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 :)