Is There an Unspoken Pagan/Atheist Alliance?

Is it just me or have you noticed that Pagans and Atheists seem (for the most part) to get along and even agree with one another most of the time?

If you visit atheist or religious forums, the trend seems to be pretty clear. I don’t think I’ve ever had an argument with a pagan or met one online or in person that I disliked. I really started thinking about it after reading a comment about how some Christians feel their religion is under attack. I started wondering – probably for the millionth time – whether that’s true. I then realized that you rarely see atheists arguing with Pagans, Hindu’s, Buddhists etc. You will frequently see them arguing with Muslims or Christians.

Why is that?

I decided to brainstorm reasons and this article is the result. Now keep in mind that I’m going to be talking in general terms for the purposes of this article. So if I say ‘Pagans’ or ‘Atheists’ or ‘Christians’, I’m not saying all Christians, Pagans or Atheists. I’m just talking in general terms.

Blessed be

Some Pagans will end their post with ‘Blessed be’.

Love the saying. And it’s much better than when a Christian says in a condescending manner, ‘I’ll pray for you’.

Ignorance of Pagan beliefs

Personally, I’m pretty ignorant of Pagan belief structures. I don’t know a hell of a lot about them. In order to debate someone, you sort of need to have a grasp of the subject matter. When I run into a Pagan, I’m more filled with curiosity. I want to understand and know more about them. Maybe this works in their favor?

Numbers game

It might just come down to demographics. According to Wiki, neo-pagans make up only 0.02% of the world’s population. Christians on the other hand make up a third of the population and many of them are concentrated in North America.

This means that Christian beliefs are going to impact society far more than pagan beliefs.

Satan and shared history

I’ve never had a pagan tell me that I’m going to be tortured for eternity for not believing in their deity(s). This generally leads to a more pleasant conversation.

I would assume that many pagans have read up on the history of their faith and realize that faiths like Christianity used to burn them at the stake, torture and rape them. Atheists also had to be careful in the past about sharing their disbelief. In fact, pagans and atheists still have to be careful. They might not get burned at the stake any more, but they can face being ostracized from the community.

I also think that some Christians think that atheists and pagans are tools of Satan. This might be another reason why pagans and atheists seem to have an unspoken alliance.

In a recent news article that highlighted the distrust and animosity some people have towards atheists it said:

“While atheists may see their disbelief as a private matter on a metaphysical issue, believers may consider atheists’ absence of belief as a public threat to cooperation and honesty.” In a 2003 study [PDF], 48 percent (the highest of disapproval rating of any group) of Americans said that they would disapprove of their children marrying an atheist.

This distrust prompts one to wonder if believers really do worry that people would engage in rampant murder and mayhem if they thought that there was no vengeful deity monitoring their behavior at all times. In fact, psychological research does confirm that a lot of religious believers do tend to think this way. In light of those fears, one prominent slogan featured on placards at the Rally for Reason, “Be Good for Goodness’ Sake” must appear nonsensical to believers.

I wonder if the numbers would be similar when it comes to pagan beliefs and atheism.

Laws

Christianity has a big influence on our laws. Paganism not so much and I’ve never met a pagan that believed their faith should be legislated into law. You never hear a pagan saying we’re a Pagan Nation or any other such nonsense.

For example, you can easily find news stories like this one:

Newt Gingrich likes to harp on the subject of “religious freedom” as much as the next Republican. Of course, as we have shown here repeatedly, the phrase “religious freedom” is a stand-in for something else: the privileging of Christian belief over all other forms of belief – or disbelief. Religious freedom should mean equal freedoms for all with regards to belief and that is what the First Amendment establishes by prohibiting government establishment of religion, originally applied to the federal government in the First Amendment and later applied to the states via the Fourteenth Amendment in the wake of the Civil War.

And when the separation of church and state is threatened, it would make sense that it threatens the pagan religion as well as atheists.

Perhaps it just boils down to common goals and vision for the future where no religion is given privilege over another and all are free to believe or disbelieve?

Conversion

Islam and Christianity are built on converting people to their religion. Pagans (from what I understand) can literally have thousands of deities and they don’t believe their way is the only way. Pagans don’t attempt to convert people because they think they’re saving a soul from damnation. They may share their ideas and ideals, but rarely (never that I’ve seen) try to force their beliefs on other people by using scare tactics.

These are just some of my thoughts. I don’t know whether any of them are correct or if there really is an unspoken alliance between pagans and atheists or not or if it just seems that way sometimes.

What do you think?

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17 Comments

  1. Interesting article! I think my next move will be to learn about the situation faced by pagans and atheists in other societies.
    There is definitely some strife between atheists and Buddhists in China, thanks to the Cultural Revolution. And in India, atheists do not get along with traditional Hindus, from what I hear. How Hindu people feel about atheists, I couldn't say.

    I'm a pagan atheist, myself. Looking into Norse paganism lately.

  2. Thanks, Zak. I'm very glad you enjoyed it. Buddhism is actually atheist friendly since they don't believe in a deity. It's strange to hear that in China they would clash. Personally, I don't know any Hindu's but their class system would probably raise the hackles of many an atheist.

  3. As a Pagan I have had very few issues with Atheists, but every group has “those people” and I've been told by some that I shouldn't be permitted in the military because I believe in “invisible people.” I have several Atheist friends and on the whole enjoy a certain “brotherhood” one might say with Atheists. We're all subject to the Christian hegemony right now and therefore happen to work toward similar goals.

  4. As a Wiccan, I hate when people say “I'll pray for you” Please don't… It's like telling a vegetarian “I'll have a thick juicy steak in your honor” No, stop! I get along great with my atheist friends…hell, I even have a satanist in my group.. he is funny!! LOL It's all about tolerance. I tolerate them, they tolerate me. We get into it, and move along. 🙂

  5. I have many atheist friends and I'm Pagan. I also have a couple of Christian friends, but in all, I think the atheists and agnostics outnumber them by…well, a LOT! I also tend to get on local community forums a lot, and many a time I wind up siding with a couple of atheists on there when it comes to religious topics and even some political topics. I do this mostly because they're the ones that make the most sense and aren't harping and yelling against those of other religions as much as the “Christians” on there. Now, one of them can sometimes get quite harsh with his words, but compared to the large number of Christians on there that are spewing hatred, I still wind up siding with him because in the end, he's still more tolerant towards me and more logical and reasonable than the Christians on there. But like I said, I have friends that are atheist and friends that are Christian and I love them both. But I have found that when religious talk comes up, my atheist friends are more open to my beliefs than my Christian ones which I find to be kind of sad. But I'm glad to have come across this article! For a while, I thought it was a little weird we got along so well and I guess I wondered about why as well. So thank you, you make many good points in this. 🙂

  6. I'm a pagan and I've noticed this too. I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that we Pagans are just as uninterested in having the Judeo-Christian god pushed on us as the Atheists are. We also tend not to view science as a threat but as a way to understand the Divine better. So pagan's pushing for Intelligent Design not so much. We also don't feel the need to push our religion on others. Don't believe in the Goddess? That's great, I don't really care. I also feel the need to mention that not all pagans are polytheists. There is a such thing as Atheistic Pagans. I myself am a Pantheist. I also think there's a bond between all ex-Christians. Many Pagans and Atheist once were Christians. I think we get each other in that way. We know what it's like to lose our religion.

  7. Hi I’m a pagan I have friends who are wiccan, druid and my sis believes in Poseidon I also have a friend who is Christian and you can tell he doesn’t approve of what we believe in but I don’t care because I have a lot of other friends who support me and I’m happy that they do.

  8. I am an atheist, recently a Catholic. I have been interested in Paganism for a while. I have a few friends who are pagans. I ask them a few questions about their beliefs. I consider myself a Wicca atheist, still looking into and sorting out my spiritual path. I know a few Christians who think poorly of atheists, which I don't like. If you have different beliefs, I don't care. We should be able to live people are have different beliefs.

  9. I think Atheists and pagans tend to be more open-minded and accepting of other world views, since many have left some form of organized religion at some point of time due to differences of opinion, or doing real research into the 3 major mono-theistic religions.

    as a pagan, I don't feel the need to convert others to my beliefs, because it doesn't get me any further on my journey. It feels like mono-theistic religions rely on the forcible spread and forced conversions of the masses to survive, while my journey is more important to me. I work hard to be a good person, regardless of what a book written thousands of years ago says to do (most of which i find to be abhorrent and inherently evil) So yes, I do think there is an unspoken truce between the various pagan religions and atheism.

  10. As a general rule, we do tend to get along well.
    I am a Pagan and I am renowned for pushing the secular agenda, to the extent I like Atheist pages. Some *cough* right wing *cough* Christian groups try to win me with “religious freedom” but I still don't buy it.
    Religious governments don't protect my religious freedom. Secular governments protect my religious freedom, and atheists are staunch secularists.
    I also find that many Atheists follow a similar “culture” to me. I see all atheists as “fellow humanists”, something which only a limited amount of Christians, Muslims and Jews can be considered (and something many Pagans and members of eastern religions share)
    I also find that my cultural approach to Paganism is extremely tolerant of Atheism, inclusive at best. Many ancient pagan societies accepted and tolerated Atheists (Greece, India etc) and I think if anything, modern Pagans are even more accepting.
    Like members of other paganic religions, atheists don't shove their beliefs (or lack of) down my throat, and this is something we often feel mutual about. Many atheists haven't heard of paganism, purely because it doesn't come knocking on their door asking if they're “Found Odin” or “Accepted the Goddess” into their life.

  11. I hate commenting on old posts, but I figured it would be all right to, since the comments section here isn’t closed!

    I’m pagan, and while I get along with atheists that I meet IRL, I don’t think that I’ll get along with every single one, just like I don’t get along with every other pagan or wiccan than I meet, or every other woman, or every other Black person, etc.

    The atheists I’ve met online seem to be a bit more extreme in their views than the ones I know personally – almost like fundamentalists when it comes to browbeating or insulting others! Just my personal experience, LOL – but yes, I’d say that pagans and atheists most likely see eye-to-eye on many things. I don’t think there’s an ‘unspoken alliance.’ though!
    🙂

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