Sunday, April 1, 2012

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

In many ways, because I'm a product of and live in this pluralistic culture, pantheism is more attractive to me than many of the other options.  Besides the removal of the moral tensions, mentioned last time, it does give some answer for meaning (the cycle of life) and even for some of the mysteries of the universe (quantum physics, dark matter and etc). But those answers are general at best and are somewhat pandering to the real questions of physics.

I grew up within an easy drive to the Biltmore House, outside of Asheville, NC (pictured).  In my eyes, it is clearly the most beautiful home in America and one of the most beautiful in the world (I found the Palace of Versailles both plain outside and over the top inside). The way the limestone is cut and crafted together and the asymmetry it all adds up as domestic architecture at its best. Thus, men and women in God's image being creative in His like.

Having toured the "house" many times, I noticed that over the years the family has slowly opened up more and more of it to the public.

Typical of the Victorian age, the area of the house designed for the owners, the George Washington and Edit Stuyvesant Vanderbilt, plus their single child, daughter Cornelia, were opulent in style (see the dinning room).
However as you make your way further and further into the bowels of the rear of the house (the rear pictured below), you stumble into the quarters of the most common servants. The house required one hundred such servants to keep it running smoothly.

As I walked through those tiny rooms, not much bigger than the single bed, it reminded of a federal prison I once worked in. Tiny, cell-sized rooms, many without windows. But this too was typical of the Victorian age. Now, this is not to say that the servants weren't well treated and loved their work, but this stands as a metaphor for my relationship with pantheism.

The belief that everything is part of God (and that means EVERYTHING) and God is in everything is very comforting and takes away that moral tension I was speaking of.  All of us desire, okay most of us, desire peace in our personal lives and pantheism can bring that quickly. The problem, for me, is that same moral relevance that gives that enticing grandeur in the front of pantheism, creates an awful consequence in the rear.

So, if I were a pantheist, I would have no tension of helping a sibling become a better Mormon one day and help my best friend become a better Scientologist the next. But that same moral relativism would force me to accept the child molester-murder in that same spirit of peace. In summary, it is the philosophical problem of evil, that on the back side of pantheism that I could not accept. If all is from the god-force, then not only is the child molester/murderer created in god's image, but the actions of that molester would have to somehow originate in that god-force.

Christianity (meaning simple, pure Christianity and not a particular brand such as American-Evangelical) deals with the problem of evil differently. It states that the molester is indeed created in God's image and can do many things, creatively, to reflect that image. He can also love with unselfish love as God has intended. But when he molests, then it is anti-theist, against all that God is. That is why the Christian concept of the Fall seems to solve this problem better than most philosophical ideas.  However, as I will talk about later, Christianity has its own areas of absurdity.

So as a Christian, I can respect and love the person whom God created, but hate their actions with all my heart. I can hate cancer, without hating God (although many modern evangelicals have perverted this idea and they thank God for their cancer as "His plan").

I will illustrate this further.

Once I was at a birthday party for a profession (can't remember why I was invited). His 21 year old son was there, just getting back from six months in India. I love the Indian culture and cornered him, each with a beer in our hands. "So, what were you doing in India?"

He responded, "I've converted to Hinduism and I wanted to go and learn the culture much better."

I was intrigued. "So, how did you convert (knowing that his father was an Anglican)?"

He explained, "I've found Christianity to be extremely racist. I knew that they would have to be a better way. Hinduism is a peaceful religion that places the love of all men at the highest level of calling."

I had to scratch my head.  Then I realized that as a causal Hindu, he was living in that large part of the front of the house, the one with all the grandeur. Because true Hinduism is the most racist religions and cultural systems in the world. If you don't believe me, walk the slums of Calcutta.  Look at how the untouchables are treated. It is deplorable. They clean the pit toilets of the higher castes with their bare hand. Why? Because the color of their skin. It works out that the darker-skinned groups are pushed to the bottom of the pile (an in this case it is a pile of shit) simply because they were born with darker skin. But in a pantheistic frame of mind, this too is from the god-force as EVERYTHING is. Practically, my Hindu friends have told me that the untouchables deserve being untouchables because in a previous life, they did something that made this deserve this treatment.

But, in the front rooms of the house, the George Harrisons ( I know he really was a follower of Hare Krishna) or the Shirley MacLaines of the western world never venture beyond the front and beautiful rooms of the front of the house of pantheism. To Shirley reincarnation is a beautiful thing, not an excuse to treat another human being like a shit-sifter.

I've gone on long enough. But I will close by saying that I could never just live in the glorious rooms in the front of pantheism in the same way I can't stand in church Sunday after Sunday, raising my hands and rolling back my eyes and living in the magically world of evangelicalism. I've always colored outside the lines. I've always been a red pill taker. If I were an pantheist, I would have to explore and deal with the issues of pain, suffering and evil. I didn't find the answers I needed in pantheism.

Once again I had to type as fast as I could and then typos may reign here tonight. Sorry.


Anonymous said...

That's dissapointing to find that out about the way lower classes are treated in India. I thought they were a little more advanced than that over there.

jmj said...

Anonymous said...

That's an eye opener. I've never heard the word Dalit in my life, and I do try to stay up on the news and issues of the day. Next time I'm tempted to feel sorry for myself, I'll try to imagine being born a Dalit in India.

mjb said...

Since the "god-force" is not a person, it is incapable of being good or evil, because it cannot choose to be otherwise. People can choose (and to some degree, are separated from unity via this autonomy). When a sapient being chooses to harm (conscious wrong), it is far worse than when a large, four-legged predator kills by instinct (destructive, but neutral).

"Awesome" and "aweful" once diverged from the same meaning. Something can be impressive, and worthy of respect (something the molester is obviously not showing), but that does not mean morality is applicable to it. Theologians/philosophers tend to agree that the problem of evil is not applicable to pantheism, and that any weaknesses lie elsewhere.

jmj said...

For the concepts of good and evil to make sense they must have a foundation outside the self, otherwise it it meaningless and becomes an issue of taste (like favorite color of the individual) rather than a universal moral. So to same harming someone else is evil, must have a foundation somewhere.

The concept that the god-force does not have an opinion about evil (my simple paraphrase) then does created a huge problem for me (and others) and does not answer the question of evil.

It does not matter to me what theologians and philosophers believe or think (of course I can cite some who do agree with me but that's not the point), this series was about why I am not a pantheist and for me the vague god-force does not solve the big questions of life, the problem of evil being the dominate one.