I’m currently reading my way through Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-theistic Pagans. It’s taking me longer than I expected to read, but not because it’s dull, far from it! The reason it’s a slow read for me is that every chapter or so, I have to stop and think, make notes, go for a walk, and process the depth of insight and experience in the various contributions to the collection.
One piece in particular has stood out for me so far, and it’s a piece I remember reading when it was published on Humanistic Paganism: Emotional Pantheism: Where the Logic Ends and the Feelings Start by Áine Órga. Go read the whole thing, then come back…I’ll wait!
I’ve been a reader of Áine’s writings on various blogs for a while now, and it’s been interesting to follow the progression of her thought and practice. Áine currently writes at Heart Story and also has a YouTube channel.
Áine opens by saying: “Logically I am an atheist. Emotionally I am a Pantheist”. While not believing in deity, she describes having strong emotional feelings of Pantheism, that the universe is sacred or divine.
For Áine, spirituality is built on emotion. This is something I have struggled with myself. With a background in academic study of religion, and rationalist atheism, opening myself up to an emotional connection to the Sacred (whatever it might be) has always been difficult. But Áine articulates how emotion does not have to be opposed to reason, but can work alongside it. She writes:
“My beliefs and therefore my practice are certainly naturalistic. I leave room for the unexplained, and engage in practices that might seem empty or pointless to some naturalists or atheists. But I don’t take many leaps of faith intellectually, everything is based in reason. In this way I am a naturalistic Pagan.
Where I do take those leaps of faith is in the emotional sphere. By engaging in this spiritual practice, I open myself up to experiencing things beyond the mundane. In many ways, it is in exercise in allowing myself to feel without judgement. My spirituality is my way of allowing my pantheism a space in my life.”
The thing that really struck me in this piece was the phrase:
“I have chosen not to choose between naturalism and theism”
For so many people, this choice, this dichotomy, is so important. What you believe, which side of the fence you stand on, which label you use, becomes an identity, a uniform, a tribe. It is limiting, and leads to endless debates and arguments over theology and belief. But why not be both? Why not experience the universe as multi-layered and manifold? As godless, yet divine?
The book that inspired the title of my blog is called Erring by Mark C. Taylor, who describes himself as a “postmodern a/theologian”. Mark’s “a/theology” is itself a bold statement of choosing not to choose between a religious (in Mark’s case post-Christian) experience and a logical non-literalism, or atheism.
So, in the spirit of this piece, I, too, choose not to choose. Like a tree, my beliefs remain rooted in science, evidence, and reason. But the branches of my Druidry…well, they are reaching for the Sacred. And if I connect to that by calling on ancient gods, or the spirits of this land, then so be it. What those names represent is less important than the power they hold. To “hard” Polytheists and equally hard capital-A Atheists alike, this may seem irrational, or paradoxical, but, as Áine writes:
“Paradoxes will always abound, and I’m learning that it’s important to embrace the difference facets of your personality, to incorporate it all into your life.
So when I perform ritual – when I light my altar candles and utter words of dedication and devotion – I am not merely marking a changing season or an astronomical event. I am, emotionally, reaching out the divinity that I see in the Cosmos.”