For atheists and non-Christian theists...?

I was just pondering a question that I answered earlier (;_ylt=AqVX1... and I was struck by the proposed idea that Pantheism and atheism are very similar. Like that question says, Dawkins believes that Pantheism is 'sexed-up atheism.' While I'm totally down with 'sexed-up' in most situations, I spent a little while thinking about why I identify as a Pantheist, and where exactly I diverge from atheism.

For me, my 'spirituality' is a mix of naturalistic awe, academic philosophy, and personal development. I study Anthropology and Biology to understand the 'how.' I study Philosophy to learn to properly ponder the 'why.' I study Sociology and Literature to gain perspective and understand different aspects of the universal human experience. I have an insatiable passion and fascination for the workings of our humanity and the world around us. Oftentimes, I lose myself in the wonder of it all.

Even from my own definition, there seems to be nothing 'supernatural' about it. I'm hard-pressed to describe the difference, actually, which certainly surprises me. I suppose the difference I see is an openness to, but not necessarily an insistence in, a certain degree of sentience.

So I guess my question is, what do you see as the difference between Pantheism and atheism, and what do you believe are the high and low points of both?

12 Answers

  • 1 decade ago
    Favourite answer

    Atheism rejects beliefs in any deity(ies), personal and non-personal.

    Pantheism rejects beliefs in personal deity(ies) but asserts that the deity is the universe itself.

    I personally do not accept this hypothesis of "the deity is the universe itself". No offense intended, but, to me, it is just as weak as any other hypothesis of deity(ies). It is a hypothesis that cannot be proved or disproved so why do we need to accept it? We do not accept the existence of the Celestial Teapot, do we?

  • 1 decade ago

    Hmm interesting question, I've never even heard of pantheism, but I can see the similarities with atheism, The difference between the two isn't really a philosophical difference, but more of a scientific one. A god is a being that is everywhere, knows everything, and can do anything. I believe, as an atheist, that the universe is bound by laws, and can not do anything, I also think that if there is no evidence to believe that the universe is a being that knows everything, you should not assume that it is.

    The only problem to atheism is the question "where did everything come from" and that question is unanswerable, and I see it as not being a low point. I really don't see any problems with the basics of pantheism, other than you are changing the definition of the word god to be both an inanimate object and an animate object.

  • 1 decade ago

    Pantheism, especially naturalistic pantheism, is compatible with atheism since atheism isn't a particular way of looking at things but rather just a belief--or lack of belief--depending on how you want to feel describing it, that there is no god. And do note: that not believing in a god does not have to mean that you are close-minded to the possibility--merely that you don't believe that's how it is.

  • 1 decade ago

    I love this question, but simply because you describe it so beautifully :)

    I have no answer though. I'm an atheist, and everything you just wrote is also how I see things. I have the same naturalistic awe.

    To me pantheism (and this probably my ignorance, I mean no offense) is nothing more than "let's take everything, the universe, nature, laws of nature, existence...and let's call all that God".

    So, I'm not a big fan of Dawkins, but I'm gonna have to agree with him here. It very much sounds like 'sexed-up atheism' to me.

    Hey, come on. That's really not such a bad label.

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  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Very interesting question! The easy, quick answer is that pantheism is a form of theism and atheism is the lack of theism. And it's the other side who always tries to paint atheism as some wicked alternative 'religion'.

    But just a general sense of awe and 'worshipfulness', yes I think an atheist could feel that, maybe most do. Being a 'freethinker' broadens the range of your thoughts, some religions seem to exist only to narrow them.

    It's easy to believe there is -something- out there. I mean once you decide to believe in God, you have to realize you can't know much about him. Some religions feel they need to fill in all the details with doctrine. And I think that does more harm than good. Atheists at least can enjoy the mystery, but then so can free-thinking theists.

  • 1 decade ago

    Not all pantheism denies the existence of personal deities. Look at Hindus. Hindus believe that the ultimate reality is not a personal God, but they use plenty of personal gods to describe that ultimate reality. There are a lot of aspects of the universe that are highly personal.

    Similarly Buddhists use many deities to describe aspects of the ultimate reality. The Buddhas themselves are one with Nirvana, the life-force so often confused with a form of heaven. This life-force is the ground of all being that lies behind the universe. Nirvana appears to be a transcendent void--impersonal but ultimately you. It's the closest thing to God that Buddhists believe exists.

    These are a couple of examples of pantheism that are not entirely compatible with atheism. I hope they helped.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    I think you're confusing atheism with nihilism. Atheism is simply a belief in lack of gods, you can still have "naturalistic awe, philosophy, and personal development", those don't violate the rules of being an atheist.

  • Anonymous
    1 decade ago

    Reality is AWESOME!

    The universe and the world around us are AWESOME!

    But awesome is our own human reaction to it. There is no need to invent a god, either abrahamic or pantheistic style, to account for the universe's awesomeness.

    We have a sense of awe at the wonders of the world because that is how our mind works. The awesomeness is not a property of the universe, it is a property of our reaction it.

    There are no gods. I don't need any god or gods to explain the sense of awe that I feel in nature. That's why I am an atheist, not a pantheist.


  • 1 decade ago

    Main difference: Pantheists believe God exists, but aren't religious. Atheists don't believe there is a God at all.

    There aren't really high and low points to either, if you don't believe in God you're an Atheist, if you think that God is the controlling factor in the Universe, but aren't religious, then you're a Pantheist

  • 1 decade ago

    Pantheism=Reality is alive;

    Atheism=Reality is non-living.

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