Mailbag

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S3E23 TRANSCRIPT:

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Yucca: Welcome back to the wonder science-based paganism. I'm one of your hosts, Yucca, and this episode, we're doing something new and kind of exciting that we've never done before. This is our mail bag episode. So we've gotten a lot of responses and questions from all of you on the email.

And we wanted to talk about some of these.

Mark: Yeah. We love it when we hear from our listeners. It's really helpful for us to know what you're enjoying what you'd like to hear more about all that kind of stuff. And we've, we've recently received some messages with some topics that probably aren't big enough for a whole episode by themselves, but they're important questions and we want to address them.

So, yeah, this is, this is the mail bag and I imagine, going forward, we'll probably do more of them as we get more, more messages from listeners.

Yucca: Yeah from you. That's right. So let's start, we've got a few from Paul and I've just cut out the, the bits from the emails, right? I'm not gonna read the whole thing, but this first one is if you guys felt like commenting on any pointers, other podcast books, webpages, etcetera, that could help a nube in the beginning of this journey.

That'd be great. So I think mark, this is one that might be great for you to take. Cause I think you have a little bit more exposure to some of the, the blog world and all of that.

Mark: I mean, I can certainly, there's a, a group of there's a resources and links page on the atheopagan blog@atheopagan.org. And I would recommend checking out a bunch of those links. Natural pagans.com is a is a an aggregation site that pulls writing on naturalistic paganism from a bunch of different sources and puts them together in one place where you can find them.

So that's one thing to look at the naturalistic paganism website is another great source for information.

Yucca: right,

Mark: if you just want kind of overviews on what Ethiopia paganism is and the principles, and just sort of, broad descriptions about, what it is that we're practicing and what our values are.

The website of the Ethiopia society is a good one to go to. And that is V AP society.org.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: Uh, so that once

Yucca: AP as in atheopagan mm-hmm

Mark: Yes. So it's V AP society.org. That's another place where you can find quite a bit of information and you can legally Orain

Yucca: right, of course. Your

Mark: Just like at the universal life church, it's perfectly legal.

You can perform weddings, all that kind of stuff. Because we are a registered religious nonprofit in the United States. So that's something that's cool and exciting. In terms of,

Yucca: own book, right? Mark has an excellent book

Mark: Oh yes. My book Ethiopia, paganism and earth honoring path rooted in science. You can order it from any bookstore.

I recommend your local independent bookstore because they are great and we support them. And I'm working on another one, which there will be hopefully news about sometime soon. But it'll be a while before it's done. So. In other books, I really recommend rating Sweetgrass by Robin wall Kimmer, which is it's more of a worldview book.

It's not really a, here's how to do rituals book, but it's, she is both a botanist an academic botanist and a registered member of the citizen. Patua Tommy Native indigenous tribe. And so she comes at her perspective about the human relationship with nature from both of those perspectives and weaves them together in this very beautiful and illuminating kind of way.

So that's once against braiding sweet grass by Robin wall Kimmer

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: I know that she's written other steps that's out there on the web. You can search for her name and you'll find good stuff that she's published.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: It's not nontheistic, but I do recommend the earth path by Starhawk, which I think is.

Yucca: It was very influential for me as a teenager. Like it's an excellent book.

Mark: It's a really good book. And, I suspect she's always very circumspect about this, but I suspect that Starhawk is not a very woo woo person. My conjecture and this is just apropo of reading and observation and stuff is that, she may not subscribe to supernaturalism. But she's very careful not to come out explicitly and say that because a lot of people around her do, and she doesn't want to be off putting to them.

And she's such luminary in the community that that would really make waves,

Yucca: right. Well, it's, what, what is one's goal, right? What is, yeah. And that's, that's my take with my interactions with her as well, but of course, neither of us are her and can speak for her,

Mark: course, and, and I'm not trying

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: The reason that I say that is that the book is not a heavily theistic book

Yucca: yeah, yeah.

Mark: or, or magical, and in terms of supernaturalism kind of book it's really about living life with a relationship with the natural world and in seeking to be a healing presence on the planet towards the natural world.

Yucca: And there is a component in that that you can do or skip, but I really advise doing it there's activities that she gives. I don't remember if it's the beginning or the end of each chapter, but she talks about the concept. She gives examples from real life and then gives you things to do. And if you do those actual activities and those practices, they're really well designed and they, they tie into a lot of the stuff that we talk about here with the being present and observing and noticing.

So, a good, a good one to get into. Yeah.

Mark: Yeah. I, I really agree with that. And similarly her book circle round

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: with Anne hill which is a book for families and with activities for children,

Yucca: That's a great one. That's a little bit more on the theistic side. There's like stories with like deities and stuff, but we've read some of those in, in my family, but we're just really clear with the kids. These are stories. These are not, the, these, these figures exist in the way that Santa Claus exist.

That it's a figure in our minds and it means something to us, but they're not like people walking around. They're not, there's not a person. And boy, we'd be in for a shock if there, if we were wrong about that

Mark: It would definitely reframe the art cosmology a whole lot. But so both of those books, I, I really recommend in terms of practice building for a family or with young children. And then just generally, between braiding sweet grass and the earth path, I think you get a pretty good window into the sort of approach that you and I Yucca take to our paganism.

And, and with my book, thrown in there as well that it is, it's a mindset and a worldview and a way of carrying ourselves in the world.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: More than it is about, worshiping deities or doing, even doing rituals. I mean, even though that is a part of it celebrating the holidays, but at a really deep level, what our paganism is about is how we

Yucca: There's there's another side to this that we can add in which is the wow and wonder part. And that's all the science books, the science books, the science podcast I've been binging planetary radio, that's the planetary societies podcast. And they have, they have a lovely host whose whose voice is just a pleasure to listen to.

Right? And then they bring on just these amazing guests who talk about the incredible things that we're exploring about our world. And there are podcasts that you can listen to that are about, the microscopic world and the, this and the, that, and the books that just all the pop science books, or if you're in a specific field, you can dig really deep in and, and that's, that can be part of your paganism too.

Mark: Sure sure. Because part of the, the wow factor that the sense of wonder in awe about being here at all and. Everything else that's here as well is being informed about it. And so, the, the more you, the more you unravel the universe, the more you, kind of pull on that thread to unravel the sweater, the more you, that stuff you discover, that's just amazing and, and thrilling in a, in a deep spiritual kind of way.

It's just so exciting. When I first learned about complexity theory and emergence, I mean, I read two pages and then I would sort of skip around the room and then I, read two more pages and would do that again. Because these are amazing, amazing things and they answer deep questions about why complexity emerges from simpler systems.

Right. So, definitely, all that science stuff is right up there with, with our paganism. And I think, I think I would, I'm gonna kind of stop there. There's, I mean, I'm sure that there are tons of books that I'm missing and but my, my encouragement would be less to go in the sort of mainstream paganism direction with your reading at least to start with, because a lot of that stuff is really focused on magical correspondences and relationship with theos and, do this kind of spell to get that kind of result.

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: And. We just come at this from a different angle.

Yucca: Right. Wonderful.

Mark: question.

Yucca: So our next question, this is the second part from Paul and there's a lot of questions wrapped up in this. So I'm gonna, I'm just gonna read the whole piece here. I know you are both involved in environmental conservation and activism, as I suspect many athe pagans would be. I wonder if you would have enough material to discuss what kinds of things in your personal life and practice aimed at planetary protection, what organizations might you be involved in?

What experiences have you had with them? Do you organize events like cleanups or fundraising stuff along that line? So there's

Mark: very multipart question.

Yucca: Right. So yes, both of us have been professionally involved in these areas for, for many years. Mark, do you wanna start with your half on that?

Mark: I was gonna invite you to start first.

Yucca: all right, well, I'll

Mark: why don't

Yucca: start on my side.

So my background is I am an ecologist. I'm a restoration oncologist, actually. So I would say that I have not been involved in conservation rather in restoration. And currently a lot of my work has been moving in the direction of the education and science communication, but I still do work.

There's several several projects that I'm working on in which I work with local land owners in working on respirating their ecosystem. So we're monitoring, looking at management strategies and I'm arranged land specialist. So we're looking at grasslands, Juniper shrub lands. And I mean, this is really amazing rewarding stuff because we can.

We can make very small little changes in the way that the land is being managed, because let me, let me step back for this for just a moment we manage land, whether we do it purposefully or not, there's, you're not there isn't land. There isn't anywhere where humans are not involved and not influencing.

And there's this, this myth of the wild wilderness where, humans, if you just let it go, it'll do its thing. Every single thing we do is a choice that impacts our land. And I'm from a part of the world, which is a very brittle environment, which is a very fragile environment. And is in fact, this was, is the case for the whole half of the continent is very wounded.

Right. And it's been, the ecosystems have been really, really struggling for hundreds, actually thousands of years, but especially within the last few hundred years when the last of the, of the megafauna were purposefully wiped out. And so a lot of what I do is we as waterway restoration, but also bringing animals back in very purposefully, bringing back the grazers in a way that matches what would be happening.

If humans hadn't gotten rid of the grazers and hadn't divided everything up with Barb wire and doing all of this. So I work in this, this. Kind of intersection between the ranching world, which is the world I come from. And some of the, the science world in the, bringing that science in, into the restoration for the people who are the stewards of this land and, and really understand it and are part of the land.

So that's a incredibly rewarding and kind of beautiful thing to, to get, to, to be honored, to be in involved with that.

Mark: Yeah, that's really important work. I'm I'm really glad you do that. Thank you. Yeah. I have, well, let me see. My part of the reason that I invited you to go first is so that I could sort of put this together in my mind, how to, how to do this. I used to be much more involved in the policy advocacy side of of environmental protection and restoration than I am now. I was the founding executive director of an organization in my local county, which I built over the 10 years that I was their ed into the largest environmental group of any kind on the north coast of California, even larger than Sierra club.

And We used grassroots organizing to mobilize thousands of letters and postcards to elected officials on targeted issues, working specifically on local stuff. So municipal stuff, county scale stuff where that kind of outpouring of voter input is unheard of. And it scares the living hell out of elected officials. So we were able to accomplish some really amazing things. We prevented the subregional wastewater system in our area from going to our local river as the discharge point for their tertiary treated wastewater. So instead that water goes up to a natural geothermal field for geothermal energy generation,

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: um, we we got.

Planning ordinances in place approved by voters that drew growth boundaries around each of the cities in our county, so that they would stop sprawling into agricultural and habitat lands. So that now the growth that they do is in density and up rather which facilitates public transportation. It facilitates walkable neighborhoods, all of those good urban planning principles.

We really put on the map here where I am in Sonoma county. And I'm, I'm proud to say that we, we are really on the cutting edge of what's happening in environmental planning in many ways here in Sonoma county. The organization is called Sonoma county conservation action. And though I left it more than 20 years ago.

It's still going and still doing good stuff. And and I'm, I'm very, very proud of that work. Subsequent to that, I worked for seven years a, after being an executive director of a couple of organizations, I focused my attention on fundraising specifically because the public interest missions that I really care about get advanced by nonprofit organizations whose capacities are entirely limited by how much funding they have.

Yucca: Right, right.

Mark: So it's just, it's about fuel for the engine. And if you, if you don't have it, then however, great your mission is it's very harder to make anything substantive take place. So, I really focused on developing skills in grant writing, major donor fundraising, direct mail event production planned giving. Organizing all that kind of stuff. And that's what I've mostly done since I left conservation action. I did spend seven years at a wetlands Conservancy, which did the kind of restoration work that you're talking about except in a California Oak Chaparral wetlands kind of context. So we restored linear miles of riparian habitat within the Laguna to Santa Rosa, which is the largest tributary of the Russian river.

And had a science program as well and an education program for grade school kids. And that I was the second staff person hired there after an executive director. They'd been around as a volunteer group for years, but he and I built the organization's programs to be a really, sustainable and impactful organization.

And I'm very proud of that work as well. And they're still around as well, doing the things that they're doing. In recent years, I've worked more on social services and kind of, social impact organizations than environmental organizations. To some degree, I feel like the 60 hour weeks that I worked during my 10 years at conservation action were kind of like my tour of duty. And after 10 years I was thoroughly burned out and I feel like, I got my medals, I got my, congressional resolution of appreciation and state legislature things. And I was named environmentalist of the year for the county and all that stuff. And I kind of took my medals and went home.

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: So now the stuff that I do is much less around the public impact of stuff. And it's more just kind of how I personally conduct my life. I drive an electric car. I I'm really focused on energy consumption and carbon a lot in just how I live my personal life. I'm not much of a consumer. Buying new stuff is just not really a big thrill for me.

And and I try to live. A simple but comfortable life within the context that I'm in, which is a kind of suburban city. And of course, to vote the right way and to stay plugged into understanding what that right way is. And and that's, that's kind of it for where I am right now, but I've, I've spent many, many years in the trenches really working to make things better for the environment around here.

Yucca: Right. Sounds like you've got a lot of diverse experience.

Mark: Well, I'm old or I'm getting old. And so that's, that's what that'll give you. It's yeah, it's been a pretty, pretty amazing ride. I'm I'm very happy with my career, although currently I'm unemployed. Hoping that that's gonna end soon and I can dive into some new mission that that I'm passionate about and that I can do some good with in terms of organizations that we can support.

My focus has generally been twofold. I have focused on policy organizations and on land conservancies. So the nature Conservancy conservation international the conservation fund, these, those are organizations that are doing stuff like acquiring large swaves of theier Delta, which is one of the biggest bird bird hatchery, Rory estuary places in the world so that they are not developed in ways that are destructive to those creatures.

I, and, and going along with what you said, Yucca they are actively managing those lands. They're not just throwing them behind a fence they're they have actual, land stewards whose job it is to restore and manage those lands.

Yucca: Cause certainly if you do that in a brittle environment, you will starve the land. Right? If you just put a fence around it, say nothing, touch it, it, it gets worse and worse and worse. Yeah. Because it's kind of like, here's that, here's an analogy. You find a dog on the side of the road who's been hit and, and her leg is broken.

If you just leave the leg alone, right. I mean, it was humans who hit the dog. Right. But if you leave the, the leg alone, it, the, the bones, if they survived, the bones gonna heal wrong, right. They're gonna have a, they're gonna have a, a messed up leg their whole life. But if you take them into the vet and you set the bone and, give them the, the care that they need, then they have a chance to recover, even though it was human's fault in the first place that the dog got hit.

Right. So, or a land's kind of like that

Mark: yeah. Human intervention is, is required in the vast majority of kind of habitat management. And habitat bio biological systems biological services, as some people call it because they wanna kind of monetarily quantify the value that's provided to humans.

Yucca: I mean, that might be coming a little bit from the terminology of ecosystem services, right? That's an old, an old term that is talking about the, the, the service of, of the water, what the things that it provides. So that would be, that might be one of the directions that is came in from

Mark: Right. But some of the, some of the values that we have around conservation are. They're values that don't necessarily directly benefit humans, or if they do, you have to follow a chain in order to find out how they do like biodiversity. For example, I mean, to me, biodiversity is just a core value.

I think it's a good thing, period. Whether it benefits humans or not,

Yucca: Yeah, well, so I think that biodiversity is one of the most important things. It takes a little bit of explaining to help people understand why, but biodiversity is absolutely key to the survival. Everything that we need, the air that we breathe, the food that we eat, the everything is dependent upon that biodiversity.

And when we have areas with low biodiversity, those systems fail, they fall apart, right? Biodiversity is perhaps one of the most important, important things there is for this, this planet, right. Biodiversity is a healthy biosphere.

Mark: mm-hmm yeah. Yeah. I agree. The, the level of diversity prior to humans developing the kinds of capacities that we have now to really impact the environment in a really dramatic way.

Yucca: Monoculture being the, the really big yeah. For all your P protein.

Mark: right. The level of complexity that existed on the earth at that time prior to the ad, the advent of those technologies is something that we can't even imagine today. And some of it, some of it was relatively recent. I mean, in the 19th century flock of passenger pigeons that took three days to pass over, would go over in migration in migration season.

And the passenger pigeon is now extinct. And that's because they, their tail feathers were desired for hats.

Yucca: yeah,

Mark: And that's what we did.

Yucca: and if you've ever visited someplace like yellow, The entire continent was like double that,

Mark: Mm-hmm

Yucca: Just in terms of the life that was everywhere. Now it's gonna be different life depending on the particular bio region. Right. Although some of those things were across the entire continent, right.

Wolves or things like that. Speaking of Yellowstone just a mention to everybody. My, my brother lives there and he was sending us photographs of his neighbor's houses, like literally floating away. It's a,

Mark: I was gonna ask you when we were done recording. If he was okay.

Yucca: Yeah. He's just high enough up. But a lot of the they're tough Montanans are, are tough. They're a tough bunch, but but there's a lot of tourists who are stuck there too, that are in kind of a panic

Mark: that's in Wyoming, right?

Yucca: No Montana.

Mark: Yellowstone.

Yucca: Yeah. Well it's a big area, but he's in Gardner Montana.

Mark: Huh

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: I've I've been to Yellowstone and I could have sworn that it was in Wyoming

relatively close to the border,

Yucca: but maybe it goes into, but no it's Montana.

Mark: Oh, wait a

Yucca: of it that are, that are in

Mark: are in Wyoming and also Idaho.

Yucca: Yeah. It's a big, it's a big area.

Yeah, he's in gardener. So that's the, and there are multiple different entrances to the park. But it's, it's, I mean, there's flooding happening in that whole area. Yeah.

Mark: boy, we could sure. Use some of that water here.

Yucca: well, basically all the rain that the Southwest hasn't been getting and the surrounding areas has just been dumping right there.

They got like a whole bunch of inches on top of their snow pack and then that's what came down. But anyways, so, yeah, that's just our hearts go out to, to everybody with that. And there are, you could just go fund me if you're interested. There are just type in type in, Montana floods Yellowstone floods, and there's, there's definitely some support that people can, can get.

It's gonna be a quite a while before some of those roads and, and things are rebuilt. But it is a good lesson to not build your roads at the bottom of valleys.

Mark: Yeah. Run building your road right along the waterway is a, it's a bad, I it's bad for the waterway for one thing. But it's a really bad idea. If you are in a flashy valley that gets really big storm events periodically because it's gonna take the road out.

Yucca: Yeah. Now this is the highest it's been ever in recorded history. This is the, but it's still, it's something that I think we're gonna have to be really mindful. We should have been over the last, century, but we're gonna have to be really mindful about that moving forward. And I think we'll see a lot more of this in communities having to redesign and those roadways that's where a lot of with the work I do, a lot of the erosion that we deal with was just.

Roads that made sense why they were built that way, because it was the least expensive EC. I mean, if you've ever , if you've ever graded a road, you understand why you're trying to do it the easiest possible, because it's hard to do. But a lot of the erosion is caused by just poorly placed roads where we weren't paying attention.

And we didn't realize on my own land, we have an Arroyo that cuts through that is 30 feet deep. So it's a cut gash 30 feet. And looking at it, I know that that, that erosion feature is can't be more than 80 or 90 years old to get 30 feet. Right. And that's the case across the whole, whole west

Mark: the whole American west. Absolutely.

Yucca: So, but coming back to our question, other, you were talking about organizations

Mark: And then the, the other question was about organizing cleanups or other sort of volunteer activities.

Yucca: Right.

Mark: in my professional capacity, I have organized those kinds of things, for the organizations I've worked for. It is my hope that some of the affinity groups, the atheopagan local, geographically focused affinity groups may at some point do something like that, or at least, go to a cleanup event of some kind wearing atheopagan t-shirts or something like that to kind of represent the. The, the, the movement of non Theus paganism and show that we are putting our, our labor where our mouths are. But that's a new program that just started this year and it's early days yet. In fact, I'm going to an in-person summer solstice celebration to S celebration tomorrow with other folks from Northern California that are, on the atheopagan Facebook group and we have a discord and we're gonna do a summer solstice ritual and have a Noche and it'll be good.

Yucca: when this goes live, I should be meeting up with another atheopagan family. So I'm very excited about that and our kids are gonna get to get to play. So,

Mark: so cool. I, I just, I, I love the idea of Well, it's not even the idea. I love the fact that our community is starting to knit a little bit, even though we're we're geographically far flung. And there aren't that many of us we're starting to make connections in, and I think the sun tree retreat that we went to was a big factor for that.

I know that a lot of people really wanted to stay in touch with the people that went to the retreat with them.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: So

Yucca: So before we jump to our next one, I wanted to mention organizations that we're involved with. So I'm involved with and give money every month. We don't have a lot, but every little bit helps. The savory Institute is one that we have really, really value and have seen. And I'm speaking, we, as in my, my family and I seen incredible results with and also my husband is a student of Elaine Ingram.

So we are, starting up our own soil, food web, and those are kind of the, the big organizations that we're involved with. That'd, invite people to check out in terms of like cleanups. We live pretty rural. So if we were in an urban environment, that would be kind of more of a thing. But we do go to the county meetings and and call, know the, the commissioners and call 'em up.

And they, they, they know us. Right. And since it is a rural community, there is people like their privacy, but we also help each other out. So we don't really have barns around here, but the equivalent of barn raising type of things. And that's where a lot of our, our energy goes into is the, the small communities cuz we're, very rural and kind of everybody's their own little ranch homestead out in this area.

Mark: Sure. Yeah. That really contrasts with where I am. I mean, California is obviously very heavily populated, but you know, I'm here on the coast and one of the most attractive things to a human is an area where there's water moving around. People love to go to the beach and so beach cleanups and river cleanups and that kind of thing are, are phenomenon where I am just because there's enough people to make a mess.

Yucca: Well, and even if you didn't have people going to the beach, you'd probably have stuff washing up all the time anyways. So there's just always gonna be stuff to, to go and, and help out with. And you have some amazing,

Mark: Yes

Yucca: Marine ecosystems right off your coast.

Mark: we do. We do. Yeah. They are endangered the, the kelp forests are being replaced by a sort of gelatinous slime on the bottom of the ocean. And many of the many of the creatures are being replaced by sea urchins.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: But,

Yucca: Kiddos are huge Octa, not fans, if there's any other parents out there, you know what I'm talking about? And their favorite character is Shellington the sea Otter. Who's allergic to sea urchins, but all his other friends eat up the the urchins. They have a whole episode about how important the sea otters are to keeping those urchins in balance.

Mark: yes. And that's another species which was haunted nearly to extinction and is now rebounded quite well along the California coast.

Yucca: I'm glad to hear that. Yeah.

Mark: Yeah. It's, they're so adorable. It's great

Yucca: They're oh my goodness. So.

Mark: so.

Yucca: yeah, our our next question, and this actually ties back to what we're talking about, about the, the community. This is coming from Savannah who did a, a much longer email, really love the email, but I'm just gonna pull this last bit out. Talking about community with the larger pagan community, which may not necessarily be non theist or athe pagans.

So they write, I've been pondering, whether I should start attending local pagan events, which in this area seem to be skewed, more viewed, more theistic, and based in the supernatural, is it worth it? Are there ways to get along? Would I simply have to turn my brain off at a, at certain points, bite my tongue and swallow my allergy to woo.

Or is there a way to be part of mainstream pagan community in a way that's authentic to me. So some good stuff in here.

Mark: Yeah. Great question. And it's one that I think is really pertinent for everyone that's practicing in the non theist pagan realm. There, there is, as, as rare as pagans are, and the best estimate that I've seen for north America is that there's probably about a million of us in in the United States.

And then more in Canada and Mexico. So that that's not very much in a country of 330 odd million people.

Yucca: yeah.

Mark: But there is a community and there are events, there are festivals and there are conferences and there are opportunities to get in their local groups that are opportunities to get together.

And unfortunately there is no way to broadly characterize those. It really depends on the personalities and the culture of what's going on in your local area. So not knowing who those people are. I can't really say whether it's possible for you to be out as atheist pagan with other pagans and have them welcome you.

Some places do some places don't,

Yucca: And it's so personal too. Right? We can give advice, but what's gonna, even if, if you, there were two atheopagan in the same place who didn't know each other, we're having the same question. It's gonna be different for each of those people based on their personalities and their comfort zone. All of that stuff. so we can certainly give the advice, but, but know that it's gonna be different for absolutely everyone. And there's not a right answer.

Mark: Right. My rule of thumb for this sort of thing is that when I'm a guest, I obey the hosts rules.

Yucca: Mm-hmm

Mark: So if I'm invited to a ritual and they're doing all this theistic stuff, I just translate it in my mind, understanding that they may not know that they're talking to air and that that's, that that they're just talking to themselves or not.

But that doesn't really matter. I know that. And I understand what they're trying to get at in terms of the characteristics, the qualities, the nature of the figure that they're invoking, right? Like if they're invoking Zeus, there are particular qualities and characteristics that that figure of myth has, and that's what they're, that's what they're invoking into the ritual that you're working to do.

So I don't necessarily, I mean, I'm not going to pipe up in the middle of somebody's ritual and say, I don't believe that

Yucca: Yeah,

Mark: but so it, it is rude, right. If we get into a theological discussion, I'm going to, I'm gonna be public about my atheopagan, but you don't have to be, if you're not comfortable,

Yucca: right.

Mark: You can say, my, my personal cosmology is really private to me.

Or you can say I look at things somewhat differently, but that doesn't really matter. I'm glad to be here. And, enjoying being with you folks,

Yucca: Or you can steer the conversation away and not actually ask, answer the question that they asked. Right. When they ask a direct question, you just talk about whatever you wanna talk about and just run with the conversation in a different direction,

Mark: I mean,

Yucca: that's. Yeah.

Mark: I mean, talk about your passion for nature, talk about your, your sense of awe and wonder at, what's happening with the James web telescope. There, there are a lot of different things that you can do that will resonate with the vast majority of practicing pagans that don't have to do with God's and magic.

If somebody, is sort of grilling you about, well, what kind of spells do you really like to do? Yada yada? Well, I'm not much of a spellcaster I've been known. I've been known to use that line a lot. And the vast majority of pagans, at least in the United States are solitary.

They are not people who work in groups or coves or circles. So. That understanding. That means that by definition, it's a very idiosyncratic community of people. Everybody's got their own way of approaching things. So there is a lot of tolerance in the pagan community for difference of many kinds. The problem is that when you, when you explain that you don't believe in deities or supernatural beings of any kind, people can take that as a criticism of their belief. And you want to kind of avoid that implication if at all possible. Everybody has to draw their own cosmological conclusions. We've done that based on evidence and science, others do it based on experiences that they've had. Right. Believing what their, what their sensorium developed as an experience for them believing that that is an actual physical thing that happened in the world.

So if they heard the voice of a God talking to them, they don't think that it was their brain. They think that it was the voice of a God talking to them. And, we, we need to respect that they as humans, they have the right to do that. They have the right to their own spiritual path and the right to their own Conclusions about the nature of the world.

But we don't have to say, oh yes, I see. I, I know how that is. We can, we can divert the conversation or just be, really Franken, but in a vague way. Right. I, I have kind of a different way of understanding that stuff, but that sounds really powerful to me,

Yucca: Yeah. Cause that's, that's another strategy is to just let them talk about themselves and their. Turn it back to them getting to talk about themselves because not everybody, but most pagans are really excited to get to talk about their thing with somebody. Right. You're gonna listen to me. Go on. Right. So like asking a D and D player about their characters, you

Mark: Right. Right. Exactly. Yeah. Well, let me just tell you,

Yucca: yeah.

Now the other thing that we of course need to put a plug in for is and this is kind of a place that, that atheopagan is right now. One of the stages is that we are growing and starting to build a lot of community. So it might be an opportunity for you to. To start building a community, right. If there isn't already an atheopagan affinity group in your area, maybe you could start one, right.

Or maybe there might be, for me, there's just not enough of us in New Mexico. So I'm chilling with the Coloradans, right? Like, okay, that's close enough. I'll go hang out with you. You're, you're only a few hours away, so maybe there's something like that. So

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. And community is a really good thing. And it's an important function of, of religion of spirituality. It's. Well, okay. I, I don't want to get into the difference between religion and spirituality and there are no universally agreed definitions for those terms anyway, but. To me, religion is a communal activity.

It's something that, that, a community builds itself up around, and it's good for us. It's good for us not to be siloed all the time and to be connected with other people of like mind. So what Yucca says is really a, an important point that you know, I, there was this reporter in the bay area many years ago, scoop NICAR who used to say, if you don't like the news, go out and make some of your own.

And similarly with pagan community, if you don't like what they're doing, make some of your own, announce a announce, a Sabba holiday celebration and invite people that you think. Might fit might, might celebrate that, you can have a nice, a nice feast dinner and meet some new people. Meetup.com is actually a really useful thing for that because people who are looking for things to do, looking for ways to connect with others are they're there. That's where they are. So it's a, it's a useful tool.

Yucca: Yeah. Okay. So let's take this last one for now. And again, if you wanna, if you wanna send in your questions or topics please do, but this last one is from Cheryl. And this is kind of a, kind of a fun one, a little bit of a tricky one. So two parts to it. Okay. What positive stereotypes do you hope athe pagans become known for?

And on the flip side, what are some possible negative stereotypes you worry about? And you would like to steer the community away. Yeah.

Mark: Okay. Okay.

Yucca: I mean, I could, some of the positive ones immediately, I could say. I hope that we've become known for being compassionate. Interesting. Open-minded very critical, but in like a Socratic kind of loving of education way, those are some, I mean, basically I'm just taking out my personal values that I like and saying, I want the whole community to be like that.

Right. But yeah.

Mark: Yeah. I think I would like, for us to know, for, to be known for being kind.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And also critical thinkers and for our genuine love for nature, our, our, our deep passion for this world and our capacity to inspire that in others. I would also like for us to be known as really effective ritualists, people that can really change you psychologically really, transform the hurts within us so that we heal and really put on a great celebration.

That's filled with joy and happiness and connection. So those, those pieces I think are really important to me as well. On the other side on the negative side, what I would like to do is divert our reputation away from the new atheists.

Yucca: mm-hmm

Mark: I don't want to be, I don't want to be perceived in the same bucket as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris and all those guys, Lauren Krause.

Yucca: I mean, for me, for many years, I shied away from using the term atheist because of that association. Right. I think actually there was a, a video like years back at this point that I had made that I had mentioned that. And you had commented in the, the comments section about that. Right. And it was a really nice kind of eye opener, but because you hear a lot of people, you hear the word atheist and the, what comes to mind is the person like shooting down and tearing apart and, and just being very like,

Mark: Being being antithetic

Yucca: and yeah, and just shutting everybody down.

Right.

Mark: right, right. In, in, in with, with the, with the key goal, being this sort of egotistical,

Yucca: Superiority.

Mark: the, and Desi desire to be right.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: And I mean, everybody, everybody thinks their cosmology is right. It's true that people who base their cosmologies on evidence are more likely to be. Right. But being right is cold comfort.

It's not. It doesn't, you can't build community around being right. Which is why atheism doesn't really have communities. There's. I mean, there are a couple of organizations where people belong to them and get together to talk about how right they are. And I've been to a few of those,

Yucca: Yeah. Well at its core, though, atheism is just not. Theist. Right. And then there's so many different then. I mean, that's only just a tiny part of culture. Right. And then there's so much. And so that's, I mean, what, what we've done is we've taken and brought together the, okay. We don't deal with that God thing, but we are pagans.

We, we appreciate science. We use that as a framework for understanding the world, but we also have all of these other values that we are adding to this. You can be atheist and have values,

Mark: Yes. Yes. And paganism by its very nature is culture building rather than being handed culture from a book or from an existing tradition, that's already got all of its own rules. We are in the process of creating culture for ourselves that meets our values and works to help us to be really happy and effective in the world.

And those are things that don't really fit very well in the, in the new atheist schema of things, because they involve a lot of. Kind of soft, cushy stuff that isn't the bright, hard steel of science, right? They involve rituals and psychology and myth and symbols and all the, the artistic impulse, the creative impulse all of those things that are so, so intrinsic to who we are as humans, but not about the thinky part of being humans. They're about the other parts to being humans and valuing those other parts and feeding them and building community around them.

Yucca: Right. And what I really hope for us is that we continue to grow and cultivate an appreciation for both of those sides. Right? Because the, the pagan community at large is really good at those feeling squishy stuff. But one of the things that we're doing is atheopagan is also bringing in the, yeah, let's bring in this logic, let's bring in this critical thinking and we're and we're bettered for it.

We feel it improves our life.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. And, and there's a, I guess I would say there is a, a satiety to the worldview of non-US paganism. There's, there's a way that it fills us up because the world is enough, right. Nature, all the way out to the gala. Super clusters and, macro structures in the universe all the way down, down below the quirks to, the, the, the tiny boons and microparticles.

It, it's so amazing and so enormous to try to get your mind around even a little bit, that we, we are able to be satisfied with it. Somehow we don't need to populate it with human-like figures that are probably pretty unlikely to exist based on the available evidence. And so one of the things that I've said about Ethiopia paganism quite a bit is that we're the spirituality of verifiable reality.

Yucca: like that. Will you say that one again?

Mark: we're the spirituality of verifiable reality. You, you don't need for there to be a supernatural dimension to the universe in order to be filled with a spiritual sense of awe and joy and purpose and finding meaning in this life. And and so that's what we're about and what I would hope people would take away from encountering us is this feeling of, wow, that's a really cool person.

I really liked them. They were warm and they were thoughtful and they were interesting and they were creative. And I wanna spend more time with those kinds of people.

Yucca: Yeah. And welcoming.

Mark: Yes. And, and welcoming.

Yucca: Yeah.

Mark: Not proselytizing to be clear, not you should be one of us, but just welcoming, if you're, if you're curious about the stuff that I'm into, here's where you can find it. Yeah. As the, as the, the founder of the particular path of athe paganism within the broader category of non-US paganism, my goal has always been from the very beginning to try to do it. All right. And I'm human. So that means that there's gonna be, places where it doesn't get done.

Right. But with a community, I think you can correct for any one person's errors in order to become more and more kind, more and more consistent with your expressed values, more and more mutually accountable and transparent, more and more affirming of the value of every person who's in the community and every person in the world.

And so that really is my hope that we are on this evolutionary journey where as a movement, among the many movements of humans here we're gaining some traction for those kinds of values and way of being in the world with one another.

Yucca: Yeah, I've been very encouraged and impressed by the community. And there's been so many people stepping forward and taking leadership roles and people are certainly not afraid to correct you or anyone else. And you have been you've received that very well in the situations that I've seen and just, just a very mature group of, of really passionate and kind people that are just excited to grow this and create, create this community that, that we're cultivating together.

Mark: Yeah. Yeah. I've, I've really found that too. I mean, when I first entered the pagan community back in the eighties what struck me was how incredibly cool the people were. The, they were heartfelt. They were. Open. They were interesting. They were creative. Now a lot of them believed some stuff that I was kind of like, well, I, I'm not sure how that all, I I'm, I'm not sure how that all squares with the evidence, but okay.

In this community, I'm finding all of those same qualities along with a real sort of intellectual sharpness a, a very thoughtful, analytical capacity. And it's just a joy to be a part of I've. I, I so enjoy, the online interactions, the, the, the in person interactions. It's just really been an amazing thing.

Yucca: Yeah, and I am really grateful to share this time with you and all of you listening that, you take a, take a part of your week aside to hang out with us and, and be part of this, this amazing community and this amazing movement and whatever it is that we are. So thank you. Thank all of you.

Mark: Yes. Thank you very much. Thank you for wanting to be the kind of person we're all working to be. Cuz the world needs it. The world, the world needs kind thoughtful, critically thinking inclusive people who care about things like justice and, and nature, right? Yeah.

Yucca: Yeah. And thank you for the, the questions. And we will do another one of these episodes when we get some more questions. This was a lot of fun. I liked having the kind of a lot of the, the smaller topics. I mean, any of these, actually we could have really fleshed out into a full episode actually, but it was nice to get, to get to go through and, and kind of jump from topic to topic and, and go to some very different places in the same hour.

Mark: Yeah, yeah. I really enjoyed it too. Remember you could contact us at the wonder podcast queues, gmail.com. That's the wonder podcast, QS, gmail.com. And we always welcome your, your feedback, your questions, all that kind of stuff. So thank you so much, Yucca. See you next week.

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