21 December 2009

Pantheism: intellectually lazy & pelvic-obsessed

Ross Douthat mediates on the American love-affair with pantheism:

[. . .]

Today there are other forces that expand pantheism’s American appeal. We pine for what we’ve left behind, and divinizing the natural world is an obvious way to express unease about our hyper-technological society. The threat of global warming, meanwhile, has lent the cult of Nature qualities that every successful religion needs — a crusading spirit, a rigorous set of ‘thou shalt nots,” and a piping-hot apocalypse.

At the same time, pantheism opens a path to numinous experience for people uncomfortable with the literal-mindedness of the monotheistic religions — with their miracle-working deities and holy books, their virgin births and resurrected bodies. As the Polish philosopher Leszek Kolakowski noted, attributing divinity to the natural world helps “bring God closer to human experience,” while “depriving him of recognizable personal traits.” For anyone who pines for transcendence but recoils at the idea of a demanding Almighty who interferes in human affairs, this is an ideal combination.

[. . .]

Pantheism offers a different sort of solution [to the problem of evil]: a downward exit, an abandonment of our tragic self-consciousness, a re-merger with the natural world our ancestors half-escaped millennia ago.

But except as dust and ashes, Nature cannot take us back.

Pantheism (All-is-God) is a cheap dorm room spirituality deeply pondered by sophomore philosophers after one too many hits on the bong.  Quoting scientism's prima donna, Richard Dawkins, "pantheism is a sexed-up atheism."  As Douthat notes, for R.D., this is a compliment. 

Why is pantheism "cheap"?  The idea that the universe is God is cheaply purchased because it requires the believer to believe nothing more than exactly what he wants to believe; that is, the idea of pantheism is intellectually, spiritually, and religiously priced so that the believer has to spend as little as possible to be its proud owner.  Intellectually, pantheism dismisses the problem of evil by simply dissolving the difference and distinction between Good and Evil.  Spiritually, it eliminates our search for the transcendent divine by declaring all spiritual connections to be immanent in nature.  Religiously, and this is its real attraction to most, pantheism's only ethical/moral restrictions are "Reduce, reuse, recycle."  

Once evil is conquered by semantic fiat; and the transcendent is naturalized; and human morality is forever linked to the demands of environmentalism, all those pesky problems of traditional theism can be safely ignored.  We no longer have to worry about questions of truth, right/wrong, human rights endowed by a Creator, the search for perfection in God, etc.  In fact, probably the most appealing aspect of pantheism is the notion that we are perfect just as we are. . .well, except that we are constantly harangued by the Gaia priesthood to observe the Law of Carbon Reduction.

Politically, pantheism is attractive because it allows our ruling class to ignore annoying concepts like the sacredness of human life, the sacramental nature of our vows to one another, the unique place of the family in human culture, and the Really Bothersome Notion of Individual Freedom in the Pursuit of Happiness.  Once these theistic concepts are dissolved into the morass of pantheistic naturalism, we can safely abort our children, abandon our commitments in marriage, engineer fake family structures with divorce and SSM, and impose socialist communitarianism.  All of which, of course, transfer political power to the State and enrich our Betters.

Pantheism has everything the intellectually lazy, pelvic-obsessed American loves:  bumper sticker spirituality, no-guilt morality, and cafeteria religion.  That these are paid for with the loss of individual initiative and personal freedom is not at all a worry. . .Big Government has our best interest at heart.


  1. Anonymous8:01 AM

    Outstanding post, Father.

    I used to (no more: it's a near occasion of sin) visit pseudo-cath sites to do my post-doctoral field work in proctology. Now, I realize I was studying "pantheism."

    Your last sentence says it all! Not just about theolgical sophomores but also about liberal, something-for-nothing, no personal responsibility America that voted in the idiots that are ruining us.

    T. Shaw

  2. Tom in NJ3:53 PM

    This religious experience never left.The Egyptian gods were nature gods, and later, the belief in "ma'at" or cosmic balance arose.
    Segal's "Hermes the Thief" chronicles the cult of Hermes from a crossroads deity to the "patron" of communication, finance and sorcery. I'm confident you've seen Nilsson's book at some time, for a discussion of the rest of the Greek pantheon.
    St. Paul was resisted in Asia Minor and Greece because his religious outlook was too "hard" for the Hellenistic world. Artemis and De-meter are a lot easier.

  3. Amen, Fr. Philip!

    I love it when you're in invective mode (rhetorically speaking) ...

    Buon Natale!

  4. Philothea, invective mode? I'm sure I have no idea what you mean!


  5. A riddle, friend. Why is it that theists attack pantheism and deism, but never pandeism? Answer: they can't; pandeism is unlike the others in that, by combining their strengths and discarding their weaknesses, it subsumes and fully accounts for all forms of theism, making it unassailable to theistic objection.

  6. Mapson, I've never attacked pandeism b/c I've never heard of it. Been reading philosophy/theology for some 25 years now and I've never run across the word.

  7. Well now that you have heard of pandeism, you'll be able to study up and either become a pandeist, or grasp irrationality with both hands for dear life and cling to theism. But, whichever you do in this moment, you will realize the truth of pandeism at some point, if even at the moment that old age passes you into the next world.