It’s been a pretty interesting week since posting “Breaking free.” As expected I got the usual fire and brimstone, “my soul belongs to the devil”, “repent before its to late”, “you deceived me with your knowledge of scripture” silliness. I have no desire to engage in fanciful debates, nor do I need to address the doctrinal and dogmatic flaws that surround the fundamentalist and evangelical mindset. However, in the midst of the dust-up there were some very genuine and relevant questions and I’d like to take the opportunity to address them.
Isn’t pantheism just “sexed up atheism”?
This is a very popular stance that is frequently propounded by Richard Dawkins (whom I greatly admire and respect). Using the traditional theistic beliefs and the anthropomorphic concept of divinity would absolutely give pantheism a somewhat atheistic label. However, while atheism completely rejects the existence of a supreme being or divine source of any kind, pantheism, while not an organized religion with doctrines or dogmas, does not. The very term ‘pantheism’ is constructed from the Greek roots pan (all) and theos (God). Therefore the entire universe or multiverse, the known and unknown, past, present, and future are all one entity and that which connects all things is divine. This concept has even been revealed in our every day lives and culture through some very familiar terms like “the circle of life” in the movie Lion King or “the force” in the Star Wars movies as well as the overall theme of the movie Avatar all contain elements of pantheism in them. The shedding of doctrines and dogmas that tradition has tied us to, does not mean we have to shed the concept of all things Divine. So while atheism proposes there is nothing, pantheism proposes there is everything.
Are you saying that everything is God and a pantheist worships rocks and trees?
No. This is a blind dogmatic argument that displays a complete lack of understanding. A tree is not God, although the essence of life within the tree is. A rock is not God, although the natural phenomena that makes the multiple particles that compose a rock maintain its singular state of matter is. No individual man is God, although the collective whole of our existence, every molecule, emotion, breath, heartbeat, and neurological impulse as well as our individual and collective consciousness is. So within all things is the Divine Presence that acts as a thread which weaves each individual microcosm into a progressive series of greater macrocosms that are all interconnected. As to worship, observing nature with a sense of awe and reverence and loving and showing mutual respect to each other and all other living things, including the environment, are what we should focus on. That is true “worship”.
But, the Scriptures say..
In the west, especially amongst the evangelical crowd, there is the claim that the Christian Scriptures combined with the Jewish Scriptures encompass the only true Bible and that this Bible is not only inerrant and infallible, but that it is the absolute “Word of God”. These claims seem to completely disregard the overwhelming evidence that none of these claims are true. It is as if they don’t know that for centuries there was nothing written in the Jewish tradition and that what was, was destroyed on at least 2 occasions: during the Babylonian and Assyrian exile periods. Even within the Jewish text itself (2 Kings 2:22) it is specifically said that the “book of the law” was “found”. It is an accepted position that all of the Jewish Scripture (aka Old Testament) was compiled during the second temple period under the direction of Ezra – long after Abraham, Moses, David, Daniel, and even Isaiah. As to the Christian text, not a single complete manuscript of any of the books in the Christian Scriptures exists that is within 150 years of what it claims to witness. There is no literary evidence to support any of the gospels as eye-witness accounts, of which Mark and Luke can be ruled out by name alone given that among the apostles who followed Jesus around there were no men named Mark or Luke. In fact by Paul’s own hand Luke was a contemporary of his and neither man had met Jesus in the flesh. As to the accuracy of any of the text – I shall save that for another post.
Now while this appears as a Bible bash, it is not. Unfortunately here in the west, people haven’t the slightest notion that there are other, older, and less spurious bodies of literature that are considered Scripture. The Bhagavad Gita, the Zend Avesta, the Dao de jing, Chuang Tzu, the Book of Thelema, the Nag Hammadi Library… well the list goes on. The delusion that only one set of writings were written by God is grossly inaccurate, especially when some of these older texts don’t include the violence and contradictions that Judeo-Christian Bible contains. So while I do not recognize the authority of one text over another, I do acknowledge that all of these texts ultimately point to one Source.
No greater god..
There is no greater god then one we are unable to keep in our finite little boxes. Somewhere in a distant galaxy, light years away from here, there are likely to be other sentient beings. Their very existence alone nullifies the concept that a substitutionary atonement for events that took place here was even necessary. For all intents and purposes, how do we know what exactly constitutes life to begin with? We assume with our finite capabilities that life must take the form of something like us. We never take into consideration that the very planet we live on is alive. Consider the forces of nature, the winds and the rains, the movement of continental plates, and orifices that spit steam and molten rock. Now look at Venus, Jupiter, Saturn… all planets with active and volatile atmospheres. How can we ignorantly assume that those very planets themselves aren’t alive? Even the planets that don’t have atmospheres are somehow held together rather than dissipate into billions of particles. Now extend that to the solar system, where the sun emanates light and heat that cascades to the planets that surround it. Each planet with its own diurnal rotation and orbit. Consider how the entire system itself moves on an orbit as part of an even larger galaxy, which as a whole, drifts away from a central point within the universe. Considering the immeasurable enormity of the universe and the remote possibility that there may even exist a multiverse, why should we perceive this very active and alive existence to be governed by an external entity? How could one even consider an external entity just created it and left it to itself (the deistic view) like some dead beat disinterested parent. These are entities that we place in a box with our own attributes, rather than accepting it as an ineffable infinite source of perpetual life and order. The mystery of the order of the cosmos becomes more and more coherent with the advancements in astronomy, astrophysics, biology, chemistry, and even our own internal medicinal sciences. How can we restrict our ever developing knowledge by constantly returning to intellectually oppressive beliefs from ages past? There should be no reason for science to conflict with our personal philosophies. Once a person places traditional observances over fact based truths they have willfully enslaved themselves into an alternate an inferior reality.
Break free and embrace all that is and learn to accept your position as both insignificant as well as the very cornerstone that keeps the entire cosmos in balance.