Am I still an atheist?

In the course of developing my ritual over the past few months, I have considered some ideas that I have previously considered to be ridiculous, or at least kooky. Well, not just even considered, but actually done. Dabbled, experimented, whatever you want to call it.

For example, yesterday morning I felt quite depressed, and I got an idea of doing a magical ritual to see if that would help. I made it all up in the end, but I got my ideas from the pagan books and blogs I have been reading lately. I chose an orange candle because orange is a cheerful color, and I lit some white sage incense, because I find it to be a calming smell. I invoked the four elements and directions and focused my attention on the candle and lit it. And then I took a piece of paper and poured all my gloomy feelings and thoughts into it and drew a basic frowny teary face on it and lit it on fire in the candle flame and put it in my tiny cauldron and watched it burn up.

I don’t think there was anything particularly spooky or supernatural about any of it, but yes, it did make me feel better. So you might say it worked.

I’m working on coming to terms with just what it is I believe about things like spirituality and magic and the gods and such. Here is what I have come up with so far.

  • We are Cosmos. No matter how much we get used to thinking of ourselves as separate from the universe and from the rest of nature, we are a part of it. “We are a way for the Cosmos to know itself.” as Carl Sagan said.
  • I should not believe anything because it’s in a book or authority says so unless I have either experienced it subjectively or it agrees with reason.
  • Words and ideas are powerful. I think this has to do not because of some kind of unseen powers but because of the ways human minds work — especially in groups. I’m thinking of the ways that countries, currencies, laws and many other things that drive our societies and daily lives don’t really exist in a natural sense but only hold power because lots and lots of people recognize them and act as if they were really real.  I think maybe deities fall into this category of made-up things.
  • I believe we should be very cautious in drawing conclusions about things I have never seen or experienced. For instance, I don’t believe in ghosts but if someone I know tells me they’ve seen them, I think “maybe…” People have their own reasons for believing things, and it’s not my responsibility to try to ‘set them straight.’ They might just know something I don’t.
  • Real magic — if it makes sense to call it that — is about changing our own state of mind and not about calling on outside spirits or powers to do things for us. That is my opinion on the matter for now anyway.

Ultimately my beliefs and views of reality still fall firmly in the scientific and naturalistic range. I don’t believe in any literal gods, and that any useful idea of gods and goddesses are human constructs that were created for human purposes.  In my view of what the term means, I’m still an atheist. I’m just not so sure that matters as much to me now as it used to.

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