Wednesday, December 31, 2014

Doug Versus Doug (Or: My Pantheism And What Became Of It)

At my last blog - which I discontinued and took down because my thoughts about God were evolving and I was slowly moving in a different direction - I posted as recently as 2011 an apology of sorts for my pantheistic belief.

The truth is, that stance was the result of over a quarter century of absorbing free thought and rationalistic writings. I was never able to fully transition to Atheism for one simple reason: I could never shake my deepest impression that the Cosmos needed an explanation beyond being a brute fact.

That impression would never let me go. At the same time, I perceived the atheist worldview as extremely negative and spending much time saying a lot about little. But as much as Atheism has to say, it does not offer a satisfying explanation for existence - why there is something (and at that, an orderly something) rather than nothing.

So in my post Why I Am A Pantheist, I find the statement:

Mine is a reason-driven religious philosophy, not faith driven.

I look back at that now and think, "nice try." But I had put lots of faith in my feeble ability to understand. And I put loads of faith in something else I wrote then:

For me, the scientific method is the true theology or study of God. And with the embracing of the scientific method comes the humbling confession that we don't know everything, and that all our scientific "facts" are provisional facts. The more the universe is studied, the more secrets she yields, and the possibility that certain facts may need to be revised frequently becomes a reality. Still - despite its incompleteness - the scientific method is the best handle on reality we have.

If I could live as long as the fabled Methuselah, what changes I could behold in the advance of scientific knowledge! But as for whether the scientific method is the best handle on reality I have, that could only be so if the physical universe is all there is. That is a presupposition that may or may not be true. It was more a matter of faith than reason that I settled on that proposition. I was in denial about my deeper impressions, and that closed doors for me, philosophically speaking.

At one point I touched on what is called the Hiddenness of God. I touched on the various gods that humanity has worshipped down through the centuries, writing:

That not one of these imagined deities throughout all the millennia of human history has bothered to reside among and directly communicate with all his creatures and forever set the record straight seems to me - if a not a proof, then at least - an indication that we are dealing with non-entitites.

Right I was that isn't proof. But it was a bit bold of me to suggest that because the gods did not come down to make themselves available to our senses, they were non-entities. It doesn't necessarily follow just because I thought it should.

More troubling to me is idea that the God of the monotheists might have made him/her self available to our senses - that is, if we allow for the sensus divinitatis. I do so now allow, but at the time, in keeping with my strict adherence to the scientific method, I ruled that out from the start.

I also made (or rather I should say, parroted) this bold proclamation:

If there is a creator "God" it must the laws of physics that organize the raw elements into this wonderful cosmos. This ability of the elements to self-organize and display apparent design is the divine spark or Logos. It is that from which we came and to which we must eventually return.

No wonder the Atheist spokesperson Richard Dawkins says Pantheism is "sexed-up" Atheism! I was trying to have my cake and eat it too. I wanted to hold on to "God" and at the same time let go.

Why must it be the case that God is a metaphor for the laws of physics? There I was face-to-face with another alleged brute fact. The Laws of Physics gave us the Cosmos. Period.

But didn't I arrive at that position because I ruled out the supranatural to begin with? Looking back, I think it was an article of faith of sorts that the natural is all there is. My guide wasn't so much reason as faith - faith that a finite mind could grasp the infinite.

I ended my Pantheist statement:

I am a pantheist because, as a part of nature's intelligence, I stand together with my brothers and sisters in awe of the greatest intelligence, which is the well ordered Cosmos as a whole.

Did that answer satisfy me then? I think not. It always made me uncomfortable. It was where I stood at the time, but I didn't stand steadily.

Before I embraced Pantheism I had been a Deist. I was looking for a way to reconcile my feelings about creation with the hard facts of science. A distant and detached God did not do that for me. A metaphorical God, sexed up atheism, did not do it. I am returning to my earliest belief - that there is an ultimate reality, or as C. S. Lewis put it in telling of his turning from Atheism to Theism, "I gave in, and admitted that God was God." I had been in rebellion against my deepest intuitions for many years, but now I'm returning. I'm returning to peace of mind and heart.


  1. It's your journey, Doug. I appreciate your openness and honesty in telling your story. Each of us must find a way to meaningfully engage and explain the world we live in. For me it has led to atheism and humanism, albeit a much more passive atheism than a few years back. I think we would both agree, fundamentalism is the problem wherever it is found.

    Have a blessed New Year's.


    1. Thanks, Bruce. Your encouragement means more to me than I can say. That was a hard post to write.

      I appreciate your humanism. We have much common ground despite the God thing. And rest assured I do agree about fundamentalism. Extremists give religion a bad name and it tends to tarnish all who are believers.

  2. Hi Doug. I'm glad you found your peace of mind and heart. It was a long search. Happy New Year to you.

    1. Thank you so much, Sylvia, and I hope you have a Happy New Year too. I can't say I don't still have lots of questions and doubts, but I'm responding as best I can to that inner voice.

  3. Being true to our own inner voice, while being surrounded my many other sometimes louder voices is, to me, a courageous thing.

    Happy New Year Doug!:)

  4. And extremely difficult. At least it was for me. Thanks, Alice.

  5. To add, I think extremism gives humanity a bad name, believer and unbeliever.

  6. "I gave in, and admitted that God was God."

    Any chance that you will be writing about this God in future writings? The Bible God as you once believed? Triune? Heaven? Hell? Resurrected Jesus? etc. Wondering what you mean, by God.

  7. My friend, you have given me the inspiration for my next post! I think I will attempt to answer your question that way. Thanks. Short answer here: I will definitely be "dribbling" more about my belief in God in the near future.