October 2007


Define Pantheism

Pantheism is one of the oldest belief systems there is which purports to offer an overall view about the nature of the universe. It is a metaphysical scheme that is robust to criticism more than most and a worldview which is often supported by intellectuals and scientists. How we define pantheism can allow for a very broad range of beliefs under the pantheism umbrella; it allows for a material interpretation as well as spiritual interpretations and dualist accounts. Before investigating the precise nature of pantheism, we should first offer an account of how to define pantheism.

When we define pantheism we have a long history of belief to work from. We also have many different varieties that we can use as a resource. Pantheist groups have existed within all the major religions, independently from organised religion and sometimes even atheist groups have claimed to hold a pantheist system of how to understand the universe. So how can we define pantheism to accommodate such a wide range of beliefs?

The Most Interesting Worldview

Pantheism, in its most simple expression, is the belief that God and the universe is the same thing. For most people the implications of such a statement are not immediately obvious, the common response is often a “so what.” Richard Dawkins accuses pantheism of being no more than sexed up atheism, which is a very simplistic philosophical view whilst Einstein, Carl Sagan, Kurt Godel amongst others were often heard to be speaking of God with the implication that it was the Pantheist God to which they were referring.

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Atheism Symbol

I had intended to move on from atheism and theism and look at pantheism but I came across an article about atheism symbols and became intrigued.

I touched upon the definition of religion in an earlier post. Religion is not just having a belief in God but extends to include purpose and worship of artefacts, places or even symbols. Proudly displaying a symbol is a basic sign of religious behaviour and it seems the atheist community are scrambling around in an attempt to come to some agreement as to what that symbol might be.

An atheism symbol certainly takes atheists one step closer to becoming a religion. Whatever next? Soon we will see organised groups of atheists taking a pilgrimage to the Galapagos Islands in tribute to their founder. Will Galapagos become the New Jerusalem? An atheist location as a place of ultimate worship, hmm, another criterion ticked for what it is that defines a religious group.

There is more Atheism Symbol here

Compare Theism and Atheism

There are a number of ways that we can compare theism and atheism. In a debate that is increasingly politicised, in the USA at least, it is important to understand the objective or emotion of any person who is engaged in such a debate. This post is a brief look at the charge levelled against atheists that they too are expressing religiousness.

The simple view would be that to compare theism and atheism is trivial as one side (theism) offers a position of belief, whilst the other (atheism) counters with the negation or rejection of that belief. However, there are a number of different ways we can make a comparison particularly when we see either side stray from the real notion of what they are in fact supporting or denying.

Emphasised in earlier posts has been the point that theism is the assertion that there is a God who exists separately from the universe that he has created. Atheism is the denial of this claim. This is the “in a nutshell” definition of what theism and atheism entails.

There is more Compare Theism and Atheism here

Define Theism and atheism

The definitions of theism and atheism should both be very clear. Yet at times because of the heat of debate in which theism and atheism are discussed the real meaning of each becomes blurred. Dictionaries are often considered the arbiters of definition, though reaching for a dictionary should be a last resort. Dictionaries are not definers of words. Dictionaries list words and how they are used in common speech. As a philosopher it is quite legitimate to define ones own terms provided one is clear that is what you are doing. If a philosopher defines a term to have a specific meaning then the dictionaries definition is irrelevant. Should a philosophers use of a term become standard then it will be the dictionary that adapts to the new usage. It is not the public who adapt to a dictionary definition, rather the dictionary changes to how words are used.

Theism can be a difficult word to define because theists themselves have so many different ideas of what their theism entails. Not only are there three primary theist religions, there are a number of sub groups within each religion further diluting any notion of there being a clear and distinct definition.

Atheism is easy to define. Atheism is the belief that theism is false. But as that definition rests on our understanding of what theism entails we are back to the problem of seeking a clear definition of theism. So for the purpose of this blog I shall make clear precisely how I define the concept of theism and by default how atheism then becomes defined.

There is more Define Theism and Atheism here