Phil Zuckerman, PhD, defines secularism as "non-religious." To be secular, this means you maintain a naturalistic worldview that doesn't involve religions (Zuckerman, 2014). Combining secularism with magick [defined as the design of function, Spookwyood] (2021) can give you a way out of religion without forfeiting rational enchantment.
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1. Know Your Motivations.
Secularism can be both extrinsically and intrinsically motivated.
Being extrinsically motivated to live secularly indicates a motivation based on external rewards. Perhaps you've grown jealous of ex-church members no longer spending two days a week at the church house and are instead gathering to smoke joints and practice heavy metal doom music.
Being intrinsically motivated for secular living means that your rewards for living without religion are innate. This might occur upon you recognizing the Bible is too error-filled to be worshipped. You make the decision to retire from faith, not because of extrinsic rewards, but simply because it brings you personal joy to reject religion and live secularly.
Most of us are moved to action by both extrinsic and intrinsic motivations, and that's great! Extrinsic motivation isn't necessarily bad just because it's inspired by external rewards, but it definitely benefits us to be intrinsically motivated considering that our innate joy is typically the most sought-after.
Secularism, like any life course, is going to be impacted by the three big B's: beliefs, behavior and belonging (Zuckerman, 2014). This article will help you understand how the three big B's are not exclusive to religion, and you'll have a few more tools to make sense of how secularism can be successful.
Image: GIF of a brown puppy riding through the Grand Canyon in a pink jeep with a motivational slogan reading, "You can do it!"
2. Map Out Your B's.
What are your beliefs? What is your behavior? What is your sense of belonging?
A trained psychotherapist or cognitive scientist can help you map this if you have any trouble doing it yourself. If you can't afford professional psychological assistance, there are definitely ways to learn and utilize psychotherapeutic strategies at home.
Map out beliefs, behavior and belonging with self-observation. This means consulting an emotions wheel and documenting your feelings, identifying patterns in your thinking and behavior, making sense of your impulses, deciding what your values are, getting to know the people in your network and participating in emergence.
Write often, trace correlations between events, ask for feedback and preserve your potential for change.
3. Appreciate Theology.
Being secular, agnostic/atheist or religiously traumatized is no useful reason to avoid learning about religious beliefs, the divine, etc.
Going godless doesn't mean losing interest or understanding as to why others have found or remain in alliance with religion. It doesn't benefit secular magickians to know any less about gods, deities or divine-focused traditions although there's no way we can directly experience what it means to be the other person.
This is why secularists often maintain religious studies and participate in conversations with faithful thinkers. The academic study of religious beliefs and practices is useful for our reference and learning. Studying religion does not mean you are generating or enabling the religion, only gathering data about it.
Image: GIF of a black religious book's pages being turned against a violet background
If you have a previous relationship with a perceived entity, it can feel like the loss of a family member even if you've made the personal decision to no longer believe in a deity or the validity of religious worship.
It's important to respect the weight of grief that comes with leaving a church, tradition or religious routine. Grieving involves making new and uncomfortable plans, experiencing emotional flashbacks or fear of the future, relying on ourselves in unfamiliar ways, developing new skills and relationships, facing hard truths about reality and questioning our existence and purpose.
Grieving means accepting some anger and loneliness, retaining bittersweet dreams and memories, balancing present demands and connecting with others who are grieving.
Image: Sparkling animation of a large glowing moon shedding tears upon a night forest
Sometimes, suffering can motivate rebellion that may ultimately save you. Survivors of domestic abuse, sexual assault, poverty and illness have a tough time making sense of how gods can witness traumatic events without intervening.
If such gods were real, traumatic pain is enough of a cause to reject their power and religious worship of them.
Rebelling takes courage, strategy, study, acceptance of consequence and a refusal to worship enslavement.
Image: Grainy B&W GIF of a black flag waving in strong winds
6. Study evolution.
If you've previously been under the impression that the universe was started by conscious deities, you're going to need to do some significant back-tracking to learn more secular theories and update your universal narrative.
Evolutionary biologists such as Richard Dawkins and astrobiologists like Sarah Imari are secular scientists (and leaders) bravely promoting evolutionary theories of emergence and agnostic prosperity. Humans are as complex and remarkable as we are in religious narratives, so now you're tasked with making sense of evolutionary adaptation.
There's no way else to learn why you have a nose, emotions, a sky to gaze into, space to explore or dreams you want to make come true.
7. Learn science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM).
If reality is made of particles, state transitions and irreversible chemical reactions, then it's time to start looking at the world with a microscope and telescope.
Rather than binge-watching fantasy T.V. every day, balance your media favorites with tougher, educational content to get routine exposure to important concepts and STEM conversations. Genetics, climate change, medical studies, computers and AI development, robotics, neuroscience, wildlife, auto mechanics, fitness, sound and music, gardening and welding are just a few topics to get interested in and follow.
Image: GIF of a functioning heart-shaped gear machine
8. Write Your Will.
It can seem counterintuitive to write a will when our goal is preserving consciousness, but getting realistic about death and dying is a way to embrace secularism. Since we've not yet discovered how to slow aging or increase the human lifespan significantly, we are responsible for preparing for old age and retirement, funerals and final moments.
Writing your will can be a great journal experiment, or you can take it one step further by having your written will notarized (if you're 18+ in the U.S.). Your will can help guarantee that your last wishes are respected, and this is also a step to take to make peace with life's current limitations.
What do you want to be done with your body when you die? Who would you like your belongings to go to? What should you be remembered for?
Image: B&W GIF of a misty graveyard
Look for people who have similar thoughts and curiosities. Listen to their stories and explanations. Consume secular content. Blog about your experiences in a forum.
This might require learning new interpersonal and community-building skills, especially if you're accustomed to past beliefs that you're telepathically communicating with religious deities and spend most of the time dialoguing with yourself.
Image: GIF of a discussion forum
10. Secularism is a Process, and so is Religious Deconversion.
Sergio Perez and Frédérique Vallières created a model of deconversion (notice: LOW SAMPLE SIZE (n=30)] in 2019 based on the (mostly male) responses of ex-Christians.
Image: Model of Deconversion
Perez' and Vallières' model (2019) outline three core emergent categories: reason and enquiry; criticism and discontent; and personal development.
It's a mix of life events, logic and exposure to diverse phenomena that make up the process.
11. Magick is never lost!
Spookywood defines magick as "the design of function" (2021).
Your body, Earth, time are all made possible with magick. For something to exist, philosophically it is also spoken as having essence. There are structural designs and energetic patterns in all forms, plus the functions that come about from their interaction of parts.
Arteries, valves, muscle tissue and a nervous system make up the beating heart. Wax, wick and flame make up the candle.
It's not supported by evidence that consciousness or religious entities are responsible for magick, but occultists have a rare chance to preserve this special state of observation and participation.
Perez, S., & Vallières, F. (2019). How Do Religious People Become Atheists? Applying a Grounded Theory Approach to Propose a Model of Deconversion. Secularism and Nonreligion, 8, 3. DOI: http://doi.org/10.5334/snr.108
Spookywood. (2021). Magick: the design of function. Splook. https://spookywood.net/blogs/featured-splook/magick-the-design-of-function
Zuckerman, Phil. (2014). What does "secular" mean? Psychology Today. https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-secular-life/201407/what-does-secular-mean