I shared part 1 widely and quickly realized that what I had meant as a simple introduction to the philosophy seemed to create at least as many questions as it attempted to answer. I submit “part 2” as an attempt to elaborate on some of the apparently more elusive concepts.“Is pantheism just another label for atheism?” That depends on how you define “atheist”. The dictionary very simply states that an atheist is “a person who denies or disbelieves the existence of a supreme being or beings.” As pantheists do not subscribe to a belief in anthropomorphic “god” concepts or that of holy information revealed by supernatural powers, then indeed, atheists and pantheists are much alike. But is atheism also a denial that there is anything divine or worthy of ultimate reverence? Pantheists believe that nature, the entire universe, is an object most deserving of such feelings of humility, awe, wonder, and reverence.
ALL humans have the *capacity* for such feelings. That does not mean that all humans actively seek these feelings or that they attribute any special significance to the experience of those feelings, as of having importance in their lives.
Human spirituality has been with our species long before the first church was built and the first holy revelation was committed to papyrus or stone. From the most primitive superstitions and instinctive fear of things that go “bump in the night” to the modern social networking to be found in organized religion, spirituality has arguably been one of the key building blocks of society, written language, and in establishing a code of ethics. To the group it can provide a commonality upon which a sense of communal well-being may flourish. To the individual, the benefits of being part of such a community can be expressed in better health, more opportunity, and a mutual sense of inclusiveness…
As a pantheist I acknowledge a spiritual facet to the human experience, often manifested historically through religion. I recognize a perennial value in this, if at the very least as having value in terms of social survival. Pantheism is an organizational philosophy that strives to assist one in experiencing and growing the spiritual aspects of life, that is elastic and transparent, and yet offers the suggestion of guidance… and most importantly,without any insistence that one follow it. For myself at least, it is an awareness that by actively cultivating such experiences, through exploring a hunger for deeper understanding of the universe and the natural world as expressed by science, for pantheism is perfectly and completely compatible with science, that my capacity to develop feelings of awe, reverence and even love for that which I find, becomes stronger, more resilient, and easier to access in my day to day life. In a nutshell, pantheism is the cross-training regiment I use to strengthen my ‘spiritual’ muscles. I use insight as revealed by science, logic and reasoning, to refine and cultivate a personal sense of spirituality.
Perhaps the simplest way to think of it is pantheism as being atheism with direction, with a purpose; to help one actively develop this spiritual aspect. The most diaphanous of philosophical frameworks and yet, at least for the pantheist, much more than having none at all.“A religion old or new, that stressed the magnificence of the universe as revealed by modern science, might be able to draw forth reserves of reverence and awe hardly tapped by the conventional faiths. Sooner or later, such a religion will emerge.”
This meme was used as a counterpoint to mine, in a discussion that devolved into a debate about atheism vs pantheism:
I love that quote! And it’s true! Further it’s the reason that some scientists are pantheists and vice versa. What is lost in that sentiment is the reality that most “scientists” devote a majority of their time in the study of a narrow field.
Pantheism, for me, is all the benefits of actively pursuing a sense of spiritual growth, much like a ‘religion’, without the baggage of belief in supernatural beings, places, supernaturally obtained knowledge, or the divisiveness that inevitably comes along when one infallible belief conflicts with another.