Naturalistic Pantheism

The spiral is used as a symbol of naturalistic pantheism because it often appears in nature

Naturalistic pantheism is a philosophical viewpoint and/or spiritual path which identifies the Universe with god. The word “god”, however, is used as a metaphor for the beauty of nature or for nature itself, pointing out that it’s worthy of reverence. It’s not used to denote a real, transcendent being, such as the christian God.

Therefore, naturalistic pantheism was described as “sexed-up atheism” by famous evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins, which is fairly accurate. So what differentiates it from pure atheism then? And why would someone choose it instead? The main difference is that naturalistic pantheism has an object of worship. Nature is seen as something sacred and awe inspiring by itself, without the need for a supernatural world. Just like atheists, naturalistic pantheists respect the scientific method, critical thinking, logic and philosophy and often dislike ideas such as pseudoscience, esotericism and alternative medicine. This can be seen as an advantage of naturalistic pantheism: it offers the comfort, community and answers that were usually attributed to religion, but at the same time – it stays true to science.

Baruch Spinoza

The idea of pantheism is common to various philosophical traditions, spiritual paths and religions, such as Hinduism, Daoism and some Pagan traditions, but we generally consider Baruch Spinoza, a 17th century Jewish/Dutch rationalist philosopher, to be its patron saint. In his magnum opus „Ethics“, he equates nature with god: “Deus sive Natura” (“God or Nature”). God is understood as a being of infinitely many attributes, so everything is god and god is everything. Although Spinoza’s pantheism seems to be more idealistic, proposing the existence of an infinite being, he was labeled an atheist and he was ostracized from the Jewish society. Regardless, his ideas survived and we remember him today as a great fighter for reason.

The Four Horsemen

Modern developments in pantheism tend to be more on the naturalistic, atheist side. This “second Enlightenment” happening today, called New Atheism, seems to draw more and more people to atheism, agnosticism, skepticism, free thinking and – of course – naturalistic pantheism. Its „Four Horsemen“ are Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens (R.I.P. – 15.12.2011.), Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. They are all very active advocates of atheism, rigorously criticizing all forms of religion and religious practice. However, some would argue that atheists need something that inspires them and gives them direction and passion, something usually attributed to religion. Atheists usually answer that their passion lies in science, nature and doing good deeds. Therefore, atheists can be close to naturalistic pantheism without even knowing or acknowledging it. In that case, naturalistic pantheism would provide a great background for fostering such ideas, a large community of like-minded thinkers and feelings of inspiration and wonder simmilar to those commonly found in spirituality and religion.

—————————————————————————————————————————–

What are your thoughts on atheism and naturalistic pantheism? Do you think the term “pantheism” is justified?

Thank you for reading this post! 🙂

Advertisements

19 thoughts on “Naturalistic Pantheism

  1. wim

    Persoonlijk denk ik dat het universum een continuem is, ik trek daarmee in twijfel dat er ooit een big bang is geweest. Daarmee wordt pantheïsme een geloof met een god. Wetenschap is dan een religie met enkel hypotheses en onzekerheden die voortdurend met bewijzen herbevestigd moeten worden. Kennis als kollectief eigendom zal het individu als onmisbaar en
    te vervangen onderdeel ma,ken van het organisme wat wij samen vormen. Kosmisch intellect.De aarde als moeder, we willen haar niet kwijt maar wel overleven!

    Reply
    1. NatureAndWisdom Post author

      Using Google Translate, I arrived at this: “I personally think that the universe is a continuem, I pull to doubt that there ever a big bang Pantheism is a belief in a god. Science is a religion with only assumptions and uncertainties that must be constantly prove reconfirmed Knowledge will know the individual as indispensable and replace part Mon, as kollectief property of the organism what we will become. Cosmic intellect.De earth as mother, we do not want to lose her but survive!”

      Science isn’t a religion. Religion has a previously accepted hypothesis and then tries to find evidence for it in the world. Science looks at the evidence and THEN makes a theory. Or, at least, if it has a hypothesis, it discards it if there are no supporting evidence.

      The rest, I hardly understood, to be honest. It’s true that we must preserve nature and live in harmony with it.

      Please respond in english in future comments, for ease of communication and so others can participate as well! 🙂

      If you want to discuss without others seeing it, you can send me a mail on either English, Croatian or German.

      Reply
  2. NatureAndWisdom Post author

    I believe you are once again mistaking naturalistic/scientific pantheism with idealistic pantheism. You should do more research before you put all forms of pantheism in one basket. From Spinoza to this day, people have argued whether it is atheistic or theistic. That’s why we have a naturalistic pantheism and idealistic pantheism.

    I believe you are insulting those naturalistic pantheists who are, in a sense, atheists – they negate the existence of god and “supernatural” things, for lack of a better word, but they also love nature deeply and respect it, like Carl Sagan, for instance.

    Remember – pantheism is divided into more sub-concepts. Don’t put them all in one basket. The World Pantheist Movement isn’t a mockery, it’s just a different way of seeing pantheism.

    It’s just a difference in opinion or belief. One form of pantheism isn’t superior to the other.

    Reply
    1. vilacorp@aol.com

      First of all, just because random people make up different classifications of pantheism doesn’t mean they have any basis in reality. If you “negate the existence of god” and then call yourself a pantheist, it’s like saying there is no Jesus but I’m a Christian. What’s the point of calling yourself a pantheist if all you are is an atheist. Carl Sagan was very much against being called an atheist, that’s a terrible example. He bashed atheism.

      I’m not saying any form of pantheism is superior/inferior. I’m saying the “sexed up atheism” thing regarding pantheism is a shallow and mistaken view of pantheism. Do you think Spinoza who you cite above would accept that description?

      Reply
      1. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        The description is blunt, but it’s fairly accurate.

        And it isn’t “simply atheism”, it’s atheism + deep, spiritual reverence of nature. Simple atheism says – there is no god.

        Naturalistic pantheism says – there is no god, but nature is divine enough.

        I believe Spinoza would allow various interpretations of pantheism. There is no rule in philosophy about what’s allowed and what isn’t. Every philosopher and common Joe has his own hodgepodge of views, as long as it’s coherent and non-contradictory. That’s why it’s called philosophy. It’s most definitely not a strict, dogmatic religion saying “thou shall not have any other forms of pantheism than this one!”

        Sounds familiar?

      2. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        I’ve also read Spinoza. I’m a student of philosophy, that’s what we do.

        But nobody claims to be a spinozist here. Creating new concepts and ideas is, I believe – philosophical growth. Like I said, it’s not a religion that forbids new ideas emerging from old ones.

        Perhaps you agree with Spinoza’s pantheism, which is more idealistic. That’s completely fine, but don’t try to present it as the only form of pantheism out there. Modern developments, like I said, are more oriented towards atheism.

        I welcome NATURALISTIC pantheism as a great idea for people who want to stay true to science, but also have an object of wonder and worship – nature and the cosmos.

      3. vilacorp@aol.com

        I am not a Spinozist, and there’s many variants of pantheisms, that’s not the point. The point is what you are describing has nothing to do with the word pantheism. Look up “religious naturalism” – that is what you are describing. Your statement, “there is no god, but nature is divine enough” is not ‘a kind of pantheism’ unless words can just mean anything you want them to mean. Pantheism is a position on god that has nothing to do with the atheist position.

      4. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        I know what religious naturalism is.

        In naturalistic pantheism, the word god is used to describe the completeness and beauty of all nature.

        Pantheism usually equates the divine with nature. Deus sive natura.

        When you bring that logic to its end, you could end up with atheism. But then, if all finite things are god, nature becomes divine.

        In that sense, I believe, it’s justified to use the term pantheism along with naturalistic. Also, -theism denotes a god, which is true, but the word god isn’t with one meaning.

        Throughout history it had mainly supernatural, but also natural meanings, such as “wind” or “sun.” Saying that pantheism denotes the existence of a god is one-sided thinking, seeing the word god as only a supernatural being or force.

        While naturalistic pantheism itself isn’t atheism, it has many things in common with it. If it would be atheism, it would be called atheism, not “improved atheism.”

        That are two different things.

        Here are two wikipedia excerpts:
        “Naturalistic pantheism is a form of Pantheism that identifies God or divinity with all concrete things,[1] all finite beings,[2] the substance of the Universe,[3] or Nature. Thus, God is seen as the aggregate of all unified natural phenomena.[4] It is frequently contrasted with idealistic pantheism, in which God and the Universe are identified with the essence of being,[2] mind or consciousness.”

        “The term “naturalistic” derives from the word “Naturalism”, which has several meanings in philosophy and aesthetics.[6] In philosophy the term most frequently means the view that everything there is belongs to the world of nature and can be studied with the methods appropriate for studying that world, i.e. the sciences.[7] It generally implies an absence of belief in supernatural beings.[6]”

        About WPM: “Some members use theistic vocabulary, however they do not believe in a thinking creator god, and simply use the word “God” to describe their feelings of reverence towards Nature and the wider Universe.”

        I also see no problem in WPM’s terminology. “God” is the aggregate of all finite things and/or a metaphor for the universe/nature. Therefore, the word pantheism is justified, paired with naturalistic, if “god” is taken in that sense.

        Some would say that Spinoza was an atheist as well. Some would call him a panENtheist.

        I believe it’s all justified. I’m aware of the confusion with the term “pantheism”, but if you see it how I explained it, then it is justified.

      5. vilacorp@aol.com

        I have no problem with what you just wrote since you no longer seem to be saying that pantheism can mean “there is no god, but nature is divine enough”. I just think if you’re going to call yourself any kind of pantheist, that word still implies something more specific than ‘anything i want to believe’.

        As for the WPM and their “feelings toward Nature”, I think they sound very loose with how they use the word “nature”. Their material implies that “nature” is something distinct from things that are non-natural. So doesn’t that mean they are essentially saying some things are divine and some things are not divine – which would not be a form of pantheism – which is fine if words don’t matter.

      6. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        The statement “there is no god, but nature is divine enough” is a very rough form of saying what I wrote.

        Naturalistic pantheism says nature and the cosmos is divine, meaning everything that exists, from tree to skyscrapper. However, I believe that they imply natural to be not touched by man and unnatural as in constructed, built. There is a saying: “There are no non-sacred places. There are just sacred places and desecrated places.”

        I must admit that the difference between natural and unnatural is hard to comprehend or explain. The quote I mentioned seems to be on the right track. Although everything is natural and therefore divine, the original intact nature/universe is more holy than man made constructions.

        However, this answer seems to have some problems. It’s simply not elegant, not the best solution to deem something “holier” than something else.

        In practical life, you can be a naturalist pantheist and not worry about the exact terminology.

        In discussion, it would be very important to make a clear distinction. I believe it would be wise for the WPM to solve that.

        If one cares for exact terminology, one could also drop naturalistic pantheism and simly call oneself “atheist who loves nature.”

        What solution do you propose? 🙂

      7. vilacorp@aol.com

        Atheists who love nature [which has not been ‘desecrated’ by man] is exactly what I believe the WPM material is expressing. Which is fine. But calling that belief a form of pantheism is misleading. I identify with pantheistic ideas because I believe all things altogether are divine, or God. That’s what the word pantheism means. It does not mean ‘some things are divine and man altered things are not’. Once you say all things are divine except for this and that, you’re no longer talking about pantheism. I would suggest if you or any group is going to identify with pantheism, maybe, I dunno, learn what it means first and consider using a more accurate description of your beliefs?

      8. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        But if everything is considered natural, just something more primal/original/and natural, then you get the categories of “less natural” and “more natural” and “less divine” and “more divine.” In that case, since everything is still natural and divine, the term pantheism is also justified. Some things are just considered to be closer to divinity, which is defined as god (a metaphor for the ideal beauty of nature, therefore – closer to the ideal, more beautiful, more pure etc.).

        It seems like stretching, but perhaps it’s just the way I wrote it. I’m sure someone else could express the same idea in a better way.

        That being said, I still stand that the word pantheism is justified in this context.

      9. vilacorp@aol.com

        It is stretching… to the point of breaking. Everything is divine – but some are more divine and some are less divine. Right. Thanks for the coherent worldview Reverend, or Rabbi, or Imam. Face it, you just want to express a form of atheism, not a ‘form of pantheism’. But you deserve credit: at least you are recognizing the flaws of your argument as you’re writing them out.

      10. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        Like I said, perhaps I described it in a blunt manner. I hope you do get the point, however.

        While it is true that non-theism and pantheism may seem to be complete polar opposites, that’s not true for naturalistic/scientific pantheism and atheism.

        We simply disagree about stretching it. I don’t think it’s breaking, I just think it’s more concerned about how it sounds and feels like, its metaphor and hidden meaning rather than what’s usually associated with the term god.

        I don’t see why the word “god” wouldn’t denote the highest ideal, which in this case would be nature. In all honesty, it seems to be even more appropriate in some cases. Determining what’s nature or natural and what’s not is a whole different problem. I’m sure some naturalistic pantheists have good answers.

      11. vilacorp@aol.com

        “I don’t see why the word “god” wouldn’t denote the highest ideal, which in this case would be nature.”

        The word “god” in pantheism is applied to e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. That’s the definition of the word. It’s not an ‘ideal everything’ (which is a curious statement, since you mentioned you’re proposing the opposite of an “idealistic pantheism”. If anyone is proposing an “idealistic” pantheism, it’s you!). Sticking a “idealistic” or “scientific” or whatever in front of it doesn’t change what pantheism means.

        “Determining what’s nature or natural and what’s not is a whole different problem.”

        Who’s problem? You’re talking about it being a problem for people who are confused or loose with words? Nature in pantheism is everything/God. It is not a dualistic concept. If you define nature in terms of what is untouched by man etc. you are no longer talking about what is referred to as “nature” in pantheism.

        “I’m sure some naturalistic pantheists have good answers.”

        No they don’t. I once put up a question about this topic of how they define nature on a discussion board of that group and it was promptly removed. On their webpage there’s nothing concrete about it.. just fluff language. People can believe whatever they want. But putting up a misleading label and claiming to be on the same page as people like Spinoza and Einstein is at best ignorant, and at worst purposely deceiving.

      12. NatureAndWisdom Post author

        I meant ideal not as in idealistic, but as an object or idea of worship, which would be nature.

        We can avoid comotion by saying that everything is natural.

  3. vilacorp@aol.com

    You should actually do some research before you accept a shallow view of pantheism as “sexed up atheism”. That’s meant to be dismissive of people who identify with pantheism.

    Reply
    1. NatureAndWisdom Post author

      I don’t see why the term “sexed-up” insults anything, as it denotes improvement. The term really is blunt, but the point behind the words is very noble and wide. If you have read the text completely, then you surely know that its point surely isn’t degrading naturalistic pantheism to “sexed-up atheism”, but to show its advantages and the beauty it offers.

      Also, the World Pantheist Movement also accepts the term “sexed-up atheism” as fairly accurate. You can check it on their website – pantheism.net, as follows: “Richard Dawkins, in his book The God Delusion, has described Pantheism as “sexed-up atheism.” That may seem flippant, but it is accurate. Of all religious or spiritual traditions, Pantheism – the approach of Einstein, Hawking and many other scientists – is the only one that passes the muster of the world’s most militant atheist.”

      It also seems to me that you confuse pantheism in general with the more specific idea of naturalistic pantheism. Correct me if I’m wrong.

      Reply
      1. vilacorp@aol.com

        Do some real research before accepting what some people on the internet say. The “World Pantheist Movement” you cited is a mockery of pantheism.. it is for atheists who love “nature” – as in bicycle lanes and saving whales. Those people are not even in the same ballpark as Einstein.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s