Saturday, March 31, 2012

An Ingenuous Apologetic (. . . or why I still believe that Christianity is true . . . or more true) Why I'm Not a Pantheist Part I

I've thought about how I should handle this next topic for a while.  I've decided to give it just a brief brush over. The reason is, these posts start to become long, with series lasting > 10-15 posts. So, I will cut to the chase with this one.

I will be perfectly honest and say that I don't know a lot about pantheism, especially the dominate one (on the world's stage) of Hinduism.  I did seriously consider it at one juncture. It was when I just came back from the mission field and I was trying to start from scratch. But once again, I confess that start was biased in the favor of Christianity.

My approach to Hinduism was not a study of its teachings.  I think I had the general idea and studying the many, many gods, narratives and etc would not have answered my real questions about it.  But I did study its origins.  So as I talk about those origins, I ask for some factual grace. The reason is, for one, I never studied it intensely and what I did study was about 22 years ago. So take some of what I say, with a grain of salt.

Before I get to those origins, I will say that pantheism is very attractive for many reasons. The most dominate reason is that is it the easiest path in a culture where the melting pot has gone to seed  as a pluralistic society. In the homogeneous cultures, say now deeply in the Muslim world, or deeply in the Christian world of Europe of the fifteenth century, the easiest path is/was to follow the dominate religion of that culture.

As America was born and immigration was predominately from the Christian countries, it was still easiest to be Christian. But as the melting pot started to include Muslims, Buddhists, secular empiricists, even polytheistic or animistic cultures the tensions also increased.

As you start to fragment society the tension becomes tighter. Imagine taking an iron "#" symbol and pressing it down into clay. You will have nine squares (or actually trapezoids). Then rotate that # by five degrees and press it down again. Then you have at least eighteen trapezoids. Do it again and again until you have a pile of clay mush. It is in this context that pantheism comes to the surface. If you didn't follow that I will clarify later.

Prior to reaching that end-point, the melting pot goes through a series of rising tensions.  A hundred years ago you might have a group of protestant boys, beating the crap out of the Catholic boy on their way home from school. And the same for the Mormon boy but I couldn't imagine that now, except in the buckle of the Bible Belt in a small town in Alabama.

In America, the sixties was the breaking point of that moral tension. With the help of the Beatles (and many philosophers and artist prior to that) pantheism vented the growing pressure of that melting pot--gone pressure cooker.

So, what I'm trying to say, is that inside the front door of pantheism, there is a beautiful release of moral tensions.  You can accept that friend living with their girlfriend without any hesitation or judgement. You can except your brother's homosexuality without any tensions with New Testament verbiage about homosexuality.

Beyond that, you can feel no pressure to discuss the "true" way of salvation with that cousin who has converted to being a Jehovah's Witness or the next door neighbor who is a Scientologist . . . because all roads lead to the same point.

In the Indian subcontinent, there is evidence of ancient narratives, you might say polytheistic in orientation, going back to almost 5,000 years BC. However (and this part is debated or even rejected by some, including many Hindus) the Aryans (from eastern Europe) entered the region from what is now NW Pakistan.   This melting pot was intense as the Aryans moved across present day India.  From what I understand, the Aryans, nomads and herders, had their own strong religious traditions probably polytheistic or animistic.

As the new culture, with its strong and complex religious traditions was superimposed on an existing and complex religious traditions, it was like the "#" coming down, twisting on it axis and coming down again, dicing and dicing the philosophical and religious society.

From what I understand, the early Vedas had accounts for as many as a thousand gods, growing with more and more complexity into the ocean of what we now know as pantheism.

I will stop here and pick up with one more post that describes why I am not a pantheist. Please remember, this isn't me arguing against pantheists, but simply my story of why I chose not to walk that path. If you want to correct the superficial history, which I've described, you are welcome to do it under comments.

I will proof read tomorrow.


Tapji said...

interesting post. What do you think of Panentheism? I (and the Eastern orthodox church) find it to be very attractive & it can explain quite a bit.

jmj said...

I'm getting to that next.