Pantheism is distinguished
from panentheism, which holds that God is in everything, but also transcends
Strict pantheism is not a theism. It does not believe in a transcendent
or personal God who is the creator of the universe and the judge of humans.
Many pantheists feel the word "God" is too loaded with these connotations and
never use the word in their own practice - though they may use it to simplify,
or to explain things to theists.
Pantheism has often been accused of atheism, and not just because it
rejects the idea of a personal creator God. Strict
naturalistic pantheism believes that the Universe either originated itself
out of nothing, or has existed forever.
Modern scientific pantheism is materialistic. It believes that design in
the universe can be fully accounted for by principles of
evolution and self-organization. It does not
believe in separate spirits or survival of the soul after death. Pantheists
concerned about personal immortality seek it in realistic ways - through
children, deeds, works, and the memories of the living.
Because it shares these naturalistic beliefs with atheism, the arguments
for pantheism are the same as the arguments for atheism. Pantheism puts
forward exactly the same critiques of transcendental religions and
supernatural beliefs as does atheism. It is a secular religion, firmly rooted
in the real world of the senses and of science.
This form of pantheism is identical with movements variously called
religious atheism, affirmative atheism, Monism, or Cosmism. It is also very
close to Taoism, some forms of Chinese and Japanese Buddhism, and neo-
Strict pantheism differs from conventional atheism only in its emotional
and ethical response to the material universe. It focusses not simply on
criticizing transcendental beliefs and religions, but stresses the positive
aspects of life and nature - the profound aesthetic and emotional responses
that most people feel towards nature and the night sky.
Naturalistic pantheism draws ethical conclusions from these feelings.
Humans should seek a closer harmony with nature. We should preserve
biodiversity and the delicate ecological balances of the planet, not just as a
matter of survival, but as a matter of personal fulfilment.
Pantheism offers ways of expressing these feelings in ceremonies,
celebrating significant times and places which underline our links with
nature, the solar system and the universe. All this is possible without
retreating one millimeter from the rigorously empirical attitude to reality
found in modern science.
There are other forms of pantheism. Modern pagans frequently claim to be
pantheists. Those who are concerned with logical consistency regard their
various deities as symbolic rather than real. Those who are not so concerned
pantheism with literal polytheism and belief in magic, reincarnation and other
An alternative, quite common among New Agers, is pan-psychic pantheism -
the belief that the universe/God has a collective soul, mind or will. This
version was most clearly expressed by
Hegel, and in more
modern times by A. N. Whitehead and Teilhard de Chardin (see also: process metaphysics). Another variant is
the idea that humans are in some way the mind of the universe (see also: the global brain). Our evolution -
indeed our active help - is seen as helping the universe to attain its full
potential (cf. Creative Immortality).
For further background, see: