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Thread: Atheism Vs Paganism: Ancient and Modern

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    Question Atheism Vs Paganism: Ancient and Modern

    Many modern atheists, such as Dawkins, Hitchens, and the late Antony Flew focused many of their arguements on Christianity, or at most the Monotheistic Abrahamic religions: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam. However, I have not seen any debates (apart from on some forums like this one) between atheists and pagans. The first atheists, found mainly among the Greek philosophers, such as Zeno, Democritus, Epicurus, and others debated pagans, attempting to disprove the existence of the gods. Do you (atheists and pagans are both welcome to answer) consider this an important or neglected debate today? Also, could anyone with resources on such modern debates direct me to them. Thanks

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    I am an atheist with asatru friends. In my experience, 21st century asatru are in their belief close to atheism: they are intelligent and rational people, who tend to interpret their beliefs symbolically and metaphorically. The atheists of Classical times, the Atomists, were opposed to the idea of natural phenomena being tools wielded by gods and instead viewed them as , well, natural phenomena. For example, the Atomists would argue that lightning was a force of nature, not something a god cast against you. Today (again only in my experience), asatru and atheists would readily agree that there is not actually an entity named Thor who does not actually throw lightning and tales narrating this are metaphors for the power of nature.

    Atheists and asatru have a common opponent in Christians and Muslims, who even today sincerely believe that earthquakes and the AIDS epidemic etc. are the punishment of there God, for not obeying some obscure and incomprehensible creed.

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    I believe in the Gods. I believe they are capable of sending messages through nature.I also believe that, in ways, they are just as human as me. There are many things humans bring upon themselves, such as disease and sickness. Christians try to destroy ancient beliefs and make them look evil.

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    Quote Originally Posted by DominionsWolf View Post
    ...Also, could anyone with resources on such modern debates direct me to them. Thanks
    I would recommend reading an article entitled "Knowing the Gods" by Collin Cleary, which was published in "Tyr: Myth - Culture - Tradition, volume 1". That can be purchased here, here, or here.

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    I believe there are higher forces personally however, I think that Norse Mythology is merely an interpretation of the gods. They are symbols of what our folk believed and subconsciously still believe, are idealic principles and traits. My gripe with what I call the extreme rationalists of the Atheist movement, is that they seem to have a lack of morals or ideals and can be pretty selfish. They seem to be relentless in their pursuit of understanding, but they will do this while torturing animals and harming the environment and yet they call themselves progressive.

    They seem to think that simply because god is unprovable, that every religion has nothing relevant to say about life. I mean imagine a world without morals, if anything I think we would regress socially and intelectually into degeneracy. Humans are selfish in nature imo and far more drawn towards evil than good. Like I said though it is the extreme rationalists I dislike not Atheists.

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    Quote Originally Posted by William Frost View Post
    I believe in the Gods. I believe they are capable of sending messages through nature.I also believe that, in ways, they are just as human as me. There are many things humans bring upon themselves, such as disease and sickness. Christians try to destroy ancient beliefs and make them look evil.
    So you do believe then that the gods exist as real beings, not just archetypes of nature in the volkisch traditions?

    So, Forest_Dweller, you would say that paganism and other religions have things to offer to science (I would agree with you on this). And Blue eyed beast, I'll be sure to check it out, thanks a lot.

    I've heard the term "metagenetics" discussed before. COuld anyone briefly explain exactly what metagenetics is (mods feel free to transfer this to a different thread if its too out of place)? As I understand it it seems to be a bio-psychological explanation of archetypes in different cultures and tribes, but I have not really understood what it is. Thanks again to everyone who has posted.

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    Interesting question that is. My profile says "Heathen Atheist", so this is probably a question that is constantly rambling in my head.

    I see no point in proving the gods nonexistent, as for my ancestors some thousand years ago they were real existing beings and were part of the cult<->culture complex that came about. Since I consider this in general a good system, I would eradicate the validity of this system with proving the gods nonexistent.

    But as atheist I view them differently, or maybe rather in the way my ancestors viewed them. In contrast to the monotheistic beliefs that center around an omnipotent, omnipresent and eternal mono-god who is the source of everything, the Pagan gods were themselves subject to the cycles of life and evolution. The sagas tell about gods dying, and Völuspa tells about the evolution of the universe and the gods. Like in Greek mythology, where the Olymp gods are the younger generation that replace the Titans, the Æsir are the next generation to the Jotuns. The more archaic ones develop, through birth (not some mysterious creation), into the more "civilised" Æsir, while keeping some of the archaic ones like Loki and Thor. Also the Vanir have some archaic qualities rather than reflecting a completed process of the next generation, like for example Týr who is the war god as well as the god of justice (which in prehistoric times anyway was the same). In contrast thereto stand Freyr and Freya, who represent tameable, but nonetheless archaic emotions.

    Whether the gods back then existed or maybe even today exist I dont know. As an atheist the naive question where the gods are when they do exist is the one that makes me an atheist. It is said one must believe in them and have faith in them. But the deal is the other way round, my dear gods, when you say you are the gods of a people, then you must serve us. In ancient times this was the case. The pagan belief was way more a business with deals rather than blind worship. We paid the gods for a service. And to a certain degree this still works today. Whether this are "gods" answering or not, I dont know, but I've seen the web of Wyrd, I've seen the fabrics being weaved, and I know that I get something back for a sacrifice. So I know there is "something" that exists a bit outside of that what is called the "rational world".

    And at this point the question begs asking, whether the "rational world" is a complete world, or whether our perception has become rather limited and we are blinded to see certain things, or disallow ourselves to see and perceive certain things that are there but lack a "rational" explanation.

    I also dont believe that our ancestors where so "confused" to invent the gods to explain natural phenomena. This doesnt work out together, knowing that the Völuspa gives a very correct, yet rather poetic, description of how the cosmos came to be. They did have a vast and detailed knowledge of astronomy and cosmology, and then they need "fantasy products" to explain the seasons, thunderstorms or whatever? That wouldnt make any sense. I think this is a misinterpretion, and most likely a intended one, of christians to ridicule the gods and to trick people into accepting the new religion (still this took several centuries to convince the people into abandoning their original belief, although I rather tend to call it knowledge, not belief).


    However, for me personally, atheism means first and foremost to reject the absurd idea of one single, omnipotent god as the source and creator of the universe and everything that is. This still doesnt mean that there cant be forces and energies that "govern" or accompany the world and life, and knowing how the universe came to be (from an astrophysical standpoint), how life developed (from an evolutionary standpoint), there is no reason to believe that forces and energies cannot evolve into something that is able to communicate with us or we with this, as the universe itself is manifested energy and force. And since our technology and science is still lightyears away from knowing everything and we only start to dig into quantum mechanics and additional dimensions, there is enough room for that what is nowadays labeled "irrational". What are we doing for example with the ~80 percent of our brain that is usually inactive? What is it for? Which abilities lie hidden there? And which of these are not yet evolved and which are "de-educated" probably?
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    Quote Originally Posted by Sindig_og_stoisk
    For example, the Atomists would argue that lightning was a force of nature, not something a god cast against you. Today (again only in my experience), asatru and atheists would readily agree that there is not actually an entity named Thor who does not actually throw lightning and tales narrating this are metaphors for the power of nature.
    There isn't such a simple distinction like this in my opinion. That a God creates lightning, does not mean that lightning is not a result of a certain process in nature. Such an idea doesn't make any sence, because the Gods are incorporeal in heathen thought and thus the relation between that which comes forth by the power of a God and said God is not to be found in the material world. So there are two explanations of lightning; one of them is physical in nature and the other more metaphysical or theological. They don't exclude eachother.
    The pagan philosopher Sallustius tells us that the things that are said to be created by the Gods are because the Gods are in the same way as light is because the sun is. Material explanations of the acts of the Gods as they are portrayed in myths have nothing to do with heathen thought and are a modern invention. So any scientific explanation of any natural process is true because of the existence of the Gods.

    furthermore I would like to emphasize that the debate in ancient times and the debate in modern times are hard to compare, since modern Asatru can't be simply equated with ancient heathenism. Modern interpretations of heathenism differ widely and many of those ideas probably have been unknown in the ancient world.

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    What I see when there's a debate between an atheist and someone of some religion is that the atheist tries to explain the world in terms of science, but not further than metaphysics and the emotions people have, nor do they want to debate the spirituality someone may work towards or gain from (whatever) religion, or the philosophy behind said religions. To them religion is just myth, and nothing further. That it has no place in society, and it's influence should be gone.

    If I come across what an atheist has to say on religion it's not much, I seldom come across an atheist who has anything intelligent to say about religion. Usually their focus is on Christianity, but they won't get into the philosophy of the religion (or any religion for that matter). How often do you hear an atheist debating Hinduism, Buddhism, or Norse paganism?

    I'm not trying to bash someone with an atheist view point, as I held one for a time, but then I actually started to read about religion and spirituality. I just see it as being pretty immature for an atheist to denounce all religion, yet not attacking the foundation of various religions, especially the philosophy on life. Even attacking religion (or spirituality) and not thinking of what that individual's own value preferences might be and their own spiritual gain for their own personal persuasion.

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