Can Wiccans also be atheists or agnostics? This may seem a strange question because the worship of the Lord and Lady is so central to many Wiccans’ daily spiritual practice. But the short answer is yes. It is possible to concentrate on the cultural aspects of Wicca rather than its religious concepts.
According to the Merriam-Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary, Eleventh Edition, the definition of atheism is, “1. archaic: Ungodliness, Wickedness 2a: a disbelief in the existence of deity, b: the doctrine that there is no deity.” And, from the same source, here is the definition of agnostic: “1: a person who holds the view that any ultimate reality (as God) is unknown and prob. unknowable; broadly: one who is not committed to believing in either the existence or the nonexistence of God or a god.”
Atheists do not believe in deities. Agnostics believe that there is no way to prove or disprove the existence of deities. But that does not necessarily mean that atheists and agnostics limit their curiosity only to those phenomena currently verifiable by science. Sometimes it takes the scientific method awhile to explain things that previously seemed like magic such as the laws of gravity, solar eclipses, electricity, hypnosis, and acupuncture. An atheist might not believe in the existence of gods, but she might acknowledge flows of electromagnetic energy that make up the universe. She might keep an open mind about an individual’s ability to influence energy by honing intent through ceremony, which is another way to describe witchcraft.
Atheists or agnostics might believe in witchcraft but not in gods. Maybe they feel strongly that the universe invented itself to its own pattern – which includes the ability of individuals to influence the flows of energy through witchcraft – but the universe itself is not a sentient being that requires worship. Or maybe they believe that everything in the universe is randomly generated, including witchcraft. There are also Deists (not atheists or agnostics) who believe that a deity or deities existed long enough to create the universe and its energy flows, but then ceased to exist and left us all to our own devices.
A Wiccan atheist or agnostic might recognize no higher power than his own moral code. And he might see his moral code and experience as sufficient to guide him through the practice of any skill from accounting to knitting to witchcraft. This type of Wiccan is the opposite of the Wiccan I described in a previous article who is not interested in practicing witchcraft, but seeks only to worship deity.
Another type of Wiccan atheist or agnostic disbelieves in deity AND witchcraft, but finds a strong identity in Wiccan cultural concepts. This might include reverence for nature, a heightened awareness of environmental issues, attraction to Celtic and Anglo-Saxon history, and an affinity for seeking balance and symmetry between the male and female energies present within each of us.
This type of Wiccan is similar to a secular Jew such as J. Robert Oppenheimer, father of the atomic bomb, who was an atheist and a scientist, but culturally Jewish. A secular Wiccan might not be interested in practicing witchcraft, and might observe the festivals of the Wheel of the Year mainly as a way to enjoy and connect with the ancient harvest rituals and not as a religious observance. So, as you can see, there is much diversity in what it means to be a Wiccan, which means that our cultural and religious identity has the potential for broad horizons if we can accept our differences.