A few months ago I met up with THE wonderful and lovely Tommie Kelly for coffee and a chat, during which I must have mentioned that I was an atheist. A few days later, in his podcast, he brought that up. He said (I paraphrase) that a wizard professing himself an atheist struck a discordant chord with him. He did mention, though, that often when the word ‘atheist’ is used, there is often a misunderstanding of what is meant.
So, to clarify, I mean it literally:
- “A person who disbelieves or lacks belief in the existence of God or gods”.
Now, there are a few things to unpack there. For a start, if you google ‘gods’, you get God, and that provides us with:
- (in Christianity and other monotheistic religions) the creator and ruler of the universe and source of all moral authority; the supreme being.
- (in certain other religions) a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.
Now, that is two separate things. We shall primarily concern ourselves with the first definition, because that is what almost every -believer- of any extant faith actually means. They mean a god from their tribe’s story that satisfies the above criteria literally. If that is not what they mean, then -they- don’t “believe in God” either. It is not a scale, it’s a Boolean value. It’s either ‘Yes’ or ‘Other’.
Before I move on, I wanted to make a distinction between ‘lacks belief’ and ‘disbelieves’. ‘Lacks belief’ is more my attitude to Russel’s Teapot. Prior to hearing about it, I hadn’t given the premise any consideration at all, but it doesn’t seem likely, does it? Disbelief arises when I am confronted with a passionate truth claim, and having examined the evidence, logic and reason on offer, come to ‘believe’ that the claim is false.
I surmise that the incongruence Tommie felt at my self-outing as an atheist would probably fall into two primary causes.
I imagine that one of them is that, given so much of the work in our various ‘Great Works’ tends to be mucking about with gods and daimons and such like, it might be tricky to conduct such business as an atheist. I have not found this to be so.
But the main problem with the word ‘atheist’, these days, is it very quickly puts you shoulder to shoulder with Dawkins and his chums, smiting down the credulous with the might of science and the provable truth. And they are, by and large, not natural bedfellows to Wizards.
Now, I don’t know about you, but for me, any sensible paradigm of existence -has- to include the world described by science. If you take away everything you can’t prove, the stuff that remains, the stuff you -can- prove, well, that shit describes the Objective Universe we actually live in. That is your base reality. There isn’t really any arguing with that.
I mean, you -can- argue with it and, in fact, you should. I firmly ‘believe’ that each and every one of us, especially Magi, have a personal duty to question everything in our existence. Starting with what is right in front of our noses, and travelling as deeply into the Universe as one can, learning and examining and ‘proving’ our ‘truths’. While we may never fully understand the true nature of the Whole Sort of General Mish Mash (WSoGMM), we can get to a point in our model of the Objective Universe that can be described as ‘True’, or as stable an understanding of ‘Truth’ as makes no odds, until some sort of new shit comes to light.
In this respect, I am right there with the Horsemen of the New Atheist Apocalypse. Even a Magickal worldview, -has- to begin outside that bubble of ‘certainty’.
Simply, if one is going to ‘believe’ in anything remotely woo woo, one needs some form of experience or rational that verifies personal ‘truth’, to differentiate between authentic experience and mere delusion or fantasy. Delusion and fantasy certainly have their place in Magick, but a Wizard needs to understand that they are that, lest they start ‘cackling’!
Conveniently, Science gives us that method. I realise in some occult circles ‘science’ is a dirty word, like it’s very utterance would conjure the spirit of Dawkins to stink up the magickal atmosphere, but in MY definition of Magick, the tools of science are as an essential set of tech as anything found in philosophy or mysticism. My Magick surrounds science, embraces it; it doesn’t sit apart from it.
I mean, it is 2018, for crying out loud. Look around you. All that stuff you see? We know (beyond a reasonable doubt) how it all works. We know how it got there, and we know what it all does. Lawrence Krauss does a fantastic job of explaining what we know about the Universe, and while there sure are some great mysteries left to explore, our observable universe has NO GODS! There is not the tiniest speck of evidence of there being any, nor do we need them to explain -any- of it anymore. We have grown up, as a species.
The trouble is, the vast majority of humans in the world are brought up with god on their lips, before they can talk, before the can read, before they can reason and before they have any grasp of the scientific world. Most kids -already- believe in god before they even ask the question, if they ever ask it at all.
That is not a reasonable way to approach one’s existence, if you ask me. I agree with the statement that extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I don’t accept that you can claim a spurious story and demand that I have to believe it if I can’t disprove it. That’s not how it works. If that’s the best you’ve got, then we have The Flying Spaghetti Monster, The Invisible Pink Unicorn and Mr. Tickle in Heaven, just as surely as anything else.
So, until some credible evidence shows up (Unverified Personal Gnosis need not apply), the gods exist only in the tales of Men. Some of those stories have been carried for thousands of years, first by one tribe and then by the next. In some cases the gods have been carried fully alive, in the hearts of their priests, their ‘wisdom’ and proclamations disseminated to their flock, who are always the chosen people. At times, the priests have become little more than historians and story tellers, the gods asleep or forgotten.
I find it impossible to see how one has got to this point and still ‘believes’ in any kind of literal interpretation of any of these stories, but let’s pretend that one did. Let us assume, for a moment, that one could even pick one above the rest as being more plausible, one would have to try and ratify the stories into one’s daily life. One would have to be living in the story; those gods are real.
Now, I will concede that my religious knowledge primarily focuses on the those that have washed up on the shores of Western Europe, but it is pretty evident that the gods are ‘orrible! All of them.
If they aren’t committing genocide, fucking around with the men, fucking the women, setting tribe against tribe, unleashing terrible vengeance and damning us all to one torment or another, they are screwing with our heads, commanding all sorts of stupid things apropos our genitalia, and generally fucking shit up! They clearly don’t love us! They clearly don’t care!
Now, I don’t know about you, but I am a Chaos Mage. I am my own Center of the Universe. My own Axis Mundi. My own Sovereign Entity. I don’t do rulers. If I did, it sure as hell wouldn’t be to the likes of them. They stand at odds to the values that I hold dear. If any of those gods literally existed, I would defy them to my dying breath and, if necessary, to Hell. Fuck ’em! Oh, and I call bullshit on their moral authority.
There are, of course, those that will equate god with the whole universe, some omniscient, omnipresent and omnipotent entity, outside time and space. Maybe even a being of pure light and love. Well, ok, that seems like word play to me. For a start, that is not the god that’s being described in any of those stories. Such a thing, such an idea, would have to be alien, infinite, impersonal, as much a part of the cancer that kills you as the egg that created you. You can call that god if you want, but it is none that I recognise and frankly, you’re just back to ‘The Universe’, in all it’s violent, uncaring majesty and glory.
And then you are back to pointing at chunks of the sky and deifying it. Which brings us to:
“a superhuman being or spirit worshiped as having power over nature or human fortunes; a deity.”
This is where Dawkins and I part company. I -do- ‘believe’ in spirit. I can see how a WSoGMM model of the Universe, described by Krauss, contains enough Chaos to, effectively, suggest an Etheric and Astral plain, to use the occultists vernacular. As a Chaos Mage, I have no problem with paradigm shifting into belief systems that deify aspects of the WSoGMM, that are worshiped by some cults. Not by me, I’ll grant you, but that does not mean I cannot approach them as a Mage.
Gods of Sun, Moon, Stars, Planets, Sky, Sea, and Earth. A Mage’s relationship with them is different to that of a Priest, and especially that of a Worshiper.
There is my point, at last. The Universe is awash with power, majestic and terrifying. We can do with that as we will. You have the option of calling it God, bending your knee and surrendering your Will to it’s whim.
A Wizard might summon It’s essence into a guise crafted to fit it, call it by Name and add it’s power to Her own.
But, ya’ know… do what you want, man.
 The title of this post, “Well That About Wraps It Up For God”, is a book written by Oolon Colluphid, the last volume of Colluphid’s best-selling trilogy, having been preceded by Where God Went Wrong, Some More of God’s Greatest Mistakes, and Who is this God Person Anyway? Hitchhikers Guide to the Galaxy: by Douglas Adams
 Let us not forget what a Chaos Mage means by ‘believe’.
 ‘Cackling’ , to a witch, didn’t just mean nasty laughter. It meant your mind drifting away from its anchor. It meant you losing your grip. It meant loneliness and hard work and responsibility and other people’s problems driving you crazy a little bit at a time, each bit so small that you’d hardly notice it, until you thought that it was normal to stop washing and wear a kettle on your head. It meant you thinking that the fact you knew more than anyone else in your village made you better than them. It meant thinking that right and wrong were negotiable. Wintersmith: by Terry Pratchett
 Lawrence Krauss’ excellent book, A Universe From Nothing can be found here