What is Faith for a pantheist? Unlike theists, our life here on earth is not only a sacred opportunity but also a sacred end in and of itself. Our spiritual destination is a moral one. Yet, we are animals. Self-conscious animals, perhaps with a dose more of life’s complexity than others. We can and are overcome with hopelessness. We experience death in ways that doesn’t interrupt the beating of our heart, but leaves us dead to the world nonetheless. Pantheism is essentially a human experience, first and foremost. There is no room in a pantheist’s ethics or theology for even a millisecond of invulnerability. As living beings, we are perpetually vulnerable until we cease to exist and an awakened connection to God (Nature/Universe/Existence) is not guaranteed. A good deed doesn’t secure a spot with the “the big guy” and a bad one doesn’t condemn us to hell fire. I suppose that is why critics of pantheism are often unconvinced by our claims to purposeful living and reliance on a moral foundation. But they have misjudged our situation.
I believe that there isn’t any ground more fertile for the cultivation of values than the receptive, enduring, and life-giving ground of a pantheist. However, it would be cheap to deny my own experience. An experience that has continued to drill into my heart the fact that the realization of our ideals are not gently wrestled from the arms of reality. In regard to the environment, our assault on its integrity has left us with an almost unbearable aftertaste which is often translated by society in ways that dilute the significance of our connection with Nature. As a nature enthusiast who was born and raised in the shade of city buildings— inevitably receiving my baptism in gas and litter —I have always been astonished by how the natural link we have to Earth could develop into anything more than a passing suspicion. It was the same feeling I would get when occasionally noticing a red jay expeditiously planting itself on as many branches as possible before vanishing into some unknown corner of the home we both share.
Our ability to feel our connection to the world, even amidst the least natural environments , struck me as a powerful sign of divinity. It may not have been anything close to the miracles canonized in theistic religions, but it was enough to unearth my attitude toward life and examine it thoroughly along with its consequences. I think the interconnection of the world for the modern human being often vacillates between fiction and reality; between a romantic idea that merely passes through and an earthy impulse that reminds us just how inclusive self-responsibility is. Recalling a statement made by James Baldwin during a talk on religion, I realize how much this conviction has grown with me over time. He said quite plainly that “God is our responsibility.” My faith as a pantheist echoes the deep-pragmatism of that statement. Its a statement that captures a sense of life that is integral to the present and future. I have faith in the probability that if I act as mindfully and responsibly toward the world as I can, then future generations will live in a world where human beings can welcome the magic that is life in its various forms. Welcoming it and confidently seeing it into its mysterious corner with the conviction that it is accounted for.