Paganism is Different

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S3E28 TRANSCRIPT:----more----

Yucca: Welcome back to the wonder science based paganism. I'm your host Yucca.

Mark: and I'm mark.

Yucca: And this week we have a really interesting topic. We're gonna be talking about. Religion in general, what is religion? What purpose does it have? And also looking at how naturalistic paganism differs from the, the big three in Western society.

Mark: Yeah, I'm really looking forward to this conversation because these are questions that I've spent a lot of time researching and thinking about parti. When I was first pulling the threads together, that would become Ethiopia paganism. Obviously when you think about, well, why do people have religion, then you have to start asking yourself what is a religion, right.

And everything sort of tumbles downhill from there. It's very interesting.

Yucca: Yeah. And you'll certainly get different opinions on what a religion is. We were talking about before this, how there are some folks who will say that they'll define religion in such a narrow way that really only Christianity, Judaism and Islam fit into the category. And they'll kind of ignore the rest of the many, many different possibilities that humans have, you know, just today, not even thinking about what we've had in the past and may have in the future.

But we're gonna be taking a little bit more of a, a broader perspective on that.

Mark: Right. Yeah. I mean, for those religious scholars and anthropologists of religion who focus down on a very narrow, definition of religion that only slots to those. Kind of major movements throughout the world. To me, that's begging the question. I, I think what we ought to be looking for is what are the human needs that are being met and by what kinds of mechanisms and how can we generalize about that into a definition of all of those kinds of behaviors and needs.

And crystallize that down into a definition for what a religion is that that's been my approach.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So let's get into it.

Yucca: Yeah, we should say before though, that we will be comparing a lot to those big three that we've been talking about and that's, you know, it's not to be picking on them or singling them out or anything. It's just that the societies that both mark and I come from are very steeped in these.

These are the Christianity has really influenced and shaped so much of our cultures in ways that we're aware of it in ways that. often, you know, unaware of as well.

Mark: Right because we are so. Inured to them. They're so normal to us that it doesn't even occur to us that it's possible to live any other way or to think any other way about the world. Particularly we're going to be talking a lot about Christianity because that's what the really dominant religion in the United States where both of us live, but.

A lot of what we're saying could also be applied in areas that are dominated, say by Islam or by conservative brands of Judaism or other faiths that share these kind of general characteristics. So it's not to pick on Christianity particularly. It's it's more to say this is what we're most familiar with and what we see.

Creating the subtext for the over culture of where we live.

Yucca: Mm-hmm right.

Mark: So let's get into it. Where, where should we start?

Yucca: Well, I think with, you know, what a religion is and the purpose of a religion, right. And those two are kind of blurred together. Right?

Mark: Right, right. And of course, depending on what religion you are, you'll have very different answers for that. Because if you ask a Christian, what the purpose of their religion is, it's salvation, right? You're, you're supposed to follow these rules and. Cate yourself to this God, and that will get you a ticket to heaven with various terms and conditions applying depending on what the faith specifics are.

Yucca: The particular sect within there. Yeah.

Mark: Right. But when we look at a, in a broader sense not religious specifically, worldwide. And over time we can see that what religion has done is provide certain things for populations of people. It's given them a sense of shared values.

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: It's given them a sense of community and connection with one another.

It's given them a way of making sense of the calendar in terms of celebrating a, a set of seasonal holidays around the course of the year. And it's answered big questions that That people ask, like, you know, why am I here? What am I here for? What's the purpose of living? What is, what is the nature of the universe even,

Yucca: I mean, it's, it's creating the context, right? It's how do we understand our context, us, our relationship to community and the world.

Mark: right, right. And. As we look throughout the world, we can see that people's spiritual expression. Does those things for them, no matter what kind of spiritual expression it is, even in monastic communities, their communities, right.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: Um, very, very rare to find people who are so monastic that they, you know, essentially go to a cave and do their thing by themselves.

Because humans are social creatures and mostly we like to feel connected with each other in some sort of shared. Enterprise, right. Some way of organizing our society so that we can eat and we can be safe and we can be happy as best we can. So. When I was studying all this stuff and, and I really went down the rabbit hole into brain structures and how the brain evolved that I won't really get into now, but the appetites of the various systems of the brain map, pretty, pretty well onto the things that religion provides.

Right. And. considering all this stuff. My conclusion is that a religion is basically a combination of three things. The first is a description of the universe or a cosmology, and that can be heaven and hell in purgatory and the, the, the world in between, or it can be a wheel of karma that you're trying to get off, or it can be.

The, the narrative described by science, which is the one that we subscribe to the, the description

Yucca: shifting and changing.

Mark: yes,

Yucca: Yeah. But we've got several standard models that we're working with at the moment. Right. And those get challenged and they change slightly. And.

Mark: right. But there's. There's a fundamental belief underneath that, which is that science, that the universe is a material set of processes, which are governed by laws and that those laws are consistent throughout the universe. And that we can understand them. and learn to be predictive of what's going to happen in a given situation, based on our understanding of how those material processes work.

That's a very, very different understanding than a, you know, super mystical Christian view where, you know, the mind of God is unknowable and we, we just never know what's gonna happen because anything is possible.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: Yeah. So. Cosmology is the first piece. The second is the set of values. Every religious movement.

Every spirituality, coalesces around a set of things that things that they think are right and wrong, things that they think are sacred and to be protected and revered and things that they, that they think are profane or or worthy of disrespect, not necessarily the last one, but definitely the first one.

And that's important because part of the way that you build community is by having people of like mind, right? I mean, we talk about a pagan community and you know, you're not gonna find any group that's really much more diverse than that. But the one thing that we do have in common is that most of us share a set of values around.

Independence around personal sovereignty, around consent, around equality around inclusiveness. And of course there are exceptions to these rules, but they are not the rule. They are the exception.

Yucca: Right. Well, and, and those particular qualities or properties when there's exceptions. It's usually there's one or two exceptions, but then the others are held, right.

Mark: Right.

Yucca: Kind of like a metal in chemistry. Right. You have all these properties, you remember in chemistry class that made you memorize, like, oh, it's conductive and it's ductile and all the, you know, there's but there's a few exceptions, right?

Mercury is liquid at room temperature, but it's still a metal, but most of the others they're, they're solid at room temperature. Right. So it's like that.

Mark: Yeah, exactly, exactly that. So you've got your cosmology, you've got your set of values. And then the last is a set of practices. And this is where a religion differs from a philosophy, in my opinion, UN under my definition, because a philosophy can have a set of values and a cosmology, and you can talk about 'em all day long, but that's not the same thing as a a.

As a religion, which has holidays rituals, observances modes of dress dietary restrictions, in some cases, all these kind of strictures around behavior and, and prescriptions of behavior. That go into a, a ritual practice. And so when I was creating atheopagan, this is the model that I used. The cosmology was the easy part because all I had to do was point to science and say, listen to them. The values part, I spent a lot of time on thinking about what the definition of the sacred is. And I came up with the four sacred pillars and then the 13 principles, which are ethical principles for. Best to live our lives.

Yucca: Which we have episodes on. We should revisit that soon. Actually. I

Mark: We should.

Yucca: We really should it's but because I think that would've, we were still the beginning of 20, 21, or we might've still been in 2020 when we did those, but the, yeah.

Mark: It's it's been a while. So the idea there, and this, this is something that was a little radical for the pagan world because the pagan world, people tend not to wanna be told what to do. They're very, very. know, reactive to the idea of anybody controlling them. So there's very little in the way of developed ethics in most of paganism at least modern Neo paganism.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: And I feel like lets us off the hook for having to be ethical people. We do have responsibilities to the earth. We have responsibilities to one another. We have responsibilities to future generations and we need to conduct ourselves in a manner that's consistent with that. And then there are also principles that just have to do with how to be a happy and a good person like Humor and perspective, for example, you know, being able to find the humor in things and being able to laugh at yourself are ways to stay humble and there are ways to enjoy your life and to be able to deal with hardship in a way that that lightens it to some

Yucca: Mm. Mm.

Mark: So that was the value system, the four pillars and the 13 principles. And then came practices and that's where the paganism part really came in with the wheel of the year holidays daily practices, observances of the cycles of the moon rituals, just for whatever purposes we need them for like a job search or.

Recovering from grief or Rite of passage to become, you know, to go from being a teenager, to being an adult, for example. And the pagan community really what's the word I'm looking for? Excels really excels at that aspect of religiosity because we're encouraged to create our own rituals and we learn to be really creative and effective at transforming consciousness through the use of ritual technologies.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So.

Yucca: We're often described as the religion of doing right. It's about what we do. And there, of course is the belief component. But the, the, one of the things that unites pagans often is what we do. Not necessarily what we believe.

Mark: right. What they call an ortho religion as opposed to an oxic religion. Right.

Yucca: yeah

Mark: this is very different than many of the. The predominant Christian sex that exist around us because they have prescribed rituals. I mean, the sermon may be different every week, but the ritual itself, the mass, all that kind of stuff.

It's the same all the time. And it it's very carefully stipulated. Exactly. You need to do at a given time of year and the priesthood don't have a lot of flexibility in that. Whereas in paganism you may not have priesthood at all, which we don't in atheopagan.

Yucca: Right. Well, I mean, anyone can become a cleric if they, if they wanna go to the website and sign up so that you can, you know, perform marriages legally and that sort of thing. But, but we don't have anything where. Anybody is in a higher position or any sort of hierarchy,

Mark: That's right. Yeah. The idea there is everybody should have the. To marry other people or conduct funerals or whatever, if that's what they want to do and provide that service to the community. But being an atheopagan cleric is a service commitment. It's not an elevation in status.

Yucca: Right. Well, you're not from a different cast.

Mark: No. And you're, and you're not a gatekeeper of secret knowledge or, you know, special rights that only you can do or any of that stuff.

We don't have that. Some pagan traditions.

Yucca: mm-hmm.

Mark: and that's, that's what they do, but it's not what we do. So that's what I think of when I think of a religion. And what I'm always looking for is can you think of any religious traditions or spiritual traditions that don't include those three things?

Yucca: No. I mean, I can think of. The one thing that I can think of that isn't, that doesn't usually get listed as a religion, but has, well, no, some of the, some of the philosophies kind of start to. Blur into that with particular practices. Right. But then they don't come along with Cosmo. I'm thinking of stoicism for instance, but stoicism doesn't come along with a, with a cosmology, but it comes a you've got values and practices, not necessarily holidays.

So, but in terms of something that is seen really as a religion all of the ones that I have exposure to. Seem like they've got something there. Now many of them don't have, there was something that you didn't say, and that was God's right now that may be included in some people's cosmology, but we don't think that you have to believe in a God or a deity to be, or the supernatural at all, for it to be a religion.

That's just one particular flavor of cosmology.

Mark: right. And it's the kind that has ended up dominating the religious spiritual space for thousands of years. But that doesn't mean that it's the only way to have a spirituality, which I mean, some people try to debate with, but we've got thousands of people that are practicing this thing.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: tell us that it's not spirituality or not religion?

Yucca: Or it's just spirituality at a certain point. Like I, for me, it becomes like a, okay. Fine. You can say we're not a religion, but I mean, we are like, you could say that we're not, but we are in, you know, we have legal status to say so as well,

Mark: That's true. Yes. We, we have been recognized by the internal revenue service as meeting the characteristics for a religious nonprofit organization. So,

Yucca: paperwork.

Mark: there, there is that. Yeah. I think one of the things. Religion and spirituality that it's always important to bear in mind when we talk about this stuff is that there are no universally accepted definitions for either of those terms.

Yucca: right.

Mark: And very learned people with lots of letters after their names, who specialize in these things, disagree, vehemently about what they need. So it's. It's not really our job to try to resolve all that. All I know is that of all of the spiritual or religious traditions that I have been able to learn about worldwide.

They've all had a cosmology, a set of values and a set of practices.

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: And in many cases that cosmology is populated by one or more gods or spirits or sacred powers of one kind or another. I'm thinking about the African diasporic religion with the law and I, I know very little about this, but those, I don't know whether those are considered gods or whether they're considered to be, you know, powerful spirits that we, we create arrangements with through our own ritual behavior and offerings.

But all of those are. Stories that we tell ourselves about the nature of the world. Right? And that's what a cosmology is. Science tells a story about the nature of the world. Just like all those other ones do. The difference is that science uses evidence and analysis and critical thinking to, to support the claims that it makes.

Yucca: Mm-hmm well, and one thing about the cosmology is that it seems to often reflect the political and social structures that the people. And I dunno if this is a chicken or egg sort of situation, but that the people are in, right. So if we are looking at Christianity and we're looking at the development of it and what parts of the world it came from and what the political structures were at those time periods.

Well, you know, it makes a lot of sense. I mean, the words even have, have carried over, right. People refer to God as the Lord. Right. And this would've, this is coming from a time period where people, you know, we had very defined. Cast system where we had the peasants and the Lord and you know, different names depending on what culture.

And I think that that's probably one of the reasons that it has one of the many reasons that that particular religion has been falling out of fashion the recent time is because our political structures are moving from. That there's the, the nobility and the peasantry. I mean, on some levels we have this extreme gap that's happening as well, but we just don't, but there isn't the loyalty to it.

Right. We're not loyal to our one percenters. We have very different feeling towards them. But that in the, in the past, there was, there was a reason to try and keep your, the, your peasants or country people. Having a sense of obligation and loyalty to the nobility.

Mark: Right. And I think it bears saying that that's not a coincidence. I mean, the religious systems that have been chosen by ruling classes in order to maintain the the. Their power is not an accident. Constantine chose to convert the Roman empire to Christianity. And in the process, he redefined so much of Christianity into an authoritarian religion that you were supposed to submit to.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: The and at its root. Almost all flavors of Christianity are still that ENT. They, they poit a ENT relationship with the divine or the sacred that we're supposed to bow down. And there's something wrong with us that has to be cleansed. And we have to seek salvation in order to get this stain off of us.

All of that works very well if you're the king.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Right. That works really well. If you get to decide who gets the thing that washes off the stain and who doesn't and if you're collecting the taxes, right?

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: So a symbiotic relationship between between religion and political power has existed in almost all places at almost all times.

I mean, I would say the same thing about Buddhism.

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: Because in the case of Buddhism, the entire belief is life is suffering. Learn these mental techniques so that you can suffer less.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: That's great. If you live in a completely authoritarian, totalitarian state, it it's not, you know, stand up and fight. Instead, it's sit quietly and learn these techniques that will help you not to suffer under this, you know, deeply unfair and oppressive system.

Now in modern times many Buddhist, especially in the west have adopted strongly political positions and they advocate that out of their values of things like loving kindness. And that's great. But when we look at the history of where it came from, I think it's fair to say that once again, it was a choice that worked really well for the ruling class.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Paganism is very different than that. Paganism is religion with agency. We don't see ourselves as. Sinful or inherently damaged. We don't see ourselves as needing absolution of some kind of sin.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: We see ourselves as beautiful and luminous and flawed and problematic, and everybody has their trauma and damage that they work to recover from.

And we all work to lift one another up as best we can. In order to achieve the, the actualization of ourselves as individuals and as a community.

Yucca: right. And we see ourselves as natural and part of this world.

Mark: Yes. And this world, is it for us, not an afterlife that you're trying to qualify for, or that you're afraid of. You know, there's, there's none of that extortionary model going on there. Some pagans do believe in some kind of an afterlife, but not to the extent that they're willing to you know, Have a miserable life in this life so that they can go to VHA that that's that's.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: That's just not the way that we approach these things. And I, I have to say just as a caveat, I'm generalizing about pagans. Now. It's very hard to generalize about pagans. There's probably somebody out there who's suffering for Valhalla, just, just to make me wrong. But generally speaking, what I'm saying here in my experience is what's true.

Yucca: That reflects my experience as well. Yeah. So we're making some big, big generalizations. That's it seems to be the general case.

Mark: So we really need to talk about this sin thing. It is profound. How impactful and damaging it is to people who live in societies that are dominated by the idea that people need some kind of spiritual washing in order to be okay. Can be I mean, And it permeates so much of our society. I mean, I, I think about Jewish mother jokes. Right. And they're all around guilt and you know, sense of, you know, I'll just sit here in the dark. Well, and then I'm gonna feel guilty because I wasn't sufficiently kind to my mother. Right. Idea that we should be living with guilt and shame and that our bodies are dirty and that sex is dirty.

And all of those things, we are just so awash in that, that we can't even imagine a society that where it isn't. So even for those of us that are living our lives, Explicitly not to be that way. We are still inside ourselves, struggling with some of that same shame, some of that same body consciousness, because we were steeped in it, growing up in this culture.

Yucca: Right. Yeah. Even, even coming from families that were pagan families or were atheists, right. It's just all around us. Right.

Mark: right.

Yucca: I mean, I can tell you as a child, how many times I heard someone go, Ew, that's so wrong. Right. That's just wrong. Right. Just about normal, you know, human things, right. Or, you know, you showed your shoulder.

Oh, no

Mark: Oh no.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Oh God. Yeah. And just because of, I mean, I was raised in an atheist household but. An extremely Sort of sexually phobic household,

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: shameful. I mean, I never even got the talk, right. A, a book appeared on the coffee table for a week and then disappeared. And apparently that was supposed to tell me about sex, but I never read the book, so I kinda missed out on all that.

I had to figure it out later. But yeah, you know, lots of shame, lots of just the usual kind of Protestant stuff. So that's one way that the pagan approach and particularly the non theist pagan approach really differs from these predominant religious movements that dominate. Our society.

Yucca: Right. Is that we're choosing to not use that framework. Right. Although it's something that we have to be conscious about because we're surrounded by it. We are, you know, we, we, it's part of the history that so much, so many of us come from that we can often fall back on it without even realizing that that's what we're doing.

Mark: right. And there can be added dangers because if you're sex positive, for example, but you haven't really got your mind around consent.

Yucca: mm-hmm,

Mark: And you still haven't figured out that you're still steeped in patriarchy. Well, then you become an abuser, right? You become someone who's who assaults people. So it's really important for us to internalize all of these things as a package, you know, recognizing the ways that things are distorted and rendered unfair and iJust.

In our culture so that we can be conscious about how we conduct ourselves, even in the context of being sex positive.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: This I think is, can be said to be. The big failing of the sort of sex free for all of the late sixties, early seventies. It was still very male dominated and the whole idea of consent culture hadn't really rolled around yet.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So there were a lot of women who ended up having experiences that they did not want to have. And Hopefully, at least we in the pagan community have learned since then. I've been encouraged to see so much emphasis on consent and and integrity around relation relationships and sexuality in the pagan community.

Yucca: Yeah. You know, that was something that I was so delighted to see at the sun tree retreat where consent, and I'm not even talking about sexual consent. I don't know. Maybe people were doing that. I didn't wasn't involved in any of that, but, but it just feel like may people, it was just so normalized where people, you know, asked permission to give a hug.

Right. And I had my, my. My oldest child with me there, and nobody touched her without her permission. I watched over and over again, and that's not something that happens in our normal culture. People just think that they can touch a kid without the kid's permission. They might ask me as the parent for my permission, which is somewhat bizarre to me that.

I mean, I appreciate asking the parent, but it's actually the kid who it's their body. Right. Whether you can, you know, pick them up or hug them or hold their hand, or, you know, you ask the kid. And that was something that, that just was so normalized at the sun tree retreat was just delightful to be around like, oh, I just feel so safe with all of these people.

Like everybody is really respectful of that. And it was just, and it wasn't awkward, right. Because the first time we try and start making changes in a culture, it feels weird and awkward,

Mark: It does.

Yucca: right. To be like to stop and ask before you touch somebody, if it's okay to do so. But, but we've made that not awkward.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah, that was lovely. I, I really appreciated that too. You, you touch on a subject that I think is another major difference between the mainstream religious traditions and. Hours, which is the possessory model

Yucca: Right.

Mark: because in UN under patriarchal religion, children are possessions and women are possessions of men.

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: And I mean, that's just all very awful, but in my opinion, but that's. The way it rolls and that possessory model extends to the entire rest of the world where life becomes something where of wealth or goods or particular desired things becomes the purpose of living and. And worst of all, in my opinion, land ownership,

Yucca: Hm.

Mark: I, I have a real problem with the idea of land ownership.

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: I, I don't think a human should own anything that outlives that that's, that's going to be around for billions of years after they're gone. And I know that that's the model that we have and, you know, that's how capitalism works. Everything is a possession. Everything is a commodity to be bought, but in my own experience if land is in the commons and we're all responsible for taking care of it, and we have an, an internalized reciprocal relationship with the earth, I think we just end up in a much better. World,

Yucca: Hmm.

Mark: but of course that's just a thought experiment on my part. They were, they were doing it here in the Americas before settlers got here.


Yucca: It depends on which group, but yeah, right there was, there were, there were and are many, many different tribes. Yeah, I mean, that's a, that's a whole nother topic. That'd be interesting. There'd be a lot to, to sort out with that.

Mark: I mean, it's, it's tough because you have well-intentioned land stewards. Right. And you, you want them to be able to be the people that are managing lands because they're doing it well. Right. Or at least they're trying to be doing it well, like the national park service which sometimes does it well, and sometimes does it not so well, but it's

Yucca: we're private folks. Right? Right. Like I work with a lot. I mean, myself, I'm a landowner and I have a lot of, and I work with other landowners and in working on restoring our ecosystems and, you know,

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: there's also, there's a. There's also a, a risk when things are sometimes what everybody is doing, may not always be the wisest thing to be.

Mark: Yeah, fair enough.

Yucca: There's, you know, there's certainly certain, you know, health or so-called health and political movements that are happening right now in certain places and not in others. And some that I look at and I go, whew, I. I think you're off.

I think you're really off. I don't think that that's what the sciences is that there really isn't good evidence for that. I think the science is being misrepresented and yet things are being forced in one way or another. The part of the world that I'm from. We, we have had traditions here for hundreds of years and had people come in with very strong ideas about what we should be doing with public lands and not, and, you know, killed very old traditions.

Right. You've got people coming in and thinking that that you shouldn't be that cattle on the land is bad. Just universally, no nuance there. Right. And then peop and then the people who've been doing it for hundreds of years, can't do it anymore. And their, you know, their livelihoods and their culture and their traditions have just been taken away because people came in and who were outsiders?

Frankly, right. They come in from Northern California and from all these other places and go, you're doing our way now. And then they split anyways, they're gone. Most of the people who made those who made those rules, aren't even here and leave the, the destruction in, in their wake. So I, I hear on the one hand what you're saying that I think that it's a, that it's a very tricky matter,

Mark: Well, I agree. I agree. And it's always. Once again, you know, the, the other big aspect of the over culture, other than the religious overlay and all the sort of value pieces is capitalism.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: And it's very hard for us to imagine any other system than capitalism because we're steeped in that too. And it's a fair question. Well, if you're not gonna have capitalism, what are you gonna have instead?

Yucca: and how are you gonna transition there

Mark: Right. And how are you gonna get there? And that's, it's a legitimate question and I don't claim to have all the answers to that. What I know is that, you know, especially here, you know, watching what happens here in California, where we're so populated, you know, every, every. Get rich, quick developer wants to grab parcels on the edge of cities so that they can throw up some kind of quick, make a buck project and then head out of town.

They're not gonna own it. They're just gonna throw it up and sell it. And, you know, we lose a lot of farmland that way. We have whole huge sprawling cities built on top of some of the finest farmland in the world.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So. I don't know. Yeah.

Yucca: a pretty impressive fault line too.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: I might not be the, just putting that out there might might be maybe someplace that you might wanna reevaluate where you're putting large population centers. That's another question looking at well then where, where do you put large populations that

Mark: Well, you D well, you don't put 'em somewhere where you don't have any water. That's that is where I would start.

Yucca: that's a, and that's gonna be a problem in the area. We are look at it with the developments going up here and going, but there isn't you're you literally will not have water in 15 years. Like, what are you doing? Right.

Mark: Yeah.

Yucca: So,

Mark: Yeah. We're gonna see suburban ghost towns. I'm sure. In places that just simply can no longer serve water to the, the people that they're under contract to. Okay. But we're, we're a.

Yucca: off the field. Yeah. And, and I should say, I did mention, you know, I. I actually do level folks in Northern California, but that was, that is one of the specific areas where we've had issues, where people come from a very different cultural area, very different attitudes, access to resource and money.

And then, you know, come here, make a bunch of changes and then split to the next new, cool place to be in. And. Know, those of us who were just kinda left behind, like, oh, thanks. that? Okay. You just you know, tripled our property taxes and priced out of our own town and destroyed our livelihood stake. So yeah.

Mark: Let's go back to religion.

Yucca: Religion. But the, the attitude, some of those attitudes, I think. They come out of our, what we've been talking about with the religious cosmology and the political systems, which informed those cosmologies

Mark: Yes. Yes. I really think that's so, the, the very concept of democracy struck right at the heart of the domination by Christianity of the west.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: Um, the, because of course the. The core principle of political rulership in Europe anyway, was the divine right of Kings, which was a declaration that was made by first the Catholic church.

And then, you know, church of England and whoever that the

Yucca: Jesus said give onto Caesar. Is that where they were getting it from?

Mark: I have no idea, honestly, I don't, I don't know where it comes from, but there was some kind of I rationalization and that, that if your king is cuz God wants you to be king and therefore the structure of our society unfair and oppressive as it may be is God's will.

Yucca: Mm-hmm.

Mark: And the idea of democracy really strikes.

The, the foundations of that. And as problematic as the founders of the United States were in so many ways and as

Yucca: Even for their own time period at many boy.

Mark: yes. In, in some cases, even for their own time period nonetheless. What they chose to do in setting up the United States was really very radical at the time. Now it it's not radical anymore.

It needs a refurbish, but at the time and of course it was an inspiration for the French revolution.

Yucca: mm-hmm.

Mark: Which was also seeking to overthrow specifically the domination of not only the royalty, but of the clergy class the, they, they very much called out the churches as being culpable in the oppression of the people.

Yucca: Yeah, it's a really interesting time, period.

Mark: Very.

Yucca: I mean, I think most time periods are interesting, but there's, there was so much change. Happening in the Western world at that point.

Mark: Yes. Yes. And unfortunately what ended up happening was that they ended up with a dictator, but eventually they became a democracy and now Francis in reasonably good shape overall in terms of actually having a functioning democracy, of course, they've got a weird fascist part of their country that wants to vote.

Marine Lappen. But other than that, but I, I digress. I digress,

Yucca: gone on one tangent already.

Mark: right. Let's okay. Let's leave it there. So when we talk about paganism, really what we're talking about is a, a radically different way of understanding ourselves, our relationship to the world, our relationship to our society around us and how. We envision an ideal world, all of those things. And it took me a lot of years to kind of soak up all of those things because you know, a lot of it, it's not like there's a book, there's no secret text in paganism. That'll just tell you, well, you know, here it is, this is, this is how we understand the world. And that's part of the reason why. You know, it's good for us to do a podcast like this to sort of spell out, you know, this is how we have come to understand living as pagans in the United States confronted with the issues that all of us confront.

Yucca: Right. Well, and we should, at this point, say we do not speak for all naturalistic pagans. We don't speak for all athe pagans. We're, you know, We can talk about general themes that we see in most people or most atheopagan. But, but again, we're two people, right? And that's a, that's another big difference is, you know, we're mark.

You're not the, you're not the Pope of, of atheopagan. Right.

Mark: I'm the Nope of atheism

Yucca: And, you know, there is a, there is a atheopagan society council. And, but again, we don't have the that's that's like you were saying, those are positions of service, right? That's that's, those are jobs that we're doing to try and help the community. Not because we're bossing and making decisions for everybody else.

Mark: And that's a part of the core values of paganism is that we value diversity. And in valuing diversity, that means that we have to acknowledge that we're not all going to get into lockstep in March. Now hopefully we can agree about some common ideas and you know, proceed from there in order to help improve our world and to have good lives.

But we also have to acknowledge that there are gonna be people on the fringes that disagree with us about core stuff. And they're still pagans.

Yucca: Yep.

Mark: They're still, you know, they're still doing rituals and maybe they're worshiping gods or, you know, observing the wheel of the year, whatever it is. You know, we're not, we're not trying to gate keep people who don't fit our model.

Yucca: Yeah, well, and there's, there's a good cautionary tale about being in lockstep. There's a bridge in R. Which is a city in Southern Spain, and it has a very famous, beautiful bridge. And it's the stone bridge. It's amazing. It goes across this huge Gorge, but it's the second bridge that was built because the first bridge that was built, they went across, there was a procession.

I think it was Simon. And they, the bridge collapsed because everybody was in step when they went across the bridge

Mark: So they hit the residence frequency of the bridge

Yucca: it collapsed. Yeah.

Mark: it to death.

Yucca: Yeah. And so when they rebuilt the bridge, they built the most overdone, its beautiful stone bridge. It's huge. Really look it up. It's just amazing. But

Mark: It's gorgeous.

Yucca: okay. Yeah, I lived there for a year. So walked across that bridge, you know, every day just stunning, but yeah, the first bridge came down and that's not, you know, there's warnings about other bridges.

They tell you don't do that. When you go across, you know, you have to, don't be in step.

Mark: The Romans learned this they, they had outstanding orders that their legions had to break step to cross bridges.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: and it's still a military thing today. You know, if you're gonna cross a bridge, you do not March across because you never know if you're gonna hit the wrong frequency and knock your bridge down.

Yucca: So, bring that back as a metaphor of, you know, I think it's probably a pretty good thing that we aren't all in step with each other because we could, you know, we could hit that wrong frequency. So

Mark: Yep. Yep. So what else did we have on our, on our

Yucca: You know,

Mark: of things to talk about?

Yucca: we had to put as a category to talk about specifically how we differ from Christianity. But I think we've really been covering that. We kind of woven that in. Is there anything else that you wanted to mention specifically about that?

Mark: Not, not that I can think of except insofar as acknowledging religious trauma.

Yucca: Hmm.

Mark: A lot of people arrive in both atheist spaces and in pagan spaces, having really been wounded by their experience with mainstream religions. Because they've been told that they're valueless and that they're tarnished and that they're That, that their only value is as a servant of God and that they're sinful and all those things.

And in many cases, and particularly people that are marginalized you know, who, who can suffer greatly at the hands of mainstream religion. And I just feel like. It's important for us in the pagan community to acknowledge that this is happening and to do what we can to provide resources for people so that they can heal. When I've attended atheist conferences, what I've seen is a lot of angry people who just wanna argue against religion

Yucca: Right,

Mark: and, you know, having never been. A Christian or, you know, a member of any of those religions. I don't have that injury. And so my question is always, okay, well, so we're atheist now. What,

Yucca: right.

Mark: how do we live?

How do we be happy? What's important. What, you know, what do we do?

Yucca: Right.

Mark: So, I really encourage our listeners. If you feel like that woundedness describes your situation, there are organizations and we can put a link in the show notes for people who are recovering from religion to get help and you know, really welcome you to our communities, if you choose to be in them.

And Hope that you will find yourself feeling better about that stuff soon and able to move on into a better part of your life.

Yucca: Right. Well, and that's also something to emphasize that we don't believe. What we do is necessarily the best fit for everybody, right? We're not worried about converting anyone. You know, we wanna be welcome welcoming and inclusive and invite, but certainly we have no interest in trying to go and. Make you believe the way we do or change your opinion on this or any, you know, this is, you know, this is by, this is a at will thing that we're doing, right.

You're invited to join us and we'll love if you do, but if you don't, that's fine. Right?

Mark: As, as, as people have sometimes said, if you don't like it, you can't have any

Yucca: And so, well, This has been a good conversation.

Mark: Yeah, I think so too. Thank you, Yucca. I really enjoyed kicking this around with you and I imagine we'll get some interesting feedback as always you can reach and thank you so much for listening. We'll see you next week.

Yucca: By everyone.


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