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Naturalistic Pantheism


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I've been wondering if I would consider myself one, since I am an atheist. Would this be a religion? A world-view? I read somewhere that the title is an oxymoron since pantheism by definition believe there is an all encompassing god/deity that everything is a part of. Anyone have thoughts on this?

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I've been wondering if I would consider myself one, since I am an atheist.

Yes. I consider myself one.

 

Would this be a religion?

No.

 

A world-view?

Kind of, but not completely. It doesn't explain how to live life.

 

I read somewhere that the title is an oxymoron since pantheism by definition believe there is an all encompassing god/deity that everything is a part of. Anyone have thoughts on this?

True. But words have multiple meanings and are usually vague. The word "God" has many different meanings. The simple meaning would be God as something more powerful than you and me. Something that existed before you and will exist after you. Something that contains all possible knowledge that ever can be known. The source from where you came. And so on. It's the foundation for your existence and it's bigger than you and me. But we're part of it too, so we're immersed in this. All this is God in this slightly more non-personal definition. God can't be a person since a person is a human in human body. But God can be the thing that we all are part of and from where our humanness emerges. And besides, since we don't know completely yet what makes something conscious (sure a brain is useful), we can't say that the interaction of energies in the univers isn't some form of higher consciousness, but that's just speculation, and that kind of "mind" wouldn't really be bothered with us anymore than we are bothered with our cells in our body.

 

Put it this way, we are the eyes, minds, ears, feelings, and finite body experiences of this world. We have emerged from this soup of physical things. We are more than just matter in that sense (a mind on top of matter), but we're also less (only one person against a very large universe). And there we are. In it all. Naturally. All in unity. It's a mystery, and it's wonderful. We can be grateful for being born out of this chaotic soup.

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Hey Greylight, I'm a Pantheist too.

 

Here's a nice video series that covers a Christian deconversion that went in the direction of Pantheism:

 

 

 

 

Another interesting article is Gary Suttle's "The Pantheist Age"

 

 

 

 http://www.paxdoraunlimited.com/PantheistAge.html

The Once and Future World Religion

 

Long ago Pantheism overspread the world. Yet contemporary reference books contain scant mention of the religion. How could a once universal faith go so little recognized today? And how could Pantheism go worldwide again tomorrow? 

Scholars conjecture that a sense of divinity in Nature co-evolved with the first emergence of human consciousness, perhaps 100,000 years ago. The earliest god was Nature. "As far back as we are able to look into the past," says historian Colin Wilson, "human beings seem to have worshipped nature, and connected it to a higher spiritual reality, which they called god or the divine."   Such pantheistic intuition predates all known religions of recorded history and probably prevailed for many thousands of years.

Gradually humans elaborated on the sense of an immanent creative force in Nature. They invested individual natural features like mountains, trees, and thunder with divinity, which led to polytheism. Later still, monotheism supplanted natural divinities with a single supernatural entity above and beyond Nature. Nature became profane. Revering the Earth became a heathen heresy. Monotheism effectively demonized Pantheism in the Middle Ages and, to this day, Pantheism retains a residual stigma of orthodox opprobrium that helps to explain its infrequent recognition. 

The rise of scientific inquiry brought Pantheism back to life. In the 19th century, Science reduced everything to material elements working through ascertainable natural laws. However, modern science has found that all matter consists of incredible vibrating energy. From quarks to quasars, science reveals a Universe infinitely more wondrous and mysterious than any supernatural world envisioned by Man. By reestablishing the natural world as the preeminent source of awe and wonder, and by disclosing the myriad miracles of existence, science rekindles reverence for life and being. The idea of god as ‘Nature and its creative forces’ dovetails with the latest scientific discoveries. The synergy between science and Pantheism bodes well for the future of Pantheism..

So does environmentalism. Since Earth Day in 1970, ecological issues have gained widespread public attention. Some progress has been made, but global pollution, habitat destruction and accelerating extinction rates keep Nature on the front page. More and more people recognize the connection between biodiversity and human well being . Conservation organizations, outdoor writers, ecotours, and field guides popularize the love of Nature. Humans hold sacred what they most dearly love and value, and thus Pantheism often arises from personal experience in Nature. Many current titles explore this theme, including: The Sacred Earth; Writers On Nature & Spirit; and The Soul Unearthed, Celebrating Wildness & Personal Renewal Through Nature. The continued growth of environmentalism and the flowering of Pantheism go hand in hand.

 

Gallup reports ever-growing numbers of people engaged in "an intensive spiritual search and a continuing desire for inward and spiritual growth."  Web sites, song lyrics, and self help books strive to recapture a sense of the sacred that is currently missing in many lives. National bestsellers like Hymns To An Unknown God and Spiritual Literacy strum several pantheistic chords. 

As the bedrock religion of humanity, Pantheism could be bulldozed, but not banished, by later world religions. Eastern faiths including Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism retained thin layers of Pantheism and they never abandoned a sense of unity with Nature. Early Christianity contained outcrops of Pantheism; Saint Francis of Assisi celebrated the natural world and kinship with all life. 

The environmental crisis has triggered reinterpretation of biblical texts to emphasize "caring for creation."  Works on ecology and theology pouring forth from religious publishing houses contain decidedly pantheistic overtones. For example, one writer suggests that "God can be envisioned not as a king or ruler external to the universe but as the sacred whole of the universe itself." Another states "The cosmic process is within God, and God is within the cosmos as the ultimate power of life." Still another observes "The voices, coming from varying religious traditions, call us to move from a paradigm of domination, fear, and alienation to a paradigm of partnership, mutuality, and reverence for all living things, wherein spiritual values are reclaimed and divine immanence is reaffirmed." The continuing quiet pantheization of mainstream religion has the potential to contribute substantially to the sanctity and safekeeping of the world.

Of course, monotheism took several hundred years to suppress the sense of divinity in Nature, and it could take several hundreds years more to fully restore sacrality to the natural world. But Pantheism holds the promise to once again become a significant world religion. In subtle ways it already is. 

The persistence of Pantheism springs from its deep-seated connection to the human heart and mind. Pantheism is a part of human nature, the natural religious disposition of humankind. As Christian writer Robert Burrows acknowledges: 

"The religious options open to humanity are limited: We can believe in no God and be atheists. We can believe in one God and be theists. Or we can believe that all is God and be pantheists. Of these three, pantheism has been humanity’s major preoccupation throughout history... because, as C.S. Lewis observed, "it is an attitude into which the human mind automatically falls when left to itself." 

Actually, Pantheism is an attitude into which the human mind automatically soars when left to itself, and more people than ever are spreading their pantheistic wings to fly.

 

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wow.. ya, I like that. I get that. Thanks

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I have been leaning towards the concepts associated with Pan-en-Deism for some time now, but after reading this post I find no substantive difference between the thinking associated with Pan-en-Theism and those linked with Pan-en-Deism. I don’t define either concept as a religion per se.

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I like Gary's article but his use of the word religion I think can be a little misleading. Modern Pantheists tend to be outside of any religion in an organized religion sense. He's using the term religion where belief would have been more appropriate. Pantheism is a type of belief and philosophy more so than a religion. Atheism is about what we lack belief in, that is, lacking belief in personification deities and other mythology as literally true. Pantheists are generally Atheist in that we mostly lack belief in God(s). However we do tend to believe that the natural universe and existence in general is what the mythologies are really aiming at, trying to personify with elaborate symbolism and what not. I'm generalizing of course because there are many flavors of Pan beliefs, but roughly speaking Pan's are not literalists and don't think that the universe is YHWH, or Brahman, or something like that.

 

Atheism is about what we do not believe while Pantheism is more about what we do believe. The dichotomy between Atheism and Pantheism can often be a false one because most are both.  

 

"All is God" doesn't usually amount to thinking that the Biblical God is everywhere and everything. It's much deeper than that. 

 

That's a straw man that monthiests like to raise against Pantheists. "Hey, look at these idiots, they think that God is in the mosquito, and air, and water - what morons." 

 

I remember hearing things like that raised against eastern religions and Hinduism as a Christian youth. That sort of thing kept me away from ever exploring eastern thought or Pantheism for any length of time, which, is what it's intended to do. And even after converting to Atheism I still thought to myself that if God did turn out to be real, then it would have to be the God of the Bible instead of any of the other God beliefs in the world. There was still a left over type of Christian superiority complex in my mind for some number of years even as a deconvert, an Atheist. 

 

But as Lewis noted, I did find my mind naturally drifting towards Pantheism when left to itself during those bachelor years where I had all the time in the world for contemplation and free time. I didn't recognize it as Pantheism at first though. I was just thinking about how the first and last, that which was, is, and will forever be, and "I am that I am" sounds more like a description of mere existence than anything else. Probably ancient people thinking about how existence had to have always been and will always and slapping the name "God" to it. Then personifying existence itself as if it were in our image, has emotions like we do, etc. etc.

 

I started thinking about eternity in more of a naturalist sort of way. And eventually I began to realize that divinity and the divine has more to do with the awe and wonder associated with contemplating eternal existence more than anything else. Not some deity with no beginning or end but rather the realm of existence itself - a never ending multiverse going on forever or what-have-you. And to drive it home the interconnection of it all came into focus too. And how things are so interdependent. That is where my mind went when left alone to contemplate the mysteries of life and existence. I didn't even know about the eastern religions in any real detail at that point in life because I thought they were all sub-human and beneath western concepts. 

 

Then I ran into Joseph Campbell not long after and everything changed. I began to respect Hinduism and Buddhism and even see them as superior and much more mature than western thought in a lot of ways. I had it all back wards! I had been sub-human, ignorant, and thinking in terms of barbaric tribal nomadism instead of in the way of spiritually sophisticated societies. I was the horses ass!

 

But I welcomed that self correction with open arms too because it represented change, growth, and advancement. Not only was I the horses ass growing up as a right wing creationist fundy but also as a left wing anti-theist over compensating from one extreme to the other. My mind was seeking out center ground in some way and I guess that in order to get there in life I quite literally had to experience for myself the extremities of religion and anti-religion in order to gain sight of where middle ground might be located.

 

Atheism < Scientific Pantheism < (Pantheism) > Panentheism / deism > theisms 

 

To the right supernaturalism emerges and intensifies and the further right the more radical. 

 

To the left naturalism emerges and intensifies and the further left the more radical. 

 

This isn't very different than a political comparison between left wing communists and right wing nazi's set to a religious scale. Neither pan out too well as the survival of the fittest human thought, as two radical positions doomed to failure. They've peaked and declined in some sense.

 

And to some extent so too have hard edge theism and atheism. I've noticed that a lot of people tend to gravitate towards some type of middle ground. You hear about "Spiritual Atheists" and people who are spiritual but not religious and to be quite honest that usually amounts to some type of Pantheism whether they realize it as such or not. Panentheists, Panendeists, Panpsychism, Idealist Pantheism and all sorts of things.

 

So I think that Gary's main point is realistic in that Pantheism bodes well with science and could turn out to be the only type of belief left standing after generations and generations of future technological advancement because it has only to do with an attitude of respect and reverence towards the natural universe and planet free and clear of superstitious super naturalism which becomes less favorable along side of technological advancement.  

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Hey, thanks for the responses and shedding more light on pantheism. Some of the stuff in the video I was like... "ehhh", since he dismisses certain scientific things (like the universe eventually ending) because they "don't make sense".. I guess I would be a strictly scientific pantheist. The usage of the word god also makes me uncomfortable because there is already so many preconceived notions of the term, but that's more about semantics.

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His argument for referring to the universe as God was quite interesting. A few good points along the way. But you're right in that Pantheists are pretty split down the middle on using the term God. Scientific or Natural Pantheism pretty much openly rejects it. They just call it as it is, the universe. They revere it, but see no sense in calling it God. The World Pantheism Movement (WPM) is that type of an environment. These people are really nothing more than naturalistic Spiritual Atheists. 

 

More transitional Pantheists hugging closer towards the middle ground will allow for God usage mainly because they're transitioning theists who want to hold on to some type of God belief although seeking the most open minded one. It really is the most open minded because you're willing to admit that God is merely the natural universe,. There's a lot of mid way folks at Pantheism.net. and there can be a religious feel there. 

 

I mainly co-mingle with them all and even lean towards Idealistic Pantheism too due to my fascination with mind and how far reaching and interconnected with the whole universe it may turn out to be.

 

I myself don't really use the term "God" in place of "Universe" unless I'm having to deal with a theist and don't feel like rocking the boat at that particular time. In that situation I will go along with a God conversation all the while referring to existence itself and I've really laid it on thick a few times at work and in business. Shit, I had a Pentecostal couple in tears of joy (literally) one day after sharing with them my feelings on how great "God" is - my God of course meaning the totality of existence itself, the natural realm. Like the guy in the video I've adapted to learning how to best approach any given situation when not wanting to cause any unnecessary conflict. Especially when it's bad for business. I pick and choose my battles.  

 

But when I choose battle it's on.

 

The gloves come off.

 

And it will get uncomfortable enough to send away any theistic proselytizer wishing they'd never come at me...

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