Is Atheopaganism Political?
People’s relationships with the world of public policy, elections and world affairs vary widely. For some, they are background noise, irrelevant distractions to the matters of their own lives, beliefs and practices.
There are many Pagans like this. While they may espouse political opinions or share memes on Facebook, they’re not doing much to change the world through political or activism channels. Some of them don’t even vote, expressing the bizarre idea that by refusing to take a stand in an election, they are somehow taking a more important stand in a larger context. (Personally, I don’t get it. I don’t see how one can believe that doing nothing is doing anything but endorsing things as they are. Myself, I’ll take every tool available, thanks very much.)
Atheopagans are practical people. We understand that the world is real, and finite, and that its systems are fragile. We respect science and listen to its warnings. We know that there are no gods or magical processes which are going to bail us out from the inevitable results of our actions here on Earth. Nor is there an afterlife to save our bacon if we make the Earth uninhabitable.
So is Atheopaganism political? I believe it certainly is. I don’t see how one can be in this world, at this time, with Atheopagan values and not feel a deep call to action.
Atheopaganism is about unflinching attention to what is most likely to be TRUE: the usage of critical thinking, science and evidence-based analysis to draw the most reasonable conclusions from the available data. Anyone using such an approach can clearly see that we are in dire times. Times which confront our species with threats such as it has never seen before.
In times like these, I believe it is our moral obligation not only to revere what is sacred—Life, Truth, Beauty, Love—but to act in a manner that increases the odds of these persisting in the future. In my particular case, that has meant a lot of grassroots organizing, electoral politics and lobbying.
But that’s only one channel: consumer choices are deeply important as well. Other than consumables like food, I buy nearly nothing new; with a little effort, one can dress well and even professionally with used clothes exclusively. Nor do I find the need to consume much stuff: I’ve felt I have more than enough stuff for many years now. Even when I replace my phone—when the old one dies—I choose a dated model which is no longer in production from my provider, or I buy a used replacement.
Litigation has its place; direct action to protect resources and build public attention until institutions that hold power can be convinced to reverse destructive decisions has its place as well. And while I am deeply skeptical of its ability to gain any serious traction, hacking away at the roots of capitalism itself–through creation of alternative models, organizing shareholders, and direct action–also holds a place in this “ecosystem of activism”.
Some of these activities may seem more like feelgood gestures than powerful strategies to change what happens to the ecological webs of the Earth. But that doesn’t matter. At this point a kitchen sink strategy is required. We must vote, we must organize, we must lobby, we must obstruct, we must educate, we must implement through action our love of the world.
Regrettably, in this country our political parties have so polarized that only one of the two real parties—by which, I mean the parties that can actually attain power, rather than going through the motions as also-rans—is EVER the right choice when it comes to caring about the Earth, about supporting love in all its forms, about advancing principles of justice and equality, about making decisions based on what is true rather than ideological nonsense. That is the Democratic Party, obviously. It certainly has its flaws, but so does everything else that exists in the real world.
We’re not here to hold our breaths waiting for unicorns and magic bullets we can endorse with wild enthusiasm. We’re here to make things better, even if only by a little bit, with every volitional action we take. Once we’ve elected someone with more or less decent values, it’s on us to ride that person with our committed and concerted voices to ensure they do the right thing. And if they fail us once in awhile, it’s on us to understand that no one is perfect, nor can anyone be expected to be. There is a technical term in the political world for tossing in the dumpster someone who is with you 90% of the time because of the other 10%: “suicide”.
Does the urgency of the situation mean that we should give up on such approaches as “too slow”? No, I’m afraid not. Because if positive change at a broad scale is going to happen, it is going to happen as a result of decisions made within the channels of power. It is going to happen because those channels have chosen for it to happen. And that means we need to show up, keep the pressure on and make it so. It is a pleasant fantasy to believe that “if the people just rise up” all wrongs can be righted, but the truth of the world is that some people have more power than others, and they must be cajoled, wrangled, and cornered into doing the right thing, if it is to be done at all.
I worked in politics on behalf of the environment for a long time. I’m a bit more removed now, but the organization I work for now has direct beneficial impact both on the environment and on local communities, and that matters a lot in my book.
Not everyone is going to devote their career to the Earth as I have, but everyone can do something. Write a letter to the editor. Register people to vote. Volunteer for a campaign. Call your local, state and federal representatives—don’t be intimidated, they work for us.
Go to a demonstration. Lead a boycott. Volunteer for a phonebank. Work a precinct.
But do something. Say something. Take action.
In the name of Life, and Love, and Truth, and Beauty, let it be so.