THE WONDER explores perspectives, rituals, and observances of modern, naturalistic, Earth-revering Neopagan religious paths. Naturalistic Pagans embrace the world as understood by science (that is, without gods, magic, or the supernatural), and enhance our lives with myth, ritual and activism. Hosted by Mark Green (author of ATHEOPAGANISM: An Earth-Honoring Path Rooted in Science) and Yucca (formerly of The Pagan Perspective YouTube channel, and of the Magic and Mundane channel). Named #3 in the top 20 Pagan podcasts for 2023! https://blog.feedspot.com/pagan_podcasts/
Monday Feb 13, 2023
Interview: Rana of the Atheopagan Society Council
Monday Feb 13, 2023
Monday Feb 13, 2023
Remember, we welcome comments, questions, and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.
Yucca: Welcome back to the Wonder Science-Based Paganism.
I'm one of your host Yucca.
Mark: And I'm the other one, mark.
Yucca: And today we are excited to have a very special interview. So we have Rana joining us.
Rana: Hi. Thank you for having.
Mark: Welcome Rana. Rana is a member of the atheopagan community and serves on the atheopagan Society Council. And we are, this is part of our series to help people in the community to become. A little bit more familiar with who's serving on the council and you know what their vision is for the future and all that good kind of stuff.
So we're delighted to be able to talk with you today, Ron.
Rana: Thank you for having me. I'm really looking forward.
Yucca: Yeah. Thanks for coming on. So I think, I mean, maybe a, a good place to start here would be with what brought you to atheism.
Rana: Yeah, so I was raised without religion and I never really related to when people talked about God or religion or having a faith. I didn't really have a reference for what that meant. My parents are not religious, and I remember them, you know, having negative views of religion due to hypocrisy and news scandals and stuff like that.
I'd been to a few churches as a kid for weddings and events, but I never really felt like I fit in there, didn't feel like it was something for me, and just didn't understand it really. And on top of, you know, Being the child of an immigrant from the UK and an immigrant from Iran, there have been a lot of places and times in my life that I felt like I didn't fit in, and religion just definitely felt like one of them where I accepted that I just, I don't understand this, it doesn't apply to me.
And I mostly felt okay about that. Many years later, I discovered the term atheist, and for a long time I have felt apathetic towards Philosoph. Phyla, sorry. Philosophical and theological debates about the existence of God or not, because it feels like it just doesn't matter to me. Bio. I like that term atheist, like an apathetic atheist.
I was really drawn to the paranormal as a child and I watched a lot of stuff related to that. I'm sure I saw a segment somewhere about witchcraft or Wicca or paganism, and I'm sure that embedded itself somewhere in my mind. , I was definitely drawn to witchcraft as a team. Many team girls seem to be, I've noticed, and it made me feel seen in a certain way and had a really big appeal for me that I couldn't quite put my finger on, but it just felt like something that I liked. Now that I'm older, I can see it a little bit differently that I think it's about power and autonomy. It's about discovering yourself, your body, your sexuality, how you process feelings, you know, getting into the psychological aspect of it. And so I only ever did things on a very casual, solitary basis, and I think I liked the sensory aspects more than the frameworks themselves.
I really enjoyed going to my local new age store, and I felt, I remember feeling really calm and curious when I was there. It just, it always felt like such an experience with the smell of incense and the gentle bells and calming music and being surrounded by books. It was just perfect for an introvert, shy, like kid like.
and it also felt like a place full of this esoteric knowledge, and I've been a very eager, lifelong learner. So the whole thing just really appealed to. , but I also feel like I spent a lot of those younger years searching and never quite finding whatever it was I was looking for. I never became involved with any other people or groups, and I always just remained on my own.
And in retrospect, I'm kind of glad about that just because I've heard so many mixed and negative experiences about folks getting involved in groups, especially as a young person. So, . You know, it's hard to say what it would've been like if I didn't get involved with the group, but that was just how it went. I spent quite a bit of my twenties being out of touch with anything spiritual. I held onto some interest in ghosts in a vague sense of paranormal, and I just kept this agnostic take on it. But perhaps there are things out there we don't yet understand, but I can't say for sure either way. What is the ultimate answer, ultimate truth.
Rana: I slowly became a more skeptical thinker, and I had one particular partner who really modeled that for me, and I'm very grateful to have adopted that mindset over the years. He was also an atheist as a rejection of a Christian upbringing, and I noticed a lot of my friends had a similar path. as I continued to grow and really just broaden my perspective of the world, I became very existential and got a starker, for lack of a better word, materialist picture of the universe, and that really strongly has defined my worldview.
Going forward, I realized I was an atheist and I felt an overall sense of clarity about that. Like it didn't feel like a bad thing to me. It, I felt good about it. But I didn't know any atheist spaces where I felt like I belonged or felt comfortable. It always felt like there was a larger interest in being angry and logical tends to be very male dominated, and there was just.
Felt like more debating than a feeling of building a community or building shared meaning together. I, I never quite saw anything like that happening. Many years passed, and then at the beginning of the pandemic, I sort of had a reckoning where I realized how important critical thinking and rational thought are to me. There was a driving force behind it with all the pseudoscience and conspiracy theories that were going around. The uncertainty of that time also brought witchcraft to the forefront as a trend again, and got me thinking about it a little bit more. And I started following some content creators. But I have a hard time trying to make that separation of just ignoring the things that I don't connect with.
And you know, like discussion of d d isn't magic for me. , it's, it's not very interesting to me,
Rana: and I found myself searching for ways to learn the taro. Without the supernatural aspect, and I didn't even know what to call that. I remember googling secular tarot, and I think I found one blog and it didn't seem to have a lot of content, and so I thought that just wasn't a thing.
I actually started to wonder if I should make it a thing . I was like, is nobody doing this
Rana: because I, I feel like I'd heard of the tarot being a psychological. Like having a psychological aspect to it. And I wanted to learn more as using it as a psychological tool and not for divination. I started joining some witchy subreddits and I eventually found the SaaS witches subreddit, which was forgetting what it stands for, all of a
Mark: Skeptical, atheistic agnostic and science seeking witches, I, I think is what that stands for.
Rana: Yeah, that's right. And I remembered seeing either a post or a comment about atheopagan and the name itself made me pause, like, whoa, I've never seen those two words together. What does that mean? So I looked into it and I saw that there was. The community and I joined the Facebook group and I was just really blown away to have both of these things that I was interested in suddenly crystallize and come together in this singular idea, which also had a whole community attached to it.
It really never occurred to me that these two parts of myself could coexist together. . And since it was the beginning of the pandemic, it was also a very particular time
Rana: And, you know, I remember challenging myself to just go to one of the mixers, peck it out, and I distinctly remember having a feeling of familiarity and feeling like I was in the right place.
It's a little hard to describe. But it's not something I feel too often. So it was notable. And you know, those video chats really became a very meaningful part of my routine, especially in the earlier parts of the pandemic where there was a lot of uncertainty and fear and a need to really process what was happening with other people.
And so I was really grateful to be able to do that. Like-minded folks who were grounded and rational and but also had warmth and just a sense of comradery. So, you know, overall finding the community was just this really big and refreshing change for me that gave me access to a community as an atheist and let me, Have my witchy interests, but stay aligned with science, logic, and reason, while also keeping the warmth of wonder and humanity, and I have yet to find that in another space.
Mark: Well, that's wonderful. I, I'm, I'm always excited to hear the stories of, you know, how people found us and what it seemed like when they got here. Yeah. That, I mean, from the, from that first mixer, it was really clear to me, you know, oh yeah, this is one of ours. .
Yucca: Yeah. So were there certain values that. that you saw that atheopagan had or the community had that really attracted you to it?
Or, you know, what, what was it specifically that really pulled you in?
Rana: Yeah, I know I mentioned like rational and critical thinking a little bit. I really respect the group's commitment to doing better and not doing things out of the name of tradition. I really love the social justice aspect of the group that everyone is on board with that, and I really appreciate that.
I've seen a lot of healthy communication. Positive healthy debate and also good conflict resolution and having that modeled for me and framed in a way that we're all learning and growing together. So having a little grace with each other, you know, cuz none of us are perfect. I also really value that it's a larger social space where our conversations start from having a shared world. like that isn't necessarily safe to assume from a lot of other spaces and sometimes I do forget that. I love that we're encouraged to question everything and overall there's this sense of a desire for knowledge and I love learning and hearing the things that other people are learning about and sharing.
Cuz a lot of the times it's something I would've never encountered on my own.
Yucca: Mm. Mm-hmm.
Rana: I also very much value it being a space to be vulnerable. You know, along with atheist and agnostic people, often not having a shared space with minded others and forming a connection. . I think there's a real lack of spaces to be vulnerable just in general.
And a place to share life's highs and lows with people who share your worldview. And you know, plenty of people find this through friendship, myself included. But I think it's different to have a larger community based on this. A community feels like a space where you're exposed to people you may not otherwise have a friendship or other connection. and I think those other connections are really valuable to expose us to the wider variety of people out in the world and subsequently their interests and knowledge. You know, like I said previously, I've seen. and felt a lot of vulnerability within the Ethiopia Pagan group, and I find that really meaningful to have a space to share and process things with others, knowing that they won't judge you and they may even have resources or similar experiences to share.
I love that Ethiopianism. Specifically death and pleasure, positive space. That feels really important to me since death and sex are fundamental parts of the human experience. And again, I just feel like we lack healthy spaces to process thoughts and feelings about that. And it feels like we're.
Pushing back against the over culture, you know, like we've, we've talked about before, just this overarching, the overarching social norms, especially of the US and we're just doing our best to live our values and also modeling another way of living. I've also seen how religious groups tend to give people a connection to community.
and I've always kind of envied that as a non-religious person, it felt like something I didn't have access to. And I see how those communities sometimes really bring someone through a time of need. And you know, I think there's, thinking ahead a little bit, there's also a sense of vulnerability that comes with.
I've noticed people become more religious as they age, and it gives them that connection and support from other people. But I also see this larger epidemic of loneliness in this country, and I think that can become worse frankly, as you age and especially. The people I know tend to not be having children, myself included.
So for myself, I'm the only child of immigrants who is not having children, and it feels really important for me to establish chosen family and meaningful social circles around me
Rana: ensure that I have that community around me as I continue aging. And I really want to be part of that support for other people as well.
Yucca: Hmm. That's really beautiful.
Mark: yeah. That's wonderful.
Rana: Thank you.
Mark: So. Yeah. I mean there's, there's just, there's so much there that you're, what you're expressing is a reflection of what I really hope for, for this community. You know, what, what I want it to be. And it's not that I don't think that it is, it's that, you know, being in the middle of it, I, I can't necessarily trust my own perceptions.
So it's very validating, you know, to hear you reflect that back. You're, you're serving on the atheopagan Society Council now have been since last summer, and you have some other volunteer roles in the community as well. What do you see as your roles for the community?
Rana: So, first I wanna say I was really honored to be asked to be on the council. I didn't. And I honestly didn't really understand what the council was until we talked about it more, and I got a pic, a better picture of what it means to be as a registered religious organization and what that entails. I decided to join because I wanted to be a part of creating a stable future for this community that I've come to really care.
For myself, I feel that I have a quieter form of contribution. I like to work in the background and I intend to contribute through planning, designing, strategizing, and creating structure. I have some experience with that from managing a small business, and I've seen quite a bit of crossover in how small businesses work and how.
The organization is growing and, and needing some processes figured out and things like that.
Mark: So as a member of the council what, what is your hope to bring then in terms of values, vision, I guess, I guess this can go into our next question, which is, you know, what is your vision for this community? Where do you see us going?
What do you hope for us? All that kind of.
Rana: Yeah. My vision is for the community to stay centered on the needs and desires of the community as it continues to grow and change a little bit. I think it's really important that it stays adaptable as it scales because it will become more complex and I'd hate to see. Anything fall apart just because there isn't structure there.
So this feels like a really good time that we're building that structure in really keeping things set up in an egalitarian way like we have discussed, and communicate our efforts to the community and make sure they're aware of what we're doing as a council and as leadership in general council and moderators for the most.
Currently make up the leadership and really keeping the conversation open. And I think staying open to new ideas and ways to go about this. I know we're not reinventing the wheel by doing what we're doing in terms of having a decentralized community that. Is trying to create that structure and I'd love for us to look at what other groups have done and see what's worked and what hasn't, and examine that and do our best to adapt that for ourselves. I've seen atheopagan have organic growth, and that's fantastic. People are coming to the community, they're connecting and resonating. And I think that's great. So from my perspective, the focus is really on just creating those robust systems to maintain what we have. Create that really solid foundation and be able to continue to scale and grow.
You know, we're an online community and the fact is, online spaces are always in flux. You know, imagine if the group started on Live Journal or MySpace, or even I, IRC chat. Because I've been a part of communities that were on those platforms and they're now defunct most part. And I think it's, it's just important that we remain adaptable in that sense, like technologically.
And I think that will be an ongoing exploration for us. And it's not just us too that are considering.
Mark: Yeah, I, I love your big picture thinking. You know, you, you, you managed to click back up and look at things from a high level, and that's so important. You know, it's, It's really easy, especially when things are happening so quickly, it's so easy to get kind of caught up in the minutiae and not, and not see that big picture.
And I, you know, I really appreciate that you, you bring that for us. You know, another thing that I was going to mention is that on our, in our adult salons that we do once a month, you've really been a rock with. Tremendous resources and a real wisdom that you bring to talk about all kinds of, you know, relational issues and just variety of stuff.
It's, it's really been great to have you in those spaces. And, and I know that you feel very strongly about how important it is to have those safe environments to talk about adult topics. So, just wanted to kind of. Give you flowers for that for you know, cuz I really appreciate, you know, how you've really taken that on.
Rana: Thank you. Yeah. I really value having that space and that directly ties back to what I said about vulnerability and something I didn't even get to touch on too is the idea of play. I really love that Ethiopianism is also about embracing play and levity and. Making sure we have that in our lives as adults.
That's something that I've found is really important for my mental health play. Can also relate into pleasure, but not necessarily. And I think it's just important to have that, that space for each other and, and that idea of a. Space is also something that's difficult to access sometimes. And I think sometimes people don't even know how to express what it is that they're looking for, but I think sometimes it's that, and especially having that with other adults where you can speak frankly and ask questions and not be judged.
Mark: Mm-hmm. . Yeah. That's certainly the vision of those spaces. And Once again, you've just been really remarkable with, oh, I have a link, I have a website, I have a paper, I have a guidebook, I have a book recommendation, I have a video recommendation. You know, it's like whatever it is we're talking about, I can count on you to , have something really, you know, quality, value stuff to bring to the table on it.
And it's it's really great. It's just really a great thing We
Rana: I'm honestly sorry.
Mark: We missed you last week.
Rana: Oh, I missed you guys too. Yeah, it's honestly really lovely to have a space to share all of that random stuff that I save and hopefully make a meaningful difference for someone else.
Mark: So, I mean, we've been working together in a variety of contexts for a while, but I was gonna ask Do you have any questions for us? About anything
Rana: Oh, I wasn't prepared for that question.
Mark: I wasn't either. It just showed up.
Rana: I don't think so. I mean, honestly I mean I haven't interacted as much with you Yucca, but I know Mark, I've spent many of afternoon of mine with you in the mixers and, and the adult salon and all of our like, various events. So nothing is immediately coming to mind.
Yucca: Just wait till we stop hitting the record button and then it'll all come Right.
Yucca: you wake up in the middle. Oh, I should've. I should've asked. Yeah.
Mark: Well, at any time, honestly, it doesn't have to be now. Any, any time.
Rana: Did you have any other questions for me?
Mark: I didn't, how about you, Yucca?
Yucca: Well, earlier on you talked in the beginning about different content that you had started watching and getting and interested in kind of before you had found the atheopagan community. Are there still are there particular content creators or platforms that you still really enjoy that you'd wanna share?
That you can think of,
Rana: That's a great question. I do find value in some of them. I am not sure that I would share them just because they think
Yucca: sound like you're
Rana: has a different.
Rana: Yeah, and everyone has a different comfort level with a level of animism or I hesitate to say woo. Some of it touches on that sometimes. I think it would make more sense for me to share it in like a more context dependent way, but yeah, I've occasionally found things here and there that I do have an easier time connecting.
just because I know that Ethiopianism exists. Like I've found my corner right? Because it, it felt a lot more lonely to be like, man, I like some of this, but some of this is just not for me. And. It's, it's just, it's really nice to have a place that I don't have to have that. Yeah. But feeling of needing to ignore certain parts of it because it kind of ruins it to a degree, you know?
Yucca: kind of increases that lonely feeling you were talking about, right?
Yucca: almost fit in, but you don't quite fit in, so it just kind of makes you feel a little bit more lonely, cuz you found the, you found it, but then it's not really, it's not really quite right.
Rana: and I've, I've felt like I've balanced between the poles of many identities over time. And so, like I said, it, it's always notable to me when I'm pretty distinctly feeling like, oh, I belong here. This is my, this is my place. So,
Mark: You know, I was, I was thinking about that feeling and that, you know, that that sort of like octagonal peg with a round hole feeling where it's like, you can almost get in there , but it's, it's not quite right. And it occurs to me that one of the things I think that makes atheopagan more able to be more of a complete fit for people than many other Pagan spaces is that we have articulated principles that, that we've got written values that we all cohere around. Because, you know, if you just run up, if you run up the Pagan flag and hold an event, You know, the, the value sets of the people who show up may be radically different, and in some cases, you know, they may just not be people that you want to hang around if they're neo-Nazis or whatever. So I, I kind of feel like, you know, we've, we've got this nice walled garden and we keep inviting more and more and more people in, but at least, at least there's an understanding.
You know, what you're expected to value. You know, valuing, respecting people and valuing critical thinking and you know, all those kinds of things. And I think it may make it a little bit easier for people to find that sense of belonging than some other spaces.
Rana: Yeah. I think that is where structure is really an asset to this group. I think you're really right that the principles were something that I saw quickly off the bat. When I learned about the group, it became very clear to me what the group valued and outright the rules of the group, and it reminded me of the principles of Burning Man, which are a little bit different.
That was a community that I was involved in and was really meaningful to me. And when I think back on it had a similar parallel of trying to find meaning and make meaning with other people without religion being a part of it. And I have felt that the increasing interest in events like that are.
Possibly because a lot of younger people are not interested in organized religion, and I think it's very natural for us to find those spaces to have connection and meaning together in a way that's bigger than consumerism
Rana: bigger than. Even just a, a friendship, which I'm not devaluing a friendship in any way, but like I said, I think, I think having a larger group community space is just a very different asset.
Yucca: Right. There's different ways of relating. There's, it's a different kind of connection. Yeah.
Rana: Exactly. Yeah.
Mark: Yeah, there's a whole, I've thought about this a couple of times and I've never written about it, cuz I can't quite get, I can't get a grip on it yet. I don't, I'm not entirely sure what I want to say, but the whole phenomenon of transformational festivals, Is a thing that's happening all over the world in Burning Man.
And the associated regional burns are an example of that. But I mean, it grew out of like rave culture in the nineties and it's hybridized with neo paganism quite a lot. There's a lot of people in those circles that are also involved with neo paganism. I just, I think it's very interesting. I, I.
Especially younger people are looking for meaningful, transformational, joyous, ecstatic experience, and they can't have that if they follow the rules of the over culture, cuz the over culture doesn't want them to have it.
Mark: So communities like ours that give people permission to seek pleasure as long as it doesn't hurt anybody I, I think, are, are a part in a way, even though, you know, when we had an in-person event in Colorado, it wasn't a rave.
But even so, I think communities like ours are kind of ongoing, lasting examples of how those kinds of values can be promulgated, and that's one of the reasons why I'm excited about.
Rana: Yeah, I've been very optimistic seeing so much increased conversation and discussion and normalization of things like chosen family, having a really intentional community of people around you and. Things like queer relationships, polyamorous relationships, and really building your social circle. And I think this is really kind of an extension of that and an opportunity to connect with others to keep building on that.
I very much value the friendships and connections that I. Through the Ethiopia Pagan community, and I don't know how I would've made those kinds of connections without it really.
Mark: It's good, it's it fit. That's just good. It's, it's, Yeah. I, I, I feel like we did something good.
Rana: We're definitely on the right path, I think, and it's a matter of. You know, like we're discussing right now with the council, coming up with strategy, figuring out what to prioritize in terms of I apparently need to think about this.
Yucca: Well, where to, where to put the, the energy that we have as, as volunteers that we've got a limited amount of energy, right? And, and where can that do the most? Where can that help the most? Where can that serve the most? And that's what we're looking to do, right.
Mark: Well, and one of the things that can really endanger organizations that are kind of in the startup phase is too many opportunities. You, you can have death by opportunity if you kind of go chasing off in all different directions. Reminds me when I was a kid, I have sisters who are twins who are 10 years younger than me, and inevitably when we were out in public, they would run in opposite directions you can, you can kind of get your energy scattered that way if you don't have priorities and a strategy for what you're trying to achieve. So I think it's really timely that we're doing that now.
Rana: And like you said, yakka, we're, we're making the most of having limited volunteers and, you know, always looking towards onboarding new ones. So creating a process for that and, and moving, moving towards that.
Mark: Well this has been a great conversation, Rana. Thank you so much for coming on the, on the podcast and, and for everything that you're doing for us. It's it's really a pleasure to, to serve with you and to
Yucca: and inspirational.
Mark: with you in the community. It is, it's really, Yeah, that, that big vision is really inspirational, so thank you.
Rana: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me on the podcast. I really enjoyed listening to this throughout the pandemic, and I always felt like I was listening to friends sit and chat over tea. Like it's really. Lovely, and thank you again , for the invitation to be on the council and to officially become a part of leadership.
It's been really wonderful to be able to contribute, and I'm really looking forward to seeing us grow and move forward.
Oh, I, I have to put in, I have to put in one plug. We are, we are doing a, a calendar project in the atheopagan communities on both Discord and Facebook. It's being coordinated by a community member named Ren, and we are accepting. Submissions for the calendar. We're going to print calendars as a fundraiser next fall.
So, if you are interested in contributing to the atheopagan calendar email us at the Wonder Podcast Queues the Wonder Podcast qs all one email@example.com and we'll put you in touch with the the people that need to, you need to be connected.
Yucca: Yep. Okay. Thank you.
Mark: Okay. Thanks so much.
Yucca: Bye everybody.
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