Livia Indica has an excellent entry about two Pagan Podcast celebrities who have, it seems, defected towards atheism. Not that I have a problem with that. What seems intriguing to me is that in looking at the Wild Hunt's blog post about it and comments from those who feel sympathetic to that switch.
I, myself, feel a bit sympathetic. Especially since I was asked by Heretic X if I wanted to return to producing a podcast project with Mr. VI. Since VI and I were both on skype together at the time, and analyzing a meme for him, we both had a bit of a chuckle. Making a short run podcast project was one of the most grating things I've ever done. When it was fun – and it was at times – was when VI and I told young Neo-Pagans to do things like go meet the devil at the crossroads if they really, really had a problem with him. (Confrontation of one's fears is the only way to ever truly make them go away.)
I can't imagine what having a long-term podcast, with hundreds of listeners, would be like.
On the other hand it does have a bit of a bonus: suddenly have people you respect leave a given scene often gives you a chance to reflect on why you're involved in the first place. Which is what I imagine those who feel similar to Deo and Mandy are doing.
On the other hand there is another tendency, and one which is all too common, which is to follow suit because someone popular is doing it. Which I think will happen with just about any subculture, artistic system, or spiritual belief. Especially in America. America is a place where the purported avant-garde have a nice little niche that many others try to emulate. If Raven Digitalis decided to announce he was an atheist tomorrow then I can practically guarantee that a few hundred teenagers and young adults would follow. They'd be keeping up with the Joneses. And what does this matter, in the face of everything else?
Nothing. Spirituality is personal. Religion may not be, but spirituality certainly is. It's something you either feel or do not. You connect with the numinous or you don't. In Neo-Pagan, and magickal, circles there is a lot of stress on the ability to do many things which quite a few people can't... But will claim they can to fit in. And this angle, the less personal and far more political and social, is where we tread the line.
I live in California. Fresno, California, to be exact. It's the armpit of California – certainly – but we have a wide array of practitioners from diverse backgrounds and with even more diverse views who occasionally even manage to get together. It is nice. But it isn't what keeps me going – spiritually, that is. And if it was then the reason I was doing what I do – from researching and practicing witchery to Chaos Magick – wouldn't be for me but for everyone else. Which I think is the important to stress. If you don't feel the drive to do it, to see, to feel, to dare and will and even occasionally keep silent... Then you're not doing it for yourself, but so you can have a self-help group. And guess what?
Neo-Paganism and magick are about “self-help” - but a real self-help group is better for you if you need one. If the connection isn't there? Defect. Don't let anyone pressure you not to. Find something else. Whatever it is.
Otherwise? Pay those that leave no mind. Wish them the best. We'll keep on trucking, one way or another, because no one can take connecting from the divine from us with force or charisma if we have it. And that's why you do it. As Austin Spare once wrote, “Darken your room, shut the door, empty your mind. You are still in great company. The numen and your genius, with all their media, and a host of elementals and ghosts of your dead loves – ARE THERE! They need no light by which to see, no words by which to speak, and no motive for communication except your own purely formed desire. ”
... And that one quote has inspired me nigh endlessly. Now if you'll excuse me, I have some dark woods to visit and some spirits to chat up for unseemly purposes. (And are there really any other purposes for a young sorcerer?)