In Praise of Pantheism


“I have repeatedly said that in my opinion the idea of a personal God is a childlike one, but I do not share the crusading spirit of the professional atheist whose fervor is mostly due to a painful act of liberation from the fetters of religious indoctrination received in youth. I prefer an attitude of humility corresponding to the weakness of our intellectual understanding of nature and of our own being.”- Albert Einstein

Just a quick blog post before I get back to real work...

I've been mulling over my religious views more lately as I've contemplated what a spiritual life looks like. Despite admiring some of its thought, I've found atheism or agnosticism lacking as a worldview, but the monotheistic ideas of a personal God are far worse and repellent to me at least as it can often promote the worst in human nature (i.e. see all of human history from the crusades to 9/11). 

I've found myself drawn to Buddhism as an adult because there are no creator gods. The goal is to end suffering, that is all. There are no strict dogmas, but useful list of guidelines to get there known as the four noble truths and the eightfold path. 

I've also recently been reading more and Pantheism in recent days. Pantheism says that God consists of everything and everyone in the Universe. God permeates all things, connects to all thing, is everything including us, humanity. It's not a perfect parallel but it fits in my world concept nicely with the idea of Buddha nature

I think it's a useful belief system, mainly because if you are a Pantheist, compassion for all beings is an imperative in my view, just as it is in Buddhism. It means that every life has dignity and worthy of our love. And it doesn't exclude animals and the environment because if the universe is God, including ourselves, it means that by harming the environment, we are harming ourselves. 

There are also plenty of differences between Buddhism and Pantheism, but I find that most of those are cultural, as Pantheism generally comes from a Western Tradition and Buddhism is an Eastern one. They seem to approach the spiritual with different language and context. 

As I read more and more about religion, especially Christianity, I find it increasingly alienating. There are so many contradictions and misunderstands in the translations of the bible for example that make it clear they are written by human hands making very human choices. And if you really want to be messed with, read about the Council of Nicaea where among other things, it was decided, over 300 years after Jesus's death, that Jesus was divine or just a man. It's just very hard for me to accept something that is so clearly created by flawed human beings. 

Yet at the same, I cannot help myself: I have a religious spirit. And the only thing that has ever made sense to me is that we are not separate but one and the divisions of race, class, religion are largely superficial because we are all the spirit of God.