BOOK REVIEW: GODLESS PAGANISM

by contemplativeinquiry

Highly recommended. Godless Paganism: voices of Non-Theistic Pagans is the fruit of a substantial pioneering project. The book has 75 chapters, with only a small number of contributors writing more than one. The chapters are arranged in 10 themed sections, with a substantial introduction that surveys the territory as a whole. I think that anyone with an interest in modern Paganism could gain something from this book.

The book exists thanks to the efforts of John Halstead and colleagues at HumanisticPaganism.com. (I notice that, in the text, ‘Naturalistic Paganism’ seems to be the more favoured term). Money was raised by supporters and the book is published by Lulu.com.

Godless Paganism is fresh and alive, and introduces many voices – the voices people who are moving and changing, engaged in experiential exploration, open to new ways of sense-making. Culturally, it has as U.S. centre of gravity, though contributors from other parts of the world are included.

Some contributors report being challenged by fundamentalist Pagans over their right to call themselves Pagan, and this is presented as a problem emerging in the 21st. century rather than an inheritance from the 20th. This may help to explain why Godless Paganism has, for me, a remarkably deity-focused feel. Brendan Myers writes a chapter called The worship of the Gods in not what matters but the book has no overall sense of saying, ‘let’s base our spirituality on a different focus – our response to nature, perhaps, or to suffering’. Approaches like this are represented in the book, but it is more usual for contributors either to present reframed understandings of ‘deity’ and ‘belief’, or to celebrate the play of deity yoga without belief. All fine by me – yet this does suggest a concern with responding to perceived fundamentalist challenges rather than an actual departure from theistic language and theistic frames of reference.

Having said that, I strongly welcome Godless Paganism and what it represents. I hope that it strengthens the confidence and community standing of those who identify as ‘naturalistic Pagans’. I salute the people who have made this happen, and I look forward to future collections on this topic.

 

John Halstead (editor) Godless Paganism: voices of non-theistic Pagans Lulu.com 2016 (Foreword by Mark Green)

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