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.
There was Melissa of We’re Made of Mud and Magic, who wrote the post Well, why not both? And NaturalPantheist wrote Why “Naturalistic Pagan”?
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.”
Despite my skepticism, slippery beliefs, and uncertain faith, I am deeply committed to my identity as a Pagan. To me, it brings together things I can’t find together any where else:
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.
I think Halstead really, has given you the answer, probably for all atheists who practice any form of ritual. Humans have a NEED for ritual, for emotional connection. That he gets his connection to other humans performing ritual with him rather than from the Gods as well as his fellow humans is kind of an aside, at least to him. “Where ritual is absent, the young ones are restless or violent, there are no real elders, and the grown-ups are bewildered.” –Malidoma Patrice Some Ritual gives a framework to life.
I do feel bad for him because he is missing out on so much more by refusing a connection to Divinity. But like you I also resent the f%$ out of him because he lumps all Pagans together and tries to make his version seem superior *because* he doesn’t believe in Deity.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
I suppose he has, at that. And while I don’t agree with his reasoning, I do admit that everyone’s reasoning is their own and a fair number out there could call my own reasoning for my practice BS as well. I do like that quote though.
And I have to agree with you about feeling bad for Halstead and pissed off with him at the same time, lol.
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John Halstead said:
You know what else … not all polytheists are so out of touch with reality that they think Thor causes global warming.
Lucius Svartwulf Helsen said:
I suppose that depends on one’s “reality” and how in touch one is with it. Man made, God made, naturally occurring, there are many possible explanations for global warming or “climate change” or whatever it’s being called this day. And before you start with saying “scientists have proven it’s man made” or anything like that I will inform you that I take with a large grain of salt anything a man tells me when his livelihood is dependent on continued existence in the belief of what he’s preaching.
And let us be honest, most of those scientists who preach man made global climate change earn their entire paychecks on the continued belief of man made global climate change. Their careers, grants, laboratories, reputations, public speaking events etc, are all funded in the name of “proving” it is happening, at what rates, etc. And the fact that nearly every projection model has imploded, that even clearly biased tests have still failed to prove what they were trying to prove, and a number of other examples has meant that I do not hold with blind faith what these scientists preach. Just as I don’t believe it when Catholic priests say I shall burn in hellfire should I fail to accept Christ, and they’ve had a lot longer time and about as much success proving their point.
As for Thor causing climate change, I stated when I said it that it was a theory/thought experiment. Not in any way religious dogma or scientific fact.