I’m Back! There’s a new book!

Hey everyone,

So my other website (naturalpantheist.com) has been taken offline for some reason and I can’t contact the host. I haven’t been posting much there anyway recently so I have decided to move back to using this site. I am traveling a lot so for the next few months at least, there’s likely to be few posts here. But hopefully come summer, I’ll get back to updating this blog.

In other news, John Halstead of Humanistic Paganism has just launched a new book – “Godless Paganism: Voices of Non-Theistic Pagans. It is an excellent book (although I might be a little biased as it contains a few articles from yours truly). If you would like to find out more or purchase the book, please check out this link – Godless Paganism.

godless

 

Quick update on Animist Blog Carnival

Hey everyone,

So far I am not aware that anyone has put up any contributions for the animist blog carnival this month. If you do want to, please email me naturalpantheist@live.com but if not, I will just forget this months topic I think.

On a different note. Here’s a cool pic from the World Pantheist Movement…

pantheism1

Wiccan Pantheism

I’ve been doing a lot of research into Wicca the last few weeks to see if there is anything I can learn from it, anything that would be useful as a Pantheist. I came across these two very interesting videos which give one version of the Wiccan view of deity and it is a very interesting Pantheistic worldview that incorporates several Pantheism’s into one. Have a watch and see what you think –

Types of Pantheism

English: Pantheist symbol

English: Pantheist symbol (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Hey everyone, sorry its been a long time since I’ve written a post but I haven’t been particularly inspired (and I’ve just been lazy). Anyway, today I wanted to write about different types of Pantheism. This will get quite technical but I’ll try and explain things as simply as I can.

Pantheism is made up of two words – “pan” which means “all” and “theism” which means “God”. Therefore Pantheism means that all is God/ Goddess or the Universe/ Omniverse and all existence is God/ Goddess. Pantheist views of God/ Goddess don’t tend to be like those of the monotheist religions which say that God is like a person. Rather Pantheists tend to view God/ Goddess in an impersonal way. It is the unity of everything in the universe that is God/ Goddess.

There are many different types of Pantheism. The first is called Physicalist Pantheism. This is the view that there is one substance in the universe and it has one attribute. That is matter/ energy. In other words – the material, physical aspect of the universe is all there is. An example of this would be Naturalistic Pantheism. In contrast to this position is Idealist Pantheism. Again this view says that there is only one substance in the universe and it has one attribute, but this time the substance is spirit/ mind/ consciousness. In other words, the world around us is simply thought. Both types of Pantheism have strengths and weaknesses. Physicalist versions of Pantheism are very scientifically oriented but struggle to answer the question of how consciousness and mind can arise from matter. Meanwhile Idealist Pantheism can point to philosophical support but struggles to explain how we can all be experiencing the same world.

There is a third type of Pantheism – Dualist Pantheism. Now its important to distinguish here between Dualist Substance Pantheism and Dualist Attribute Pantheism. Dualist Substance Pantheism says that God/ the universe is two separate “substances” which are somehow joined. This view is really Panentheism which says god is both the universe and more than the universe. However, Dualist Attribute Pantheism, which can also be called “Neutral Monism” or “Dialectical Monism” says that there is only one substance but it has two attributes (or maybe more?) – Matter/ Energy and Mind/ Consciousness. In other words, rather than the fundamental building block of the universe being Matter or it being Mind, there is a third substance below both of these which then gives rise to either one as an attribute. It is this underlying fundamental substance that unites the universe and is therefore god. Holding this view allows the possibility that mind might be inherently in all things (a Panpsychist/ Animist perspective), while still respecting science and naturalism. This view is very similar to the concept of the Dao. I believe this to be something akin to “pure potential.”

Finally, other Pantheist views are similar to the Star Wars concept of the force. There is the idea that there is a united, vast, interconnected, self regulating web of life and that unity is God/ Goddess. Or there is the idea that there is a universal spirit found in all things.

Here’s a few Pantheist quotes I’ve come across in the last few months (I can’t remember where I got them from) –

God is “A certain universal substance, material as well as intelligent, that fashions all things that exist out of its own essence.”

“The mysterious and numinous ground of being underlying all things. There is one reality, in which all forms of existence reside. The great being is utter consciousness.”

“The creative principle of existence. Reality is neither “being” nor “non-being.” It’s a process of becoming.”

“The great mystery itself is genderless, omnipresent and incomprehensible to the 3D brain. It manifests in the universe as a polarity or balance of forces, which we call feminine (goddess, yin) and masculine, (god, yang).

“Reality is ultimately one but is experienced as a division.”

“The (goddesses) consciousness resides in everything.”

Happy Birthday Blog

Wow, today this blog is one years old and we celebrate with the 200th post. What a journey its been.

I want to start by saying thank you to everyone who follows this blog, comments on it or links to it. With over 200 subscribers now, I feel very grateful to you all for taking an interest in this blog.

It is consistently receiving over 1000 unique visits per month and 2500 page views. Some posts have been featured on other blogs such as the Humanistic Paganism blog and a couple of posts have been re-blogged many times around the internet. It has taken part in, and hosted, the Animist Blog Carnival, is part of the Pagan Blog Project and will be involved in more exciting initiatives in the future. It is also now on Twitter @naturepantheist.

While the blog has tried to approach things from a Naturalistic Pantheist perspective, it seems to have evolved closer to a Naturalistic Pagan perspective (while still being Pantheist), which is something I feel has happened in my own spiritual practice and I expect that evolution to continue into the future.

I am very pleased with the success of the past year and hope to make it even more successful over the next 12 months. To do that though, I need some feedback. What do you think has gone well this past year? What would you like to see more of? How could the blog be improved? Please let me know what you think and how you would like to see this blog shaped in future.

Thank you once again everyone.

NaturalPantheist

J is for Jesus

English: Resurrection of Christ

Jesus (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Who is Jesus? What did he do? How does a Naturalistic Pantheist view him? Last week I wrote about my journey away from Christianity and now I want to explain how I see the man at the centre of that religion and who’s teachings guided my life for a decade.

Lets start with how I think his original followers would have viewed him. It is a fact that Jesus never actually claimed to be God. The closest he came was suggesting he was chosen by God. He consistently called himself the Son of Man and now and again Son of God. The fact is that Jesus was a Jewish man and to claim to be God would have caused even his followers to consider him a blasphemer. If you read the book of Acts it records that the disciples saw Jesus as “a man chosen and exalted by God.” He is a human being chosen by God to die and then rise again. He is chosen to rule over the universe until the end of time when he hands it all back to God. He is seen as a mediator (the role Mary currently takes in Catholicism) and is worthy of veneration and praying to, but he is not portrayed as God. Verses teaching the Trinity like Matthew 28 are not found in the oldest records of the Bible.

Over the past century, as people have finally been able to express their religious views more freely and question orthodoxy, there has arisen a movement called the Jesus Seminar. This

Jesus seminar includes brilliant historians like Albert Schweitzer, Marcus Borg, Bart Ehrman & John Dominic Crossan. These men were key influences in changing how I viewed Jesus. The Jesus Seminar looks for the historical Jesus, it attempts to tear away the fantasy and later additions to find the truth that lurks behind the stories. It looks at the historical and cultural situation at the time he lived and tries to view him through similar eyes. There have been various theories put forward for what he was – a political and economic revolutionary, a wandering faith healer, an apocalyptic teacher and so on. I believe he was probably a bit of all these things – he was socially and economically revolutionary – believing in establishing a kingdom of god on earth which was egalitarian, peaceful and inclusive. He undoubtedly believed that the world as they knew it was about to change significantly and end. He had a reputation as a healer and miracle worker, he taught in parables and paradoxical statements and he was executed for causing a disturbance at the temple during Passover. I think he believed that he had come to change things, to help create a new society where the poor weren’t treated badly but he would do it non-violently. His teaching was good but hardly original as many of his sayings can be traced back to others before his time, and there is at least one account where he refers to people of another race as “dogs” so we should be careful about viewing him as some kind of super nice-guy. He was human not divine and I think it’s unlikely that he performed any miracles unless they are similar to the fake tricks of today’s so-called miracle healers.

He is undoubtedly a massively influential guy. More has been written about him than probably any other human in history. He has influenced art, culture, law, religion, social action and so much more for the past 2000 years. He continues to influence the world through his followers today. For all these reasons he is a person worthy of respect and reverence, but as for the claim that he is a god….I think even he would disagree with that one.

There is a concept in Druidry of venerating ancestors. This includes not just ancestors of our blood lines but all who lived in the same place as we currently inhabit or, in this case, influenced our culture or lives. Jesus has had such a big influence on western culture and the history of our nation, he has had such an influence on my own life and the lives of many of my blood ancestors, that I wonder whether giving him a place on my altar might be a good idea, to show respect and reverence for the influence he has had. What do you think?

J is for My Journey and Jesus

Stained glass at St John the Baptist's Anglica...

(Photo credit: Wikipedia)

At the age of 12 I became a born again, Evangelical, Pentecostal Christian (try saying that fast 10 times!) Christianity became the most important part of my identity and I took it very seriously. Many would consider me a fundamentalist as I went around school “preachin’ the gospel” to everyone who didn’t want to know. It took me an embarrassingly long time to realise that telling people not to swear, but to believe in Jesus or they’d end up in hell does not work and just means you have few friends.

By the age of 16 I had become interested in politics thanks to getting involved in community projects and campaigns and this led me to investigate left wing Christianity (I had always thought of it from a Conservative viewpoint before). I read books like “God’s Politics” by Jim Wallis and “The Irresistible Revolution” by Shane Claiborne and through their influence I began to develop an interest in contemplative Christian traditions. I started to research other denominations and realised that they had good reasons for believing what they did – even though that was different to what I believed. This led me to begin questioning the doctrines of the church and I spent months and months researching. The problem is that when you start questioning, you just can’t stop. By the time I got to university I was researching Messianic Judaism, Armstrongism and Unitarianism and trying to work out what the original Christianity would have been. I realised how much of Christianity was based on Paganism (something I saw as bad at the time) and how its “contamination” with Greek philosophy had changed it into something completely unrecognisable from what Jesus would have known. I finally understood the implications of Jesus being Jewish – that he would have believed in one god not a trinity (and never claimed to be god), that he would have celebrated Jewish festivals like Passover not Christmas, and that most of the other doctrines of the Church were completely unbiblical – including the doctrines of hell, going to heaven when you died, Jesus’ sacrifice as an appeasement of an angry god and original sin.

Through discussions with friends at school and university, I began to realise that I needed to take science seriously and try to work out whether the creation story of Genesis could conform to science (yes I was a creationist in my teenage years). I researched the evidence for Evolution and came to the conclusion that it stood up to scrutiny. Further research online helped me understand that it was possible for the two to be in agreement (however I knew at the back of my mind that I could no longer take the Bible completely literally to do so.) I also began to research alternative ways of viewing the book of Revelation and that reduced the influence on me of the dangerous and frankly frightening obsession that many western Christians have in the apocalypse.

By the age of 22 I had come to the conclusion that most of Christianity was false, but I still believed strongly in the existence of God, as well taking Jesus and the Bible seriously. However, two events in early 2010 would change that drastically. The first was that I watched a TV programme which included a gay couple and it looked so normal. As quite a fundamentalist Christian, I had spent all my teenage years struggling and resisting the truth I knew inside about my sexuality. After seeing that programme I began to research homosexuality in the Bible and came to the conclusion that, like most other things, the Church had got it wrong on this one too. I was finally able to come to terms with being gay and soon after I came out to my friends and family. Thankfully, and despite the shock and challenge to their faith, they accepted me.

However, a month later one of my best friends was killed in a car accident. Although I didn’t realise it at the time, it hit me very hard. After his death I began to look for answers within Christianity and it led to me reading books by liberal Christian authors like Marcus Borg. They showed me how historians viewed the Bible and that destroyed what was left of my literalism. I began to see the contradictions in the bible, the fact that it didn’t fit the archaeology and from watching many videos on the internet, I realised that there was a lot of immoral stuff within it that I couldn’t accept would come from a good god. I also realised that if god was real he could have stopped my friends death but he either wasn’t real or wanted it to happen making him evil. Either way, any faith in a loving god was gone. The final piece of the jigsaw puzzle came about six months after my friend was killed. I came across a video called “my spirituality as an atheist” which made me realise that its quite possible to be spiritual without believing in a god. That it was ok. From that point on, I was no longer a Christian and my journey away from Jesus was complete. Next week, I’ll explore how I see Jesus now.