Secular paganism or humanistic paganism is an outlook which upholds virtues and principles associated with paganism while maintaining a secular worldview. Approaches to secular paganism vary, but can include the respect for living creatures and the Earth itself, while rejecting belief in deities. Secular pagans may recognize goddesses/gods as useful metaphors for different cycles of life, or reframe magic as a purely psychological practice.
As Europe was Christianized, the Church Fathers regularly secularized pagan deities and myths through euhemerism, a practice where the deities are interpreted as historical figures who at some point had become worshiped as gods. Clement of Alexandria summarized the approach in Cohortatio ad gentes, addressing the pagans: "Those to whom you bow were once men like yourselves."
The 18th century produced a considerable body of works that sought to "unveil" concepts from the ancient world, including the pagan gods. This gave birth to rationalist and atheist interpretations of ancient mythological concepts, and ancient texts were sometimes read as if they were written by contemporaries to the Enlightenment philosophers, discussing the same topics as they from the same humanist perspective.
Some adherents of modern Paganism have developed atheistic, humanistic, or secular approaches, where important aspects of a pagan worldview are embraced, but deities are not revered as real or supernatural beings. These approaches take on a variety of different forms.
In the 19th century, the French writer Louis Ménard used the term "mystical paganism" for his attempt to create a substitute for organized religion, in which he used a humanistic approach to recognize the importance of symbols and the irrational. The concept had significant influence on the poet Leconte de Lisle and the Parnassian movement.
Some pagan revivalists are inspired by Carl Jung's theories about archetypes and the collective unconscious. Jung handled esoteric and mythological subjects in a secular and scientific, yet not dismissive manner.
The biologist Andreas Weber promotes what he calls "poetic ecology" and "poetic materialism". This has been a source of inspiration for people such as Henrik Hallgren of the Swedish Forn Sed Assembly.
Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans, an American anthology edited by John Halstead, was published in 2016 and contains a number of essays on secular approaches to paganism.
In the context of political theology, the philosopher Odo Marquard has argued that the separation of powers is a "disenchanted return of polytheism". His 1979 essay on the subject, "In Praise of Polytheism", provoked controversy among German scholars. Contrary to Marquard, the philosopher Jacob Taubes—who defended a secularized version of apocalyptic eschatology—argued that the secularized, political version of paganism is totalitarianism.
- Covenant of Unitarian Universalist Pagans
- Cultural Christian, Cultural Judaism, and Cultural Muslim
- Naturalistic pantheism
- Social cycle theory
- Euhemerism: A Mediaeval Interpretation of Classical Paganism, John Daniel Cooke, Speculum, Vol. 2, No. 4, Oct., 1927, p. 397.
- Quoted in Seznec (1995) The Survival of the Pagan Gods Princeton University Press pg 12, who observes (p. 13) of the numerous Christian examples he mentions, "Thus Euhemerism became a favorite weapon of the Christian polemicists, a weapon they made use of at every turn".
- Manuel 1967, p. viii.
- Manuel 1967, pp. 132–133.
- Seymour-Smith 1985, p. 426.
- Gardell, Mattias (2003). Gods of the Blood: The Pagan Revival and White Separatism. Duke UP. p. 210. ISBN 9780822330714.
- "Är du en poetisk materialist? – Lodyn" (in Swedish). Retrieved 2020-08-28.
- John Halstead, 2016, Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-theistic Pagans ISBN 978-1-329-98849-1
- Gladigow 2004, p. 22.
- Styfhals 2019, p. 91.
- Gladigow, Burkhard (2004). "Lectores ad priscum cultum revocare. Popularisierte Religion oder narrative Religionswissenschaft" [Readers recall former cultures. Popularized religion or narrative religious studies]. In Piegeler, Hildegard; Prohl, Inken; Rademacher, Stefan (eds.). Gelebte Religionen. Untersuchungen zur sozialen Gestaltungskraft religiöser Vorstellungen und Praktiken in Geschichte und Gegenwart. Festschrift für Hartmut Zinser zum 60. Geburtstag [Lived religions. Studies on the social creative power of religious ideas and practices in history and the present. Commemorative publication for Hartmut Zinser on his 60th birthday] (in German). Würzburg: Königshausen & Neumann. ISBN 3-8260-2768-X.
- Manuel, Frank E. (1967) . The Eighteenth Century Confronts the Gods. New York: Atheneum.
- Seymour-Smith, Martin (1985) . Guide to Modern World Literature. London and Basingstoke: Macmillan. ISBN 978-0-333-33464-5.
- Styfhals, Willem (2019). No Spiritual Investment in the World: Gnosticism and Postwar German Philosophy. Ithaca, New York: Cornell University Press. p. 91. ISBN 978-1501730993.
- Horák, Pavel (2016). "The Image of Paganism in the Age of Reason: From Idolatry towards a Secular Concept of Polytheism". The Pomegranate. 18 (2): 125–149. doi:10.1558/pome.v18i2.31664. hdl:10195/67699.