Atheists are critical of religion generally and of specific religions, like Christianity and Islam. But you don't hear a lot of atheist critiques of paganism, do you? Why not? It's not because paganism is extinct (though it no longer dominates like it once did). It's not because atheists think paganism is "true" or so much more "rational." So where does the difference lie?
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Well, there are a lot of differences and probably a lot elements that go into the difference of treatment, but the biggest issue may simply be that, as a rule, pagans don't have a problem with atheism and atheists. They don't go around trying to convert atheists, don't want to impose their beliefs on atheists, don't want laws to reflect their religious doctrines, and don't think that there is anything "immoral" about not believing in gods.
It is perhaps a great example of agreeing to disagree: pagans believe in gods (often literal gods, sometimes more as metaphors) while atheists don't. Neither group, though, is given much reason to consider the disagreement to be very important. Both groups may think the other is mistaken. On an individual basis, one may think the other is irrational. But it's not something that matters a great deal.
Why Atheists Don't Piss on Pagan Parades: A Guide for Christians
by Sarah, High Priestess 4RC Coven
1. We don't try to save & convert them. There's nothing to be saved from, and if you're meant to be Wiccan, you'll find your way to us. It's not our job to come looking for you.
2. We don't believe in hell.
3. We don't "feel sorry" for atheists because they don't experience Divinity as we do. Atheists instead seem to have the ability to use their logic-based brains to see things from a rational POV and arrive at solutions to problems faster than the average person. Feel sorry for them? Ha! Sometimes we're jealous of THEM!
4. We don't try to change laws and restrict their freedoms based on our personal religious beliefs.
5. We think science is a good thing. When science showed that the chemical digitalis in the leaves of the foxglove plant was the reason foxglove helped people with heart problems (and not the "magical energy" of the plant) we said, "Wow, cool!", not "NO! You're ruining my religion because that's not what it says in this old book! And we know the old book is the TRUTH because it says so right in the old book!"
6. We KNOW our stories are myths, each containing some wisdom about life and/or what we believe to be "the Creator". We aren't trying to change history and science textbooks to make them reflect our myths instead of reality.
7. We know the vast majority of atheists are good people who do indeed have morals - real morals that come from their hearts, not the "forced" morality that exists when one only "does the right thing" because they're afraid (!) of a "loving" God. (Afraid? Of the Creator? Seriously, Christians?!)
8. We invite atheists to our feasts (after the religious stuff is over) and they seem to enjoy the food, mead, and occasional naked dancing.
That's all I could think of off the top of my head.
If invited to, or if it became an issue, most atheists probably wouldn't have any problem critiquing pagan and Wiccan religious beliefs (speaking about atheists who are involved with critiquing religion and the paranormal in general, of course). But it doesn't typically become an issue, does it?
Atheists are justified in caring about and critiquing religious beliefs because beliefs matter - and beliefs matter because actions matter. All of our actions stem from what we believe. So to the extent that any particular belief influences your behavior - behavior that affects others - that belief is a legitimate subject of discussion, critique, debate, etc.
Thus far, there's little to nothing in the way of pagan and Wiccan behavior that affects others in a way that would warrant a great deal of critical attention. On the other hand, beliefs that inspire the action of inviting others to feasts with food, mead, and occasional naked dancing merit thanks and appreciation.
Speaking of which, have any readers here been lucky enough to try real mead? Not wine or something that's simply flavored with honey, but the real stuff? It's something I'd like to try but it doesn't seem to be generally available in Pennsylvania. Our restrictive laws are a legacy of Prohibition which, in turn, was a product of right-wing Christianity.