Points of clarity

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 20130614-184544.jpgthem. 

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.

The Illusion of Atheism

Contrary to what an atheist may try to convince others and even themselves, the entire concept of atheism is a mere illusion.  Richard Dawkins, the late Christopher Hitchens, Bill Maher are all very public about being atheists and are antagonistic to the adherents of any and all revealed religions.  However, I can provide a strong argument that neither they nor anyone else can possibly be atheists with 3 words:

Eyeh asher eyeh

See, three words.  I will assume some of you don’t know what these words mean so I will explain them.  Eyeh asher eyeh is Hebrew for “I shall be what I shall be” it has also been translated “I am what/that I am.”  This statement is as brilliant as it is cryptic.  No actual name is given, no definitive divine description, just an open-ended concept of indescribable and ineffable supremacy.  There is a misconception amongst people who consider themselves to be atheists that the rejection of an interventional deity means they also reject the concept of a supreme intelligence or ultimate reality.  The use of “Reason” and “Intellect” is a valid approach to such a topic and given the advancement of science and technology over the past few centuries (especially the last decade) we have seen the scope of the Divine drastically diminish.

The Ultimate Source

Galileo shattered the long-held belief that the earth was flat, the sky was a canopy, and the celestial bodies were mere lights in the canopy.

Astronauts erased the concept of heaven being a paradise amongst the clouds in the skies, thereby casting serious doubt on chariots of fire and men “ascending into heaven”.

Medical advancements have saved people from death, even brought people back from death-like states (ie. coma).  Stem cell research has now advanced to the state where scientist are capable of manipulating and even splicing cells to regenerate organs.

Carbon dating has identified artifacts that date the age of human civilization far beyond the Biblical timeline.

However, the idea that the rejection of any religious text, creed, or doctrine or the literal or scientific debunking of them eliminates the concept of Deity is inaccurate, ignorant and irresponsible.  Regardless of how far we go with science or how many theories we develop we still have not been able to discern the origin, source, or “author” of the various laws of nature and science.  We have not been able to explain or discover the power that allows these laws to be executed in endless perpetuity.  No explanations exist for the reason or cause of human emotions or our ability to discern the basic precepts of universal morality.  This origin and this perpetual source is that supreme and ultimate reality that mankind has tried to understand.  Whether through scientific exploration or theosophic study, the Divine is ineffable and we are not capable of understanding.

Where our intellect and reason falls short

For most of recorded history mankind has made many attempts at understanding this source.  Our inability to prove or disprove the source or origin expels us from the right to deny it.  The belief that this source is an interventional God is the belief of over 3 billion people and it has been for thousands of years.  The concept of an interventional God is not based on facts though.  It is based on faith.  If one chooses not to believe in an interventional god that is fine.  It does not rule out the fact that there is a an original and perpetual source of the universe though.  If you base your belief on science, than nature or science is your deity.  If you believe there is no source and everything just happened then chaos is your deity.  However, out of chaos came order.  Where did this order come from?

Our sense of reason can serve as both a gift and a curse.  While one can reasonably discern various laws of science and morality, you can also box yourself in to your own limited knowledge of the universe which limits the greatness of it.  The Age of Enlightenment gave rise to skepticism and literal criticism of religious texts but, it did not render them obsolete.

Divine Revelation

It is Jewish tradition that the Scriptures (Torah, Prophets, Hagiographa) were written by men for men and in the language of men.  A literal interpretation of the text is not conducive to modern times as many of the mythical occurrences were similar to modern-day special effects in movies.  The scribes wrote the text to instruct the simple-minded while the learned minds of the time labored for hours over the hidden meanings and allegories.  Is an intense study of these texts still required?  Perhaps for some but, the morality that has derived from their writing are now commonplace in a civilized society.  As rich as religious text are in their allegory and moral lessons, they can easily be taken out of context mainly because, unlike the US Constitution they can not be amended.   There is a revelation that continues to evolve and is infallible – nature.  A walk along the seashore, a hike in the mountains, or a rafting trip on a river display the awesome power and beauty of nature.  Gazing at the night sky on a clear night is a mind-boggling display of the vastness of the cosmos.  Taking all of this in, is it remotely possible that there was no order, no source, and that all is chaos?

Atheism advocates the absence of an orginal source or intelligent design.  If there is no source – then universe is an illusion.

© Nelson Rose, The Quest for Light