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fizzyclare1

Defining Athiest Paganism

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fizzyclare1

I have noticed that there is a recurring theme (or questioning, some confusion etc) about the nature of paganism and i have been toying with the idea of writing an essay on the matter, primarily to inform and possibly dispel some of the misunderstandings surrounding this belief. however, given that my own brand of athiest paganism doesnt cover all aspects of athiest pagan experience, i would really welcome some personal definitions and how you would describe your paganism (say for instance, spiritual connection to nature, witchcraft and ancestor remembering or worship).

 

I would also welcome an athiest pagans thoughts on the so called 'supernatural' aspect of experience such as ghosts, spirits, etc

 

If you practice meditation and you see it (or not as the case may be) as being linked to your beliefs then in what way does it enhance your religious (or non religious) experience?

 

if there is anything you would like to say then please do add to this.

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Fortuna

I would love to help out in this Fizz as I am finding more people coming to Paganism as a sort of retreat from what they see as anti-theism and it gets a bit wearysome after a while having to justify oneself over and over again. Whilst it is nice for people to embrace Paganism it also feels as though some of the preconceptions they bring with them will lead to a narrowing and impoverishment of what is, after all, a broad umbrella term for a wide range of philosophies, religions, practices and beliefs. I will have a good think and make a contribution rather than just spout off the top of my head.

 

Mike

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Yarrow

For me atheism (meaning " no gods") is simply the lack of belief in or worship of gods. To be atheist does not necessitate a rejection of the supernatural; though the two are often conflated as much of the Western critique of theism stems from enlightenment rationalism. If you want I could recommend you a reading list as Paganism (specifically York's Pagan "idolatry, ecology and the sacred as tangible" paper) was the topic of my dissertation. It took me almost 2000 words to try and give a basic and succinct explanation of what Paganism was.

Edited by Yarrow

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Xalle

My god wumman you're trying to catch the wind! ;)

 

How do you write an essay for something that can't be defined? What I mean is; the only thing that makes the three of us the same is the lack of belief in gods. Everything else differs from one to the next. I think it would be as hard to do this as it would be to try and create a definition of Wicca by only asking individual Wiccans what they connected to spiritually or otherwise. I think this will be a very hard task, without boundaries. Not without merit, but damned hard to do.

 

Mike, do you not think that many people come to Paganism with preconceptions about all the paths in it? I mean, how many times does Wicca get misunderstood, from the love and lighters to the "my great grandmother...". How often have we had misogynist little biggots tramping through the valley trothed to Odin and barking on about being a true heathen? Or, well... you get the idea. :D

 

Personally I'm not worried about peoples misconceptions of paganism too much.People will come here and meet atheist pagans and see they can have spirituality and wiccan pagans can be grumpy old gits and heathens can take part in a wiccan ritual and enjoy the craic. It's my experience that people change opinions when they meet others and get to read about who they are like in the thread currently where the link to the discussion on atheist paganism was shared.

 

I'll certainly try and share what I think about the universe Fizz if you like. I'm happy to ramble my thoughts on life and I'd love to read the article when you're finished I just hope you have enough ink for the project! :D

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Fortuna
Mike, do you not think that many people come to Paganism with preconceptions about all the paths in it? I mean, how many times does Wicca get misunderstood, from the love and lighters to the "my great grandmother...". How often have we had misogynist little biggots tramping through the valley trothed to Odin and barking on about being a true heathen? Or, well... you get the idea. :D

 

I do..... and you are absolutely right of course. :)

 

Interested to read what both Yarrow and Xalle wrote about the difficulties you might face which, in my enthusiasm to help, hadn't even crossed my mind. Thinking on it I am suprised Yarrow managed to define Paganism in just 2000 words (although he holds the "Paganism is a religion heresy) ;) :) And Xalle is right about the amount of ink you might need! I will happily contribute though as it will add to the body of meaningful discussion out there.

 

Mike

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Esk

Tsk tsk, once again us wee Secular Pagans are completely frozen out...

 

 

Oh hang on, there's just me isn't there :)

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fizzyclare1

bit confused esk, what do you mean?

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Esk

I was just kidding Fizz.

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fizzyclare1

awwwww....i was hoping a new kind of athiesm was on rise....lol

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fizzyclare1

i think my kind of athiesm holds the narrowest possible definition and that is to exclude any form of 'god'. I have noticed that shared expeeriences where one person has interpreted an experience as one of being in the presence of deity (in my case my fellow experiencer attributed it to a polytheistic deity - cant remember which one though). sometimes i will interpret these experiences as a subconscious emergence resulting from an altered state of consciousness. its always full of personal meaning, and usually one of sheer joy too. although there are always exceptions.

 

my view on the supernatural, well, there's clearly something going off, just not sure what it is. when i consider all the various interpretations about various different supernatural events (like ghosts) i am divided between natural geological events, but then there is psychic ability (esp or whatever the latest name is for this kind of experience), i have to say that these arguments that psychic abiliity exists seems more convincing and i wont rule them out as being legitimate phenomena. I also seem to share in the belief of land wights and so on.

 

so how does my brand of athiesm label itself as athiest pagan rather than just pagan or athiest. Well,, I think because i remember my ancestors (especially recent ones) in a more religious way, for example i will light a candle as a symbolic gesture of my connection to them. In addition i also celebrate the seasons and see the changing seasons as a dynamic force that we are all connected to. I dont follow prescribed rituals though or ceremonies associated with other pagan beliefs, i tend to meditate either actively by taking a walk or by just sitting quietly. in my youth, i was definitely into trance work and dance and that was a truly powerful experience of my youth. almost shamanic in style, i certainly found a drum beat mind altering, and even today i can slip very easily into an altered state.

 

i cant think of any more atm...

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Esk

awwwww....i was hoping a new kind of athiesm was on rise....lol

 

Oh the secular pagan bit? No I wasn't kidding about that. That's how I've decided I can best describe myself. Atheist is too strong a term, I don't deny the existence of gods they're just nothing to do with me.

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sinistra

Oh the secular pagan bit? No I wasn't kidding about that. That's how I've decided I can best describe myself. Atheist is too strong a term, I don't deny the existence of gods they're just nothing to do with me.

 

You could be onto something there Esk! b-wink.gif

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Esk

It's the future!

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Fortuna

I am a pagan, but consider myself to be atheistic. It never even crossed my mind that this would be considered un-pagan by some and nobody has ever come up with a convincing argument that a belief in deity should be part of what defines being Pagan. I don't utterly reject the possability of the existence of deities, but have never been approached by a deity or at least not in a way that I have recognised. I take my beliefs from what I observe in the World around me, so I don't believe in life after death or deities. Why would I? When I was new to Paganism I was drawn to the notion of a Goddess, but as time went on I realised I was trying to believe rather than simply believing. A belief in deity which has to be forced is mere faith....... and having been given a brain by the universe, I think faith is silly, and fake. I had had my fill of that growing up "trying" to believe in a Christian God. Either a Deity has approached you or it has not. I wonder how many folk spend time going through books and finding a "cool" looking God and then try to convince themselves that they have a relationship with this God.

 

Paganism is new. Its driving impulses might be those ancient ones which drive most spiritual paths, but the Paganism we know is nice and shiney and fresh from its box. I don't see that Theism need be a defining characteristic of these new forms of spirituality. Although it can be. For me, though, the observable natural world is enough. Call it nature worship if that makes you comfortable...... but it is about nature (and I don't really do supernatural as I don't see how anything can be separated from nature). What I have in common with many other Pagans is the sense of awe and wonder at the processes and cycles of nature and of my little place within it.

 

So I don't have Gods...... or spirits ........ or the supernatural, and would rather be like this than grab the first (or coolest) Deities I can think of and try to convince myself of their existence just to fit in (which I am sure quite a few people do). I follow my own path (as do many Pagans) and am happy to be this way than any other.

 

Now if someone can explain to me why my approach is less Pagan than I theirs I would be more than happy to listen.

 

Mike

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tibbington

In my early pagan days, when attending moots, most of the attendee's were Heathens & I sort of envied the sort of relationships they had with various Deities. I must admit I loved listen to them talk & the antics of their relationships with Loki, Odin etc, but on the other hand it left me cold & a deep seated dread of joining in. Behind it all I suppose, I didn't want to swap one crutch for another, I had realised years back the whole Biblical god thing was bunkum & so I just didn't want to change Deities name & carry on with life

The Horned God then came to my attention, which in turn brought me to the Coven I was involved with. Again, although I could see others, within the Coven, relationship was similar to the one I had witnessed with Heathens, I was mindful to do this exploration on my own terms & not use others ideas. Basically what arrived at was a non humanised or animalized spirit that imbues, relationship, survival & reproductive instincts within the animal kingdom which manifests it's self in things like the wild hunt. It something I feel Humans have forgot, if they ever had it in the first place.

Little by little I have come to recognise the Goddess as the Earth, I haven't quite got to the stage where I think she's a sentient being but I'm close. I feel an femmine deity presence daily & I'm working to see if the 2 situation meet.

 

My own view on many of the Gods referred to in Mythology, be it Ancient Sumar, Egypt or Central America, they are memories of extraterrestrials visitations & many such as the Annunaki created the human race. These ideas have never waivered since I first picked up Chariots of the Gods in the early 70's.

 

In the meantime I have read "Not in his Image" by John Lamb Lash, that sort of brings all these ideas together & that's where I am today. I'm not sure if I'm an athiest, I think in the main most view Athiests as someone who doesn't believe in Jehovah, Allah etc. If that's the case, then yes I am, but on the wider Deity scenario, I'm open & ready to listen.

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fizzyclare1

thats the tricky thing isnt it, there is no absolutely truth, only a truth that seems the most reasonable to believe. 'knowing' that a particular god doesnt exist doesnt necessarily mean that no gods exist at all either. i appreciate your difficulty in this, it does make one ponder.

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fizzyclare1

i also see your point about the earth as goddess, although i do reject the label of 'goddess'. When i meditate (particularly when i am outside - cos the fresh air opens me up more) i can also sense a livingness within the things around me, it is a strong, mind changing experience i believe, i dont see nature in the same way as i once did. my sense of self is more connected to the world around me, more aware and this has helped me to grow as a person and where possible, to try to be more 'green' out of respect for our earth.

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tibbington

thats the tricky thing isnt it, there is no absolutely truth, only a truth that seems the most reasonable to believe. 'knowing' that a particular god doesnt exist doesnt necessarily mean that no gods exist at all either. i appreciate your difficulty in this, it does make one ponder.

 

I can only know the truth I recognise & that must be the same for everyone I guess. What I am makes be tick, but it might make others tock :o_smile:

i also see your point about the earth as goddess, although i do reject the label of 'goddess'. When i meditate (particularly when i am outside - cos the fresh air opens me up more) i can also sense a livingness within the things around me, it is a strong, mind changing experience i believe, i dont see nature in the same way as i once did. my sense of self is more connected to the world around me, more aware and this has helped me to grow as a person and where possible, to try to be more 'green' out of respect for our earth.

 

I tend to think of that sense of livingness as Old Horny or what I attribute to him, but this femmine feeling I have is within the Earth & to a certain extent on it. Both tend to mesh up a bit, dance around & interact, but when I'm in the right mode, I see they are seperate but at the same time can't exist without each other.

 

These ideas are very hard to put into words

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Marcus

In my early pagan days, when attending moots, most of the attendee's were Heathens & I sort of envied the sort of relationships they had with various Deities. I must admit I loved listen to them talk & the antics of their relationships with Loki, Odin etc, but on the other hand it left me cold & a deep seated dread of joining in.

 

as a hard polytheist and a heathen to boot - me too.

 

Marcus

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tibbington

I would like to point out I have spelt FEMININE wrong twice in this thread to show how butch & manly I am :lol:

 

Well that's my excuse, but it could also mean I'm thick

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Guest Audris

This topic interests me because I've been figuring lately that pantheist and athiest Paganism might have quite a bit in common. Weirdly (maybe?) I've always had more affinity with athiests in theological discussions than I have with fellow believers in the divine. The two systems seem to be quite close cousins in some ways.

 

i would really welcome some personal definitions and how you would describe your paganism (say for instance, spiritual connection to nature, witchcraft and ancestor remembering or worship).

I've been trying to clearly define my practice lately. Basically, I use ritual to mark out personal rites of passage alongside the natural rites of passage that nature goes through (its cycles and transformations). I also use Pagan practice in order to contemplate, celebrate and strengthen my pantheist beliefs, to appreciate divinity and to re-confirm my suspicion that it encompasses everything, that there is nothing outside of it or other to it and that there is only one source of energy which cannot be split up, in my mind, into good and evil, light and dark etcetera. I think that basically Pantheism is my orthodoxy and Paganism is my orthopraxy. The orthopraxy has never been as important but it helps to underpin and develop my orthodoxy, and to monitor the way it's changed and developed over time and will continue to do so. I also find ritual therapeutic. Maybe that doesn't seem like a great reason to some people, but it can be pretty tough at times, being a hardline pantheist in this world. Ritual just helps me to breathe out and enjoy it rather than dissecting it, analysing it and finding myself, at times, having to defend it in long-winded passages that generally cause confusion. Ritual is for stillness and reverence, not of something aside from me but of something that I am part of.

 

I would also welcome an athiest pagans thoughts on the so called 'supernatural' aspect of experience such as ghosts, spirits, etc

I know I've stated that I'm not atheist, but I thought I'd answer to this. I don't believe in the super natural because I believe everything is Deus Sive Nature - Nature or God - the terms are interchangeable to me, so if it happens, it's natural, if it's thought to happen, it's natural and if it's just a delusion, that's natural too.

 

If you practice meditation and you see it (or not as the case may be) as being linked to your beliefs then in what way does it enhance your religious (or non religious) experience?

I started meditating over ten years ago and originally it was an anger management thing. It was for use as a stress reliever and something to use to disperse the negativity I had inside me as a teenager. From there it moved on to being used for contemplation, stillness and oneness with the all, for which it's been pretty much a perfect tool which I haven't been able to fault. Although I wish I gave myself more time to do it, I have now become so tasty at it that I've meditated at a busy train station before, haha!

 

I dunno if this is exactly relevant to the thread topic but I thought I'd add - sometimes lately I've been wondering if ritual is more full and fulfilling if you're worshipping deities. Maybe I feel that way because polytheists always seem to have something to communicate *with* and feel kind of 'other' from in the sense that there's a dialogue with a real individual. I'm very passionate about several mythological systems as powerful groups of symbols and metaphors to define and untangle the divine and its mysteries. I see certain gods and goddesses as awesome representations of certain key energies within nature or lessons that can be taken from those energies, but I've been thinking that if I did see them as real, 'personal' gods that spoke to me and cared about what I was doing, maybe ritual could be taken to a whole new, deeper level. I do envy polytheists but I know I'll never be one. Pantheism is my sticking point. It's just what makes sense to me.

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fizzyclare1

in what way do you feel that pantheism and athiest paganism is distinguishable? I would be interested to know.

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fizzyclare1

does anybody feel that athiesm alone is to impersonal, too scientific to adhere to easily? Could that be the reason why athiest paganism is interesting to some - in that it permits the subjective self a greater degree of freedom to experience and to interpret that experience that is not bound by the scientific method? (i realise that athiesm doesnt necessarily equal scientific method but the two do interweave closely interms of finding proof of our belief system).

 

if so what kinds of subjective experience is 'permissable'? what do we count as evidence? which experiences would we discount as 'bunkum'? and others not?

 

For example, over the years I have been described (amongst other things) as a psychic and a witch, and i have explored these things and i can see what those people have been trying to say, but at the same time the labels dont seem to 'fit'. in fact, i havent found a label yet other than to say 'that rates a ten on my weird-shit-o-meter'.

 

I suppose the label psychic is somewhat clearer to explore, if not understand entirely given the amount of research done in parapsychology and such like. but witchcraft? hmmmmmmm....what constitutes athiest witchcraft and does it connect to athiest paganism? or are the two separate?

 

we have had many discussions on here about the nature of witchcraft and the closest i have come to understand it is a kind of an ability to manipulate an energy, to date (asfaik) there is no scientific evidence to support such claims so evidence relies on personal testimony (testimony, for example, is often used to support non scientific theories, one such type of research that springs to mind is psychotherapy. testimonies from case studies are often used as evidence to support a particular theory eg freud, jung, and so on.)

 

The second idea of witchcraft is some thing more than an action but is a state of being. A spontaneous phenomenon that may occur randomly in the human population. But what that state of being does, or how it manifests itself remains unclear to me. If you view witchcraft in this way i would be interested to know what you think.

 

mmmmmm....okay enough for now. all thoughts welcome. I would also be interested to know how non athiests see athiest pagans, what their personal definitions are. It would be interesting to see if there are differences between an athiest pagan's definition of it and a non athiest pagan definition of it.

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Guest Audris

in what way do you feel that pantheism and athiest paganism is distinguishable? I would be interested to know.

It's very late so I don't have my most intellectual head on and might do a half-arsed job of this but wanted to respond before crashing out..

 

Both atheists and pantheists tend to share a love of science and empirical fact and don't seem to generally believe that there is anything 'other' to what is, ie 'the paranormal' as though it's something that is inherently abnormal or ungraspable. The quest for understanding, rather than a rejection of understanding, is often high on the agenda for both parties. Also, atheists are not nihilists. All the atheists I know still consider life to be precious and the universe to be awe-inspiring and beautiful, they just don't necesarily consider a need to think of it as divine. They talk about it more as a happy accident but their response to it is actually not that disimilar to mine in most cases and only really differs in terms of our opinions on whether or not we should bother to revere it for being so awesome. (For example, the way I see people like Dawkins as having a spiritual experience when they consider the potentialities and realities of the universe, even though they don't view themselves as having one!)

 

I actually have one close atheist friend who regularly tries to tell me that I am really an atheist when you boil it down and that I'm simply engaged in a kind of 'sexed up' atheism, as described by Dawkins. In response I often feel, when listening to my friend talk about the universe or life, that he does actually seem to consider the multiverse as divine in some way but is probably too wrapped up in the idea that god has to be personal, interventionist and so on, and so wishes to reject any notion of divinity rather than accepting that my version of it is not anything like the theism that he so vehemenly rejects.

 

Another thing I'd add is that spirituality is often turned to in order to deal with stress, a crisis, confusion, alienation or bereavement. When people decide that they don't believe in divinity, that doesn't seem to mean that they can't take great comfort in the awesomeness of nature when they need to take comfort in something. Indeed, when I talk about my own insignificance in light of this vastness, how that comforts me but how it also makes my life feel significant in contrast, atheists tend to get that much more than monotheists or people who believe that the gods are interested in them specifically. Both atheists and pantheists are free of the need to know that they are individually watched over and engaged with. (I'm not saying that all people who believe in a personal god need to believe in it, but it's definitely a huge source of comfort to them whereas atheists and pantheists can both at least agree to subscribe to the idea that we don't long to feel singled out or special, but just to acknowledge that we are part of it although we disagree on what it is.)

 

I'll respond to your other post tomorrow :)

Edited by Audris

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tibbington

does anybody feel that athiesm alone is to impersonal, too scientific to adhere to easily? Could that be the reason why athiest paganism is interesting to some - in that it permits the subjective self a greater degree of freedom to experience and to interpret that experience that is not bound by the scientific method? (i realise that athiesm doesnt necessarily equal scientific method but the two do interweave closely interms of finding proof of our belief system).

 

.

 

we have had many discussions on here about the nature of witchcraft and the closest i have come to understand it is a kind of an ability to manipulate an energy, to date (asfaik) there is no scientific evidence to support such claims so evidence relies on personal testimony (testimony, for example, is often used to support non scientific theories, one such type of research that springs to mind is psychotherapy. testimonies from case studies are often used as evidence to support a particular theory eg freud, jung, and so on.)

 

 

I suppose some athiests are just that athiest. Like this is it, there's nothing else. But by being Athiest Pagan maybe they are admitting there something going on or going off in the universe which effects us all, but very much from a non deity prespective?

 

As for your 2nd point above I think that's a very good way of describing a Witch

Edited by tibbington

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Maeve

As for your 2nd point above I think that's a very good way of describing a Witch

 

 

*sighs* ........ if only it were so easy to define a Witch thus!

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fizzyclare1

where does my, admittedly vague and tentative description/definition 'fall short'? (it would be helpful to me if you could focus on athiest witch/craft - assuming you would like to say more - if not thats fine :) )

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Maeve

where does my, admittedly vague and tentative description/definition 'fall short'? (it would be helpful to me if you could focus on athiest witch/craft - assuming you would like to say more - if not thats fine :) )

 

Dear Fizz - wasn't criticising just amused that so short a definition will suit when so much has been discussed in threads various on here, about What is a witch / wiccan / Wiccan etc. Should have put a large smilie !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

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fizzyclare1

i didnt take itas a criticism (well, i did but not in a bad way, more like critical thinking, which i really appreciate). yea, i think you are right it was a short definition of sorts, i wanted something really concise and which was drawn from previous discussions, those two things (manipulating energy, and 'witch-as-a-state-of-being) stood out the most and tend to recur. I chose to focus on these two things:

 

Manipulating energy (whether in the form of healing, spells, embedded in ritual etc etc - list is v. long) has a purpose, a usefulness to a person in some way for something or someone. its an action with an intended conclusion (from what i can gather a way to bring about a particular outcome).

 

then there is the state of being, on the one side there is an explanation of inheritedness (my grandma was like it, my mom was like it....etc), and then there is the notion that doesnt rely on inheritedness, which is much more vague to me. but somehow the individual has acquired an ability to do xyz (insert ability of choice).

 

As a part of this is the particular ability (and here's where i sometimes wonder whether there is an overlap between 'magicalness' and what is commonly known as 'psychic ability') that the person is capable of.

 

To illustrate my problem, a freezing spell that is designed to 'freeze' some one out of your life, one could regard the action (eg collecting ingredients, the mini ritual that might be involved) as a way to drawing on energy but here's the biggy: From where? from the self? from a god/dess? from everywhere? from nowhere? Is the witch directing his own energy or tapping into energy of some kind that is other than themselves? is it external or internal?

 

I could ask the same question of psychic ability. if a 'psychic' can remote view (see a place through the mind of another) are they tapping into and directing their energy towards the other persons mind or are they connecting with something more?

 

I've probably raised more questions than i can really answer here, but as the thrust of this thread is about athiest paganism (with a detour in to athiest magic), it raises a thought. do non athiests believe their magic arises from a deity? or somewhere else? Furthermore, how do athiest witches explain the origins of magic?

 

Just to complicate matters, it maybe that athiest magic and athiest paganism are completely separate altogether. it depends on how you view 'paganism' - as a religion or an umbrella term for a whole array of minorities.

 

 

there now...you've set me off on one....lol

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fizzyclare1

btw if i havent responded to individual posts, its not because i havent found it interesting i have, contributions made so far have been absolutely fantastic and has given me lots to think about. please do contribute more if you wish.

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