones. I can engage with a man without touching him. The sensual dance takes place on a chemical level that’s amazing. But it is yet another exchange among millions that is understood by science. Thoughts and emotions also have power – again, there are chemical reactions. Thus, my magic is a means of making positive change by focusing my words and thoughts with a powerful potion: love (I said I was a dichotomy). But honestly, the delivery system of magic – the means for there to be influence, depends on the person and the belief that the process will be fruitful. Magic is merely a method of enhancing a connection. How each person goes about it can be different. My way or another person’s way isn’t better, just different. But if you have the tools to focus and further empower those thoughts and words, you have the ability to influence change. It isn’t instant or fail proof. It is a patient endeavor. For me, the factor of love is necessary. My wise wishes lack power if I am not fully behind them or if I know it isn’t going to bring joy or well being to myself or another. So in my case, the power booster to my magic is love. And if someone believes in their own inner power, like the placebo pill, change is possible. If another person feels their belief in a god or prayer works, go for it. Mind over matter, or in my case, “heart over matter” is the thrust mechanism. Our brains continue to evolve like everything else. If we don’t destroy the planet or each other, we may even be able to do truly amazing things in the future. But for now, if we don’t use that “muscle” that I call magic, we lose it. It is not a spiritual deal for me but still a very positive one. I send healing magic to my loved ones and to those I don’t know. It is the love that makes the difference in my spells, like adding the secret ingredient to my charmed cookies. The logical Robin says, this is a chemical and physical reality to enacting change. The magical Robin says, magic is everywhere – regardless of the physical process, it is enchanting and amazing. Enjoy the process, enjoy the ride.
I know this is old but thank you sooo much.
Hear hear. Thank you for illustrating both sides, the science in magick and the magick in science, so well.
Does HP believe that consciousness survives death?
Re: axiarchism. Is it possible that our world is the most average of all worlds rather than the best? (An idea by author Jim Holt.)
I’m not sure, but I suspect that the majority of Humanistic and Naturalistic Pagans do not believe that consciousness survives death. That would be a good question to raise on the Naturalistic Paganism Yahoo discussion group.
As for axiarchism, you’d have to address that question o Eric Steinhart.
Interesting about not believing in life after death as a Sharman /Tohunga I see dead people, spirit’s people’s guides /ancestors and other stuff that would freak most people out, since I was 18months old. Science is just starting to be able to explain some of life’s mysteries, with quantum physics and machanics. Matter never disappears it changes form?
This is my reality and in no way intended to speak for anyone else. Viva la difference.
I do not believe I have another existence elsewhere when my body stops functioning. I realize for some people, the thought of no longer existing is scary. I don’t have that fear. Death means no more alarm clocks. However Robin lives on in another way. I like the Shinedown song, “How did you Love?”. I believe in loving often and well. I believe in rolling up my sleeves and making a good difference in the lives of others. I don’t need eternal life. I need to take care of the here and now, living in the moment, and knowing I have loved well. That, in my opinion, is the best way to live “forever”. Somethings are beautifully contagious and the pebble in the pond continues to move outward with acts of kindness. Now, is it possible for the essence of who we are to change form? Time is relative and there can be multiple dimensions. One thought is we could be existing in more than one dimension, but primarily in one over the other. And what ties our bodies here becomes disconnected upon death. I have given it thought but not out of the need to “live on”. Existence beyond my life span here isn’t where my head or heart are at. I don’t do things or follow certain rules to get into an exclusive afterlife club, either. None of that makes sense to me. With most religions, the rules are stacked against the person even when there is supposed to be unconditional love. I don’t believe in multiple lives, either. My atoms get recycled and I’m fine with that. I don’t think there is some cohesion to keeping the essence of me together.
I am just beginning my real involvement with humanistic paganism and am so grateful for this community. I am a humanist chaplain and devout feminist who has found that both the mainstream religious and mainstream atheist communities out there are too firmly rooted in patriarchy for me to feel at home or welcome (in fact this is a subject on which I frequently am asked to speak). Humanistic paganism is a wonderful vehicle for my ministry to women who work in reproductive healthcare. Thank you so much for this site and the Facebook page!
Thank you Autumn!
While I’ve personally experienced deja vu, premonitions and through my own personal experiences have come to develop an deep belief in providence, fate and karma; I am very much of the position that there are people who will always prey on the imagination and fears of other through the use of conceptual frameworks of belief or faith so to influence and control those who will be convinced by such human generated religions/cults.
While I am not an athiest for the reasons I mentioned above, I am also not a follower of cult/religions, believing quite simply that there are some things that cannot yet be explained by the human mind and all of our knowledge of the multiverses above and below.There are some aspects of knowledge on the ethereal that we have yet to discover, or to put simply we seem just not ready to know.
I suspect that science may have it’s limitations in relation to the variables or the chaotic ethereal, and that emotional intelligence may yet be developed to further our understanding.
In the meantime, I shall enjoy our seasonal celebrations, and shall continue to explore both the physical world and the worlds of my mind while my life force resides in my corporeal body. As it was once famously said, “we are merely animated bits of the earth’s crust”. So I shall further develop my relationship with nature and this planet which nourishes and sustains me, while introducing me to the mysteries and magic of the multiverses above and below.
Does this make me a Humanistic Pagan, I wonder? Perhaps so, or perhaps not. Labelled or otherwise, I enjoy the idea of sharing my thoughts with those whose beliefs are aligned with my own so that we may grow and develop together (sharing such thoughts with folks whose beliefs differ to any great degree drains me and to be frank, doesn’t seem to be all that productive).
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Wow I may have found my niche!! I’m an atheist drawn to pagan culture, people and events. And I’ve started to describe myself as spiritual atheist. And I really want to read a book that was recommended to me recently: Six Impossible Things Before Breakfast: The Evolutionary Origins of Belief by Lewis Wolpert which I wonder if it’ll explain some of these contradictions! 😀
I happened to stumble upon this site this morning and I am enjoying the various articles. I’m like the guinea pig, I’m my own “species”, but I think it is important to read the comments and views of others. It is a comfort that it is a civil exchange. I’m probably way late in the game for responses to my posts, but that’s okay. Thank you for such a nice site.
Robin – I just stumbled on this site and read 3 of your posts and I have never found anyone closer to how I believe, and you saying ‘I’m my own species’ reminds me of something the journalist and author John Horgan said in one of his articles, http://www.nytimes.com/2004/12/12/opinion/keeping-the-faith-in-my-doubt.html
“Instead of banding together, maybe we unbelievers should set an example by going in the opposite direction. We should renounce all “isms” — that claim to speak for our most profound personal beliefs. Or rather, since we seem to be headed in this direction anyway, each unbeliever could create his or her personal ism, perhaps with its own name. Since Universism is taken, I’ll call mine “Horganism.” You can revile it, admire it, or ignore it, but you can’t join it”
Unfortunately, that leads to collective disempowerment. If we don’t find some group consciousness and build solidarity with one another, then the elites will continue to abuse the power we have surrendered to them.
Robin- I have just discovered this page also and read several of your posts… I saved them because they so closely and accurately put into (much more complete and eloquent) words my own feelings and beliefs. Thank you so much for adding your words to this post- your ripples are indeed traveling in the pond.
well science proves that ghosts do not exist
and I can’t help but side with science.
Science proves that ghosts do not exist in the Standard Model. The wonderful thing about science is that it is never complete and is always evolving. How long before the Standard Model becomes superseded by something that allows the possibility of ghosts, ESP, etc.?
I believe everyone has the right to believe whatever they want.
There are sheep, black sheep, and shepherds. The key to bliss is finding a way to be none. Thank you for a window into life void of prejudice, patriarchy, violence and misdirection. Thank you for a community pursuing nature, connectivity, harmony, and reason.
As a theistic pagan, I am interested. However, I would like some confirmation that theists who are interested and want to explore and learned aren’t harassed or made fun of here. I get enough of that from regular atheists.
Welcome! In my experience, 99% of the discussions here have been civil. But honestly, I don’t think we get many theistic commentators, at least not of the hard theistic variety.
It’s my expectation that everyone would be treated respectfully here. I have noticed, however, that there are frequently different standards of respect between theistic and atheistic communities. For example, questioning someone’s belief or their interpretation of a personal experience is considered rude in many theistic communities, but not in many atheistic communities.
I expect you will be treated civilly (i.e., no personal attacks), and would ban anyone who violated this, but you should be forewarned that some community members may interrogate your beliefs if you raise them in the comments.
I hope that you will stick around and talk with us.
I’m a soft theist. I’ve always found comments to be fairly respectful here.