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What Is Pantheism
A very short explanation and history of Modern Pantheism
“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. “ Carl Sagan, Pale Blue Dot (1994)
Pantheism is that religion.
Pantheism comes in several forms. Some are more theistic than others. But the original Pantheism had one basic but strict tenet. “There is nothing but god.”
All religions drift away from their original tenets somewhat over time and Pantheism has been no different. There have been a lot of varieties of Pantheism throughout history. The theistic versions are now called Panentheism; in which god is intimately and often inextricably connected to the all, but also transcends it in some way. This is more like Spinoza’s version of Pantheism then current or the original model. There are even Christian Panentheists. So you see how far into theism Panentheism can sometimes go. Pantheism has always been atheist in its true forms. It’s god is not conscious nor transcendent. But that will warrant some explaining in another hub.
There have been many purer forms of Pantheism like Buddhist Pantheism. Some of the original Greek philosophers were pantheists. Some forms of Chinese philosophy were Pantheist. Some native tribes were Pantheist. The list goes on.
The Brahman of Hinduism also say: “There is nothing but god.” However, often this is part of the belief that everything is god’s dream. We are essentially not real.
There are other forms of nature worship which are considered pantheistic, but true Pantheism doesn’t have all those qualifiers. It literally states that there is nothing but god.
In other words, Pantheism is like so many religions. It had and has a multitude of possible interpretations. Back in the late 1980s they were all floundering and the religion was all but dying on the vine. Even the internet had no Pantheist presence to speak of.
This is why in the 1990s, Paul Harrison came up with the idea of standardizing the model and the religion, and actively spreading it.
I joined him around that time and soon may others followed. Eventually we put together the World Pantheist Movement. It is set up mainly to promote what Paul called Scientific Pantheism, but it has revitalized all the old forms as well just by making Pantheism a word the public somewhat recognizes.
This new form of Pantheism is actually the original form, modernized. It is a rational world view that deals with all the ideas traditional theistic religions deal with, but from a rational standpoint. As Dawkins put it: “it’s sexed up atheism.”
I may be paraphrasing but: Paul Harrison said in his book:” It is the religion of the next millennia.“ He seems to have been right. Pantheism has been growing in leaps and bounds for the last twenty years.
But as we developed, an interesting thing happened. People, including Paul, started to wonder about putting the word ‘scientific’ in front of the word Pantheism. Some didn’t want to risk being associated with Scientology or Christian Science. Many grew to prefer the name Natural Pantheism or Naturalist Pantheism. But the argument against that name is that it makes Pantheism sound like an ecological society. That’s not what we are.
So for my part there is another name I came up with and use, which is: Rational Pantheism. You will mostly hear about Scientific and Natural Pantheism, but occasionally you will find someone who prefers to use a different prefix. It doesn’t matter which they use, all three of these versions of Pantheism and their variants, are identical. All three agree with the Pantheist Credo, which I will post below. In fact, since we have successfully affected a kind of standardization of what Pantheism is, you don’t need a prefix at all anymore. But I personally like it.
All rational and scientific pantheists are atheists. We don’t go around saying we are atheists… BUT.
We are atheist, AND, we are Pantheists. Rational and scientific Pantheists are also materialists and physicalists. We get our answers to life through science and the scientific method. We don’t try to convert anyone. We have no salvation or anything else to sell. You either find yourself in the Pantheist view or you do not.
So why Pantheism and not just atheism? What do we really mean by the word “god”? Does modern Pantheism even need the word god anymore? As I said, they are complex issues, so I will cover them the next hubs of this series.
Here then is the Pantheist Credo. It was first signed by the original group in 1997 and then updated in 1999 by a subsequent board. As an aside: The original version had the word “divine” in it, which I fought against for weeks. I was defeated, but in the revised version of the Credo, the word is no longer there. Thanks guys. Reason prevailed.
The Pantheist Credo:
1. We revere and celebrate the Universe as the totality of being, past, present and future. It is self-organizing, ever-evolving and inexhaustibly diverse. Its overwhelming power, beauty and fundamental mystery compel the deepest human reverence and wonder.
2. All matter, energy, and life are an interconnected unity of which we are an inseparable part. We rejoice in our existence and seek to participate ever more deeply in this unity through knowledge, celebration, meditation, empathy, love, ethical action and art.
3. We are an integral part of Nature, which we should cherish, revere and preserve in all its magnificent beauty and diversity. We should strive to live in harmony with Nature locally and globally. We acknowledge the inherent value of all life, human and non-human, and strive to treat all living beings with compassion and respect.
4. All humans are equal centers of awareness of the Universe and nature, and all deserve a life of equal dignity and mutual respect. To this end we support and work towards freedom, democracy, justice, and non-discrimination, and a world community based on peace, sustainable ways of life, full respect for human rights and an end to poverty.
5. There is a single kind of substance, energy/matter, which is vibrant and infinitely creative in all its forms. Body and mind are indivisibly united.
6. We see death as the return to nature of our elements, and the end of our existence as individuals. The forms of "afterlife" available to humans are natural ones, in the natural world. Our actions, our ideas and memories of us live on, according to what we do in our lives. Our genes live on in our families, and our elements are endlessly recycled in nature.
7. We honor reality, and keep our minds open to the evidence of the senses and of science's unending quest for deeper understanding. These are our best means of coming to know the Universe, and on them we base our aesthetic and religious feelings about reality.
8. Every individual has direct access through perception, emotion and meditation to ultimate reality, which is the Universe and Nature. There is no need for mediation by priests, gurus or revealed scriptures.
9. We uphold the separation of religion and state, and the universal human right of freedom of religion. We recognize the freedom of all pantheists to express and celebrate their beliefs, as individuals or in groups, in any non-harmful ritual, symbol or vocabulary that is meaningful to them.
Comments and Questions are welcomed.