Atheopaganism

An Earth-honoring religious path rooted in science

Building Community, Core Values and Leadership

Recently, the Atheopagan Society launched a new program for the community: affinity groups. These are small groups organized around topics of common interest or geographical areas, where Atheopagans can interact, learn, support and get to know one another better. They meet on whatever platforms they choose (or in real life, when safe), and are not moderated by the Society or by the community’s Facebook or Discord moderators. While we have provided forums for asking questions and seeking support, the groups are generally self-managed.

I have been careful since the time that Atheopaganism started to catch on with other people to stipulate that I may be the originator of this path and a leader within it, but I’m not the “Atheopagan pope”. By the very nature of our religious values, we don’t have one of those, and never will. I have seen what happens when people start accumulating power and lording over others in the Pagan community, and it is not pretty. It is a formula for corruption and abuse. If I have anything to say about it, it will never happen to us.

Still, I do speak up for the tenets that define Atheopaganism. There are beliefs and perspectives that fall within the definition of what constitutes Atheopaganism, and there are those which do not. If, for example, you don’t subscribe to a naturalistic cosmology, to the Four Pillars and the Atheopagan Principles, you’re not following the path of Atheopaganism. You may be some other variety of nontheist Pagan, but you’re not an Atheopagan.

And that is fine: people should follow the paths that work for them.

The point in making this distinction, though, is to ensure that the core vision of this path isn’t watered down until it comes to have no meaning. We have therefore asked that the founders of affinity groups affirm a charter which states that the group embraces the Four Pillars and 13 Principles of Atheopaganism, and our community conduct standards, as they launch their groups. Inviting the founding of affinity groups in this manner is a way for us to remain true to our vision of human agency and decentralized power, and also true to the values of the path itself.

We see leadership as a path of service, not authority or status, and so we celebrate the organizers of these affinity groups just as we celebrate Atheopagan clerics ordained at the Society website for their good works in the world.

Thank you, to each of you.

You can’t have a real community if you don’t trust and empower its members. I’m excited about the two affinity groups I have joined and wish the very best for the many groups that have formed thus far.

Onward!

Forming Atheopagan Affinity Groups

Recently, it was brought to the attention of the Atheopagan Society Council (including me) that some folks in the Atheopagan community are interested in starting their own Atheopagan affinity groups, which—at least during the pandemic—can meet by Zoom or Discord (or whatever platform they wish) and share fellowship, create rituals, kick around discussion topics, and support one another in their practices and in their lives. If the members live close enough to one another, perhaps after COVID has left us they could meet in person.

An affinity group is a small group organized for a particular purpose. These groups might orient around particular areas of interest or study: moon rituals, for instance, or Tarot, or astronomy. Or they may be from a particular city or region, or share an identity like being BIPOC or of the LGBTQ community. Or they may just be folk from all over who want to develop rituals and practices together and get to know one another better. You can promote your group (or idea for a group) in Discord, the Facebook group, etc.

I think the prospect of these groups forming is exciting! They will give Atheopagans more opportunities to connect with one another, learn, practice and share.

As Atheopagan groups, though, whose conduct will reflect on that name, and since they will be self-moderated, it is important that they formally commit to the ideas that define the Atheopagan path: a naturalistic cosmology, the Four Sacred Pillars, and the Thirteen Principles.

Accordingly, with input from the community we have created the Atheopagan Affinity Group Charter which can be downloaded, filled out, printed and signed (by hand or typed) as a founding document for your affinity group (Google doc downloadable as Word document; legal-sized paper). It includes the Atheopagan Community Conduct Guidelines, as well as some guidance on how to manage your group.

You don’t need to send it anywhere to “register”; it’s just meant to serve as a touchstone of root values for your group as you work and grow together, and to give you something solid to point to if someone in your group starts behaving badly. If everyone in your group has agreed to uphold Atheopagan values and conduct standards, it’s much clearer how to proceed if someone violates them. Good boundaries make for good relationships.

To keep a list of Atheopagan affinity groups, there is a shared Google Doc directory. Groups who choose to may add themselves with a contact email. This will create the opportunity for groups to contact one another to share information or rituals, or for joint meetings, and give fellow Atheopagans a chance to look up existing groups to which they may want to apply for membership.

Forming affinity groups will allow members of our community to practice, discuss and experiment together, and to build friendships.

If you have a particular subject matter, geographical area or just general interest area you would like to form an affinity group around, by all means announce this on the Facebook and/or Discord platforms with a call for folks to join you! Here is a guide to Founding an Atheopagan Affinity Group to walk you through the process:

How to Form an Atheopagan Affinity Group

Have a particular Atheopagan subject matter you would like to study or practice with others? Perhaps a ritual group, or book club, or Tarot group, or group for your local area?

Now you can form your own Atheopagan group: an Affinity Group.

Affinity groups are self-managed. They aren’t moderated by the admins or moderators of the Atheopagan Facebook or Discord communities. Accordingly, in order to ensure that those operating under the umbrella of Atheopaganism reflect well on the community, we ask that those forming affinity groups fill out and sign an Affinity Group Charter, which has the community conduct standards appended to it.

It’s a simple process:

  1. What’s the idea?  What is your concept for your group: the topic, practice or area you would like to share with others. Be specific. It’s okay if your group branches out into other areas later, but having a clear mission statement makes it much easier to get a group going.
  2. How will you meet? Zoom, Discord, a Facebook group, Mastodon, in person?
  3. Recruit your members. You can put out the word through the various Atheopagan channels that you are looking for members who reflect the interest or geographical area you want to join you. A good number to start a group is at least 6: enough for critical mass even if one or two don’t show up sometimes. Get both names and email addresses so you can invite them to events.
  4. Choose a name for your group. This can be the first order of business for your new group. Be creative!
  5. Fill out and have members add their names to the Affinity Group Charter. This document lays out what it means to be an Atheopagan and how we choose to treat one another. It protects the affinity group in the case of any future problems by making it clear that harassment and abuse are contrary to the affinity group’s values. Members joining later should also confirm that they endorse the charter to ensure everyone understands the agreements.

    You don’t have to register your Charter with the Atheopagan Society. It’s just meant to be a touchstone for the values and conduct we would like for our community to reflect.
  6. If you wish, you may add your group to the Atheopagan Affinity Group Directory. This is optional, but it can be useful if you hope to recruit more members. Atheopagans can look at the directory, choose a group they think they’d fit well in, and then get in touch to inquire about joining. Your membership policies are up to you (barring discrimination, of course). You don’t have to accept an applicant if you don’t want to.
  7. If you are on Facebook, please join the Atheopagan: Affinity Group Admin Support group at https://www.facebook.com/groups/632888007946317. This will allow us to support one another, share information and troubleshoot problems. If you are not on Facebook, please use the Affinity-Groups-Discussion channel in the Discord server for support and information sharing.
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