As an Atheist who is also a witch, I am getting pretty sick and tired of people in the Pagan/Witchcraft community trying one way or another, tell me that it is impossible/incompatible for an Atheist to be a Witch.. I see this over and over again in various forms, and it is almost always simply because the person does not know what the term “atheist” means and insists on trying to add more to it, than it actually is. On the rare occasion it is because the person does not understand that witchcraft can be separate from deities of any form.
So what is an Atheist?
In every dictionary I can muster up, I will allow the term to define itself in it’s pure form…I will share multiple to save some one the lame argument of trying to claim I am dictionary biased (you never know, people are strange….)
A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods.
: a person who does not believe in the existence of a god or any gods : one who subscribes to or advocates atheism
MacMillan English Dictionary
Needless to say, in every single dictionary I can find online, in every case, the term Atheist very clearly means a person who does not believe in/lacks belief in god(s). Nothing else is included in it. Therefore, the ONLY criteria for it, is lack or disbelief in deities, nothing more or less.
Why other’s think there are additional requirements for Atheism.
While I can’t speak for what goes on in everyone’s mind, I believe I do have a good idea as to why others add more to the definition than actually exists. The loudest voices in Atheism tends to come from materialist Atheists. They also account for the majority of Atheists. This type not only lacks the belief in deities, but they also lack the belief in anything supernatural, the after life, metaphysical, or anything occult. They argue against all these to the point that it would seem to others who never actually looked into the definition what an Atheist is that these categories are all inclusive to the term. Even these types, if pressed, will admit that although they might think it’s foolish, silly, or stupid, an Atheist can believe in all these things, and still be an Atheist; just not a materialist Atheist. This can make it challenging for the Atheists that do have these beliefs as they are not only chided by the majority of the atheist community (since most are materialistic) but also have to deal with the occasional scorn from the Theistic communities as well.
So What’s an Atheist Witch to do when encountering some one who doesn’t understand what an Atheist is, and thinks it’s incompatible with being a witch?
Usually, all you have to do is politely point out that the only requirement for Atheism is lack of belief in deities, show them the definition, or an essay covering the subject and they will have accepted that they just learned something they did not previously realize. But on occasion, there is always that one person that wants to sit there and continue to argue with the Atheist witch about it, some how feeling emboldened to dictate to an Atheist witch what an Atheist is; which is insulting and foolishly implies that the Atheist witch did not already look into the definition and sort this out before realizing that they are a witch who is also an Atheist. But there are ways you can highlight the foolish nonsense of the argument, and show easily how the attempted logic lacks any merit.
1. Some one might continue to say to you that they don’t understand how you can be a witch too, and then name all the things a materialistic Atheist rejects (see above). This is when you again, reaffirm the definition (that you probably already showed them) remind them that they, nor materialistic Atheists have the copy writes to re-write the definition of an Atheist, to suit their own liken. Then point out that not all Theists are the same, there are many different types, and therefore, logically, you will find different types of Atheists as well. You can’t broaden theists while narrowing atheists
2. Some one might argue that the vast majority of Atheists they know or had experience with did not believe in anything outside of scientific findings, therefore implying that you being an atheist that accepts more than these findings makes no sense to them. You can let them know that this is also your experience (if it is) but that experience is limited to the person’s own encounters and does not, in fact, exclude anything different than anything they’ve encountered. All that means is they simply never experienced it yet, but now they have with you, and it’s illogical to assume another group does not exist just because they never met one yet. Encourage them to seek communities or other areas where they can find atheist witches so therefore, they can increase their experience and understanding of this type of witch so that they no longer have a narrowed down view of what an Atheist is..
3. Some one might suggest the definition is outdated because, once again….all the observations they made about what materialistic Atheists say, caused them to include all the other paranormal like categories into what an Atheist is and they think the definition should fit more with the majority.. Remind them that since the term itself was coined to describe people who were opposite of theists in regards to believing in a deity, the definition is quite current and fitting.. To add more too it, would make it something that would demand a whole different term all together. Remind them of what the term Theist means and how they’ve met so many different types: religious, non-religious, monotheist, polytheists, etc. but yet the one sole thing all theists have in common is the belief in deities whether one or more. Therefore, it’s irrational to assume that when it comes to atheists, there needs to be more added to the term when this isn’t demanded for the term theist; especially if the argument is due to majority. This is especially silly if it’s coming from a Witch. Christianity is the largest religion in the world, toppling about 2.1 billion. Paganism is among the smallest, and Pagan Witches even less, only a fraction of pagans. How fair or right would it be to then take the term Theist, and bastardize it only to fit for Christians, and therefore, in a way that excludes pagans, or pagan witches? This won’t make the minority go away, it just tampers with a term to make it now inaccurate and no longer an umbrella term that covers every kind of Theist imaginable. Same principal applies to the term Atheists. So the term Atheist as it is, wields the most accurate definition, encompassing every kind of Atheist under the moon.
4. Recently, I saw some one argue that “lack of religion is a key tenant of calling yourself an atheist”. This was supposedly an argument for why an Atheist can’t be a Wicca (which I actually agree with based on what the religion of Wicca is), but the person incorrectly stated “The belief in spirits, magic or any supernatural forces or beings also, in most definitions, would prevent atheism. ” Wiccans are not the only witches that believe in these things, so she make a sweeping statement here. First of all, it’s in error because, I already showed what “most definitions” say out of the most prominent English dictionaries (See above); apparently, she did not look the term up when she stated that most definitions say this. Second of all, not all Theists even believe in everything on her list, I have met some that don’t believe in spirits, and some that reject an afterlife. Both theists or atheists have the luxury to believe in all on her list, some or none. But getting to the claim that lack of religion is the key tenant in calling yourself an atheist, this is wrong on many levels. Firstly, it is wrong because, the definitions do not include it. Secondly, it is wrong because there are many theists out there who are not religious, or a-religious, but believe in some kind of deity and that’s about it. I have met plenty of them in my life span so far. Also, if the term Atheist demands lack of religion as a key tenant, then it logically stands to follow that the term Theist demands that having a religion is a key tenant to calling self theist. So, she incorrectly now would have these types of Theists included in the category of Atheist. Thirdly, there are religions out there that Atheists are part of because they are compatible with Atheism, thereby, making some Atheists, obviously religious too. Buddhism ranks as the 6th largest religion in the world (about 376 million) which is compatible, and there is a branch of secular Buddhists. Then you have Unitarian Universalists who rank in at 20th with about 800,000. They too have quite a few members that are Atheist or Agnostic, including clergy. Let’s not forget about the Laveyan Satanist too, which is a strictly Atheistic religion.
5. Then finally, you find people out there who do not misunderstand the term “Atheists” but rather what makes some one a witch. There are some that think that the key, or essential component of being a witch is belief in and working with deities and can’t understand how you can be one without them. This is actually true for some Witchcraft paths, Wicca being one of them, but not all. The main tenant of being a witch is practicing witchcraft (which has many formats, some, like in Wicca involve it in a way that pertains to deities.) However, based upon the actual definition of witchcraft, religion or even belief in deities is not a requirement at all, therefore it’s very possible and even not uncommon for some one to keep their witchcraft path separate from their religious or non religious path. So when encountering some one like this, it’s useful to focus more on what a witch actually is, and then apply how it therefore is compatible with Atheism.
The above arguments (Save for the fourth one which this was the first time I saw it used, but really felt it was worth attention because it will probably get used again some where) are the main ones I see. None of them are very logical in my opinion, and are based on an individual person’s ignorance. Not using the term ignorance to be fresh, but that’s exactly what it is, the person never really looked into the term Atheism and is going by their limited understanding. If you are reading this and are an Atheist witch that has come across other types of arguments, I would be happy to see you share it, and your ideas on how to deal with it. If you are some one that has always thought Atheists had to be materialistic, then I hope you appreciate the eye opener, and the broadening of the term that I hoped you would have upon reading this. Please, if you encounter an Atheist in any magical communities, rather than assume upon them what you think they are suppose to be like, it would be more helpful to engage them and actually ask them what they believe, think or feel. It is also perfectly fine to ask them if they do believe in things like the afterlife, spirits, etc. If they seem materialistic, it’s fair to ask them how this kind of belief ties into their magical practice; as I’ve even met some that lean more materialistically, practicing witchcraft.