I sure hope so since this is how I identify myself. At the risk of getting kicked out of the Atheist club, let me elaborate.

While my attempts as a child to believe in God like a good little citizen failed, my exposure to living science, quantum physics, seeing the universe and all that is in it as a whole lot of life-in-action, stuck with me. As I grew up and began to explore my world from the angle of all things being made up of the same 'stuff,' the known and even greater unknown interconnectedness and energy within this 'stuff' and thusly the interconnectedness and common DNA between you, me, my cat, my snake, a tree, a rock, the wind, an asteroid, a star, carried with it a lot more reason and beauty than “God did it.”

At the same time, I have learned indirectly on my own and directly from other sources a fair amount of meditation and self-control-through-the-mind techniques. Dealing with chronic pain, dealing with a weird but needed-to-be-dealt-with phobia, finding my own greater strength in martial arts. All of this involves a degree of grasping control in our own selves over things we and even the scientific community have yet to fully understand or define. An athlete mentally prepares and gets in the zone before the big game; visualizes the goal line, visualizes him/herself in top physical form. Is that supernatural hoodoo?

Likewise, while quantum physics, atomic energy and Unified Field Theory make perfect sense to me, they make for boring visuals when I'm trying to 'get in the zone.' I don't know what atomic particles look like. But, the image of Halle Berry in the first X-Men, vanquishing my inner demons much like she vanquished Toad, makes for a cool visual that my brain can definitely latch onto.

This is where practices of Paganism and even methods of Witchcraft come in handy for me. E.g.; I really need to be able to go to Dad's funeral without my sister driving me to insanity. So I find some quiet time, burn some sage or incense, create my sacred space, and envision a psychic shield around myself which my sister can not penetrate with her well-meaning but insanity-provoking behavior.

Do I literally think the sage/incense have mystical powers in and of themselves? Not really. They are pleasant aromas and ones both my conscious and subconscious mind have come to associate with relaxation and getting rid of the worries of the day. Plus, they carry a historical, traditional role in getting rid of the worries of the day, a fact which stimulates other parts of the psyche. Do I literally think I have created a magical, sacred space around me that looks like a light show out of a Disney cartoon? Not really. But what I have done is found a quiet place and filled it with pleasant light and smells; an act psychologically proven to enhance focus and concentration. Do I literally think I have created a physical, psychic force field? Not so much in the literal sense but what I am doing psychologically is tapping in to parts of the brain that I and modern science have yet to fully understand in order to try and make myself less-driven-insane by my sister when the time comes.

In other words, yes – there are bona-fide crystal crunching new agers out there who have replaced 'Jesus' with 'Goddess,' but otherwise little has changed. They literally believe in fairies and tree spirits and angels and that they are Princess-whomever reincarnated into the saps they are now.

But then there are some of the practices themselves: Respect for nature. Envisioning the tree as a living organism. Picturing the planet in terms of a collective, living organism. Wrapping one's mind around the concept that both I and the rock I'm sitting on are ultimately made up of the same 'stuff' (protons, neutrons, electrons). Envisioning the Unified Field and interconnectedness of the cosmos, attempting to tap into the coolness of that interconnectedness to somehow improve my own state of mind, awareness of the space around me, or athletic performance so I can win the game today. I've met many a Pagan/Wiccan who holds this point of view; that they don't believe in most of it literally, but rather as a psychological exercise that works well for them scientifically.

So, does that get me kicked out of the Atheist club? Or can one dance naked under the Full Moon or welcome the Summer Solstice from a purely beauty-in-science point of view?

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Ok, now you really need to introduce me to your like-minded-yet-single twin brother/best friend/Cousin/Whatever.
IMO, anyone who doesn't believe in a god is an atheist. Period. Even the Rallians qualify in my "atheist club" (although they do get asked to sit in the corner). I use some visualization/relaxation techniques also to deal with PTSD I got a couple years ago after some big crappy life stuff. I don't use candles or sage, but I do "clear my mind" and try to concentrate on my goals and desires. (For example, I act as if the book I'm writing now will be featured on Oprah's Book Club, because making a ton of money off it would rock.) But I don't pray, I don't ask Spirit-guides for help, and I don't cast incantations.
How does Paganism affect ones day to day life?
that's a good question. I use paganism, or is it (PanTheism?) imagery to help me be a more centered and present person. Meditation, focus, appreciation for all aspects of the natural world, these all come in to play in my relationships, my personal conduct, and in maintaining a healthy mind.
A calm and centered person, living in the moment, thinking rationally about the interconnectedness of all whilst going about the day is most likely going to be of help rather than harm. Therefore I'd say this philosophy helps me to be an asset. Being mindful of my consumption helps me see the delicate balance in life.
Nature-based religions are fine as long as you are doing it to celebrate your origins and commonolity (chemical, biological) with nature.

If you think there's some magic going on with fate, karma, magic, a personal goddess, tree spirits, then you're a woo-woo and you don't really qualify as atheist.

In the examples you mentioned, I think most of what you said qualifies as cultivating awe in nature. That's good (as long as you don't close your mind to the option to understand it all). For the 'proven psychological facts' you mentioned with respect to incense and mediation, just make sure you uderstand the line between science (chemotherapy), fringe science (petting puppy dogs), and pseudo-science (faith healing), and non-science (visualization). A lot of your meditation and visualization is in that non-science category of things people do but has never been much studied to understand how or why. I'd say 'tapping into the interconnectedness' pushes the boundaries a little, but you clarified it's not to influence the outside world, but just as an internal psychological exercise.

I would submit that your pagan friends might kick you out of their club for not believing in the magic and the fates and karma (rede) and all the woo-woo.

Jason Torpy writes: "I would submit that your pagan friends might kick you out of their club for not believing in the magic and the fates and karma (rede) and all the woo-woo."

Heh - I find it interesting (and disappointing) that some New Agers are just as resistant to scientific study of their phenomena as any other religion. That understanding how the rainbow works somehow robs the rainbow of its beauty and poetry. Maybe it's just me, but I think it only enhances its beauty and poetry.

And I do find some validity in Karma; "You get back what you put out." The woo-woo crowd tends to take it to a superstitious extreme. But in a rational sense, if I'm in a pissy mood today I can expect to get some pissiness back at me. E.g.; customers and coworkers pick up on my pissiness and deal with me thusly. Being pissy throws me 'off my game' so to speak and I'm more likely to slip and fall or drop things or forget things, which makes me even more pissy.

As to using such philosophies to influence the outside world, a good example from our collective childhood is that you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar. If I can get over my own pissiness and instead be extra-friendly to the angry customer, it is my best chance of diffusing his anger. Not guaranteed, but it's my best chance.

So to that end, Karma does hold some realistic viability for me. Some.
I'll second that Alex.

While I've run into quite a few crystal crunchers I've also run into quite a few Pagan/Wiccan/Etc who feel as we do here.

And again, the New-Agey sounding language and imagery definitely blurs that line for some. "Hot rocks massage" for instance can invoke a visceral reply that "Oh, so you think the rocks have magical, mystical powers and little rock spirits in them?" Sadly, the first to be sucked into this thinking are many of the New Agers themselves. Again, often ex-Christians still desperate to find their imaginary friend(s).

This makes it harder for non-theistic Pagans.
The problem with nature based religion is that it leads to conservationists and greenies who abandon science and take on the usual religious tendency to bullshit and tell lies for the sake of the greater good. Religion is believing what other people tell you to believe regardless of the evidence, this is not acceptable anywhere.
Yeah, just like the crystal-crunchers, there are environmentalists who take the concept to an unreasonable extreme. You won't find me going vegan and chaining myself to a tree in Oregon.

It also pisses me off when so-called "Environmentalists" know nothing about their subject matter.
I guess I would ask why purposefully confuse things. If you are saying that a tree has a life force, why not say it is "alive" as opposed to "has a spirit?"
Because "has a spirit" sells more books, CDs, workshops, and initiatory courses than is "alive".
Feel free to dance naked under the full moon all you like. What you describe is not religion, just spirituality and mindfulness as far as I'm concerned. I always think of Xmas as a celebration of the summer solstice - I'm in the southern hemisphere.




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