The following was originally a forum posting from the Freedomain Radio boards that was titled “Deism + Pantheism = Pandeism? (Or Just Apatheism?)“
I’ve always taken religious toleration as a given, especially considering the writings of Sir Thomas Browne as well as the yin-yang relationship of the Free Exercise and Establishment clauses of the US Constitution’s First Amendment. I also had no idea that people from all walks of life still cared enough about religiosity (in any sense) that they’d still attempt to appeal to the unconverted. It just surprises me that the seething biomass still harps on this subject, since there will never be common agreement amongst the whole of humanity about the gods they worship (or don’t worship, as the case may be). Whatever happened to the laissez-faire, libertarian attitude of “live and let live?” This desirable quality seems just as absent from the various intellectual circles (both of the Establishment and grassroots flavors). What I additionally find humourous though, is that some of the most devoted people I’ve met are atheists, their Sunday morning coffeehouse gatherings (not to be confused with “church,” of course) nothwithstanding. I hope we all remember that a key aspect of the human experience is that of discovery; while I will never advocate relativism, what I am saying is that we are fallible creatures, even if we are mostly correct about whatever the subject happens to be at the moment.
Personally, I’ve vacillated on just what the hell I think is accurate concerning religiosity, since “beliefs” are just as useful as sandpaper being used to wipe your bum. Following the roller-coaster ride of reading, serious self-reflection, and more reading, I came to the point where I was something akin to a deist. Having been completely disgusted by any and all forms of organized institutional religion, I was curious as to what theistic lines of thought existed outside of these self-proclaimed organizations who wielded such soft power. My journey’s first major stop was the assorted agnostic/atheist/“freethinker” circles, where I noticed the usual trend was not to move beyond one’s initial social conditioning and become truly self-empowered, but to whine and pontificate about the abuses (real or conjured up) that were incurred during childhood. Being completely dumbfounded, I further inquired about any sense of morality or ethics they may possess. Much to my utter horror, the vast majority of these folks I met were relativists or otherwise amoral. They couldn’t conceive of the notion of any kind of secular ethics or moral code, claiming that such a thing was a “cultural regression” towards the European Middle Ages. After a (very) brief series of argumentative debates, I chose to disassociate myself from such people, seeing as they simply wanted an excuse for behaving any damn way they want with complete disregard for the Truth.
My next stop entailed investigating deism, since at least a good portion of the Founding Fathers were of such a persuasion. While it is true that the clockwork universe theory doesn’t account for any sort of random happenings or alternate possibilities outside of Fate, is it possible that the Grand Architect designed the universe in such a way that things like thermodynamics, quantum physics, and even free will were deliberately “built-in” to account for phenomenon that is chaotic or otherwise cannot be regulated (nor should be)? As a corollary to this, pantheism maintains that “God” is not the anthropomorphic being we’ve all been conditioned to think of, but is instead the Universe or Reality itself, in all of its totality. Ergo, we all live in the mind of God. While pantheism is about as connected to institutionalized religion as deism is, it does smack of the whole New Age-ish “We Are All One” diatribe that’s so popular with the overall anti-globalization movement, doesn’t it? At least by implication, deism maintains some level of individuation that pantheism necessarily avoids by default, for if We Are One (Consciousness), then just what need is there of differentiating between the False Self and the Real Self if you are just simply a spiritual being having a human experience (or alternatively, just simply a portion of the Whole or the Source of All That Is pretending to be unique on this five sense plane of reality)? And if that didn’t spin your noggin 360 degrees, how about pandeism? This explanation contends that God created the universe and left it alone (deism), at which time he SOMEHOW morphed into the very fabric of Reality itself (pantheism), which is why he can’t directly interact with humans, per se. Then there are the folks who maintain that they are “Spiritual, But Not Religious.” Please do keep in mind that science is not immune from such indecisive lines of thought either, especially considering the fact that even mainline paleontologists can’t even pick multi-regional evolution over the Out-of-Africa version, and it’s not for a lack of trying either; it’s not because of a lack of evidence, but how best to interpret the evidence they already have.
All of this could easily lead someone to become apathetic about such “spiritual” matters, which is where apatheism comes into play. An obvious portmanteau, this orientation maintains that regardless of whether “God” is proved or debunked insofar as his actual existence goes, it’s irrelevant in the big picture because human behavior would not change fundamentally due to this new insight, whatever it might be. Hence, anything dealing with religiosity…erm, “spirituality”….. is merely fun academic theorizing within the ivory towers of the intelligentsia that has no bearing whatsoever upon the human condition. While admittedly it is substantively important to assist those individuals harmed by the soft power of organized religion (i.e. overcoming indoctrination), in the bigger picture, it would be better to ignore the whole silly business, since it is really easy to defeat it due to the fact that organized religion possesses only soft power, as opposed to the hard power of the State, which is where a larger portion of our energies should be allocated towards defeating.
I think what I am getting at is that most atheists seem to care way the hell too much about exposing the corrupt precepts of organized religion, instead of just enjoying their awakening and empowerment by living their lives in a morally and ethically sound manner with their families (although if you are going to go on the offensive, it would be much more fair and effective to expose a plethora of them, not just Christianity, and not just the other monotheist, Abrahamic religions). Everything is a zero-sum game (in one sense); every second you spend pontificating about your “bad” childhood or harp on the evils of organized religion is every second you don’t spend doing something constructive to actually make the world free! Besides, even if you do have regular contact with “religious” or “spiritual” people (whatever those terms mean anyway), their beliefs should never get in the way of personally connecting with them in other spheres of human activity. So, I guess for me, I think I’ll shimmy over a tad towards the apatheist camp; as a side benefit, it means I can pretty much drastically cut back on any type of religious or spiritual reading, at least for the foreseeable future, and just enjoy other people’s fervent advocation of their beliefs (of either the theist or atheist flavor) as the entertainment that it is.