Logically, I am an atheist. Emotionally, I am a pantheist.
I am the kind of person who does not really believe in anything unless it can be empirically proven in some way. I do have a lot of scope for entertaining theoretical constructs that can be logically laid out – I have an imaginative analytical brain, and I love to theorise and philosophise. And certainly, not everything that is even self-evident can be properly accounted for empirically. The universe as we know it and experience it is not by any means fully understood. But although there are theological and philosophical theories and intangible concepts that excite me and are meaningful to me, I’m not sure that I could be said to believe in divinity in any real way.
But when it comes to how I resonate emotionally, I have very strong pantheistic feelings. Although I may not see divinity as something that can even be defined, let alone proven, I feel as though the universe is divine. It is not something I believe in the way that I believe in science and physics and the physicality of my day-to-day existence. But it is something that I feel at my very core. It is an emotional response to awe, to beauty, to mystery. And that emotional response is very strong in me.
My spirituality is built on emotion.
I’ve come to the understanding that this emotion is what is most important to my spiritual practice. My need for ritual and a spiritual practice and belief is reinforced by my logic and intellect – the mysteries of the universe are certainly awe-inspiring to even the most sceptical. But its seed is in emotion, in an inherent response that is so natural as to be almost a reflex.
My beliefs and therefore my practice are certainly naturalistic. I leave room for the unexplained, and engage in practices that might seem empty or pointless to some naturalists or atheists. But I don’t take many leaps of faith intellectually, everything is based in reason. In this way I am a naturalistic Pagan.
Where I do take those leaps of faith is in the emotional sphere. By engaging in this spiritual practice, I open myself up to experiencing things beyond the mundane. In many ways, it is in exercise in allowing myself to feel without judgement. My spirituality is my way of allowing my pantheism a space in my life.
I have chosen to not choose between naturalism and theism.
I am aware of a certain amount of paradox within this spirituality that I am carving out for myself. I could be accused of being, illogically, a theistic atheist – of holding onto the two concepts or labels. As I’ve previously pointed out, the two are semantically opposed.
But I am comfortable with this duality within my personality and within my spirituality. I think sometimes we get too bogged down in trying to narrow ourselves into one particular fit – we try to pare away the inconsistencies in an effort to build up an ego that is simpler and less challenging. But we are too complex as individuals to ever hope to accomplish this. Paradoxes will always abound, and I’m learning that it’s important to embrace the difference facets of your personality, to incorporate it all into your life.
So when I perform ritual – when I light my altar candles and utter words of dedication and devotion – I am not merely marking a changing season or an astronomical event. I am, emotionally, reaching out the divinity that I see in the Cosmos.
Áine Órga: I practice a spirituality that is very much earth-based, and the wheel of the year I follow is for the most part the same as that of modern Paganism. My self-identification as a Pagan has been gradually solidifying over the past year, and so too has an uneasy balance between my emotional pantheism and my rational atheism.I seek a connection with the divine Cosmos on an emotional level, but I am sceptical by nature, and have a tendency to believe only in what can be proved or at least somewhat backed up by modern science. My spiritual practices are therefore largely metaphorical. However, I feel that religious or ritual observance and meditation is an important aspect to human nature, and find it emotionally and psychologically beneficial.
This post was first published at The Spinning of the Wheel.
Why should we care about the history of naturalism?
Why is the ancient history of naturalism important to our future? by B. T. Newberg
Appearing Sunday, July 28th, 2013