Origins Final Chapter: End of Paganism / Modern times

I embraced coming together to worship God, then to worship a God and Goddess. It helped me become connected to others. I was part of something. It felt meaningful.

My life became busy with plenty of big events in life: Marriage, children, house, school and job. My energy to devote to spiritual matters was put on the back burner. I had less time to devote to “the craft” and with negative experiences within the community it no longer became a priority. I became more interested in issues and conflicts happening in the world. That’s all I seemed to have time for, mentally. Between changing diapers, writing papers and work, I started exploring the mind, view points and reason.

My Wiccan faith finally ended more as a practical matter than becoming disillusioned with the religion. But, my next steps led me to consider Buddhism. I thought it could be a better, simpler match to help with exploring the mind and my own spirituality. I could gather and direct energy with a ritual with Witchcraft, but a Buddhist practice could help me to get to a state of peace with out setting up an elaborate ritual. Just sitting and meditating.

I started reading some books on Buddhist views and practice. Watched videos of the Dali Lama, read some books and started to learn some of the history. However, the culture seemed too foreign to me although some theory and practice seemed valuable. The more I delved into Buddhism, the more I started to feel like it was a return to Christianity in the sense that it required an adherence to historical texts, rituals and structure. Did I really want to get back into that? Not really? And, how was this any better than a Samhein or attending Catholic mass on Sunday? I began to understand overlapping patterns between all religions. Parts worked. Parts didn’t. Why? What am I missing? And, where do I go now?

Just as I was asking these questions, technology evolved in such a way as to provide the way for me. You tube was becoming more popular to search and find information on various subjects. Cell phones improved and I got a hold of a phone with the ability to watch videos. I found something called podcasts. The ability to be so close to pools of information matching my precise interest in the moment and the convenience of being able to listen or watch anywhere and anytime, helped me to along the way.

Increasingly being bolstered by knowledge, immersing more and more in thought, I started to value logic, reason and evidence and realize the flaws of faith-based beliefs. Further, I became more aware of consequences of bad, unsound ideas being pushed by religious institutions and how it was hurting humanity and a variety of ways. Muslims dying for Allah performing terrorist attacks, Evangelical Christians tricking worshipers into giving them money for new Jet airplanes to the State of Texas forcing religion into text books to edge out scientific inquiry and thought about evolution. I had growing feeling of unrest about all of it, wondered how people got that way and what I needed to do to counteract it.

I began looking at science-based thinking. I read Richard Dawkins the God Delusion, Listened to the Atheist Experience podcast, I read Peter Boghossian’s “A Manual for Creating Atheists,” I became a fan of Sam Harris and watched Anthony Magnabosco use Socratic dialogue to engage people in discussion to examine why they believe what they believe. After a time there just were not any good sound reasons I could keep why God exists and arguments based on faith melted away.

I’ve now embraced reason and logic as better ways to look at the world and see it as not compatible with a God belief. In the past, my life moved at a fast pace in life, comparing what I knew with what I saw and seemed to work in the world. I valued the volume of experience more than the richness of it and it has been long over due for me to switch.

I’ve realized now that part of me was looking for a community that accepted me and a community I could be a meaningful part of. My enjoyment of my experiences and the connections I made distracted me a bit from examining it more closely and not using as much reason as I should have. I’m now making the path of my life a path of reasoned thought without A God belief and I feel a lot better now that I have made that choice.

Origins, Part 3:Dark Times & Pagan Fury

Studying psychology at Roger Williams University helped cultivate and deepen my knowledge about people. My education also heightened my awareness of inequality, oppression and harm inflicted on individuals by greater forces. Experience of Race, World Religions, Developmental Psychology, Abnormal Behavior, Counseling Theory all had roles in making it clear to me that we had institutions / beliefs that had roles in hurting others. With my newfound discoveries and ongoing work with witchcraft anger rose up within me to fight again oppression.

My views became polarized heavily against Christianity, perhaps because I finally was finding my voice and realized I was capable of using it or perhaps because I had suppressed so much in the past that this was the place and time for it to come out. I was certain that one of my reasons of being in the world was to bring about new thinking to attack the religious status quo similar to how a slave would rebel and fight against his or her master to be freed. Unfairness needed to be corrected. Damaging stereotypes needed to be confronted. The establishment needed to be over throne. Terrible things needed to be undone. Wrongs needed to be righted!

I involved myself further with events, advocacy and education groups. I was quoted as a Wiccan in my college news letter, I argued with religious fanatics, I deepened and a dug in my views as a Wiccan. Witchcraft, I felt, was a better, more authentic way of working with the universe.

I consider these to be some of my dark times as a Wiccan. The strength of my conviction was overbearing although I did not realize it at the time. As much as it caused conflicts and alienation, it drew me closer to many other positive connections to be made over time. Virtual signaling Wiccan or astrology gave me: 8 hour discussions with Courtney the astrologer, Beltaine with the Lance and the Grail one of the best times in my life, Lenny a great wiccan teacher, Summer Solstices with Tim, Richard the greatest astrology teacher ever, ADF, fellow Wiccans at Salem Samhein rituals, my dear friend Drogo and others. For that I am grateful for.

Over even more time, computer technology improved, the internet was created, there were more and more mentions of Wiccans and Witchcraft in shows and in pop culture. The intense urge to rise against oppressors started to wilt away as the 90s turned into the 2000s. I began to come out of my pagan fury and started to embrace a greater view of the world. What I did not realize is that this fight against oppressors distracted me from getting to the core of what I was driven to discover.

I started to see more similarities between Christianity and Paganism. Both used chalices. Both broke bread. Both burned incense. Both had public rituals with starts and ends. Historically, Christianity used a lot from the pagans. I started taking a look at Buddhist practices and meditation.

When I finally moved back to New England I spent some time reconnecting to Wiccan community again, but instead of becoming rejuvenated and inspired it started to become a series of disappointments. The exciting sense of discovery I held in my teens and early 20s was replaced by benign attendance at rituals and interactions with individuals that did not feel true to Witchcraft. I recall attending a public ritual for spring equinox where I sat down next to an individual who just got out of prison who was looking for somewhere to go for “good energy.” I went to a group where the pagans were not serious about the craft, but instead were using Wicca as a way to be “gothic.” One ritual I attended had a practitioner utilizing provocative, sexual-predator like language during it. So, after too many encounters like this I decided to abandon the Wiccan community and sought something else to embrace….

Origins part 2, Age of Discovery: Wicca & Paganism

“When I’m praying, what actually is happening? How does it work? I pray to God and God answers. Yes, but how? What is the explanation of how it works?”

After my CCD exam fallout, part of my questioning led me to these questions. I felt if I could gain better understanding of how this all worked, I could better determine if I should continue to pray and perhaps, refine the way I prayed so it would be more efficient. That is, I wondered why if I prayed for something, sometimes it didn’t come true. Yet, at other times I prayed and eventually something good would happen. What was right? What how could I know? The simple explanations learned in my religious education classes didn’t seem to be enough for me. That led me to seek for more.

In 1990, there was no internet. There were no cell phones. It wasn’t easy to find out information about anything aside from Encyclopedia Britannica being sold periodically by door to door salesmen to make parents feel good about having volumes of information available to do well on school papers. The best for me was the New Age section of Walden Books. In the early 90s, it was a few shelves with a few books, but it was enough to peek my curiosity and felt much better than the overall religion section which consisted mostly of various versions of bibles I didn’t need nor have the interest in reading anymore.

Over time, I read parts from books such as Buckland’s Book of Witchcraft, Living Wicca Positive Magic and Laurie Cabot’s Power of the Witch. I began to discover the law of 3 fold, karma, the alternative to the golden rule: “Harm none, do what thou wilt,” and blessed be. I saw that having a God and a Goddess seemed more balanced than just having one God. I began acquiring athames, candles, incense, pentacles and other items to help put these concepts into practice. I began my path into witchcraft.

I began experimenting with creating rituals and working magick. I made sacred spaces and learned to conjure thought and “energy.” I directed it towards goals and a purpose. All of it felt so empowering and felt great. I finally felt like I was starting to understand how to work with “energy” and had a working framework, scientific in nature, that worked. I was losing my fear of being a victim trying to dodge eternal damnation. I was a person who had the power and knowledge to direct my own destiny.

I did as best I could within the limitations of my life at the time of which were too many to list here. In the early 90s the subject of witchcraft was mostly taboo. It was bad enough that playing Dungeons and Dragons was feared as of being the devils work and satanic. If you are known to practice of strange and unfamiliar rituals for magic as a wiccan, you might as well call yourself Satan and prepare to go to the psych ward because that’s the level of superstition that was around at the time. For example, A wiccan priestess I met along the path had the police called on her because her neighbor misinterpreted a peaceful Wiccan ritual as a satanic rite where she thought animals were being sacrificed and her children were being abused (all untrue). I believe she might have had her children taken away from her briefly, but I cannot recall exactly.

When I got to college, I ventured out to take a class, listen to a lecture, visit metaphysical stores and start building connections with others. I started to see the larger community emerging from the shadows and become stronger. I felt this was a good community to be connected to and would teach me a lot and advance my studies along with my official study in psychology.

Soon, the thought of praying became a distant memory and seemed so unfocused and and inefficient. Witchcraft would be my new tool of energetic precision. My new tool of understanding how to direct “prayers” better within a system to obtain things I wanted in life.

I started to wonder after awhile why the rest of the world did not adopt this way. If more of us were so focused to rituals directing energy at peaceful goals, couldn’t we resolve or put us on the path of resolving many of the worlds ills just by directing energy? Save the environment? Protect the innocent? Neutralize violence? Imagine thousands of people directing energy to find a cure for cancer. That would be amazing. Can’t we just mobilize others to do it? Why hasn’t this been thought of before? What forces are keeping this good energy from thriving?

Origins, part 1

We used to play this game called “Beep.” Once a week, Steve and I would walk down the street to our weekly CCD class and we’d see how far we could walk out into the road before a car would beep at us. Sometimes we’d only get one step off the side walk and other times we could get halfway towards the double yellow lines in the middle of the road. We’d laugh and compete with each other to get the loudest, longest honks risking life and death in suburban Cumberland, RI. We knew people who live in Cumberland were just too nice to run over teenagers walking around in the evening and felt it was worth the risk. We took advantage and made our game successful.

We needed quite a bit of excitement and camaraderie to get us through the part mandatory, part obligatory CCD classes we went to once a week. CCD was a set of religious classes to prepare us for a catholic confirmation that we commonly referred to them as Central City Dump because of what we had to endure. But, we did our best out of some vague sense of obligation.

“Beep” was the most fun and was what I remember to be the most positive part of my experience. It lightened the existential load of fear I felt on the inside. Class time spent imparting indoctrination of the Catholic church into my teenage brain stoked more inner conflict than it help sort out and for a rebellious and developing free-thinking mind like mine, it amplified conflicts that began to emerge.

I tossed around in my mind during these walks thoughts like, “what if I swore? Swearing was a sin and if I didn’t have confession to remove that sin, then I would be going to hell. I don’t want to go to hell. But how was I supposed to live? Try not to make any error and when I did go immediately run to confession? How do I avoid satan trying to get me and things which are satanic? How can I protect myself? This will be hard. Looks like I’m going to need a whole lot of confession.”

It tormented my 15 year old mind during as these thoughts would swirl around and around with no answer or resolution. There had to be somewhere. I felt destined to live my life in constant fear and close to the catholic church who can cleanse and remove my sins regularly.  It was the only way to be to be able to get into heaven.  Inevitably, I had begun to consider give up and accept that this would be the way it would have to be.

Towards the end of our class we had an exam. I studied. I knew all the terms. Father, Son, Holy Ghost. Stations of the Cross. Chalice. Body and Blood. Steve and I knew we’d pass and be finally done.

I came the final exam essay question which was as follows, “Explain why you believe abortion is wrong?” I stared at the question and hesitated. “I don’t necessarily think abortion is wrong.  But, that’s what I am being told. How can I accept a belief that I do not believe myself? What if I don’t believe it? Am I wrong? Am I a bad person? Will I be going to hell if I don’t find a way to believe? I just can’t bring myself to fully agree. What do I do?”

I went on to pass the test, went through the “confirmation” ceremony, but something had shifted in me. How could I continue when I disagreed. Why are these views being forced on me when I don’t believe that way? Who is right?  Maybe, there’s something more? Maybe there’s another way? Maybe there’s another way to understand all of this….

A “new” beginning…

Welcome to my first blog. I’d like to personally thank my wife Jen <insert blog here> for reconnecting me to the Blogosphere and for giving me the space and time for creative thought. Let’s get right to it! Boldly!

I am coming out as an atheist today. It has been a long time coming, but now is the time for me to make this declaration. Why? From what time I can muster in between a what is seemingly endless demands from chores, childcare and work, I’ve grown much more intellectually over the past few years in the sense that I have started on a path to abandon my more “spiritual” views and beliefs in favor of what is rational and what is reasonable. I started to expand my mind beyond accepting what is given to me and to embrace the mindset of a skeptic. In the last few years the presentation of information from people through media have lacked more and more authenticity and have moved more towards sensationalism. The avoid getting caught up with it, my mind has evolved more sharply away and towards a search for a tool or way to sift through what is real and what is not. That search accelerated a few years ago which has led me here to make this personal declaration and also to further pursue reason and thought as a way to truth.

As much as using my newfound views and mindset is my own personal direction that I seek to promote and to engage with others, it is equally important to begin to fight back against delusion, injustice, inequality, exploitation and in my view, most importantly faith-driven beliefs.

I think belief systems not based in reason and rational thought are trending now towards increasing their power and pressure attacking what has been established as fair and just. I feel I can no longer sit by and be a bystander and quietly go about my day. I am feeling the need must engage more in discussions about how we can get along as human beings and prosper through conversation and peaceful exchanges. Why? Because what is the alternative? Separation, disunity, conflict, ignorance, harm and ultimately war.

I feel we should seek discussions through reason to better understand ourselves and others. I say, be open to revising your views and avoid the temptation to “double-down.” It is okay to admit you do not know or to come back later to admit you were mistaken.

I have embraced atheism or being an atheist, because of the evolution of my mindset and better understanding of the consequences for not doing so. This journey of mine has just begun, although has always been there within me. I will elaborate further explore influences in a future blog, but overall there is not one part that is the key piece that “turned a switch” in me. I simply feel we need to let good reasoning guide us rather than faith which in turn will lead to a more authentic life.

With that, there is just not enough evidence in my mind anymore to justify a belief in God. Truly embracing reason and rationality do not appear to be able to co-exist well with a belief in God. And, that’s how I got here.

We need to redirect our intellectual and spiritual energy away from worshiping God and towards cooperation, service to our fellow humans and solving humanity’s problems because it’s the best use of our limited time on this planet.