I’ve been struggling with my spirituality for a few months now. In short, I feel like I’m drifting farther and farther away from a panentheistic world view (the divine exists within everything, therefore, everything is divine) and moving closer to something that would have to be called straight-up atheism.
First of all, may Thor strike me, but I don’t believe in the gods. At first, I thought my lack of connection with any pantheon was due to a lingering post-Christian aversion. But as time went on, I realized that I just didn’t believe in supernatural beings anymore. Once you give up believing in one fairy-tale, the other stories have little to stand on. Any argument for the existence of a supernatural being rests on the same premises.
That is not to say that most Pagans believe the actual existence of gods, most don’t in my experience. Their belief is in merely the power of belief, and what the gods represent to us personally, and as a community. They can be tools in that way. Yet I have also heard that this mode of thought runs dangerously close to disrespect—and you never want to disrespect a god. So, this part can get confusing sometimes.
There is no denying that gods are inventions of the human mind. Gods are one way that we interpret, understand, and explore our environment and our place in the cosmos. So, a lack of existence in that sense doesn’t mean they aren’t real. Creation is cyclical. They are a part of us, and all evidence leads us to believe that they have been since the beginning of human history. The gods have always been a part of our existential, social, and philosophical process.
This doesn’t mean, however, that they exist in any other aspect than in our minds. So, when it comes down to it, what the hell am I doing here (the proverbial here, that is)? At this point, can I even consider myself a Pagan? I’m sure many would vote ‘No.’ My own opinion waivers.
My main dilemma is this: since panentheism recognizes everything as divine because all creation is sacred, isn’t that just another way to say: as everything is divine, nothing is divine? Everything is just what it is. Is there such a thing as a panenatheist?
My lesser dilemma is this: with so many scientific resources and evidence-based knowledge we have at our disposal, why should we spend time chasing ghosts and make-believe entities? Sometimes I wonder want it would be like had I worked just as hard to learn math and science as I did to learn tarot and ancient folklore. Granted, math is a bust…that would never happen. But shouldn’t we, as a species, dedicate ourselves to learning the things we know we know, before we explore what we don’t know? I am currently plagued by such questions as these.
Allow me to nerd-out on a tangent…
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I like watching old episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation (TNG) on Saturday evenings, and it’s amazing to see how much they could “get away with” in terms of atheistic attitudes and progressive philosophical topics. In one of the latest episodes I viewed, Captain Picard faces a situation (oddly similar to the first few scenes in the new Star Trek: Into Darkness movie) where the Enterprise has inadvertently become the object of another culture’s worship.
The “away team” accidentally expose themselves to a race of bronze-age, Vulcan-like humanoids during a anthropological research facility breakdown. The proto-Vulcan witnesses associate the incredible (and seemingly magical) abilities of the ship and her crew with the only thing they have to compare it to, based on their limited experience: folkloric tales of an ancient and forgotten religious modality.
Suddenly, this race of people are on the verge of completely subverting their social, scientific, cognitive, and evolutionary progress by going back to believing in (and sublimating themselves to) the old gods. In addition to this horrific mixup, the team of anthropologists propose that Picard “play along” as a form of damage control, helping to repair the Prime Directive (the Federation pledge not to interfere with the development of other planets).
Picard refuses to “play god.” He declares that he cannot, in good conscience, aid in a pantomime which will effectively launch these people into a second dark age. He states outright what an “accomplishment” it is that this race have “freed themselves” from the misguided belief in superstition and the supernatural. Stunting their evolution by placating to their delusion is not an option. He therefore decides to bring their tribal leader onto the ship, and explain that they are just a more advanced society.
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We now live in a society so warped by a conservative backlash, that we’ve lost all the creative ground we made in the 80s and 90s with shows like this. The futuristic philosophy of the Federation is one that frequently eschews religious and illogical thinking in other cultures, and promotes science and art. The characters on this show often mention how “backward,” “warmongering,” or “barbaric” the human race was in the late 20th century (when it was filmed). The entire series is practically progressive and atheistic propaganda!
Bottom-line: the utopian future created by Gene Roddenbury has a clear premise: science, logic, and tolerance are the paths to an advanced civilization, not religion, ignorance, and exclusivity. Granted, it’s just a tv show…but still, hard to argue against. Who doesn’t want this to come true?
Am I wasting my time trying to build an unnecessary religious practice with broken tools? Is it time to give up the ghost? Or does this mean I should add a picture of Patrick Stewart to my altar?