Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Pantheism: Its Appeal and Its Costs

Pantheism – the belief that everything is God, and God is everything - has become extremely popular in the West. The champion of environmental causes, Al Gore, has stated:

·       Our religious heritage is based on a single earth goddess who is assumed to be the foundation of all life…all men have a god within. Each man has a god within because creation is God.

Leonard Sweet, a leader in the Emergent Church, explains:

·       For people who understand the Gaia hypothesis, which posits that the earth behaves like a living system and, indeed, that living things regulate earth’s environments, it is not craziness to suggest, as some electrical engineers have argued, that scientists who like their equipment get better results than those who don’t. …--when food, plants, animals, and machines are seen as part of us, and we of them. (Quantum Spirituality, 238)

However, these statements raise several questions:

  1. Is pantheism reasonable?
  2. Does it provide humans what we need?
  3. Does it help us understand the world?

Is Pantheism Reasonable?

What is pantheism saying about God? If God is everything, then he is the toxic waste dump, the cesspool, and even acts of terror. He is the rapist, the serial killer, and the torturer. He is the truth, but he is equally the lie. He might be everything, but he is also nothing in particular. God is not an unchanging or all-powerful Being. Instead, he partakes of the same qualities as the universe – changeable and purposeless.

What does pantheism say about us? We too are everything but nothing in particular. There is nothing right about us, but there is nothing wrong about us. There are no distinctions, since we are all God and everything is okay, since everything is God. There is nothing to learn, since we are already everything. And since we are all God, there is no relationship or even distinctions among persons. Everything is of equal value. Therefore our children are of equal value to insects and parasites, since everything is God. When I make a decision, it is as if God makes the decision. If I change, God too changes. If my decision opposes the decision of another, there is no contradiction, since both decisions are equally of God. Besides, there is no higher truth by which we can appeal to reconcile our differences, for everything and every truth or lie is equally of God. In fact, if everything is of God, there is no way to reconcile any differences.

If there is anything at all to learn, it is that we are all God. However, to believe this is to deny everything that we see and experience. Therefore, to embrace this “oneness” over everything that our senses tell us requires the most rigorous mental gymnastics.

Does it Provide Humans what we Need?

Besides plunging us into utmost confusion, pantheism undermines morality. If everything is equally of God, there is no right or wrong action or choice. Likewise, there can be no meaningful purpose to life, even survival. Even if we die, we still remain God.

Besides, there is nothing to learn, since all propositions are equally of God. Likewise, the idea of personal growth becomes incoherent. Even if we are evil or selfish, we are still as much God as if we acted in love.

It should now be obvious that there is no one to whom to pray and no one to hear us or to answer our prayers. Nor is there a God to trust.

Does Pantheism Help us to Understand the World?

If there is no possible distinction between the truth and the lie, then there can be no understanding. Therefore, we cannot ask:

  1. Where did life come from?
  2. Where did the laws of physics come from?
  3. Where did any causation come from?
  4. How should I live my life?
  5. How should I treat others?
  6. Why am I here?

In view of these problems, we might ask, “Why has pantheism become so popular in the West, especially among the educated? Has it improved the countries where it has reigned?” No! “Does it help us to better navigate life?” I don’t see how! Why then pantheism? Better to ask a pantheist!

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