I would like to start by thanking a bunch of Atheist “Pagans” for elevating me to the position of the Great Grand Poopbah of Paganism. By reacting to one of my blog entries as a decree from on high that is essentially what they claimed. Interesting. Let's take a closer look at what they actually were doing. If you wish to elevate your own position and you are in opposition to someone else's position, it makes sense to elevate your opponent to make your own position more important. That was one element of what is going down in a backwater of Pagan blogs right now. By labeling the position of another a decree from on high, you are also attempting to silence an opposing position by attacking the very right to even hold that opposing viewpoint, or in other words expressing an opinion contrary to your own.
I've been around Paganism a long long time but because I rarely attend the “conferences” I wasn't particularly well known outside of a smallish group of Pagans. Until our somewhat epic battle with the Town of Catskill over basic religious equality, most Pagans never heard of our tradition, the Cybeline Revival or the Maetreum of Cybele. Hell, until we founded the Cybeline Revival, Cybele as a Mother Goddess avatar had pretty much been erased by the Catholic Church for 1600 years to the point neo-Pagan Goddess women had forgotten Her as well and never included Her in the recital of various Mother Goddess avatars.
“True Believer Pagans”This was one of the first labels applied to me by the opening salvo. Let's look at this one closer as well. First of all, yes, I absolutely believe in the Great Mother Goddess, belief in Her is literally the oldest religious practice in the world. So as far as that goes it is accurate. But what about the word choice? Ah, now that is a horse of a different colour you've heard tell about. Words have literal meanings, that is what you find in dictionaries but they also can carry emotional associations, especially in certain phrases. In Western Judeo-Christian world view, “true believer” is emotionally tied to fairly radical fundamentalist religious thought, very ridged and unyielding. Given this emotional loading it is not particularly surprising a person pushing atheism would go there. It carries a clear emotional context of belief the Mother Goddess is sitting up there on the third cloud over from Yahweh. Now there are plenty of Pagans who do in fact believe in the Goddesses and Gods in this fashion as it is basic human nature to personalize complex thoughts. As it happens, and as a mere fifteen minutes of reading the material from the Maetreum's website would have revealed, this is not how Cybelines view the Goddess. We see Her as eminent in all things in the Universe and teach that She is already part of you so you do not come to us for answers, but rather to learn how to connect with the Goddess part of yourself. Consistent with this, I personally, do not proclaim edicts from on high but make it clear if you want my opinions on spiritual matters, I am more than happy to share them but my opinions carry the same value as you paid for them....... and I do not charge anything.
So calling me a true believer Pagan was a duel edged deceptive sword. First it was done within the context of atheism to view any belief in the Divine as uneducated and unscientific as proclaimed by Mr. Atheo-Pagan, take a very real shot at those Pagans who do believe in personified Deities in that same light and then, having ridiculed that position, place me within it. This is about as dishonest a method of “debate” as it gets. To then go on and say I am the one tearing Paganism apart by expressing an opinion they do not approve of is just icing on the cake at that point.
What exactly is Atheism Then?
Apparently some of those declaring themselves Atheo or Naturalistic Pagans do in fact believe in some sort of intelligent Universe if I parse their writing correctly and that is the basis of claiming membership in Paganism. To that I say fine, I have zero problem with that position but what it is not is atheism by any meaningful definition. You believe in something, no matter how nebulous, that is greater than yourself and you are not an atheist, though you may be agnostic. If you don't believe in something greater than yourself, no matter how nebulous, and you cannot call yourself a Pagan. That is what my position boils down to. Why does it matter? It matters because the Maetreum just fought a long long legal battle to define Paganism within the law as a legitimate religious path. Atheism is the opposite of religion (I am not addressing radical atheists who are so hardcore they look like a fundamentalist religion) Why am I personally entitled to an opinion on this? I have occupied the identity of Pagan for more than fifty years, long before those attacking me have been on the planet, so yes, I get to maintain that identity and it's meaning. And it is a damn broad identity already covering Theists, Deists, polytheists and yes, even those like us Cybeline who are essentially monotheists. I stood up and was one of the few “out” Pagans back in the day when the police around the US had “Occult Squads” and you actually would lose your job if you were out at work. I reclaimed an ancient religious tradition, did original historic research along with my sisters in the process. We Cybelines fought a major legal battle on behalf of all Pagans. So yes, I have the right to hold and express an opinion on Paganism because frankly, I earned it.
The various atheists blogging about my little old essay are essentially saying they are entitled to express their opinions and I am not. That is the essence of their position.