Outgrowing Paganism?

Jason Pitzl-Waters —  January 5, 2009 — 37 Comments

Deo’s Shadow, once the most popular Pagan podcast on the Internet, has decided to officially call it quits after several months of hiatus. In their farewell message, co-hosts Deò and Mandy describe how the podcast spurred them toward personal growth, specifically “growing out of” modern Paganism and into atheism.

Making deòs Shadow was usually a joy, and as the show grew more popular, we had many opportunities for new experiences which helped us to grow as people. One of the interesting side-effects of such growth is that one can end up growing out of that which induces the growth. We’ve moved on from Paganism and are now practicing atheists. We’re both in our 30s now, deò is half finished his PhD program (he began the show as an undergrad), Mandy is busy at a successful career, and we’ve got our eyes on the mundane things in life like securing a future and starting a family within the next few years.

In a follow-up post Deò ellaborates on his journey from Christianity, to Paganism, and into atheism (and why he isn’t jumping from Paganism into a different spiritual/religious practice). Spurring the follow-up was a comment by a listener of the podcast who experienced a similar (though not identical) trajectory.

I understand outgrowing things. I was a self proclaimed Pagan for 13 or so years. Recently after much study, therapy and self reflection I knew I had to take the plunge and drop the label. I can no longer label myself as a pagan. Doing this felt amazingly liberating. Who would have thought? Now this wasn’t necessarily a rejection of Paganism. I still find great value in many things deemed Pagan. This was just a moving forward from the need to put myself in a “box” that was stifling my growth. Now I know that this could be very offensive to some and I understand that.

Reading those pages made me think of the excellent posts by Cat Chapin-Bishop on her Quaker Pagan Reflections blog about balancing a Quaker and Pagan identity, about Al Billings’ (from In Pursuit of Mysteries) move from a Pagan/occult identity to Buddhism (albeit one still informed by his Pagan past), and even, briefly, about the conversion of author Carl McColman from Paganism to Catholicism. All of these narratives – Deò and Mandy’s, Cat’s, Andrea’s, Al’s, Carl’s – speak of growth, a growth that in most cases leads them away from a Pagan identity (or at least a displacement of Paganism as their core religious affiliation). Someone “outgrowing” Paganism (or hyphenating their Paganism) seems almost like a cliche nowadays, and it makes me wonder if we are alienating some of our more skeptical and philosophically-minded adherents in ways we don’t realize?

I say none of this because I resent Deò and Mandy’s (or anyone else’s) decisions, or that we should try to win them back. I wish them both the best, and thank them for their years of service to our communities. However,  that the hosts of a popular Pagan program have turned atheist should evoke some soul-searching about growth and maturity in our communities. Chas Clifton recently pointed out that pre-Christian (pagan) philosophy used to embrace everyone from the “hard” polytheists to the skeptical materialists. Who (and what) are we not embracing? Where are we not growing that these smart and talented folks must find their spiritual (or philosophical) satisfaction elsewhere? What do you think?

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Jason Pitzl-Waters


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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Robin, I've seen your eclipse/Eye of God material. I met you on UU lists under a different name.

  • Kathryn NicDhàna

    What you're saying might not be popular, but I think it's true.

  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    I'm pretty sure it was UU lists, before you were expelled (which I consider an injustice).

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  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=547261992 Erynn Schwellinger

    You’re not embracing skepticism. Modern pagan communities hate Skeptisism. Hate anyone who says “Well, what if this isn’t the case?”
    Have you any idea what happens to a pagan in 90% of the pagan community who says “Well, that’s probably not psychic, it could be…”?

  • http://www.welamom.livejournal.com welamom

    I wonder if they have run through times, as I have, when I didn’t feel connected; didn’t feel that ritual and meditation were allowing me to gain a better understanding of the Gods and my world. I looked everywhere for some sort of guide to get me through this troublesome time, but there was nothing. Nor was there any information anywhere on how to achieve a higher state of awareness or Majick.

    The only books that are available seem to be for beginners only–if you trust the author to be a true Pagan, and not some looney. Covens to join are few and far between, so there is no access to direct training. Maybe we need to make “jouneyman” information more available. That could also include training for those “crisis of faith” moments.

    Since I had no where to turn to for advice, I went back to the basics: I dug out my copy of Starhawk’s “Drawing Down the Moon”, and have been practicing the meditations diligently, likewise I have concentrated on my connections to all things in these Worlds of ours. I’m beginning to feel the benefits of these daily exercises. Still, my hope for the future is to connect with more advanced guidance.

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  • PJ Graham

    Well said. As far as I'm concerned, any Christian who puts up a Christmas tree and participates in Easter egg hunts is a little bit eclectic. :)

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  • Baruch Dreamstalker

    Interesting. I wonder if it's geography. I'm in Northern Ohio.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=547261992 Erynn Schwellinger

    You’re not embracing skepticism. Modern pagan communities hate Skeptisism. Hate anyone who says “Well, what if this isn’t the case?”
    Have you any idea what happens to a pagan in 90% of the pagan community who says “Well, that’s probably not psychic, it could be…”?

  • http://tlholladay1128.blogspot.com Tracie the Red

    Cat, you are a guiding light. A star.

  • Travis Miller

    My experience is quite different. Most of the people I know who aren't pagans are blue collar and most of my pagan friends are educated professionals.

  • Travis Miller

    There are Asatru hofs in various places. Gladsheim Kindred converted a house into a hof and hold weekly events there. There are two or three others built on private land.

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  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt thewildhunt

    We try our level best.

  • Medea

    Were you a member of the NFL? :-) (National Forensic League for all those non-Speech and Debaters.)

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/thewildhunt thewildhunt


    Thanks for adding your thoughts to this discussion.

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/troy1of2 troy1of2

    Well said Mrs.Flam!

  • http://intensedebate.com/people/Pax Pax

    Although as I think about it The Wild Hunt really is sort of the Pagan Newsweek analogue, huh?

  • Erynn Laurie

    I think the threaded comments here encourage more commentary, which is a feature I love about LJ. You may be seeing more of these in future.

  • Kathryn NicDhàna

    Well, last I checked yours is the only Pagan blog I link to.

  • Soli

    I've saved the link for later reading; it looks promising.

  • TwoSnakes

    And they all want to be the one in charge…or at least have it near to them so they don't have to drive.

  • Rob Henderson

    Congratulations on exceeding my expectations, then. >8) How many people do you have participating in the group at any given time?

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