Tuesday, January 25, 2005

atheist?

I went to see the pastor at First Unitarian about joining the church today. However, I didn’t sign the book . . . I feel like there is some little voice inside of me saying “not yet.” I don’t know really what the deal is. I’ve loved going to the church and to activities associated with the church. I feel I’ve grown spiritually (if that is the right word) by being exposed to so many different viewpoints. At least I’ve learned some patience and listening skills (maybe that’s as spiritual as it gets :-). But I feel something holding me back—and as there is no hurry and I’m under no pressure, I’ve decided to wait.

And partly due to some conversations I’ve had with a couple of people at First U—including a conversation with the pastor earlier today—I’m starting to think that “atheist” is not a very accurate label for what I am.

As I write, I’m listening to a song by The Alan Parsons Project. The last lines from the song The Three of Me sum up how I feel about the whole issue sometimes.

One minute I think I know what I mean, next I hear voices inside that disagree. Why are they laughing at me?


It’s is not like I’m considering the existence of the old evangelical Christian God that I used to believe in. I’m not even considering any kind of humanized or personal god. I have considered god to be a metaphor for nature—thus my pantheist bent. I feel a little strange telling people I’m a pantheist though (it’s not something most people seem to understand). On the e-mail newsletters I get from American Atheists there is a quote that says “atheist” is an unambiguous term, but anymore I don’t think that is the case. It’s all strange—like if I tell people I’m an atheist I need to also tell them just what I mean by “god.”

It also doesn’t help the situation to explain that I’m a Unitarian Universalist either. That seems to be more confusing than “pantheist.” LOL Particularly since UUism apparently isn’t really a religion at all, but rather a confederation of people with lots of different religions. (This is not why I’m delaying joining BTW. I think this is one of the beauties of UUism.)

Anyway, as much as I would like to have an easy term to describe the state of my belief (or disbelief) to other people, first I feel a need to describe it to myself. Naturalistic pantheism works fairly well as a description actually. No god higher than nature. And at the same time this is a "god" far bigger than our limited human minds. One that we can work towards understanding, though I doubt we will ever totally understand the Universe. The "all in all" as I like to think of it. (I did get that phrase out of a Christian praise and worship song, btw. I think it is more descriptive of the Universe than Jesus, though.)

Perhaps if people ask me about my beliefs, I'll just tell them that I am a Freethinker. "One who forms opinions on the basis of reason independently of authority," as it is defined in my Marrriam-Webster Collegiate dictionary. This is vague but accurate. Well, at least it is an ideal that I prize.

Then, if they want more detail, I can get into Naturalistic Pantheism. But only after I make sure they do not need to go off somewhere in a hurry. :)

I've also found this quote in freedom: Quotes and passages from the world's greatest freethinkers. I think it's appropriate to my spiritual journey (I still can't get over my use of that word. LOL)

I have steadily endeavored to keep my mind free so as to give up any hypothesis, however much beloved [and I cannot resist forming one on every subject] as soon as the facts are shown to be opposed to it. –Charles Darwin


I feel better now :)

4 comments:

Ruthie said...

Isn't the atheist/god/pantheist thing all a bit confusing :S

I think I know where you are coming from. I know I don't believe in the "God" that the evangelical Christians talk about - does that make me an atheist, or even a non-theist? I can accept the idea of God as a sense of awe, wonder, greatness, everything and I like your idea that God is "all in all". Does that make me a pantheist?

Ideas about God change radically depending on the culture in which they developed. I'm currently reading, 'A History of God' by Karen Armstrong. It focuses on the monotheistic religions (Judaism, Christianity & Islam) and looks at how the idea of God has developed within those traditions. From the thunderous God at the top of Mount Sinai to the very human God in Jesus (I've not gotten to the Islam section yet!). Maybe, we've got to get beyond the notion of God as an unchanging reality beyond us, and accept that God is something we make and understand for ourselves in ways that are (hopefully) useful and life affirming. When any notion of God becomes fixed and mistaken for God himself, then we get fundamentalism and the associated violence that goes along with it.

So maybe I am a non-theistic, religious humanitst, pantheist, agnostic seeker of something that I'm not sure exists. Bleurgh :S

I have found some Quaker writings helpful though - you might find they contain some interesting thoughts to mull over...

Try these two links if you're interested:

http://nontheists.quaker.org/NONTHEIST_FRIENDS_INTERNET_ARCHIVE.html

http://www.universalistfriends.org/

Ruthie

Mikayla Starstuff said...

Yea, Ruthie, it sounds like you have the right idea. This is probably of the most difficult things I've delt with (philisophically speaking, anyway) since rejecting the religion I was raised in. Trying to figure out just what I believe now . . .
Thanks for the links as well. I will give them a look :)

Luminous Phenomena said...

This is why I don't consider myself an atheist. I do consider myself an agnostic. And a pantheist. And a religious humanist pagan... you see where I'm going?

The beauty of unsubscribing to a dogmatic belief system is that you can believe however you want, whenever you want. And contrary to the scary words of xianity, you don't need a rock on which to stand. You are your own rock.

Take your time in figuring out what you believe, Mikel. And know, that you may never figure it out and it's still okay.

Peace.

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