A Critical Look
At Pantheism
Jean Paul Gove'

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From: "Positive Atheism" <editor@positiveatheism.org>
To: "Jean Paul Gove'"
Date: October 01, 2001 1:39 AM

I had a wild debate with a peculiar Sci-Pan named John Love-Jensen in a Discussion called "The Semantic Dance Of Pantheism." My gripe was that he had much better language available to him than to glom the language or theism in showing honor to Nature. However, some Sci-Pans take the deification of the Universe much further than does Love-Jensen, so my criticism of his views are not necessarily applicable to Sci-Pan as you might practice it.

This is best evidenced by a vastly different dialogue which occurred about the same time called "Pantheism Section Of FAQ Misrepresents Pantheism" with Trene Valdrek. You will see that Valdrek's approach to pantheism is quite different from that of Love-Jensen, as is the basis of my objection to Valdrek's approach. In it, Valdrek implies that by asking the following questions, one can justify pantheism (and indeed any theism):

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1. Why is there existence rather than non-existence?
2. Why does I (the concept of self) exist?

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Valdrek continues:

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Strangely enough I can actually answer those two questions under this assumption and as the above assumption is of a Pantheist nature -- bingo, I'm a Pantheist.

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I point out that these questions already contain the presuppositions of pantheism (at minimum) and theism (at most), and thus cannot be answered except from the vantage point of one of these viewpoints. In contrast, I show that we really only have justification for asking

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What processes led to existence?

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and that for us to be able to ask the question

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What motive was behind the decision to bring existence about?

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we would first need to discover and identify a Creator. Having not done this, any approach to this latter question would be speculation (of which there is no shortage in the Theology and Metaphysics sections of any library or bookstore).

In a more recent piece, "Paranormal, Supernatural, Ghosts, Science, And Atheism," In discussing the afterlife, I must first address the pantheistic and panentheistic model. After describing several different types of disembodied afterlife, including a feeble attempt to describe a few of panentheism's views, I conclude that

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Panentheism, some forms of which posit a unique form of afterlife and disembodied consciousness, are not very conducive to discussion, much less verification or falsification. Thus they can neither be defended nor refuted.

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This, to me, is the biggest problem with pantheism, and particularly with panentheism: they really aren't saying much that can be discussed, argued, verified, refuted -- in short, described. If I don't know, then I think I am better off admitting that I don't know rather than trying to cloak my ignorance within a complex attempt at describing what is admitted by all to be indescribable -- if it even exists, but since it is not describable, we'll never be able to know for sure whether it exists!

In short, many speculations have been offered, but none of them have been verified. Thus, I withhold my assent from all of these speculations: I agree with none of them. I remain an atheist. The pantheist and panentheist are, in my opinion, in no better position to be able to assent to even the claims of pantheism and panentheism; they might as well, for practical purposes, remain atheists with me! All they have on me is some poetic and wonderful sounding language. But this poetry lacks the descriptive powers needed to decide whether to grant or withhold assent to an idea. If we could admit that it was poetry, I could more easily face myself in the morning while engaging in such poetry. But as philosophy, I don't think pantheism or panentheism do much to help us understand ourselves and our environment.

Cliff Walker
Positive Atheism Magazine
Six years of service to
    people with no reason to believe

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