Upsal raised the question of why Halstead and other “humanists” insisted on calling themselves Pagans when they (at least in the case of Halstead) did not worship or honor the Gods. I’ve gone over Halstead’s response in the last few posts, but Halstead wasn’t the only one to respond to Upsal’s question.
Now, I’m not going to give these the usual paraphrase by paragraph treatment I’ve given Halstead. Frankly, because they don’t need it. Both of them are fairly reasonable and don’t devolve into “pagan-pope” or try to kick out us polytheists.
As Melissa puts it:
That I can find deep connection with Pagans who may be polytheists, animists, pantheists, atheists, or something else, because we can all share sacred space, and that I can debate and dissect the very basics of religion with those same people after because we share a Pagan tent that’s very large and very diverse.
One of the interesting things though about both these posts, though, is that they are not “atheists.”
Let’s start off with why I don’t call myself an atheist. I was most definitely an atheist for a while after I left fundamentalist Christianity. In the immediate aftermath of the death of a friend and the searching it led me to engage in, I was first a liberal Christian and then very soon became atheist thanks to watching many Youtube videos and reading books by prominent atheists. But that wasn’t the end of my religious journey. I was hungry for more.
When I found the World Pantheist Movement, I became a Pantheist – one who sees the universe as divine and the earth as sacred. This was religion without the supernatural. I still consider myself a Pantheist. I see the Earth as Mother Nature, something to be honoured, revered and yes, worshipped. I even pray to the Earth. It is our duty as children of the earth to honour and look after her. This to me is the essence of Paganism.
And this raises an interesting point. Halstead has made a big deal about him being a Humanist, and that’s connected to his Atheism as well as his Paganism. He’s even tried to argue that it’s newer than Paganism, and is the framework of his practice, and generally has given the impression that Humanists are Atheists. Which, frankly, isn’t true. Humanism certainly is about putting humanity before the divine, but nowhere does it exclude the existence of the divine, and there have been humansists among many religions where it didn’t deny the religion or gods.
In fact, going by their words, both Melissa and NatPan are at the least, some level of Theists. Certainly, Melissa admits to a very shaky and unstable faith, but the do both believe in something, at least. Despite what Halstead has at the least implied, Humanism and Theism are not mutually exclusive. Especially with Polytheism, where in even the Gods are People.
But having read these two responses, neither addresses the whole Atheist Paganism, issue. NatPan is an animist, and while Melissa is certainly a highly scientific minded Pagan, she doesn’t deny the existence of the divine, but worships it in her own way as well, merely adapting to new scientific discoveries.
This is completely different from the reasons Halstead has given for why he is a Pagan and an Atheist. He doesn’t believe in the Gods or that they should be worshiped, even though he’s claimed to have met some. Where as NatPan and Mel have described their using rituals to obtain a connection with the sacred, Halstead has admitted he uses them only for an emotional rush/high.
I want to thank both NatrualPantheist and Melissa for their wonderful posts, I liked both of them. They certainly show that Humanism and Paganism are not enemies. But sadly, neither managed to truly address the issue of Atheists calling themselves Pagans, because both of them are Theists by their own words.