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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, now of the Magic and Mundane channel).

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Perspective, Praxis, Inclusiveness, Legacy, and Responsibility

June 7, 2021

Remember, we welcome comments, questions and suggested topics at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com

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S2E21 TRANSCRIPT:

Yucca: Welcome back to The Wonder Science-Based Paganism. I'm one of your hosts Yucca.

Mark: The other one, Mark.

Yucca: And this week we are. Continuing our conversation on the atheopagan principles. So we talked about the first four last month, several weeks back, and we're going to get into the middle ones into the next five now. 

Mark: Yeah. And to start with, we should give a little background on where these come from. As we mentioned in the previous episode that we did addressing these principles, these are principles that I developed based around the four sacred pillars of atheopaganism, which we did an episode about a little while back They are basically guidelines for living well for being a good person and having a good life.

And There are non theist pagans who don't consider themselves atheopagan and they may subscribe to other ethical structures, but generally these are pretty common sense. Pretty progressive modern values as opposed to say bronze age values that you find in the Bible.

Yucca: Exactly we, and as always, we certainly are not presenting these saying, you should believe the way that we do or anything like that. But, but th this is really talking about these values is really important and brings up the opportunity to really think about what we believe and how we want to be and behave and act in this world. 

Mark: Yes. Yes. The. I've talked about this before, but I'll, I'll touch on it a little bit. Now, one of the things that has always struck me about modern Neo paganism generally is that it is a little scant on ethics. There's a lot of emphasis on I have my rights and I I'm free to do whatever I want. If it's my will, I'm going to do it.

But there isn't very much on associated responsibilities or on guidelines for what to do and what not to do. And a religious framework really benefits it's practitioners by having that kind of guidance. Now we're all free beings. We can all make decisions for ourselves in any given situation about what to do and what we think is right.

But these guidelines, I think provide a useful illumination of what's most likely to work out well for ourselves and for the people around us.

 

Perspective 

Yucca: exactly. So let's, let's get into these, the first we'll be talking about today, but the fifth on our list of 13, I mean is perspective, one of the things that you did that I really appreciated was you wrote a little sentence, a little explanation afterwards, and for perspective, you have have perspective.

I laugh a lot. Including myself. 

Mark: Yeah, because. There is such a danger in taking ourselves too seriously. I mean, life is both a comedy and a tragedy, but more than anything else, life is absurd. The, the various ironies of things that happen to us and the, just the general weirdness of, of. Of living this life is something that we can either weep about or we can laugh about.

And I think that it's a part of that fourth principle of humility to be able to look at ourselves in our behavior and get a good chuckle out of there I go again, meet me doing the things. And it's just funny. It's funny. And I don't mean that in a mocking way. I mean, it, in a kind way, I think that the ability to laugh at ourselves and to gain some perspective about the human story, the human condition is really important as a part of our, our ethics as we move through life.

Yucca: Yes.

Yes. And also another. Another way to come at. This is being aware of different perspectives. When it comes to interpersonal relationships, being able to recognize that somebody is coming from another perspective and that perspective can also be valid. Now, this may be humans to humans. This might be your romantic partner or a family member, but this can also be perspective between different species and why certain creatures are going to act a particular way around us And why they aren't.

I was having a conversation with my four and a half year old this morning about why the birds would fly away when we'd go near them. Yeah, she keeps telling them, we're not interested in eating you. We're not going to eat you. We're not going to hurt you. And they still fly away. But being able to recognize that, oh, doesn't matter what we say.

Their perspective of the world is a very different perspective of the world. They have to fly away, right? They, they live in a world in which things do want to eat them.

Mark: Yes.

Yucca: this is a very cute example of it, but we can apply this to anywhere in our life and being able to step back and have that perspective can be really very, very helpful in avoiding a lot of, of stress and worry that could build up on us.

Mark: Yes. And I think also it there are times when we're interacting with other people and we see them carrying out a repeated pattern that they may or may not even be aware of. And there's a certain amount of generosity and compassion that goes into saying, well, okay, That's that's Doug doing that thing that Doug always does.

And to be generous about it, to be kind about it rather than, oh, there it goes, Doug again, and, and, we, I hate that. It's just. Better. I think that we try to see things from different points of view and that we have a healthy dose of humor as we do so.

Yucca: Yes. And not saying that we have to agree with someone just because we can see it from another perspective. Doesn't mean we have to condone it or accept it, or, but, but understanding it and having that. That generosity that you're talking about. 

Mark: Right, right. I mean, one of the things that strikes me as uniquely characteristic of the dominant religions of the world is how humorless they are, how unwilling they are to poke fun at their own rituals and their their theology. You start doing that and you start getting accused of blasphemy.

It's all so damn serious. Yeah. Yeah. As, as people who are pleasure positive, which means that, which is a later principle that we'll get into in another episode, as people who are pagans, who are celebrating this life, I think being so sour faced about it all is just really a mistake. And it really encourages people to

to put on airs and kind of think more highly of themselves in their practices than is really necessary.

Yucca: And it's that seriousness is also a way I think of maintaining control over power over because, because humor can be a great equalizer, but if that is forbidden, then. Then you can maintain your superiority of whether it's moral or financial or whatever it is. 

Mark: right. None dare laugh at the, the great high priest, because that's blessed for me and we will throw rocks at you. Yeah, that, that, that doesn't fly with me. I don't think it's in any way appropriate to how we live in our world. The, the, the capacity for laughter I think is just such an important thing in humans.

Obviously we all have it. We evolved to be able to laugh. It's a universal experience and the idea of banning it in certain cases, really just, just doesn't fly. Certain, certain people or certain ideas are not allowed to be laughed about. Just doesn't sit well with me.

 

Praxis

So shall we move on to the next principle? This one is one that has some controversy. This principle is principle six Praxis and Praxis means that we practice our religious path, that we do rituals. As a part of the expression of our spirituality. And the reason that this is in here is because it's the difference between a religion and a philosophy.

A philosophy could contain a cosmology of a description of how the world is. It can contain a value set, but in philosophy generally does not include a set of practices. Whereas the religion does and practices are essential for us to be able to do the kind of deep psychological work that the path of atheopaganism is about.

Now what those practices are, is wide open. What, what you find effective in working with your psychology in that way can vary every everywhere from, running up mountains and having transporting experiences at the top of them to doing sort of traditional a cultish wicca ask rituals with candles and knives and chalices and bells and all that kind of stuff.

Incense. 

So there's no prescription about what the ritual needs to be, but having a practice is a part of what we do is atheopagan having a personal practice. And so

Yucca: And that's a big theme that I don't think an episode goes by that we don't talk about ritual and practice because it is, I mean, all of these are really central, but the, the actual enacting is, as you were saying, that's what makes it a religion, but that's what, that's how we can really grow and embody these other values and the principles that we're talking about. That's how it happens. That's what practice is. We practice it and strengthen that pathway. 

Mark: Right. Right. And By doing that, we repeatedly touch back in with the values and the worldview and the. The principles that really matter to us the, by having a daily or weekly, or every, every eighth of the years, Sabbath around the wheel of the year, having some sort of a regular practice, we touch back in with those things.

We remind ourselves, yes, this is the path that I'm following and it's meaningful for me. And it's doing good things for me. And here's why. So practice is very important. And I know that there are some people in the atheopagan Facebook community who are like, well, I don't really do rituals or I'm an atheist and I've never done rituals and I don't know what that's about.

And that's fine. But I really encourage people to explore what personal rituals could be like for them. And I know that a lot of people in that community have started out kind of at loose ends and have used some of the instructional tools that we have available on the website and are starting to explore what doing rituals feels like.

And they're getting a lot out of it.

Yucca: Yeah. And again, it can be so different for different people. Different people are gonna have different associations. And I would offer that we have places in our life where we are already doing ritual in the sense that it is a pattern that we repeat over and over again. Right. We've talked about ritual being used in different ways and the word meaning different things sometimes.

And that those are rituals, but what, but when we're talking about Praxis that has the intention added into the thing that we are practicing. And when you, when you have a ritual in terms of a thing that I repeat over and over again, that's a place where intentional ritual can come in as well and start to have that usefulness and meaning in your life. 

Mark: Right. It's the difference between nightly lighting, a candle with pictures of your to see ancestors around it and nightly brushing your teeth. One of them clearly has a, a spiritual, psychological intention behind it. And the other one is there to clean your teeth. They're both ritual behavior, but when we talk about a religious practice, what we're talking about is the, the candle burning kind of the, the kind of the kind that's meant to transform you psychologically in a way that's beneficial.

 

Inclusiveness 

So that's Praxis and that's principle number six, principle number seven is really important and it's a topic that is really up in our. American society anyway right now. And that is inclusiveness. We're all equal on this planet. Folks. Nobody is any more special than anybody else. And it doesn't matter what color they are or what kinds of people they like to have sex with or how they identify their gender.

If they do. We're all fundamentally no better than anyone else. And inclusiveness in our communities, in our behavior, in our practices is just so important. 

Now I want to make a distinction between inclusiveness and cultural appropriation, because that doesn't mean, well, I can grab symbology from this culture in Africa and that

Pueblo and tribe in the Southwest of the U S that I can use all that in my rituals because I'm being inclusive. That's not what it means, what it means is being inclusive towards people and, and embracing their difference, celebrating their difference, rather than expecting them to conform to some kind of norm.

Yucca: and this is one of those places where I, I think that we always have more, to grow. We always have, it's very easy for us to see ourselves and to see what we're used to, to see the particular differences that we are exposed to. And there's a lot of humans. There's a lot of humans, a lot of cultures, a lot of everything. And there's just really a place to be, observant and mindful and back to that, that perspective that we were talking about earlier, being able to kind of step back and look and take feedback when we haven't done as good a job as we might like to. 

Mark: It's always a work in progress. And yes, the people that are most different than us are the ones that we have to do the most work to be inclusive towards. Because we may, we may not understand them. We don't understand their experience 

Yucca: well, we may not even recognize that there is a difference. We may be blind to that difference or how important that difference might be. 

Mark: Right. Like with the so-called invisible disabilities, who are neurodivergent people who have conditions that aren't readily apparent. When you look at them, we still need to be aware and sensitive and welcoming to folks that are in those kinds of situations. I mean, I'm, neurodivergent myself and I, I hope that I'm not that I'm not viewed as scance by anyone just because I happened to be that way. I'm, I'm pretty insistent in my life actually about being out about being depressed, being mentally ill. And I, and I intentionally use that term mentally ill because I want to normalize the fact that people can have mental illness and not be seen as dangerous or crazy or any of that.

But that's a, that's a work in progress, trying to normalize that people live with depression and anxiety, they're on the spectrum. They have, various different kinds of challenges.

Yucca: another thing to note in here is that in being inclusive and trying to really honor that. To not be dismissive of the differences too. right.

So that's, that's something that I see with people with very, very well-intentioned to go, oh, it doesn't matter. We, I don't see, I don't see color or I don't see what, whatever, but, but that is that's disempowering.

Great. That's dismissing the experience. And as if it just because it might not be important to you doesn't mean it's not really, really important to someone 

Mark: Right. And that you're pretty much erasing their experience as someone that is living with a different set of circumstances than you are by saying, oh, it's all the same because it isn't all the same, people, people who are black are living with a set of challenges in our society because of racism that people that are colored like we are, do not and saying, well, I don't see any difference is to ignore that fact.

And it's inappropriate. It's just wrong.

Yucca:   I'm so happy that in today's world this is a conversation that we can even start to have. It's one that I think we need to continue having. 

Mark: yes.

Yucca: but that this is something that we can come back to and in each of us really look at and, and be very, very mindful around because it benefits all of us.

Mark: it does.

Yucca: All right. We're talking about this in, in, the responsibility level, but it's also, I mean, it's just a net positive for everyone. So. 

Mark: Yeah, I agree. I think, saying that you don't identify the differences between people is kind of like saying you don't identify the differences between flowers. They're very, they're all very, very different and you can't really enjoy them or celebrate them if you don't recognize all those ways that they're different.

Yeah,

Yucca: it's like, why are you actually even seeing the person then? Or are you just seeing this idea of them? 

Mark: exactly. 

Yucca: Right. It's is it them really? Because if you don't see these things about them that are really meaningful to them, are you, what are you seeing then? 

Mark: Yeah, more likely you're seeing the generic construct of a person that's in your mind. And that generic construct of a person is almost certainly going to be very, very much like yourself.

 

Legacy

Yucca: So let's talk about our next principle, which is legacy. 

Mark: Yes, we are responsible not just to ourselves and to those who are around us now and to the Earth, which is which we are a part of. We are responsible to subsequent generations. That's what legacy means. We have obligations. And this is, this is an observation that was made by a name, an indigenous person whose name I don't remember, but it's a powerful quote.

They said, white people will go to a place looking around and say, well, I have rights. And indigenous people will say, I have responsibilities. I have obligations. I have obligations to this land and to to what lives here. And I have obligations to subsequent generations that will also be on this land.

And that is a piece that is completely lost to Western capitalism. 

Yucca: yeah. 

Mark: Completely lost. There's just, no, there are no boundaries on the rapaciousness that you can exhibit right now in order to benefit yourself and your immediate family. And it's just, it's not right. Legacy is important. We should be working to make the world a better place for subsequent generations, not chewing up whatever we can so that we can have a great life and leave a mess for someone else.

Yucca: So in another framework, there's permaculture and in permaculture, there's the three ethics, which are the guiding ethics for when you're making decisions. And it's a design science with an ethical framework. And the third one, the name is, people are really kind of trying to work it out, but. The one of the modern interpretations, which I really click with is Future Care. Earth Care, People Care and Future Care. And this really sounds like it's getting at the same idea that we're taking care of us now, but not just, not just us. However, you're going to define us as in. Yourself, your household, your community, your species, but also everybody. Right. Everyone into the future.

So these future generations that you're saying, Mark is not just the future generations of humans, but the future generations of those birds we were talking about earlier, or the future generations of coral or so plankton. Right. And so it's not about whether you've got children or not. It's the future of the biosphere, which we are part of.

That's something else that capitalism that our form of, of, of Western capitalism misses, which is that we aren't on this Earth where we are this Earth. 

Mark: Right. As we've said so many times yeah, the, the principle of legacy to me is not limited to it expands in many different directions. So for example, I'm a strong advocate of social programs that provide things like childcare and food programs and healthcare and those kinds of things, so that children don't grow up and education. Of course. So children don't grow up malnourished neglected, mal educated or uneducated, 

Yucca: In pain. 

Mark: in pain, all of those things, because that directly impacts on what the next generation is going to be like and its relationship with one another and with the earth. So there are, there are very real world implications of this legacy principle. It's not just, I like kids. 

Yucca: Yeah. 

And in a selfish way, how well are they going to take care of you when. When you are no longer able to take care of yourself, 

 

Responsibility 

Mark: well, yes, but I actually consider that to be somewhat different. I, I do feel that that is an important consideration, but I'd actually say that that's a good segue for the last principle that we're going to talk about today, which is social responsibility. 

As I mentioned before my experience of the pagan communities, that you have a lot of people with these very sort of a knee-jerk libertarian kind of ideas of don't.

Tell me what to do. I can do whatever I want. And they don't really have any sense of corresponding responsibilities to, to the rest of humanity and to the planet. Yeah. This principle social responsibility states. Yes, you do. You do, that's a part of the deal. A part of the deal of being a social animal, living on planet earth is that you have responsibility to others.

And that means that their welfare is something that you need to look out for. It's not just grabbing your own and let everybody else sink or swim. It's doing what we can so that all are able to live fulfilled, happy lives. Doing what we, and that, that includes taking care of people when they're old. That includes just doing all of those things personally, and as a society that make it possible for people to live in a, in a state of fulfillment.

and I feel very strongly about this. In fact, I would say this principle was sort of the driver behind the beginning of my thinking that led to these 13 principles, because I had seen so much, really irresponsible, unethical, just poor behavior. On the part of even people who are supposedly leaders in the Neo pagan community and just really not being good humans.

And I feel like being good humans is kind of incumbent on us. It's not optional. It's one of the things that we ought to be doing.

Yucca: Yeah, well, and thinking about what about these principles? These are ways to inform what it means to be a good person, right? That's you're going to have different takes from different religions and different cultures and really examining that has a lot of value because how do you know what your responsibilities are? If you don't stop and look around. And if you don't stop and look in as well. 

Mark: Right. Right. One of the benefits that comes out of living by these 13 principles in my experience is that I'm comfortable looking in the mirror. I can look at myself and say, I am making a good faith effort at meeting these standards. That doesn't mean I do it all the time. Doesn't mean I'm perfect. Doesn't mean I don't have things that are, that I wouldn't wish were much better, but. This is the code I'm trying to live my life by. And it's a good one. It's a responsible one. And it's one that is considerate of what is around me.

Yucca: Yeah. Thank you for bringing that up. The, the idea of that we're making a good faith effort. And that we aren't perfect and we're not going to be perfect. And that's okay. But the point is that we're trying. 

Mark: Yes. Yes,

Yucca: Yeah. And that brings us back. I mean, that's full circle back to the perspective part. 

Mark: Yes. Yeah. One thing that I noticed as I get older is that I'm more and more able to see that even people who do things that I really disagree with, not people who were hateful or sadistic or vindictive, that kind of stuff, but just people who do things out of their own damage that 

Yucca: Okay. 

Mark: could be kinder, could be more conscientious with, with the addition of some perspective, I'm able to look at that and not take it personally, not and not have to react to it.

Yucca: we're going to wait a few more episodes. We'll give us, we've got a lot of stuff to talk about, but we're going to come back to our final four, which have some really fun ones in there. Before that though next week is somehow already going to be the Summer Solstice episode. 

Mark: Right. So we'll be talking about all things Summer Solstice, and that'll be really fun. Rituals that you can do and ideas for themes and what it means for us and what's happening, astronomically and all that good kind of stuff. And of course, if you have suggestions or input or would like to give us feedback, we're at thewonderpodcastQs@gmail.com.

So the wonder podcast, all one word. Q s@gmail.com and we really look forward to hearing from you. Yeah.

Yucca: Thank you Mark.

Mark: Thank you so much, Yucca. Pleasure talking with you.