Sunday, September 30, 2012

The destiny of the unevangelized, and the incompetently evangelized

One of the strongest objections to any faith system claiming Universality is the destiny of the unevangelized -- simply put, it is troubling to claim that only those who hold a certain belief will reap an afterlife reward -- and those who do not hold such belief will instead be punished with an afterlife of suffering -- where it is demonstrable that some number of people will have lived and died without ever even hearing of the belief. This, indeed, presents one of the major divides within individual religions, with believers fervently arguing for one position on the issue or the other, to the point of schism and bloody internecine religious war.

Perhaps more troubling still, there is the gray area of those who heard some snippet or other of this claimed 'one true' belief, but were presented it incompletely or incompetently, so that they were in no position to form a reasoned judgment about the relative logic of it while they lived. Indeed, where decisions are made based on imperfect information, it must become a very delicate art indeed to assert that one person over another has information perfect enough to make a decision upon.

The idea of admission to the positive afterlife based on "works" at least disposes of the problem of the unevangelised (and the less-discussed corollary of the incompetently evangelised), as one of the major failings of theistic faiths. But, such an idea disposes as well of the notion that one must have the correct belief, and so undermines the notion of one religion especially being the truth. Perhaps more devastatingly, as religious edifices go, it undermines the argument for funding and empowering a lavishly appointed priest-class.

And as to those who hear some piece of evangelism, it is quite possible that more people come to altogether reject the idea of a given "God," or of any especial iteration thereof, due to the offensive showing made by various theistic adherents, than due to any inherent objection which might be made against the idea itself. And just as clearly, there are at least some theists much prefer to experience the smug self-satisfaction of thinking they've won an argument via some fine point of theological wordplay than to experience something like actually helping the needy. So, if there was a God who punished anyone, it ought to first be thought to punish its own errant followers for setting such a shameful and repulsive example that their brutish conceit drives the multitude away from their professed deity.

The problem of the offensive missionary:

Picture this: a young missionary of one of the claimedly universal faiths (and I cite no especial example of a faith -- though I certainly could cite many out of personal experience) steps off the boat and onto a remote South Pacific island, one never before subject to any sort of evangelism. Previous visitors to the isle had only stopped to trade and survey, never to spread any faith, and so the natives are completely unaware that any religion exists other than their own local traditions, most likely some mix of reverence for nature and veneration of ancestors, passed down to them for thousands of generations. The people of this island speak no English; the missionary counts on miraculous intervention to supplement his communications, and so has learned but a few sentences in a language spoken by the next nearest islanders, presumed to have a common root. This missionary immediately takes to berating the natives for their failure to conform to his own moral preferences. Perhaps, based on his own errant religious instruction, he insists that the the natives will be condemned to eternal punishment because they wear nothing above the waist, or because they engage in work on a certain day of the week, or fail to engage in prayer on another. Perhaps this missionary declares that all of the marriages on the island are illegitimate because none, before his arrival, have conformed with his understanding of the appropriate ceremony. But shortly, he has given an absurd impression to the natives, who politely shoo him off their island at the next opportunity, resolved that the belief system peddled by this unprepared interloper is nonsensical, and thusly declining further missionary visitations.

Are these natives now to be deemed well-enough versed in the religion so poorly evangelized to them to be liable for eternal damnation, should they reject it? Are their children so liable, if the previous generation opts not to bother sharing the story? And, would it be at all fair for a deity to punish the nonbelieving native, and yet not punish the missionary whose conduct caused this affirmative state of nonbelief? And this problem is not limited to the isolated islands, for even in the hearts of the populations of crowded continents, there are countless preachers of countless faiths and sects and interpretations establishing a cacophony of assurances and accusations, threats and finger-pointing, enough to propel any sane man to tune out the claims of religion altogether (even those claims which might, on quiet reflection, be reasonable and defensible).

The problem of the isolated planet:

And beyond this, it stands to reason that if it's expectable for a deity to create some people (isolated tribes, etc) who never hear the true word, then it could create an entire planet of people who never hear the true word. And yet, it has been our experience in finally encountering those long-isolated tribes that they tended to have independently developed a theological model all their own, perhaps an animistic or polytheistic one, perhaps one with pantheistic or pandeistic or purely deistic overtones. And, naturally, just maybe, though extremely rarely in practice, it may be one with all the trimmings of monotheism. And so there might be another planet out there where some intelligent life has come to the fore and set forth a civilization with a level of knowledge and technology and sophistication of social institutions to rival our own. And, indeed, such a civilization, though not privy to any of the thousands of 'true' faiths professed on Earth could easily have as many 'true' faiths, as many doctrines and debates and deicides. And adherents to any faith on this alien world might be every bit as assured, every bit as fervent in their beliefs, as any Earthbound believer.

But here's the catch.

If it is possible that a 'true' deity may have revealed itself once, to one group, without bothering to provide for isolated groups to learn the truth encapsulated in its revelation, then perhaps we are as a planet such an isolated group. For one cannot reasonably postulate a deity capable of allowing an entire planet to wallow in ignorance and false faith without confessing that ours might be that planet. And in the same stroke, one ought to admit that, if there is a "one true faith" that all people are intended to discover, then all theistic faiths claiming universality are proved false by those who have lived and died without hearing of such faiths. Instead, what can be called true must be what can be discerned from a logical examination of our world, even by those who have never heard a word of any scripture.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Pandeism and Taoism

Having ventured forth a series of examinations of the possibilities of Pandeism with respect to various fictional Universes, I turn now to a new endeavor, the comparison of the elements of Pandeism to the religions of the world. My first effort in this new series is directed towards Taoism, in part because of its intriguing areas of correlation with Pandeism. But, mostly, because of a girl. Bless you, Alice, for this inspiration.
Taoism (or, to some, Daoism) is a beautiful and ancient philosophy originating in China around the 4th Century BC, and thereafter contributing ideas carried into virtually all later-developing religious paradigms. The essence of Taoism is the recognition that our world is naturally composed of opposing forces -- symbolized by the Yin and Yang -- which must be peacefully balanced against one another for a fruitful life to be realized. And, further, that a single truth, an ultimate creative principle, underlies all of these forces, and knowledge of this truth illuminates the path of proper conduct to achieve this desirable balance. The Tao is this truth, this path.

As we shall see, Pandeism and Taoism are not at all in conflict -- indeed, they may be taken as complementary, with Pandeism as a sort of "why are we here" which provides possible frameworks for morality, but doesn't necessarily tell us how we ought to act, while Taoism focuses more directly on the conduct of life without setting forth a "why," a basis for our having been created (or otherwise existing). One may be a Pandeist Taoist, just as readily as one may be a Pantheist Taoist or even an Atheist Taoist who denies deity but accepts the essential ideas of Taoism with respect to the balance of opposing forces.

Pandeistic and Taoist precepts and practices:

The formative texts of Taoism, traditionally credited to Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, are by turns poetic and anecdotal, given to parablepoetry, and whimsy. But despite the wisdom acknowledged to be encompassed in these works, they are not claimed to have been written by a deity or upon a deity's command. Their writers are not lofted as prophets or demigods. Indeed, Taoism presents no orthodoxy, no dictator of metaphysical absolutes telling practitioners that their individual view of it is right or wrong based on his own interpretation of this or that selection of the ancient writings. Historical circumstances -- ebbs and tides of governmental purging and restoration, and attempts to meld in similar traditions, have resulted in there being many different views encompassed within the greater tradition, and it is understood that it dis-serves all of these to declare any one to be the one, correct path.

Pandeism and Taoism coincide in this lack of dogmatism, and the absence of an involved 'Creation myth' or an attempt to explain physical realities such as he strips of the zebra or the leglessness of the snake through just-so-stories. But Taoism and Pandeism are both indubitably easily confused with conventional religions, though each is essentially simply a path. Taoism begins with the Tao Te Ching, and the Tao Te Ching begins with the admonition:
The Tao that can be spoken is not the eternal Tao
The name that can be named is not the eternal name....
Tao Te Ching, I
This is key, because it reminds us that we can only abstractly contemplate the Tao -- a notion reflected in the observation of Pandeism that logically extrapolating necessary qualities of our Universe's Creator is not the same as understanding it. Actually understanding such a thing is inherently beyond the constrained capacity of the human mind, and any claim to an understanding of it properly immediately raises a skeptical eyebrow. On Occasion, evangelists of other faiths have sought to reconcile their beliefs with Taoism by identifying the individual central figure of their faith -- perhaps Buddha or Jesus -- as a personification of the Tao. Such efforts misunderstand the Tao and the meaning of Lao Zi's explanation of it; one might reply that the Tao that can be reduced to a person is not the Tao. Pandeism notes as well the oddity of supposing that any individual person can be thought more divine or less divine in a Universe which is itself rationally thought to be holistically divine.

Meditation is a practice widely regarded as well-received within Taoism. Although Pandeism does not offer doctrinal guidance advocating meditation, it ought to be no surprise that many Pandeists engage in meditation, or simply a comparable deep contemplation of our Universe, for Pandeism is a discipline which demands thoughtful examination of all the things we know to attain logical and rational conclusions about the nature of our Universe. Indeed, it ought to be no surprise at all that many who explicitly or implicitly hew to Pandeism delve as well into Taoism, and other similarly contemplative traditions such as Zen Buddhism.

Pandeism and Taoism similarly provide a basis to practive reverence for nature and kindness to all living things, including a leaning towards vegetarianism (distinctly a practice of Taoism, and one followed by many Pandeists). For the Taoist, such practices are inherent to the desire to lead a balanced life, and avoid the imbalance inherent in violence. In Pandeism, this reverence and these practices come from the belief that all things are part of our Creator, and that by inflicting suffering upon other living things, we inflict the same upon our Creator -- and quite possibly, ultimately, upon ourselves.

Pantheistic elements of Taoism:

Taoism has additionally often been observed to incorporate a sense of the pantheistic -- the closest thing Taoism has to a Creation account is Lao Tzu's contention that "The world has a beginning," Tao Te Ching, LII, and his decidedly emanationist account:
Tao produces one
One produces two
Two produce three
Three produce myriad things
Myriad things, backed by yin and embracing yang
Achieve harmony by integrating their energy
Tao Te Ching, XLII
The Tao has given rise to things, but:
Virtue raises them
Grows them, educates them
Perfects them, matures them
Nurtures them, protects them
Tao Te Ching, LI.
Zhuang Zi similarly relayed that "Heaven and I were created together, and all things and I are one," and, when asked where the Tao could be found, replied that "There is nowhere where it is not.... There is not a single thing without Tao."

Parallels between Pandeism and Taoism in these account include the idea of there being a 'source' and of such source being a constant sustainer of every thing in our Universe as we experience it. Pandeism differs from Taoism in Pandeism's supposition of an intelligent entity motivated by some need to set forth a Universe in the original instance. But this difference is not a contradiction; it is simply an element by which Pandeism seeks to explain the characteristics of our Universe as they are uncovered by modern science. As Taoism does not claim to provide an explanation for the science underlying our existence, it can raise no great rift between the theological perspectives if Pandeism does attempt such a thing.

Deistic elements of Taoism:

Taoism, like Pandeism, does not propose that there is an intervening deity which desires worship, and will punish those who fail to so behave. And like Pandeism, Taoism does not require adherents to believe in miracles from on high. It does not require that we surrender our skepticism with respect to supernatural claims. The Tao instead raises up reason as a value, as does Pandeism, in deducing that any Creator who would set forth a Universe wherein reason would serve as so powerful a tool must intend it to be used. Taoism does not espouse teachings demanding one sort of conduct while providing stories of a deity or a deity's servants acting the opposite.

As with Deism generally, and Pandeism as a branch thereof, Taoism offers no justification whatsoever for human or animal sacrifice, nor for infanticidebigotry, or genocide. It provides no excuse upon which to work injustice, or to inflict pain and suffering upon others. Taoism, instead, prizes patience. It stresses reasontolerancerespect, and self-control, and so any Pandeist studying the Tao would be struck by how similarly the paths of contemplation run between the traditions. 

For many Pandeists, the need for each person to discern their own meaning -- in the absence of supernatural guidance -- is a logical outgrowth of the philosophy as well. And just as Pandeism reconciles broadly the principles of Deism and Pantheism, so are the elements of Deism and Pantehism reflected in Taoism reconciled therein as well.

On governance:

Taoism and Pandeism are notable as well for their political and sexual perspectives.

Politically, Taoism originated with the expression of some anti-government precepts, both by Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi, which were unusual for religious insitutions of their day. It the Tao Te Ching, Lao Zi writes:
When there are many restrictions in the world
The people become more impoverished
The more laws are posted
The more robbers and thieves there are.
Tao Te Ching, LVII
And further on it is written:
When governing is lackluster
The people are simple and honest
When governing is scrutinizing
The people are shrewd and crafty.
Tao Te Ching, LVIII
As has been similarly pointed out, Pandeism provided theological support for limiting the potentially deleterious interference of government -- which, due to the evolutionarily competitive nature of its human participants, often ends up picking 'winners and losers' and being corrupted to pick the already-winners to continue winning. Contrary to this interference in the lives of individuals, Pandeism notes that we are each best suited to determine our own choices, and our quest for the diverse experiences we share with our Creator requires that we must be permitted to choose them deal with the consequences of them.

On sexuality:

Sexually, Lao Zi wrote:
Those who hold an abundance of virtue....
do not know of sexual union but can manifest arousal
Due to the optimum of essence.
Tao Te Ching, LV
But later writings originating in alchemy and incorporated into Taoism offered a great deal of positivity, advocating frequent sexual intercourse with multiple partners as a means of extendinglongevity, and possibly even immortalityPandeism, naturally, is equally promotional towards sexual pleasures, as these are some of the most profound and pleasurable experiences through which our Creator shares in our existence. But the ideas circulated in Taoism, derived from notions of yin and yang, had some oddities, including the proposition that if one partner produced sexual fluids while the other did not, the partner who restrained themself from that culmination would be able to absorb the vital energy of the one who was unable to work such restraint.

And so, it was advocated that a man could extend his life by bedding young women, especially virgins, and most especially several virgins in the same night, and bringing them to orgasm while not himself ejaculating (although methods were developed for men to experience orgasm without ejaculating). Similarly, it was advocated that a woman could extend her life by bedding many young men and receiving their life-giving sperm into her body's sexually penetrable orifices. With these ends in mind, many books were written espousing sexual positions and activities and techniques by which one partner could bring about the most profound orgasms in the other -- a seemingly selfless desire, but one steeped in a more selfish goal of partaking of the life-essence of the other partner.

But these notions, derived as they were from alchemist theorists, run counter to the more enlightened Taoist quest for balance, for respect for nature (of which sexuality is an expression), for moderation of competing desires. Modernly, sexuality has largely fallen away as a focus of Taoism; its sexual dimensions were wiped away due to historical purges of sexuality by regimes more given to sexual shame and suppression. But some of the ancient Taoist practices were preserved in the more sexually open cultures to which they were passed, and have been adapted to aid in the treatment of sexual dysfunctions such as premature ejaculation. So far as it does exist, the emphasis in modern Taoist practices no longer espouses prolonging life by avoiding ejaculation, but has instead shifted to simply realizing the health benefits generally associated with an active and balanced sexuality. This coincides with the view of Pandeism, that consensual sexual enjoyment ought to be experienced with great liberality and in great variety, to maximize the introduction of happiness into the world; and that each person ought to give great attention to the pleasuring of their partner, whose pleasurable experiences will be experienced by the giver when all things return to one. 


It befits the contemplative rationality of Taoism that it would comport with these same principles in Pandeism. That two theological traditions, with such different origins in time and place, share so many reasoned determinations about the nature of the human condition, simply underscores the delightful notion that no matter how far apart we may be in time and space, reason may bring us together. 


Some additional reading:
The Tao Te Ching, translated
Naturalistic Pantheism and Philosophical Taoism -- an essay with some excellent related overtures.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Pandeism and Atheism

The relationship between Pandeism and Atheism as deeply-held philosophies is, by turns, complementary and contentious, curious and quizzical. There are different models of Atheism, but the ideology generally either actively proposes the absence of a 'God' or at least passively denies that there is any reason to believe such a thing exists. Much of Atheist discourse is directed towards theistic arguments and the fairly universal inconsistencies and absurdities of scriptural documents. This attention is symptomatic of how many indefensible theological models do exist -- as Bernard Haisch wrote in The God Theory, "I freely grant that even reductionism is preferable to a belief that slaughter and destruction in the name of a vengeful God will result in immediate passage to heaven."1

And so it can be no wonder that the Atheist, confronted repeatedly with deeply and visibly flawed theological models, with models of arbitrarily directed hatefulness and irrationality, long cloaked in a deadly aversion to being questioned, becomes convinced no such model can be true. And this inculcation becomes set, most often, before ever learning in any depth of deistic models generally, or of Pandeism especially. And so, by the time the atheist is exposed to the deistic or the pandeistic model, his experiences with less rational models have got him fixed against any proposition that would have ours be an intentionally and intelligently created Universe -- even if these models are even more effective at dismissing notions of a vain, violent, or 'jealous' Universe-creating entity, even if these models rationally demonstrate that the most logical Creator would carry none of the arbitrary and dangerous negative projections of human bias so deeply set in theistic mythologies. The atheistic reactionary revulsion to metaphysical accounts too readily may metastasize into an absolute and unwaivering reductionist dogmatism against any explanation existing at all.

And therein lies the master problem. Atheism is essentially a rejection of a class of explanations, but it is not itself an explanation of anything. Consider: if you were to walk into a friend's office, and you saw a large collection of stamps on his desk, you would intuitively know that the most likely explanation of how that pile got there would be that somebody placed them there; that's the how, that is perhaps not so controversial. But suppose you asked why they were there -- if your friend responded "well, I am not a stamp collector," that would would be a refutation of one possible explanation, but it wouldn't then become an explanation in and of itself. And if the response to every such why-is-it-so type of proposition was to deny the truth of it, or dismiss it as unproveable, then at the end of the day we are left with an apparent prohibition on having a why to account for what is observed.

This problem plays out most pointedly in the examination of that most singular of events, the beginning of our Universe. It is important to remember that this was not a theoretical or hypothetical event, but is instead an historical event, an historical fact. Our Universe gives every appearance of existing; we are in it, as observers, to attest to this fact. Our Universe has several measurable indicators of expansion from an initial point, on this point atheists agree with many theists. And so, at some past point, our Universe began. The how of this is the province of theoretical physicists, who now best guess that our Universe's existence is an expression of quantum mechanics. But this how is not a why. And it is possible, undoubtedly, that there is no why, that it simply is. But the position of atheism, or at least of the most committed variations of that philosophy is that you can not ask why, perhaps that you must not ask why. And the rationale for this prohibition is generally given in the untestability or unprovability of any why-is-it-so proposition relating to so mysteriously distant of an historical event. At its worst, this tendency descends to calling such explanations 'pseudoscience' or 'woo-woo,' seeking to degrade them to the point where the critic is insulated from any need to contemplate the implications of there being any explanation at all.

As might be predicted from the initial problem, an examination of the literature of Atheism reveals a strong tendency towards focused arguments against theistic beliefs. Deism, Pantheism, and their family of philosophies are generally not addressed, or only glancingly so. The inconsistencies in theistic texts are attacked. The murderous histories of theistic adherents are laid out (and often met with accusations of the same coming from atheist-governed regimes). The theistic deity is called out for allowing all manner of evil and suffering to flourish, up to and including the death by starvation of small children, despite ostensibly having the power to prevent it. It is unsurprising, then, that confronted with a theological model which lacks such flesh hooks into which Atheism can sink its teeth, Atheists tend nonetheless to act as if these nontheistic ideas can be attacked with theistic contentions. Indeed, it sometimes takes quite a bit of patient explaining to get an Atheist to stop using antiscriptural and antitheistic arguments against theological theories which have no scripture, which do not posit infinite or active deities, and which are indeed divorced from the elements of theism.

Pandeism, on the other hand, has no outward quarrel with Atheism. Being at core an exercise in probabilistic logic, Pandeism is fundamentally agnostic, acknowledging at the outset that it is entirely possible that the atheistic view is correct, insofar as there may be no why in which case all why explanations are indeed properly rejected. It can never truly be known, Pandeism concedes, whether ours is a created Universe; it can only be determined what are the absolutely necessary characteristics of a Universe-Creator, and what are the implications of an entity having those characteristics. And so, Pandeists tend not to engage Atheists with the proposition that Atheists are wrong to hold that position, but simply to defend the proposition (when set upon by the Atheist critique) that neither is Pandeism an irrational position to hold. And so I would simply tell Atheists: we'll continue standing up for the right of science to ask 'how?' and we hope you'll not stand against the right of Pandeists to ask 'why?'


1. Haisch, Bernard, PhD, The God Theory (2006), page 25.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Pandeism has no need

Pandeism has no need for scripture
Pandeism has no need for clergy
Pandeism has no need for temples
Pandeism has no need for prayers
Pandeism has no need for 'sin' or 'hell'
The TRUTH needs none of these
and so
Pandeism needs none of these!!

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Of Chrislam and Xtianity

There has been for some time an idea that eventually Christianity and Islam would put aside their differences and merge into one super-religion, pulling up aspects of each and perhaps dominating the Earth. It has been suggested, even, that the somewhat more polytheistically inclined Hinduism could absorb both, and what the heck, throw Judaism and Mormonism and Sikhism into the mix, thus creating for the first time in recorded history a single religion commanding the fealty of a majority of the world's population. The idea is given to several different authors, who have taken different angles -- Arthur C. Clarke for example writes in his 1992 The Hammer of God (not to be confused with the Led Zeppelin biography Hammer of the Gods) of a not-so-far-future fictional Earth where "The sudden rise of Chrislam had been traumatic equally to Rome and Mecca...." growing swiftly to a hundred million adherents, abetted by cultural and economic difficulties squeezing the parent faiths.

But as a matter of practical experience, consolidation is an unlikely path for any major faith; each is more likely to split into multiple smaller sects, and any reconciliation between sects of different faiths will tend to be far outside the mainstream of beliefs falling under the umbrella of the faith. And so, even as there are conciliatory voices today who would claim that all these different faiths are simply different paths to the same Creator, (indeed a position held, if somewhat more obliquely and indirectly by Pandeism), the greater tendency amongst the faithful is to ramp up greater indictment against beliefs discordant to their own. Even if, it turns out, those faiths fall under the broader ends of the umbrella of their own religion.

There is in fact, by the way, a faith group operating under the name 'Chrislam' and purporting to carry out the idea discussed here, attempting to meld assertedly reconcilable elements of Christianity and Islam. Or, actually, there are two groups. Both are in Nigeria. Oh, they started out as one, but had a schism somewhere along the way and are now, if not bitter enemies, passing acquaintances who don't pass up an opportunity to snipe at one another's divergent doctrines. Ironically, if unsurprisingly, this is what Arthur C. Clarke forecast for his fictional version as well. This, before a later inevitable eventual turn to a world where the only divide was between proponents of Atheism and Deism (presumptively including Pandeism).

Naturally, we might abbreviate this to Xlam (or perhaps Xslam?) by using the conventional substitution of the 'X' for Christ. People typically imagine that this arose with the intention of insulting Christians, but really the origin of the X as a substitute for Christ in Xtian, Xtianity, and, naturally, Xmas, is something of a mystery -- it might indeed have been intended by non-Christians in a derogatory sense, but it just might, as well, have been a Christian connivance. One perhaps intended simply to abbreviate, or perhaps complexly to obfuscate. The X is after all something like a leaned-over t in its resemblance to that most deathly of reminders, the cross. In some fonts (and in the multiplication sign) the lines are in fact perpendicular. And, even more interestingly, in ancient times, Jesus Christ was sometimes abbreviated by Christians familiar with the Greek alphabet with a symbol combining the letters "Chi" and "Rho" -- roughly represented in the Latin alphabet by X and P, respectively. It is very easy to see how those earnestly and noninsultingly referencing Jesus might have whittled their representation down to the point where X marks the spot.

But then again, if X means Christ, doesn't that mean our X chromosome is the Christ chromosome, the X-Acto knife is the Christ-Acto knife, and the Uncanny X-men are really the Uncanny Christ-men?


Further reading:

"Signs of Xmas" in Changing Signs of Truth: A Christian Introduction to the Semiotics of Communication, by Crystal L. Downing, pages 89-90.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Pandeism and the world of Sherlock Holmes

What can the fictional world of Sherlock Holmes possibly have to do with the theological theory of Pandeism? Well, really the question is, is this world consistent with Pandeism, and the answer: why wouldn't it be?

Unlike the magical world of Harry Potter and the alien-filled science fiction realms of Star Wars and of Star Trek, the world of Sherlock Holmes is utterly mundane. Like the earlier Scooby-Doomysteries, every mystery has as its resolution purely human activity -- and, indeed, even those cases brought to Holmes under the pretense of supernatural activity -- ghosts, curses, demonic possession -- are inevitably shown up as man-made manipulations of mind and matter. And so, to speak of the theological model underlying that world is to speak of a world with no especial metaphysical activity ongoing. We might just as well be speaking, then, of any such mundane world, of that of adventurers like Tom Sawyer, actioners like James Bond or Jason Bourne, the mundane mysteries of CSI and Law & Order, or any other sort of media in which things simply happen, without second thought, in accordance with the laws of physics and without any appearance of divine intervention or other metaphysical causation (or, at least, without any such appearance not ultimately debunked as being of human manufacture).

This is not to suggest that these sorts of media are absent of displays of religiosity, for they depict the real and present world, and naturally people in this world have religious beliefs, all sorts of them.

Religion, as she is depicted in the stories of Sherlock Holmes:

In the course of the Sherlock Holmes stories, there are references to Jews and Gypsies, Muslims, Hindus, and various denominations of Christians. Perhaps the most famous treatment of religion in the Sherlock Holmes canon is to be found in A Study in Scarlet, one of only four full-length Sherlock Holmes novels (the remainder of the literary contributions being short stories). It is eventually uncovered in the story that the mysterious deaths being investigated are of Mormons against whom the killer was taking revenge, for years before their community had kidnapped his love and murdered her father, forcing her into a marriage which resulted in her own death a short time later (the story attributes the girl's death to a broken heart, but implies that she was ill-treated by her forced husband, who ultimately seemed more interested in inheriting what had previously been her father's land). The treatment of Mormonism generally is of a dangerous cult which exercises rigid control over its members and condones lawlessness against outsiders, who are distrusted. Author Arthur Conan Doyle is claimed to have later privately apologized for this depiction, though this report is itself somewhat dubious.

But the general treatment afforded to religion by Sherlock Holmes and his compatriots is apathy. In one story, Holmes dismissed knowledge of astronomy as useless to his work; doubtless he would have so opined on theological questions. Holmes occasionally uses idioms incorporating religious terminology (as in, "my God" and "for God's sake," or suggesting that a doomed man is bound "to meet his maker"), and one story mentions Holmes as being on his way to a chapel (for reasons not specified). But on no occasion is Holmes shown to attend a purely religious service, utter a prayer, or explicitly voice a belief in any higher power. Indeed, in one of the earliest stories -- The Sign of the Four -- Holmes commends to compatriot John Watson a book titled The Martyrdom of Man by one Winwood Reade, which as it happens incorporates a secularist and materialist antireligious examination of world history, especially in depicting Jesus as delusional. And yet, Holmes calls this work "one of the most remarkable ever penned," which would in that day be tantamount to endorsing atheism, as much as if somebody modernly were to declare Richard Dawkins' The God Delusion to be amongst the finest books ever written.

Sherlock Holmes contemplates the meaning of life:

But even Holmes waxes morosely philosophical from time to time, as depicted in the 1892 story, The Cardboard Box:
"What is the meaning of it, Watson?" said Holmes solemnly as he laid down the paper. "What object is served by this circle of misery and violence and fear? It must tend to some end, or else our universe is ruled by chance, which is unthinkable. But what end? There is the great standing perennial problem to which human reason is as far from an answer as ever."
Similarly in The Retired Colourman, Holmes decries, "But is not all life pathetic and futile? We reach. We grasp. And what is left in our hands at the end? A shadow. Or worse than a shadow -- misery." And in The Veiled Lodger Holmes declares, "The ways of Fate are indeed hard to understand. If there is not some compensation hereafter then the world is a cruel jest." Such contemplations suggests at the same time a wish to find a larger purpose to our Universe, even while rejecting all the explanations which have been considered up to that time. Holmes is equally dismissive of supernatural explanations for mundane crimes, refusing to contemplate for example the proposition that The Hound of the Baskervilles is anything but a flesh-and-blood beast, rejecting the possibility of unearthly agency again in The Adventure of the Devil's Foot, and commenting in the late-written story, The Sussex Vampire, "But are we to give serious attention to such things? This Agency stands flat-footed upon the ground, and there it must remain. This world is big enough for us. No ghosts need apply."

The television and film adaptations of Holmes' stories have tended to remain faithful to general irreligiosity of the character, or more likely to have ignored theological questions altogether. In the first Robert Downey Sherlock Holmes film, Holmes dismisses, and later disproves, an apparent miraculous resurrection from death; in Young Sherlock Holmes mystical explanations are similarly disproved as Holmes discovers hallucinogenic drugs to be responsible for seemingly supernatural experiences (and the villains are attempting to perform an ancient Egyptian ritual to boot); in the modernly-set BBC reimagining Sherlock, the character is if anything more scornful of religious beliefs and explanations.

Could the world of Sherlock Holmes occupy a Pandeistic Universe?

But all of this relates to what Holmes believes, perhaps to what Arthur Conan Doyle believes -- which is, in the larger scheme of no matter. Were Holmes depicted as a devout Christian or a devout Muslim, or a Jew or a Sikh, such depiction would not work to make real the religion believed. There may be a billion devout Christians in the world (Christians will claim there are more, but that requires some sleight of hand with who they would call 'devout') but that has never operated to convince Hindus, Jews, or Mormons of the truth of Christianity; and the same can be claimed of the comparable number of Muslims, or of Hindus, or most any denomination. That it is believed simply proves that it is believed, not even that it is rationally believable, much less true. So, whatever the religion of Sherlock Holmes or James Bond or any other figure existing in a nonsupernatural world, from Robin Hood to Rocky Balboa, the question remains whether the world which they inhabit isconsistent with a pandeistic Universe.

And the answer in all of these cases is indeed that it is. For, although Pandeism fully accounts for miracles and other apparently metaphysical or supernatural events, and so would account for the magic of Harry Potter's world, the Jedi powers exhibited in the world of Star Wars, and the superpowered and telepathic aliens often encountered in Star Trek, none of these sorts of things arerequired in Pandeism. They are simply accounted for, if they exist.

It is entirely possible to conceive of a world -- indeed, of this world -- where no miracles, no telepaths, no supernatural events of any sort exist, where all reports ever made of such are theconsequence of coincidence, mistake, hallucination, imagination, or deception, and yet where the fundamental explanation for the existence of our Universe, at all, is pandeistic Creation. Even if all other religions are disqualified in such a world, where all of their reported miracles and wonders and fancies are by default simply false, Pandeism may yet be true.

In the final analysis (and in the world of Sherlock Holmes, there always is a final analysis), it is even somewhat surprising that Sherlock Holmes, to whatever degree he speculates on religious questions, has not come to contemplate at least Deism (which was well known in his day), if not the more obscure Pandeism, or some comparable variation of Pantheism. But, then, if the orbits of the planets are of no matter to Holmes, perhaps these even greater orbits would be of even less interest.

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Thoughts on Aurora

I am certain I speak for Pandeists everywhere in offering our heartbroken condolences for the victims of the Aurora shootings -- those injured by the gunman's bullets, those who escaped physical injury but experienced the trauma of being there during this horrid event, and those who lost loved ones this day.  The perspective of Pandeism may do little to salve such pain, but know that Pandeists believe that we are all simply fragments of our Creator, existing so that our Creator could share in the awesome variety of experiences attending existence as our Universe, though it could not have known before such Creation the depths of pain which life in such a Universe could experience.

But, in the end, Pandeists believe, all things return to one, and all lives share in oneness with our Creator, there for those whose lives brought joy and happiness to others to experience this joy and happiness just as it was received by others; and for those who bring anguish and suffering to other to equally experience this anguish and suffering as it was received by others.

Let us walk from this experience holding in our hearts the possibility that those who have suffered so undeservedly will experience an ultimate reward of sharing in lifetimes of positive experiences; and that, for the anguish and suffering brought into the world on this day, all men work together to create an overwhelming response of joyful and positive experience for all the world to share in.

And some additional observations....

Let us not join in the blame game instantly, if inevitably, sprung up over this sorrowful event. Rick Warren, who pastors one of the nation's leading mega-churches, tweeted on the shooting: "When students are taught they are no different from animals, they act like it." He fairly quickly deleted that tweet, once controversy sprouted. In the same vein, US Congressman Louis Gohmert commented that people have asked where God was on that day, and concluded that God didn't intervene to prevent these killings because secularists have banned God from high school graduation ceremonies and the like.

At the other end of the theological spectrum, Atheists have reacted with equally broad pronouncements, pointing to the Christian upbringing of the shooter (and that faith being shared by most of the victims) and contending that it is the violence of theistic scriptures which leads to such acts. Across the spectrum of politics as well blame has been aimed, against lax gun laws, movie and video game violence, lax policies allowing someone like this gunman to be admitted to a graduate program, and most everything else one can think of.

And the bottom line, the truth of the matter, is this. Some people are off-balance. It's not because of religion or politics or policies. It's simply the occasionally hampered workings of nature. If it were a product of religion or lack thereof, there'd be more of it, or it would correlate with the religiosity of nations. And sometimes, no matter what rigor is put into checking the mental health of people in whatever situation, whatever restrictions are put on access to weaponry, some tiny portion of people are born with an ingrained snapping point, whereupon they will find a way to wreak some degree of havoc. Such people are like a force of nature, like a tornado. And blaming religion or politics for people tipping past the fold is no sounder a thing to do than to point fingers of blame for the happening of the weather.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Work being done in Pandeism

I realize I ought to be blogging more on Pandeism, as there is so, so much to discuss about it!!  I tend to slowly wend my way through big pieces, but I'm going to try to keep up more here on a day-to-day basis.

Today I'd like to shout out to other Pandeists, and others who, whether themselves Pandeist or no, have made interesting strides in the study of Pandeism.  First up, Nick Tafacory has consistently posted interesting ideas on Pandeism on his own (better kept-up) blog, Conflicting Thoughts.  These include, to be specific:

The last one of those happens to contain links to scans of seven pages of handwritten notes -- I've been promising to provide my thoughts on those, especially with respect to many questions raised which are deserving of answers, and will have them!!

I have, as well, been privileged to meet Personified Music, a new YouTube friend (naturally through the Official YouTube PanDeism Channel.   Personified Music wrote to me (and has kindly permitted me to reproduce) the following:

Hi fellow pandeist!
I've been seeking someone who had the same beliefs as me! At last someone who understands the true nature! Since you seem to have a great grasp of logic, I'd like for you to examine my argument in favor of this belief.
1) The universe has a creator
- Premise 1: The universe is finite
Considering that the Big Bang is considered to be the beginning of time, this universe is finite
- Premise 2: All finite things have a beginning and an end
Basic definitions:
Infinite means without beginning or end. Finite is the opposite of that.
- Premise 3: Finite things must be created
To begin, one must have a cause, and that cause must be initiated by something.
- CONCLUSION 1: The universe was created
2) To create the universe, one must be omnipotent.
- Premise 1: All things that exist must be perceivable in space
If not perceived, one cannot be comprised of matter. If not comprised of matter, one cannot exist.
- Premise 2: Through premise 1, we discover that the universe and all its contents is everything, as it is the only thing perceivable in space and time,
- Premise 3: To create everything, one most be able to do everything.
Explains itself
- CONCLUSION 2: That creator is omnipotent
3) To be omnipotent, one must be omnipresent.
- Premise A1: To be omnipotent, one must be able to execute every action
- Premise A2: Instantaneosity (to do something instantly) is an action
- Premise A3: To execute something instantaneously, one must be the action in itself, as being next to something, or even its immediate vicinity would require a given amount of time
- Premise B1: Matter occupies space
- Premise B2: To be omnipresent, one must occupy all space.
- CONCLUSION 3: To be omnipresent, one must be the matter
- CONCLUSION 1: The universe was created
- CONCLUSION 2: That creator must be omnipotent
- CONCLUSION 3A: To be omnipotent, one must be omnipresent
- CONCLUSION 3B: To be omnipresent, one must be matter.
FINAL CONCLUSION: God is the universe

This is an interesting and fruitful series of propositions.  I would be cautious to discern relative omnipotence (the ability to do anything which can be done) from the absolute omnipotence proposed by some theists (the ability to do anything, including logically impossible things). But, indeed, the comment relating omnipotence and omnipresence brings to my mind the proposition of Duke University PhD Physicist Robert G. Brown in A Theorem Concerning God, and especially in the core of that work, The Pandeist Theorem -- recommended reading for all!!


Wednesday, July 04, 2012

A scientific methodology for determining whether homosexuality is sinful

The nature of religious belief has always made it difficult to scientifically test the truth of its announced principles. After all, most 'causes' in theological systems are metaphysical, and so inobservable in their action. Indeed, one of the great give-and-takes of challenges to the scientific testability of religious beliefs is that the responsible superior metaphysical entities are aware of the 'test' and refuse to play along. Simply put, it is claimed that if a miracle is demanded such as the restoration of an amputated arm, the entity capable of so performing will refuse to do so, cleverly denying those who do not believe in it any rational basis for adopting such belief.

But what if there were a scientifically testable metaphysical occurrence which did not require the intervention of a metaphysical entity -- indeed, one which counted on nonintervention of such entities in order to be able to occur? Exactly such an occurrence manifests in the Biblical doctrine of the origin of carnivorous life out of the idyllic utopia of the Garden of Eden. Specifically, it is a popular doctrine in fundamentalist Christianity that sharks, alligators, tigers, scorpions, crocodiles, wolves and other animals of this sort were, in the days before Adam and Eve bit into that unfortunate fruit, all dedicated plant-eaters, living together in harmony, incapable of killing or dying. So it is written in Genesis 1:30:

And to all the beasts of the earth and all the birds of the air and all the creatures that move on the ground—everything that has the breath of life in it—-I give every green plant for food. And it was so.

And so, when skeptics question why the 'good' and 'loving' deity of Christianity would drop man in a world full of biting, bloodsucking, and man-eating beasts, the Christian answer is that no deity had anything to do with this, oh no; our Creator created a world with no sin and no death (and, indeed, Christians point out that if the Creator had created a world wherein death existed, then man had no fall and there would be no point to the sacrifice of Jesus, falsifying all of Christianity!!) It was instead, so goes the claim, man's sin which caused this to become a fallen world, and caused all of those previously happily herbivorous creatures to experience super-fast evolution into bloodthirsty carnivores, who had no choice but to kill for their sustenance. No deity had any hand in that; it was sin and sin alone which caused this transformation.

Okay, so let's test this out!!

First, we must find some dedicated homosexuals. Preferably, for thoroughness sake, we ought to have at least one male homosexual couple, and one lesbian couple. Next, we take a well known herbivorous animal such as a cow. We will place the cow in a room adjacent with a gay couple having a gay wedding and thereafter engaging in hardcore gay sex -- all activities generally classed by those fundamentalist Christians as 'sin.' And, simply put, if the cow then turns from a peaceful grass-muncher into a flesh-rending, saber-toothed, razor-clawed carnivorous predator, then we will know that homosexuality is indeed a 'sin.' On the other hand, if no such transformation occurs, then we will know at the least that homosexuality is no sin at all; and quite possibly that the whole of Christianity is false. In fact, the latter proposition can be tested by performing unquestionably sinful acts in that bovine proximity, blasphemy, adultery, wearing fabrics made of the fibers of two different plants, working on the Sabbath, worshiping idols, coveting their neighbors' asses -- we can run through quite a list and still stop short of anything which harms any person or property.

So, with this exciting prospect before us, of scientifically determining whether homosexuality is sinful (or, indeed, whether 'sin' at all is real), let's gather up some gay folks and some cattle, and do some science!!

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Pandeism and the world of Star Wars

A long, long time ago....
in a galaxy far, far away....

The Star Wars Universe is characterized by the central role of the Jedi, an essentially religious order which corresponds to a metaphysical characteristic of that world -- The Force. And what is The Force? Obi-Wan Kenobi tells Luke Skywalker of it being "an energy field created by all living things. It surrounds us and penetrates us; it binds the galaxy together." But in practice it appears that The Force is not restricted to living things even, at least insofar as Force-user seem undiminished in their application of its power in deep space and on planets lifeless but for their own presence (such as the volcanic world of Mustafar where a younger Obi-Wan and Anakin Skywalker duel amidst torrents of lava).

And what is it that The Force enables for those able to access it? Well, a series of relatively minor miracles, to be sure. Most prominently shown are the levitation of objects of varying size (up to an entire spacecraft as done by the venerable Yoda), and comparable telekinetic acts including choking from a distance, especially enjoyed by Darth Vader; feats of augmented strength, endurance, and dexterity; the emission (by those on 'the dark side' of 'Force lightning' -- bolts of energy that electrify their target; controlling the minds of others, if those minds are weak and impressionable; and sensing distant events both distant and nearby but hidden. Possibly the most remarkable application of The Force is in the ability of certain of its users to reportedly either raise the dead, or defeat death itself, continuing to exist after death as conscious and communicative beings (if incorporeal ones) -- visible at least to other wielders of this power.

Now, one interesting thing about The Force is that, much like the magical talent on display in the Harry Potter series, access to it (formally called being 'Force-sensitive') seems limited to those with a genetic predisposition, an accident of birth perhaps, but one which is clearly inheritable. Parents who are 'strong in The Force' will be likely to have children with the same propensity. One who had not inherited this knack would not be able to use the Force for levitation and mind control and such, no matter how strongly they believed in it; just as the few regular humans in Harry Potter's world who actually know about the magic are not themselves able to wield wands and cast spells.

Interestingly as well, although the Jedi are unquestionably shown to exist and to exercise remarkable abilities, they are not infrequently dismissed as quasi-mythic -- even to their faces!! This is best illustrated in the earliest film, where we see Obi-Wan training Luke as they travel in the Millennium Falcon; Luke is attempting to block blasts from a hovering training robot:
Obi-Wan: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him.
Luke: You mean it controls your actions?
Obi-Wan: Partially, but it also obeys your commands.
Han Solo: (laughing as Luke is blasted by the training robot) Hokey religions and ancient weapons are no match for a good blaster at your side, kid.
Luke: You don't believe in the Force, do you?
Han Solo: Kid, I've flown from one side of this galaxy to the other. I've seen a lot of strange stuff, but I've never seen anything to make me believe there's one all-powerful Force controlling everything. There's no mystical energy field that controls my destiny. Anyway, it's all a lot of simple tricks and nonsense.
Obi-Wan then places a blast helmet on Luke, covering Luke's eyes. Despite misgivings, Luke follows Obi-Wan's instructions to 'stretch out with his feelings', and then succeeds in blocking several blasts from the training robot. Han Solo's response, when confronted by the reality before him, is to call it luck -- to which Obi-Wan insists, "there is no such thing as luck."

Han Solo presents perhaps the most interesting theological perspective, for he begins this journey as a true atheist, with no faith in 'hokey religions' or a 'mystical energy field.' And yet, we are shown throughout the course of the series that such an energy field -- the Force -- does indeed exist!! At the same time, despite the actual presence of one spiritual truth, it is shown that some adhere to religiosity reflecting false superstition, as with the Ewoks worshiping C3PO as a deity (notably even before Luke Skywalker supplies the physics-defying display which cements this impression).

But for all of the wonders accessible through The Force, the Universe of Star Wars offers no explanation as to why this phenomenon exists. The extended universe of novels and other materials includes some reference to an ancient 'discovery' of The Force, but offer no explication of its origin. This has been left in a sense to critics who have attacked the stories as supplanting theistic religions with a form of Pantheism, the idea that 'God' is the Universe itself. And, despite the occasional condemnation of this notion from theists, a fairly significant number of people have responded to census requests by identifying themselves as 'Jedi.'

But here we find the world of Star Wars to operate consistently with a pandeistic Universe. Look at the things going on here. First, despite the fuzziness of the technology in use, there is unquestionably a consistently governing physics. Comparable to Star Trek once the metaphysical element is put aside, the distribution of life forms observed on various planets is consistent with each such planet's life developing through a process of evolution by natural selection. This process has led to intelligent life arising on numerous worlds, such that interactions between civilizations generate a rich array of experiences, as predicted by the presumption in the most popular formulation of Pandeism, wherein our Universe is designed to provide such experiences to the Creator which has become it.

And, the governing dynamics of the Star Wars Universe are sufficiently decipherable that people therein have been able to develop technology and move towards transhumanism, with lost and damaged body parts being replaceable with mechanical substitutes. At the same time, true artificial intelligence exists. And, on top of all of this, there is the recognition of an underlying energy suffusing the Universe, one which certain people by happenstance can tap into to perform seemingly miraculous physical feats, divine prophecies, and so influence others towards belief in the quasitheological import of these abilities. Despite the leveling of the accusation of Pantheism against the authors of Star Wars, there is no element in that fictional Universe suggesting it to be an temporally static (or even an uncreated) Universe. In having a present pantheistic aspect, it is thusly entirely consistent with a pandeistic Universe wherein the Creator has becomes the Creation so that it might experience things like the breathtaking adventures of Jedi Knights swashbuckling their way around the galaxy and defeating the forces of evil.

Lastly, given the possibility that physics may vary by slight degrees in different parts of our Universe, and given that the story related in the Star Wars saga is claimed to have happened "a long, long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away," it is impossible to declare absolutely that the events thus depicted are indeed fictional at all. Indeed, their putative author, George Lucas might well have been unconsciously capturing and relating historical facts preserved and transmitted to his thoughts through some unknown mechanism of the fabric of a pandeistic Universe. Not that this is proposed as a likely explanation of anything, and certainly not as an aspect of the theory of Pandeism itself -- but simply as a diversion of thought, and one of the myriad fascinating possibilities our Universe presents to us.

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

Man's place in a pandeistic Universe

One of the complaints leveled against Pandeism by theists is that it does not provide for a sufficiently 'special place' for man. There is, after all, an idea in many faiths which intensely appeals to man's sense of self-importance that our Universe owes us a religious truth which makes us feel good about ourselves, even if it must in so doing counter science and render false the proof provided by our senses. Indeed, in many faith systems the presence of such a central place for man is a selling point, so much so that these religions can only bitterly and grudgingly release notions such as the Earth sitting at the center of our Universe, much less sitting at the center of our Solar System with the Sun and planets making perfect circles around it.

For those keen to make the error of confusing Pandeism with mere Pantheism, it is supposed as well that since our Creator has become our Universe, and exists within all things in our Universe, from the hearts of stars and interstellar clouds of gas to bacteria and fungi, that man is no more important in the pandeistic scheme than a tree or a rock of comparable size. This perceived circumstance is only magnified by the absence in Pandeism of a theological need to deny man's descent from more primitive life forms through evolution by natural selection, taken by many religions as another insult to the central importance of man in our Universe. But in fact, the very nature of our Universe reveals these concerns to be simply a misapprehension.

As has been noted before, our Universe has been set forth with a number of characteristics which would only make sense in the context of intelligent life coming to exist and being able to observe them, and to advance itself through them. The existence of temporal fortuity of our observable Universe, for example, is something which only makes sense in the context of observers capable of comprehending the age of our Universe and its implications for their existence within it. The habitability of planets conceptually within our technological reach similarly indicates not simply that life ought to arise within our Universe, but that such life will develop the capacity for interstellar travel resulting in interaction between inhabitants originating in different worlds (and, indeed, that such travel must be physically possible within the constraints of our governing dynamics).

And so it becomes apparent that our Universe may well be designed to suit the origination of intelligent life. Not 'man' necessarily, but certainly 'man' as an example, and so something more than incidentally. And in Pandeism this makes sense because our Creator has become our Universe for precisely the purpose of experiencing existence through it. It is doubly important to make this distinction clear, for it is the subject of frequent confusion and occasional obfuscation -- Pandeism does not propose, as some misunderstand, that our Creator set forth our Universe with the expectation that some other intelligent life would arise especially, with man being an unintended side effect of the Creation of that other form. Instead, Pandeism proposes that our Creator set forth a Universe with governing dynamics of matter and energy which were attuned to intelligent life arising somewhere, and possibly in many places. We simply happen to be one example of such life, and so while the nature of a pandeistic Universe is one where our Creator can not have known exactly what would come about where, man is precisely the sort of thing which is intended to come about through the correct operation of those governing dynamics.

And why is man more important than trees and rocks? Because the entire existence of our Universe would serve no better purpose than to inform our Creator of what it is to exist as something other than itself, and in that capacity, thinking, self-reflective beings such as ourselves are indeed generators of a far greater range of perspective than anything, living or dead, which does less in the realm of contemplation. But it not be imagined that we are, as the older religions would like to imagine, a finished product. We are not at the end of our evolutionary journey, but at the beginning, and what an ending such a beginning promises to bring to those able to grasp hold of it!!

Sunday, June 03, 2012

Pandeism and the world of Star Trek

Does the world of Star Trek operate consistently with the theological model of Pandeism? Well, any longtime watcher of Star Trek will have observed the general lack of religiosity expressed by the main characters of that series, its heroes, the starship sojourning personnel of the United Federation of Planets. This is often observable as well with various of the other spacefaring species whom the Federation types contend with. This flows from the convictions of Star Trek creator Gene Roddenberry, who believed that there would in the future be no room in human society for what he perceived as the divisive peculiarities of religious systems. According to one of Roddenberry's closest collaborators, Brannon Braga:
In Gene Roddenberry's imagining of the future, religion is completely gone. Not a single human being on Earth believes in any of the nonsense that has plagued our civilization for thousands of years. This was an important part of Roddenberry's mythology. He, himself, was a secular humanist and made it well-known to writers of Star Trek and Star Trek: The Next Generation that religion and superstition and mystical thinking were not to be part of his universe. On Roddenberry's future Earth, everyone is an atheist. And that world is the better for it.
Even after Roddenberry's death, the perpetuators of his work more or less held to that principle. Ronald D. Moore, Another collaborator, wrote, "Gene felt very strongly that all of our contemporary Earth religions would be gone by the 23rd century, and while few of us around here actually share that opinion, we feel that we should leave this part of the Trek universe alone."

Expressions of religious belief in Star Trek:

Commentary on theistic manifestations of religiousness in fact is largely confined to two types of beings shown in the shows and (to a much lesser extent) in the flicks.

First, there are the ignorant, non-spacegoing civilizations. These peoples are religious simply because of their primitive gullibility and impressionability, and this is highlighted by the fact that such planetbound primitives are as likely as not to attribute godhood or a like level of worshipfulness toward any wayward Earth-human astronaut who crashlands in their vicinity. Though not necessarily focused on the fickleness of faith, in "A Piece of the Action" an entire world models its behavior on 1920s gangsters based on a book left behind by Earthers who went missing on that planet a century ago. The book is explicitly considered "holy" by the tommy-gun-toting terrestrials. Another episode, "Patterns of Force," sees a visiting Starfleet professor able to convince an entire planet to emulate the Nazi model (though he meant only to capture the efficiency of that system, its proponents end up recreating the genocidal aspects as well). Indeed, wherever a group of primitives is shown to worship a godlike source of power, or even a powerful being claiming to be a god, it is always shown to be something scientifically explcable and disposable.

This leads into the second, for there are as well various superpowerful beings who often masquerade as deities. In "Who Mourns For Adonais," the Greek God Apollo shows up and, in addition to displaying his various powers of growing to a massive size, grasping an entire starship in his projected grip, and shooting lightning bolts from his fingertips, reveals that the ancient myths were true in a manner of speaking -- for he and his kind visited Earth centuries before and inspired humanity to its belief in gods. Notably, Captain Kirk hints at a continuing monotheism, declaring to Apollo, "Mankind has no need for gods. We find the one quite adequate." But although a deity from a now extinct religion is used here, the implication is inescapable that the miraculous powers inspiring modern religions may similarly have been simply the mundane abilities of advanced extraterrestrials. And, beyond Apollo Star Trek featured other entities such as the superpowerful Organians, Trelane (aka "The Squire of Gothos"), the Q continuum, and the entity claiming to be 'God' in "Star Trek V: The Final Frontier" (but who apparently needs a starship to escape the planet he occupies). Trelane and the Q (especially given fan speculation and even an official novel marking Trelane as a wayward Q) certainly seem to have more than sufficient power to pull off every miracle ever reported on Earth -- even the creation of Earth itself -- reinforcing the possibility that the 'old' religious beliefs of man are simply the toyings of superevolved alien beings.

There are exceptions to these patterns of belief, if roughly hewn. The Klingons are shown in the later series to have a complex religious structure, including belief in an afterlife for heroes, something similar to the Norse idea of Valhalla. Much of the "Star Trek: Deep Space Nine" series involved the intrigues of Bajoran religion, which was driven by the presence of an intergalactic wormhole near Bajoran space, which humans considered an anomaly and Bajorans accredited with prophecy-fulfilling theological significance. There are, as well, nontheistic manifestations of religion and religion-like thinking. Vulcans, who are most strongly characterized by their adherence to logic, are shown to have system of ritual and symbolism which is described by outsiders as 'Vulcan mysticism,' and which entails some portion of their population being engaged in clearly priestlike and monk like rules. And, there appear some symbolic vestiges, at least, of the old Earth beliefs. In the closing scenes of "Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan" Montgomery Scott pounds out "Amazing Grace" -- traditionally a Christian hymn -- on the bagpipes to mourn the death of Spock. Occasional episodes showed presumptively Hindu female personnel adorned with the bindhi on the forehead, traditionally a symbol of that faith. But both of these examples might simply be secular carryovers from traditions no longer carrying religious import, as with the modern giving of candy on Halloween.

Metaphysical phenomena in Star Trek:

But the question here need not rely upon what is believed by denizens of the world of Star Trek. For as has been noted before, many things are or have been believed in human history which are necessarily untrue, oftimes simply absurd. Star Trek is somewhat extraordinary even relative to other science fiction series (which are often simply about action going on with cool technology and alien races) in that Star Trek is fundamentally about an intense pursuit of knowledge itself. The very reason we've ventured forth to the stars there is to learn scientific truths (which, it has been observed before, are compatible with a pandeistic Universe). But within the Star Trek world there are phenomena at play which do seem to require a metaphysical explanation. Beings of pure energy exist. Amongst several races in this Universe, fairly physics-defying exhibitions of telepathy -- instantaneous, and faster than light across vast distances -- are displayed. Between the second and third films, it is revealed that Spock was able to transfer his entire personality and body of knowledge into McCoy's brain with a few seconds of face-touching mind meld action. And in these instances, the Universe of Star Trek operates consistently with the principles of a pandeistic Universe.

Indeed, Pandeism would go far to explain the characteristics of the world of Star Trek. Earthly monotheisms do not do so well in this regard, for they tend to claim universality, even as the world of Star Trek is one with many civilizations far removed from Earth which have consequently never received the revelations which would be expected from an involved universal deity. But Pandeism especially predicts that there ought to be many intelligent civilizations, and that they would find some way to technologically overcome the distance between the stars so as to be able to interact, and generate the infinite potential of diversity of experiences to be found in such interactions -- the experiences for which our Creator is theorized to have set forth our Universe. Even the most godlike beings of Star Trek's reality -- beings which would have no difficulty convincing population such as the ancient Earth civilizations to worship them as the 'all-powerful' deities of our religious traditions -- are not gods in any divine metaphysical sense, but are simply very advanced products of the same sort of process of evolution and technological advancement as has brought man to his present point. And it is indeed within the expectations of Pandeism that our Universe promises to bring us however much further.