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Naturalistic paganism

Discussion in 'Paganism DIR' started by Wild Fox, Aug 22, 2020.

  1. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    Naturalistic paganism – Can this form of pagan path fit in with the polytheistic predominance of modern pagan paths?


    I myself tend towards a more naturalistic view of the world and was surprised by a blog entry by Cathryn Platine which I just recently came that was written in 2014. It was a response to something that John Halsted wrote who is the author of “Godless Paganism”


    A Crone Speaks Out: Naturalistic Pagan is an Oxymoron

    "Naturalistic Pagan is an Oxymoron" written by Cathryn Platine

    Frankly, as a life long practising Pagan in her mid sixties (meaning I have been a Pagan almost as long as Wicca has been a religion) I am fed up with those who are clearly self declared atheists claiming membership as Pagans when they are nothing of the sort. Words matter, their definitions matter. Halstead bemoans trouble communicating with Pagans while failing to see he isn't even using the same damn language making actual communication impossible.

    It's bad enough that John and Jane Q. Public confuses Wicca and Paganism as being the same when Wicca is a mere subset of Paganism and a Gardner come lately one at that, but trying to include atheism under the same umbrella stretches the cloth way the hell past the breaking point. You want to hang with Pagans because we can be a fun free-wheeling group, fine but if you are an atheist, you are NOT a Pagan yourself. If your motive is playing with religious trappings without actually believing, go join the UUs, they actually have a place for you to do that
    ."


    I would like to believe this is just a more radical view and not consistent with most of the pagan community.
    I would like to know what other feel about Naturalistic, Humanistic, and nontheistic paganism in reference to the modern pagan community?
     
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  2. The Hammer

    The Hammer Virtue, Piety, Study
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    I think all Paganism at it's core should be Naturalistic (of or relating to Nature), it is ecological at in it's basics. I don't think Atheism and Paganism are mutually exclusive either, because Witchcraft (which falls under Paganism), doesn't require a deity afaik.
     
    #2 The Hammer, Aug 22, 2020
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  3. Erebus

    Erebus Well-Known Member

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    I've never understood the obsession with dictating who can consider themselves a "true" member of a religion. Even if you feel somebody doesn't fit within your own interpretation of a religion, how does them claiming the title negatively affect you in any way?

    If somebody considers themselves both an atheist and a Pagan then more power to them. That's their way of exploring the path and it doesn't threaten my own in any way.
     
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  4. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    That is so nice to hear. It was ecology as much as anything that for some reason connected me to follow a pagan pathway. I follow the mythology especially of Norse and Celtic but when it comes to are there gods or goddesses I fully understand why others can identify with them but as of writing this post I see them as aspects of the natural world and although I appreciate the human representations and how their characteristics tie in with the natural world but I cannot see the deities as human like as someone I could talk to and I do not see them as supernatural.

    Some interesting examples are Oisin from the Irish mythology whose mother had been changed into a deer and he has a patch of deer fur on him. There are aspects of the mythology that I can connect with such as Oisin who has a patch of deer fur on him gives a wonderful connection to the natural world outside of the tribe. He has a connection to both the human and nonhuman world.

    One of my favorites is Boann associated with the Boyne river in Ireland. Although I again cannot see her as a human like goddess. the connection of her to the cow/milk - nurturing aspect is a beautiful representation of the river itself which provided so many necessary things to the tribes that lived next to it. So when I looked at the river it was not just a body of water but an amazing complex system of water, physical forces of a river and all of the life connected with it as well providing what is necessary for those of tribes that lived by it that the image of a goddess seems appropriate.

    Those are just two examples as I try to understand how my path in paganism. I sometimes think the analogy of the old gods as the more primitive forces of the natural world and not separate from the natural world.

    Sorry for this analogy but from the "Game of Thrones" it is more like the old gods still worshiped in the north. Yes I enjoyed to books and now do not thing the author will live long enough to finish them. Oh well.

    I also like Mark Greens book which is more rooted in science that my path but makes a wonderful argument as to why following a pagan path even if you cannot believe in the gods or goddesses. Tolerance and sharing of Ideas as well as connecting to support important causes should unit us more than divide us.

    Sorry about rambling a bit but I am still learning about my path as I go on.

    I have been reading from
     
  5. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I agree with your position. We can still share and learn from each other while maintaining the respect for the individuals beliefs. Thanks
     
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  6. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I really like this view. Rivers are like mothers and it is no surprise that so many European rivers were associated with goddesses. It is easy to see a river and associated it only with a word representing flowing water but this is a clear misconception. Rivers are home to a diversity of life, constantly interacting with the surrounding land and nurturing the life within and adjacent to the river. They influence the land and there effect ranges well beyond their shores including multiple forms of life outside the river. Rivers are not just a body of water and in so many ways the like a mother/goddess; they bring forth life and nurture life. Science has allowed us to understand all that is associated with a river but often presents things fragmented due to the complexity of something like a river. Religion allows us to recognize our relationship with a river to see its importance with us and treat it with respect and even reverence/worship.
     
    #6 Wild Fox, Aug 26, 2020
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  7. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    It's not a radical view. I hold it myself. However, I think the writer of that blog article articulates themselves poorly and doesn't get at the substance of why some of us hold this view.

    The short of it is that oxymoronic "atheistic" Paganism (and atheism more generally, come to think of it) is a direct symptom of centuries of Abrahamic cultural dominance and suppression of other theological and religious perspectives.
    When one way of thinking about something overwhelmingly dominates a culture, it profoundly shapes how the people within that culture are able to think about the topic. It shapes our foundational assumptions - which we don't even realize we have because it is just "how things are" - to the point we cannot properly understand or approach other options or ways of thinking. The result is "atheist" Pagans who can't get out from under the thumb of centuries of cultural suppression to think about gods like a Pagan. I try not to let that frustrate me too much, but sometimes, it's hard.

    In the end, I try to just not care about this false dichotomy that is "theist" and "atheist." When everything has been understood as gods in one culture or another, the terms are just pointless unless qualified.
     
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  8. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I am not sure I understand what you mean by the false dichotomy. There are certainly things outside of the individual or even a society that is beyond their control that can influence them. I believe that what we call religion is a ubiquitous attribute to humans that is shared and that being atheist does not mean not religious and a god or goddess absolutely is necessary in religion.

    So when qualifying what gods or goddesses can be to understand you point better what are the qualifications

    1. Within the natural world or supernatural?

    2. Having personalities or physical features that can be recognized as human like or may be just forces in nature?

    3. Being associated with humans primarily or not.
    So what qualifications are you suggesting?



    Those proposing atheist paganism support the need for religion; just disagree that it must be associated with especially a supernatural god or goddess. In the course of human evolution the need for a supernatural deity was not necessarily always present or at least we cannot say.
     
  9. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    I found none.
    That's the conclusion I ended up coming to when I studied theological diversity. There simply
    are none. I found every single quality someone told me growing up that gods "had to have" was false under some theological paradigm.

    The only thing close to a common denominator that I found is that
    gods are that which a people call something when it is worthy of worship to them. That's less a quality than an attribution; a title; a way to describe a particular sort of relationship that involves deep reverence and respect. From there, the nature of the gods is all across the map because it depends on what is being deemed worthy of worship.

    Anything can be deified (and has been) at some point in history. This is the major reason why I have come to find the labels "theist" and "atheist" increasingly useless except in cases when they are used with qualifiers. By that, I mean neither term makes sense without a specific cultural context where the god-concept in question is known and established for the sake of discussion.

    I don't know if that addresses what you were asking at all. This is a complex thing to discuss and sometimes the words may not transliterate right, if you know what I mean. :D
     
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  10. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I am still trying to understand your point. You said you agreed with the author of the blog. Why? What makes naturalistic paganism an oxymoron?
    As for a specific cultural context, lets say the US where I am located. In this cultural context how do you see the labels of theist and and atheist in reference to the question of naturalistic paganism as an oxymoron?
     
  11. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Sorry, I had more to that post and deleted it and it might have clarified this more but the post was feeling too long so I cut it out. I probably shouldn't have, but my thoughts weren't quite organizing at the time in a terse way. :sweat:

    Just to be sure, let's clarify that the blog author isn't talking about "naturalistic" as in "nature" they're talking about "naturalistic" as in "atheistic" or rejection of gods. To further clarify, gods are that which one deems worthy of worship and the nature of gods looks very different under polytheist, pantheist, and animist assumptions than it does under classical monotheist ones.

    In a Pagan context, rejection of gods means rejection of anything being worthy of worship (aka, worthy of deep value or respect) and along with that comes rejection of practices of worship. While beliefs may not be central to Paganisms, practices on the other hand are. If you are "Pagan" and don't have any sort of worship practice, that.... that's an oxymoron. I'll respect the labels people use for themselves regardless, but internally I can't muster calling that Paganism and do not agree with calling that Paganism. It is kind of like calling a baseball fan who doesn't play baseball a player of the game. There's definitely a place for fans, hobbyists, and academics. These things are not the same as being a practitioner and member yourself, though.

    Something I notice a lot amongst "atheistic" Pagans is that they do have a worship practice but aren't calling those things gods. I ask myself, what's the deal with that?
    Are they still mistakenly thinking they have to believe some particular thing about gods for them to be gods? Like that they "have to" be supernatural? They don't. What we believe about the gods in Paganisms is very flexible and not the point of emphasis. I've often heard it remarked something along the lines of "in Paganism, we don't care that you believe in our gods, we care that you show them respect (aka, worship)." It's not at all like the overculture coming down on us from Protestant Christianity where it's all about "believing in" something and that this god of theirs "has to have" certain qualities or else it is a "false god" or "idol" or whatever. Different Pagan traditions sometimes use different words other than "god" to describe what they worship (I did, back when I still had hang-ups about the g-word) and that's fine too. If you've got a god-equivalent you worship I call that theism and I call that Paganism. If you don't, then I can't. Practicing gratitude and reverence (aka, worship) towards things greater than yourself (aka, gods, spirits, whatever word you want to use) is too central to Paganism for me to feel otherwise.

    Aaaand... that ended up long anyway. Darn it.
     
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  12. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I appreciate the response.
    As for gods what happens if one cannot distinguish the natural forces in out world from what w

    This I cannot agree with the way it is stated. The natural world of ours is sacred enough and worthy of worship whether you call it or see it as a god or not. I make reference to mother earth but this is recognizing aspects of human mother nurturing in relationship of earth to life. The earth and all of the life it supports is greater that what is implied by calling earth a planet. But if someone else just refers to it as Earth but gives the same reference, what makes that different? There seems such a wide distribution of belief in the gods and goddesses from symbolic to human like that the inclusion of someone without using the word god can still fit in if they are treating the subject with the same reverence.

    So why would an atheist even want to consider themselves pagan? For one I believe atheists still benefit from having religion (which neuroscience is continually finding basic to humans). So what do you do if you are an atheist? Paganism has some loose religious structure to it and is generally very accepting of Science even thought there are aspects of belief where science cannot study. The common presentation of many pagan pathways as earth centered/nature based which is consistent with what science is revealing about the profound interconnection we have to the rest of the natural world which we are dependent on and which is being ignored by so many other religions.

    So what does a person born in North America with a heritage from Wales and growing up in the surrounding Philadelphia area who sees nature as sacred turn to in order to find religion? You can look to your origins. I was heavily influenced by Native American beliefs/rituals but would not claim to be Native American. How do you create or find the rituals and practices that are important to religion. I turned to what was known in the Northern pre-Christian religions for inspirations. The problem is I cannot identify with the gods and goddesses as human-like as presented but found wonderful symbolic meaning, adapting what I could.

    There is no reason that a person who cannot accept that there are actual gods and goddesses cannot find meaning in rituals, altars and seasonal celebrations that give meaning to them which science cannot provide.
     
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  13. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    this with very few changes would be describing me. And, after many, many years, I've come to realize that I am an animist. Everything is/has spirit/volition, and since we're all related, it's best to treat our kin with respect...especially if we want to eat (or otherwise use) them, or want to avoid being eaten or used...

    I have recently realized, while I was re-reading an article on animism...let me go check...What is animism is the title I have on the saved file...by Sarah Anne Lawless...

    Anyway, to complete that thought, the Judeo-Christian construction that has dominated religious thinking in the the West for the last several hundred years insists on there being a "God" in charge of everything. To have religious/spiritual beliefs, one does not need to have a god in charge of everything. I don't.
    I don't do gods right now.

    I don't say they don't exist, even the omnimax creator deity that's claimed by the Children of the Book. I just recognize that there are larger and larger spirits until I get to the point that they are simply beyond my perception and comprehension: I can't see or even conceive of the whole earth; whyever would I hold it as a deity? I can't conceive that such a small entity in the cosmic scope of things would be aware of me or be interested in relating to me as an individual. Instead, I focus on the local spirits, the local kinfolk. Some of them are big enough that they might ask higher up the scale on my behalf. I appreciate the bigger, but I also appreciate the smaller...and realize that some of the smaller might want me to act on their behalf, be generous, act with mercy, and so on.

    I have given up naming them, worrying about pantheons and theism and belief and doctrine. I try to practice.

    And I don't care that I don't fit in with many others. Sure, I'd like some more sense of shared community with other humans, but I'm also not willing to waste my time with doctrine and theology.

    Does that make me an atheist? Well, I maintain that I am not an atheist, even though I don't do gods (and therefore am not a theist). Why? Because I simply reserve judgment on whether or not there are gods. That makes me agnostic.

    After many years of hard work, I've made it a pretty much unimportant question FOR ME, although I do find myself drawn into discussions here on RF.

    So, as an animist, I spend time relating to the local spirits. Many of them are natural, but I do also have to deal with house spirits, car spirits, appliance spirits, laptop spirits, and so on. To me--and I stress this, to me--if I focus only on 'natural,' or even the more westernized 'naturalistic,' I find that I'm not paying attention to everything around me...and that is what is important.

    Sorry for the rant; I don't know if this will help, but it's where my mind went on reading your post and the rest of the thread.
     
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  14. Quintessence

    Quintessence Tale Weaver
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    Have you had chance to see discussions about pantheism - or other theologies where the gods and nature are not separate - and someone inevitably refers to that as atheism? They have trouble seeing the difference between, say, a pantheist and an atheist?

    One of the things I say to them is that the key difference is worship or reverence. Someone who sees nature as gods behaves in a way that reflects that. Someone who sees "just nature" does too. That's the distinction between pantheism and atheism - it sets up the kind of relationship one has with the subject and the behaviors one engages in, like worship versus not worship.
    If one is treating a subject with worship and reverence, those things are one's gods and that's how we can distinguish between atheism and pantheism. If we are unable make any distinction, the terms "atheism" and "theism" are pointless and a false dichotomy. If we have "atheist" Pagans engaging in worship that is basically god-revering behavior and functionally identical to what "theist" Pagans are doing... why are we using this now false dichotomy at all? We're
    doing the same things.

    Again, I fully blame the classical monotheist cultural hegemony for hang-ups folks have here. I have little doubt that most "atheist" Pagans would recognize themselves as "theist" if we weren't struggling against theological assumptions that don't work in nature-based, pantheistic, polytheistic, animistic religions. I was that person once. To me, the question sort of became "do I want to continue thinking under this cultural hegemony even though its assumptions are inappropriate for my religion, or get out from under it?" It was kind of an easy decision after that. The process of actually doing that, though, took years. :D

    My practice is basically identical to what @beenherebeforeagain does. Somehow, I call that solidly theistic and they don't. A good question is why that happened?
     
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  15. beenherebeforeagain

    beenherebeforeagain Rogue Animist
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    It is a good question...and for me, it's a 'beer and pizza' question: something to be discussed in a relaxed and open atmosphere with little expectation of resolution...:D:cool:

    If one looks at the early WEIRD definitions of animism and religion (primarily, that of Tylor), they are the same: Belief in Spirit Beings. Among animists the world over, as far as I can tell, belief is an individual thing between the spirit/deity and individual human...it's not really for discussion or contradiction. The only relevant question from an animistic culture's perspective (as far as I can tell) is whether or not the individual will actually practice the rituals and engage in the other behaviors that are in place for engaging in relations with the other-than-human persons in their environment.

    Quintessence's classification of theism for her beliefs/practices and my agnosticism represent our own personal perception of our relationships with the other-than-human persons we interact with. Quint calls at least some of them gods; I acknowledge that they are spirit, and that others might well call some of them gods, but I don't experience any of them as 'gods,' and therefore don't consider them that...although they might be. I guess I just don't find the category of gods to be particularly useful...at best to my understanding, gods are just 'REALLY BIG' spirits...

    It's my own personal solution; it's not for everyone. And I know that here on this forum, at least, we have people who have experience with deities from the traditional pantheons. I have absolutely no problem with that.
     
  16. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    Thanks for the suggestion of Sarah Lawless and found some interesting articles. I personally function in an animistic way. I remember reading about the Ojibwe language and animism and even attempted to learn some but was doomed without anyone to practice with. At the start of with Mitakuye Oyasin (all my relatives) and ended of every drumming with giving thanks to all nations from mineral, plant and animal nations. During this time not only thanks were given but often the environmental issues were brought up. I actually function in an animistic way to both living and non-living things. I also personally think humans function this way because of how our neurologic system is designed. When you see the rest of your world as one of your relatives you treat it differently.

    Despite my respect for science I only see it helpful to my religious practice and beliefs. I have never called myself an atheist but do not believe in the supernatural. I resolve this so far by the sum of life and non-life is greater than the parts and believe it is important to keep the mystery of the world in respect. Not sure what that makes me but oh well.

    I do like way that you find the local spirits as important. I remember reading something about how the pre-Christian people of Iceland were more concerned about local spirits than the main gods and goddesses we are familiar with.
     
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  17. Wild Fox

    Wild Fox Well-Known Member

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    I understand your argument about the concept of god been distorted but you can say the same for the word atheist. In the US we are heavily influenced by the Abrahamic religions presentation of the concept of god. There are those who are atheist who do not believe in things other than what is presented in science with what can be seen as a stark view of the world. There are others that see science as supportive but is limited in complex patterns of the world and believe you can worship and have absolute reverence for the world with no clear difference form a pantheist. Thus the lack of a useful definition of god creates misunderstandings and thus I do not like the atheist / theist distinction because it becomes misleading.

    Thus I find it more helpful to look at what you have reverence for and how you practice. I practice an Earth revering practice recognizing the moon cycles, positions of the sun, with celebrating the natural world and enjoying Celtic and Norse symbols. Thus I feel connected with the revival of what we have described as paganism.

    Someone who calls themselves as atheist but has reverence for the earth and finds connection with the rituals, practice, symbolism and celebrations of paganism would be welcome to me to be pagan as long as they are not trying to deny the beliefs of other who consider themselves theistic. It seems paganism has enough diversity to include someone that considers themselves as pagan.
     
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