Sunday, February 26, 2012

Answers in Pandeism: Part III: What do Pandeists do?

I noted in previous posts having received this email:

I am a 17 year-old that has been thinking about becoming a Pandeist for the past few days. Currently, I am a Christian and come from a background of Christians. I have read a lot on Pandeism recently and have a basic understanding of it. I share a lot of similar beliefs, but I just have a few questions:

Do you acknowledge the existence of Jesus?

Do you pray?

What do you do as a Pandeist? Do you congregate (as in a church or synagogue)?

If I change to Pandeism, how should I approach my parents about not being a Christian anymore?

If I convert, what is some advice for beginning the conversion from Christianity to Pandeism?

Today I address the question: What do you do as a Pandeist? Do you congregate (as in a church or synagogue)?

That is actually a quite deep question -- what do we do as Pandeists? So the first thing to consider is the frame of reference which Pandeism generates for all things around us, all people, all life. It is at this point useful to point out some distinctions between different kinds of pandeistic beliefs, as there are some different ideas floating around within Pandeism.

Firstly, there are spiritual Pandeists, such as myself and the Pandeists I know generally, and indeed most Pandeists you will ever encounter on the internet, or in life. We are the Pandeists who believe that logic and reason direct us inevitably towards the conclusion that our Creator became our Universe -- a Universe ingeniously calculated to give rise to complexity, and ultimately to intelligent life -- for the purpose of learning through a shared existence with our Universe.  Because we consider all things to be part of our Creator, which unconsciously underlies our Universe and shares in all aspects of our existence, we weigh our actions towards other people and other living and feeling things accordingly.

Then there are ones who call themselves Scientific Pandeists -- this is really a misnomer, for even the most spiritual of Pandeists would recognize science as the path by which the mechanisms of our Creator are discovered and revealed -- but the handful who use the actual term 'Scientific Pandeist' are more akin to atheists who acknowledge only that all things are connected, and had a time of origination, coming from a single source, but do not necessarily recognize that source as an intelligent designer, as other Pandeists do.

Lastly there are what we would call the radical Pandeists, who follow a model like the one Scott Adams proposed in God's Debris, wherein our Creator essentially committed suicide -- that is, where it completely, and possibly irrevocably, destroyed itself. And, to those who believe as such, our Universe is simply the consequence of that, imbued with life only as an aftereffect of the nature of the Creator.

There are good reasons I would contend why the spiritual Pandeist path is the most logical explanation of the fortuitously life-generating and profoundly experience-generating Universe in which we live, though in my view this amounts to the defense of Pandeism itself. After all, ours seems to be a Universe geared towards the generation of self-advancing sort of intelligent life, hardly the aspects of a wholly dormant or even thoughtlessly suicidal Creator.

Back to the typical and spiritual form of Pandeism, the thing to remember is that by following this path you are acknowledging that all things occur within our Creator; and though it has in becoming our Universe intentionally temporarily sacrificed its own ability to do anything else but experience such existence, it nonetheless does experience all things which occur herein. And so, whatever pain or suffering occurs in the world, our Creator experiences that. And there is a lot of pain and suffering -- but there is a balance, there is as well a great deal of pleasure and happiness. And there's not much of either under the control of each of us as individuals, but we can control our own actions, what we bring to our world. And so it must be remembered that when you cause injury to another person, you are causing that injury to your Creator. When you cause (or allow) injury to yourself, you cause or allow that injury to your Creator, who experiences everything you do. So the Pandeist considers his actions mindfully with regard to the desire to minimize pain and suffering and maximize pleasure, minimize sadness and maximize happiness in the world, as best we are able with the always-incomplete information in our possession.

Sign from a Unitarian Universalist meeting
in Iowa addressing a very pandeistic theme
Now, as to congregation, we do not have churches or temples or synagogues.  Some groups of pandeists gather together on occasions special to their particular locality to celebrate the myriad bounties of life. Perhaps at some future point, some group of Pandeists or other will decide to erect a building for spiritual commemorations, but I'd have no great interest in such an effort.  It seems to me that such erections, if that's all they're used for, take up space in a world full of unneeded buildings contrasted against homeless people looking for an unavailable roof over their heads.

The times I've gotten together with others on my wavelength have been in people's homes or in natural spaces, or in the many other public places where a group of friends can gather and speak at their leisure. Pandeists often have a great deal in common with Deists and Universal Unitarians, so we who are Pandeists may seek out the activities of these groups. I used to get together with some fellow Pandeists in my area for a discussion group at semiregular intervals, though these friends have since moved to other parts of the country. But my local circle of friends runs the spectrum of religious views, from the sharply theistic to the unwaveringly atheistic, and all points between.

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Answers in Pandeism: Part II: Prayer

I noted in my previous post having received this email:

I am a 17 year-old that has been thinking about becoming a Pandeist for the past few days. Currently, I am a Christian and come from a background of Christians. I have read a lot on Pandeism recently and have a basic understanding of it. I share a lot of similar beliefs, but I just have a few questions:

Do you acknowledge the existence of Jesus?

Do you pray?

What do you do as a Pandeist? Do you congregate (as in a church or synagogue)?

If I change to Pandeism, how should I approach my parents about not being a Christian anymore?

If I convert, what is some advice for beginning the conversion from Christianity to Pandeism?

Here I will answer as to prayer -- and indeed, I have been asked by several people in recent memory: "Do Pandeists pray?"

Well, prayer means different things to different people. Satirist Ambrose Bierce defined the word to mean: "To ask that the laws of the Universe be annulled in behalf of a single petitioner confessedly unworthy." And indeed, to most prayer probably connotes speaking to some external entity, separate from themselves and from our Universe (but having immense power and likely conceived as our Universe's Creator), and asking of that entity that the course of existence be altered in some way to suit the desire of the asker. There is, one must admit, an oddity to this concept. For, if ours is a deterministic Universe, with an omniscient Creator which already knew all the outcomes before the Universe was created even -- indeed if ours was a Creator which had an infinite number of Universe-unfolding options before it and the power to choose whichever one fit its plan -- then all prayer (answered or not) would simply be part of this predetermined effort.

But suppose our Universe is not predeterministic? Well then we must consider the Butterfly Effect. Meteorologists using computer models were once stunned to discover that, if a butterfly in the Amazon flaps its wings one time, instead of sitting still for that one time, this extremely minor disruption of the atmosphere is enough to begin a snowball effect. That tiny flap nudges a tiny bit of air which would not have been nudged; that tiny bit of air impacts the flow of larger whisps of air. The perturbations continue expanding upward and outwards until they effect the entire ecosystem, until for example atmospheric currents are affected such that a hurricane which otherwise was going to hit Houston instead hits New Orleans. A different set of people are maimed or killed, a different set of properties are destroyed. The course of the entire world, ultimately, is affected.

The popular science fiction depiction is of time itself simply healing over these wounds to continuity; that if a future spaceship crew were to travel back to our time and change a few things here and there, things would still end up pretty much as they were. Worse yet, there is often the depiction that events and circumstances have changed but the people have stayed the same.  A cardinal example of this is in the Back To The Future movies. Marty McFly goes back in time and briefly interrupts his parents from getting together, jeapardizing his existence; but in the end not only does he reunite them, they end up living a much more fulfilling life than before. But, despite their lives being now utterly different lives, Marty McFly is still born!! His parents still have the exact same children (all three of them), meaning that whatever other upheaval has been caused to their lives, they still ended up getting the exact same sperm (itself unaltered by intervening changes in diet and other habits) fertilizing the exact same egg at what was thusly necessarily the exact same time. Simply put, this is an impossible outcome (especially given how Marty's interference with the past affected so many other people whose lives intersected with those of his parents, with for example everybody at that high school dance experiencing a set of musical timing different from what they would have experienced but for his being there. In fact, due to any moment of his interference at all, he still would never have been born; his parents would have produced a different genetic combination in their offspring, different looks and characteristcs and interests.

So what has this to do with prayer? Well, most any 'answered' prayer would be a pretty big perturbation in existence itself, it would essentially have an outflowing effect which altered the entire future, who would even be born. If a hundred years ago some prayer for a recovery from an illness for example, or for a team to win a ball game, were granted by the typically imagined external force, no person alive today (including you and I) would exist; a completely different set of people would populate the space, born at different times and with different stories. Oh, we'd likely have the same nations and cultures and so forth, but different people would have been born into them and promulgated them.  So, you see, there is some science fiction to the idea of the answering of a prayer, especially where it is at the same time supposed that, for example, certain sperms are supposed to meet certain eggs, and so certain people are especially destined to have been born.

But aside from the questionable logic applied to the effects of answered prayers in a deterministic or nondeterministic Universe, Immanuel Kant more seriously and pointedly declared:

"The wish to talk to God is absurd. We cannot talk to one we cannot comprehend — and we cannot comprehend God; we can only believe in Him. The uses of prayer are thus only subjective."

This is a point closer to the concern of Pandeism.  Now, naturally, Pandeism logically deems our entire Universe (and all of our lives) to simply be fragments of our Creator, existing within its continuing unconscious exertion of the sustainment of existence. The pandeistic Creator has thusly temporarily (for a few hundred billion years, which for it pass essentially instantly) ceded its ability to have any sort of prayer-granting power. Nor would it make any sense for it to grant prayers if it retained such power, since our existence more likely serves to answer the very question of how a Universe turns out absent its ability to interfere. But it must be acknowledged as well that Pandeism accounts for things such as miracles, prophecies, and yes, the appearance of eficacious prayers (as experiences across all faiths) as manifestations of the unconscious power of our Creator. It would anecdotally seem that for some few, 'prayer' brings results. But these results are not occurring because our Creator is listening and wish-granting, but instead because we are part of our Creator. Like many an athlete who spends countless hours training in his sport, and then credits God for his good performance, we are simply failing to recognize where we might be responsible for generating our own effects, good and bad.

Before I go any farther down this road though, this is not 'The Secret'; this is not 'The Law of Attraction.' Pandeism does not propose that any person may through the power of positive thought alone 'attract' success or experience the effects of answered prayers. Indeed, Pandeism does not require that efficacious prayer really exist as a phenomenon at all, it simply accounts for if it so happens that it does exist. Pandeism first and foremost demands a logical approach; it demands recognition that the vast majority (possibly all) of efficacious prayers are simply coincidence. If nine out of ten people die from a given disease and ten out of ten pray to recover, then the one out of ten who does recover will be one who prayed for it. If a hundred thousand fans watch a sporting event and are evenly divided in allegience to the teams, about half of the praying portion of that fandom will get what they sought. And if an athlete works diligently at his sport, he will likely see his prayers for victory answered, even as an opponent's prayers go unanswered. What Pandeism explains, then, is that if there is any such thing as an 'answered prayer' (as many faiths and cultures contend) this phenomenon will be best accounted for by the pandeistic model.

So, getting at last to the long-about answer to the question, "do Pandeists pray?" -- no, not 'pray' exactly. I think Pandeists are likely to engage in very deep and meaningful meditation, to seek to feel connected with our Universe both at as broadly and at as many levels as we can. Certainly Pandeists will be inclined to have gratitude towards our Creator for our existence, and will seek to demonstrate that gratitude by engaging in that best sort of 'prayer' of all, the one where you put your hands to work doing things that will help reduce suffering and increase happiness in the world. And, at last, Pandeists will seek self-understanding and self-betterment, for if we are all part of our Creator, what better way to seek its assistance than to seek the aid of the part of our Creator that is ourselves?

Friday, February 17, 2012

Answers in Pandeism: Part I: Did Jesus exist?

Recently I received this email:


I am a 17 year-old that has been thinking about becoming a Pandeist for the past few days. Currently, I am a Christian and come from a background of Christians. I have read a lot on Pandeism recently and have a basic understanding of it. I share a lot of similar beliefs, but I just have a few questions:

Do you acknowledge the existence of Jesus?

Do you pray?

What do you do as a Pandeist? Do you congregate (as in a church or synagogue)?

If I change to Pandeism, how should I approach my parents about not being a Christian anymore?

If I convert, what is some advice for beginning the conversion from Christianity to Pandeism?

Well, those are some good and important questions, and so (having obtained the permission of their asker) I aim to give them as full and serious thought as  can and answer them in a series of blog posts, beginning with this one:

Do you acknowledge the existence of Jesus?  

I don't pretend that there is a uniform Pandeist position on that question, Pandeism being a theory for which the existence or nonexistence of Jesus would not affect its general applicability. But for me personally, I think it is surely absurd to deny that Jesus, the man, existed -- that he was born in the Middle East around the beginning years of the First Century, that he spoke publicly and gave wise lessons to his fellowmen.  For me, the most compelling proof is actually the suggestion that Jesus, in his young adulthood (the so-called 'missing years' of the Bible) travelled to India and learned firsthand lessons of Buddhism and Hinduism, a proposition which exhibits startling concordance with the substance Jesus' teachings (so far as their recounting may be taken as accurate).  And I believe as well that much of what Jesus taught (as much of what the Buddha taught) is consistent with a pandeistic model (for example the idea theretofore unknown in Judaism that harming one's fellowman was directly and actually harming one's Creator).

The idea of Jesus travelling to India seems generally scoffed at by mainline Christians, though it is supported by village traditions of the places in India where he was believed to have studied under the Hindu or Buddhist masters of the day. Such scoffing is somewhat adverse to the desire amongst Christians to prove that Jesus existed, for it seems like useful proof to show that places in a region of the world which served as a common trade destination of the day claim relics and stories of his visits there, and that his philosophy upon returning contains elements of the philosophy which he would have learned had the journey been truly undertaken. But it seems that the desire to put forth logical proof of the existence of Jesus wanes in the face of the desire to maintain the extremely profitable franchise which derives from the prevailing narrative, as it was constructed a few decades after the death of Jesus.

It is, naturally, important to recall that Pandeism holds that, all of us being within and of our Creator, all miracles, prophecies, revelations, scriptures, and so on from all religions are accounted for as simply manifestations of the unconscious underlying power of that Creator. And so, were we to presume that every miracle and prophecy and revelation actually happened exactly as relayed in the portions of the Bible claimed to have been witnessed by its authors (which is essentially the happenings from the time of Abraham on), including the accounts relating to Jesus, these things are still fully accounted for by the pandeistic model, as are similar accounts relayed in Hinduism, Shinto, Islam, even Mormonism and Ba'hai and other more recent formulations.

We observe in our lives, there are certain people who simply have a talent for something which surpasses everybody else in the field. Almost anybody may do math, or strum a guitar, or shoot a basketball, but there are precious few mathematicians like Isaac Newton and Albert Einstein, or guitarists like Jimi Hendrix and Carlos Santana, or basketballers like Wilt Chamberlain and Michael Jordan. People like Jesus and Buddha might have been all of them rolled into one when it came to spirituality, having the talent to explore the presence of our Creator as aware fragments of itself, and possibly to translate the power of our Creator into miraculous acts. And because Jesus and Buddha were in touch with the presence of the Creator, they understood our position in our Universe, and the destiny to which we were headed — that we are the Creator’s experience, so to do harm to another person is truly to do harm to our Creator, and to create an experience of harm which will be carried into the next world when we all share in every experience which has happened in the existence of our Universe, but with particularity on the experiences for which we were responsible in our own lives!!

Simply being part of Creator doesn’t mean that any one of us can perform miracles, even if we are fully aware of this status — just as a man may love music and be fully aware of it as a subject of theoretical study, and yet never pick up the ability to play at any more than a child’s level on a piano or a guitar. But every once in a long while comes that Michael Jordan, or that Stephen Hawking, that Mozart, that Jesus, that Buddha.  It is easy to see how somebody with an exceptional talent in touching the presence of God within us might be mistaken for a God endorsing the views and biases of an idolizer of that exceptional person (for we like to imagine that those who we idolize would share our views on things).  It is even easier to see how somebody with that talent and a glimpse of a true understanding of the nature of a pandeistic Universe might have great difficulty explaining this concept to others who lacked that vision, but who were instead so used to the concept of anthropomorphised tribal gods that they would reject the complexity of Pandeism.  And so, in actuality the perception passed down is more likely that of the followers who misunderstand the message and set their own biases into its retelling!!

Thursday, February 09, 2012

Response to a counterargument from another blog

A counterarguer has raised some issues in response to another blog against a previous post in this one, Reply to artistdude2's Thketch 001; and this counterarguer complains of this blog's post thusly:

He quickly disqualifies the Bible as having any role in the debate, leaving it at the level of competing assertions. Yet if true, the biblical record quickly answers a lot of his points/objections. The reality that God has self revealed in a direct way and His interventions in history — especially at the incarnation — are huge. Jesus is not just a bridge like a Buddha. He is God in flesh, uniquely conceived, and not just an avatar. This concept is not even minimally discussed.

But there is a reason that the validity of scriptural/revelational assertions are "not even minimally discussed" and it is simple and straightforward. It is that all of them are fully accounted for, and so superseded by, the pandeistic model itself. Naturally it could be claimed that the Old Testament, or the Qur'an, or the Vedas, Book of Mormon, New Testament, Popol Vuh, any one of those would be "huge" and would answer this question or that "if true" -- but this is where Pandeism rises above all of these, for Pandeism answers those questions no matter whether any book is true, and it does so for all the books out there.

Now, I take it as a given that were there empirical truth in any one scripture, this would be perceptible to the truth-seekers abiding in any corner of the world. If for example the Vedas were objectively "true" then all rational people to whom this was explained would quickly come around to believing in the truth of the Vedas; and the same holds true for the Bible and Qur'an and the Book of Mormon and the rest. But, obviously, none of these books is true enough to persuade any substantial number of adherants to any other of them.

And so you have Muslims and Hindus who've studied the Bible and find it unpersuasive; Jews and Mormons who believe parts of the Bible but find the NT account lacking in some respect; Christians and Hindus who've studied the Qur'an and found it unpersuasive. All of which undergirds the proposition that each of these traditions offers something only partial, a glimpse of a higher connecting truth but never that truth itself. And this eventuality is entirely consistent with all scriptures and revelations and visions and oracles and prophecies spiritual dreams and so on and so on simpy being unconscious manifestations -- even as extremly complex and involved as they may seem to our comparably limited minds -- misinterpreted and miscomprehended through the narrow, biased funnel of the human brain.

And that is how Pandeism fully accounts.

Sunday, February 05, 2012

Some Pandeism resources

Here are some members of the burgeoning family of Internet resources providing information, insight, and debate on Pandeism:

Main sites:
Institute for Pandeism Studies
The YouTube PanDeism Channel
Everything2's Pandeism Index
Pandeism Wiki by Wikia
The Pandeist Theorem by Robert G. Brown (excerpt from A Theorem Concerning God)

Blogs and other things:
A Pan-Deist Point of View (blog on various perspectives of pandeistic thought)
Pandeism with Rusty Nails (old, dormant blog on the theory)
PanDeism: What the Heck is That? (by Dean Snyder, another interesting blog)
What is The Nature of Reality? (by Bill M. Tracer in Philosophy, May 18, 2011, with a good bit on Cosmological Pandeism)
Various Theological positions described and evaluated (from Radical Apathy, another interesting blog)
Do we need God?, from Pandeism Hellre kontroversiell än snäll (another blog)
RationalWiki's Pandeism Page
Thelemapedia's Pandeism page
VisWiki's Pandeism page
Keywen's Pandeism page
Wikipedia's Pandeism page
Wiktionary's Pandeism page
Wikiquote's Pandeism page
The Parallels of Pandeism by Bernardo Kastrup, Ph.D.
Encyclopedia Britannica's page on pandeism -- Alex Ashman, BBC News
"Metaphysical Isms"
Useful Notes on Pandeism from TV Tropes
LiveJournal Pandeism group
The Pandeism Channel Twitter feed