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Pantheism Is Dead. Long Live Atheism


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A change has happened to me recently. After years of rationalising my way from theism to pantheism, I've finally dropped the magic talisman of spiritual belief and embraced atheism.

 

Some of the people on this site helped me re-question my beliefs - then Dawkins 'The God Delusion' sealed it for me.

 

My beliefs of course have always been liberal and by the time I reached my pantheistic understanding of a conscious presence in all things I was no longer prey to many of the non-sensical beliefs of the true theist. And I still don't think that there is anything wrong with pantheistic, monist, advaita vedanta types of belief either. They are relatively benign as spiritual beliefs go. Certainly the best alternative to atheism.

 

However, I finally saw with the aid of the same ruthless rationalism that led me from religion to that pantheism in the first place - that my views weren't quite accurate of the reality of things. My philosophy of mind seemed valid on the surface - but I then realised that although ordinary chemical reactions may be all that is required to make a creature conscious (since consciousness is only a result of something in the universe being aware of something else in the universe), it really doesn't make sense to call it consciousness unless there is 'awareness' rather than just direct change. Information has to be processed in some way for it to be called consciousness. The seeds of consciousness maybe everywhere (though this means little more than "things tend to interact with each other") but consciousness only happens when the interaction carries 'awareness' or 'information'.

 

I realise that convoluted (and admittedly vague) philosophy like that might go over people's heads but it is how I have been rationalising the belief in an ever-present consciousness to the Universe and also the possibility of life-after-death for quite some time now. But now I have seen the flaws in my reasoning.

 

So - no God, and no afterlife.

 

It's wonderfully freeing actually. And I've noticed some positive effects already that I didn't expect at all.

 

Far from being terrified at the prospect of death meaning a total end to my own consciousness - I am actually a lot less bothered by death than I was when I believed in an afterlife. I'm not talking about hell here, because I haven't believed in that for years. But there would be periods when I experienced doubt about an afterlife - a "what if I'm wrong" thing - and it used to terrify me and cause me anxiety.

 

Bizarrely, now that I've accepted that death is the end it doesn't bother me at all. I am totally calm and at ease about it. Go figure!

 

Another surprise positive effect is that I seem to be thinking far more pragmatically and realistically about my life aims. No more fluffy hanging on to pipe dreams (presumably because of a feeling that luck or God is on my side and that I have a really important message to preach to the world) - I am now able to leave things alone and concentrate on thinking of more practical ideas about what to do with my life. I'm considering giving up on ideas of a 'creative career' and seriously considering studying biology or something (I'm still fascinated by the animal world) - a subject that has a myriad applications in the world of work and is thus a far more practical career choice.

 

Finally I am finding that I am less melodramatic about my life dramas, and more prone to be stoically calm about it all. It's like I'm no longer trying to save or heal the world and so I'm not putting so much pressure on myself. As a result I am less likely to beat myself up over being less than perfect. I feel happier, freer and stronger as a person. This can only be good.

 

I still have a sense of awe and wonder about the mystery of the Universe.

 

I still have a very powerful sense of affection for the natural world.

 

I still respect non-theistic ethical philosophies such as Buddhism and Taoism.

 

I still love India and all the culture that comes from that wonderful country.

 

I still can respect myths and metaphors for what they are - human attempts to understand and symbolise things.

 

I'm just an atheist about it now, that's all. And I've never been happier. The irony is that I feel more 'born again' now than ever before!

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It's amazing isn't it? Who would think that when we come to a place where we no longer hang onto hopes for some God out there, that it is the moment of salvation, so to speak? It had the same effect on me. I never felt freer to just experience the value of life once I got rid of expectations of something out there to find. Salvation is freedom from religion. Congratulations! :grin:

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I'm just an atheist about it now, that's all. And I've never been happier. The irony is that I feel more 'born again' now than ever before!

You're not alone. I've seen many make the same journey.

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Another surprise positive effect is that I seem to be thinking far more pragmatically and realistically about my life aims. No more fluffy hanging on to pipe dreams (presumably because of a feeling that luck or God is on my side and that I have a really important message to preach to the world

 

That sounds like my experience when I left xianity behind. Almost word for word.

 

I truly respect people like you who challenge their beliefs and end up changing their minds as the evidence dictates. It's something few are able to accomplish.

 

I wonder though, did you experience a sense of loss at your realization that an afterlife is unlikely? It took me a while to get past that one. I accepted it, but grieved nonetheless.

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I'm just an atheist about it now, that's all. And I've never been happier. The irony is that I feel more 'born again' now than ever before!

You're not alone. I've seen many make the same journey.

 

Funnily enough you were one of the ones who helped open my eyes. And to my shame I was being a bit rude and defensive at the time.

 

No offense meant, I was trying to cling onto something I had little evidence for - well you know how it is. Apologies :thanks:

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I wonder though, did you experience a sense of loss at your realization that an afterlife is unlikely? It took me a while to get past that one. I accepted it, but grieved nonetheless.

 

It is a difficult one. No doubt there will be times in the future when I'll find it a little hard (I'm thinking when loved ones die or something).

 

I did feel a vague sense of vertigo at first - "Oh no! Now what'll I do?" But it passed relatively quickly. I seem to have accepted death as the end far more calmly than I thought I would.

 

I think I've gradually weaned myself off of that one anyway. I've long since rejected the idea of a personal soul - for a long time I believed in a kind of getting swallowed up by the One Consciousness thing. I had already started to believe that the individual person ceases to exist but that the consciousness continues on the level of the whole Universe - the best way to explain it is the belief that it is the Universe itself that is experiencing what it is like to be us. So I think that made it easier to shrug off the whole life after death thing.

 

I think the hardest thing for me will be letting go of the idea that people close to me who I lose are not up there somewhere in some form looking down on me (even if only as a memory in the mind of the Universe).

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