Tag Archives: pantheism

I Am A Pantheist

My name is Sharon, and I’m a pantheist. My God is as vast as the Cosmos. It isn’t just about love, but runs the gamut of emotions and behaviors, “bad” and “good.” It’s about ticks as well as bluebirds, and hurricanes as well as gentle spring rains. But don’t get me wrong, love and forgiveness and compassion are vital. How could I think otherwise when I believe everything is connected and every creature has as much right to be here as I do? How can I be less than a warrior for justice for humans, other animals, the planet? Humans aren’t the only creatures to need love and touch to live and thrive and grow. Scientists tell us we’re made of star stuff…..think about that, stars! What more motivation do I need to try to act magnificently and morally and ethically? A supernatural being made up by the ancients doesn’t and simply can’t serve me nearly as well any more, and in truth, not at all.

It hasn’t always been easy to come right out and say that I don’t believe in the supernatural god that most of my family and neighbors believe in. Some people have fallen by the wayside because of my choice. I live in the rural south. God and church are important down here to community and family life and all the seasons of people’s lives. But is being a pantheist really a choice? To me, it doesn’t feel like it is. Technically, yes, I chose to join a pantheist group fifteen years ago, but being drawn to it, being immediately touched by it, being captivated by all that it is, I feel those things chose me rather than the other way around. I was Christian a long time ago, but I’m no longer that same person. I just know I can’t go back to those old ways and beliefs even if someone tried to make me. I can no more believe in needing to be “saved” by a sacrificial lamb on a cross than I can fly, regardless of the number of times a preacher shouts it from the pulpit. Saved from what? A hell I don’t believe in?

The American Humanist Association (which many Pantheists belong to) has a slogan “Good Without God.” I like that.  I don’t need a supernatural god in the sky keeping a record of my good and bad behavior or the threat of eternal damnation to live a life of integrity, honesty, and authenticity. I don’t need a supernatural god to remind me to be nice, courteous, or helpful. I do believe it’s up to us humans to discern our purpose in life, to give it meaning, to behave ethically. I do consider myself religious or spiritual, though, in the way of connecting to that something bigger than me, that something that inspires awe and reverence, in the way of seeing everything as sacred because life itself is such, in the way of celebrating and marking days like solstices and equinoxes, births and deaths, and participating in traditions.

My god speaks to me in the sweet smell of honeysuckle wafting through my window as I write this, coming in on the gentlest of breezes, but also last week when the lightning and heavy rains caused power outages and fallen trees. I can hear birds and the whir of a lawn mower in the distance. I never actually have to leave my house to hear and smell and see and feel delights that my god offers, though, of course, there’s so much more as I venture down the road and on to other places and people and experiences…..like an emergency room where things were whirling around for me as I nervously waited for test results, and people in green and blue uniforms were scurrying to make people feel better or at least give them answers, and equally in the sweet smile of my granddaughter as she says, “I lub you, Mimi.”

My god is vast. I stand in awe of the universe. I don’t want to compete with others on the size and power of our gods, though I feel some religions have boxed theirs in. Mine can never be. We are in different places, however that came to be, whatever mechanism within our brains and hearts is at work. I want to practice compassion and fight for justice so that all creatures live in safety with full bellies and warmth on cold days, able to love their families, that all people can find their purpose and live a life of dignity and self-love instead of loathing, and I want to share the God I see and experience through words and pictures of everyday life, how truly extraordinary it is, and how often we pass it by looking for that big super thing we think is going to be better and give us goosebumps. Looking at the mountains in the direction of South Carolina right now, getting a hint of wood smoke from down the road someplace, seeing the japonica bush almost up to the bottom of the window, these simple things give me goosebumps, and I’m just glad to be here to experience them.

My name is Sharon, and I’m proud to shout from the rooftops that I’m a pantheist. My God is as vast as the Cosmos. My God, indeed, is the Cosmos.

~Sharon

copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Easter Revisited

Easter was a couple of weeks ago.  It was a lovely family day, where on a beautiful spring afternoon, my daughters, son-in-law, and granddaughters met in Charlotte for lunch and some sweet outdoor visiting time.  A couple of days later, I saw something on Facebook asking what was your most memorable Easter? so I thought about a few of mine.

For many years, my family went to the Dillard House in Dillard, Georgia, enjoying the big family-style Easter dinner, seeing the Easter Bunny and little girls and boys in their Easter finest gathering brightly colored, barely hidden eggs, visiting the farm animals, especially those comically adorable baby goats!  When my first granddaughter was 1 or 2 years old, she participated in her first Easter egg hunt and fed the animals, giggling at their tongues licking her hand to get every last bite of corn.

One Easter I spent in Cleveland, Ohio.  Dinner was homemade and delicious, including bread made by Eastern Orthodox Church women. We didn’t have lamb as I expected we would, but I was glad.  Then we took a long afternoon drive out in Amish country, which was picturesque and quite charming. Lots of people must have been visiting friends and family because many buggies were on the road that day.  Just as we arrived back to the house, there was a thunderstorm, and we stayed in for a cozy evening with leftovers. It was also Eastern Orthodox Easter. Though the two don’t always coincide the same week, that year they did, so at midnight, very early Easter morning, after dying eggs, we watched the darkened church across the street as its members held their candlelight procession around the church singing and chanting, before coming back to enter a lighted sanctuary and proclaim Christ is risen indeed. Religions have fascinated me most of my life.

Going back further, I spent a couple of Easters playing the baritone horn for the the Moravian church at the Easter sunrise service in Old Salem in Winston-Salem, North Carolina.  We went to bed early, got up in the wee hours to play on the streets of neighborhoods, different bands doing this all over the city, before meeting up at Home Moravian Church for a big early breakfast and going out to the graveyard (God’s Acre) to play for the sunrise service.  Even though I don’t take the Easter story literally, I still have affection for Jesus and what his story represents.  Hearing the music of all the instruments playing those ancient tunes and the birds singing as the sun came up, with that proclamation heard round the world that “Christ is risen, He is risen indeed,” gave me goose bumps and was a moving experience.  We then went on to play again in a small church cemetery.  Easter afternoon consisted of dinner, followed by a long nap, as we were all exhausted, but happy.

This brings me to my most memorable Easter ever, and the one that makes me teary.  Seven years ago, after a six-week stay in ICU, my dad passed away peacefully in a regular room (three days after taking him off the ventilator), on Easter Sunday, surrounded by his closest family.  He had been in a coma almost the whole six weeks, suffering from an infection that went from his lung to his brain.  There had been hope he would recover, but when the last shunt change didn’t help, we knew it was time to let him go.  I read him the Easter story from his Bible.  I don’t know if on some level he heard me or not.  Easter morning, we took some pretty flowers from my parents’ yard to his hospital room.  The doctor came in and listened to his lungs that morning and said something had changed.  “I think today will be the day,” he told my mom and me.  My daughters and son-in-law got there, and as if he had waited for us all to be together, which maybe he did, soon afterwards he took his last breath.  It startled us, although we had been listening intently to his breathing and would hold our own breaths when it seemed it might be his last, then he would breathe again, and so would we.  But this time there was no mistaking that for my dad there was no other breath to come….he turned blue almost instantly.  I had never seen a person die before.  We were sad, of course, and yet relieved, too, in a way.  He wasn’t going to get better and none of us wanted to see him that way.  It wasn’t the life he wanted, and we had each been preparing for it in our own ways already.  We sat in his room for awhile, quiet, crying, then after making a few phone calls and going through some red tape, we left the hospital and went to Cracker Barrel and had Easter dinner.  It is exactly what he would have wanted us to do, and I think we all felt his presence and energy there with us in some way or other.  We were able to talk and laugh and share memories.  The more intense sadness and reality hit later, as it usually does, when we were alone or when in doing normal everyday things, we remembered he wasn’t there.  After that, we took a little walk down by the river.  It was a beautiful day and a heartbreaking one.  I wouldn’t trade that time with my dad as he breathed his last breath for anything.  It was a precious moment and by far my most memorable Easter.

Even though I’m a Pantheist now for many years, I still consider myself religious.  I love Easter and what it symbolizes, what the crucifixion and resurrection can mean even to a person who is no longer traditionally religious but carries those old rituals in their memory, part of their very being.  It’s rebirth and the spring season both in the natural world, of which we’re a part, but also within ourselves.  It’s about hope, and you don’t have to be Christian to appreciate those things about Easter along with all its pagan elements.  People have loved symbols and rituals pretty much as long as they’ve inhabited this planet, it would seem.  I have cherished memories of lots of Easters over many years, shared with special people, all held close to my heart.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Bio for the Universal Pantheist Society

Back in April, I was honored to be elected to serve as an at-large member on the Board of Directors of the Universal Pantheist Society.  I’m not sure any other members even know.  When asked if I was interested, of course I said I was, but I realized I had no official credentials like some do, other than being a long-time pantheist and Society member.  Yet at the same time, I think that may be one of my strengths, for Pantheism is a path that’s for everyone and anyone who chooses it.  It doesn’t depend on credentials or a certain degree or title or income or education.  Anyway, here’s the bio that appears on their website.  It was something I wanted my friends and followers to know about because Pantheism is an important part of who I am, and the UPS is in turn an important aspect of my journey.  If you have an interest in Pantheism as well, I hope you’ll check out the UPS and consider joining up and help spread the word about it.  I’m glad to be a representative for them.

Sharon was born and raised in the mountains of western North Carolina and still resides in a small town within a short distance of both the Blue Ridge Parkway and the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. In the past, she was an avid camper and day hiker, but now most of her free time, when not working full-time as a Health Documentation Specialist, is largely spent baby-sitting her two young granddaughters and spending time with family and her three cats (at one point she was a volunteer for the local no-kill cat shelter). Her interests include Pantheism/deep ecology, working in her yard, genealogy (especially her Irish roots), writing, animal rights, and vegetarianism. Sharon learned about Pantheism back in 2002 and joined the Universal Pantheist Society, as well as spending several years as an active participant in the World Pantheist Movement, and helping form a local Pantheist group that met in Asheville, NC. One of her chief influences was “Accepting the Universe” by John Burroughs. Realizing the importance of connecting with other Pantheists, she began actively and regularly participating on the UPS websites, feeling its approach to pantheism best matches her own, summed up in the quote, “I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E” (Frank Lloyd Wright). Sharon considers herself a voice for the everyday Pantheists who experience the simple pleasures of nature found in their own neighborhoods and backyards. Bird watching has become a new hobby, and she is a member of the National Audubon Society, as well as Friends of Animals. She has also written a blog for several years called The View From Raindrop Ridge, which is about living a simple pantheistic life in her beloved mountains.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Sunday Morning Thoughts

It’s Sunday morning. Years ago I would have been getting ready to go to church. I’m so glad that I learned about Pantheism 15 years ago. As a religious path it’s for anyone, young or old, rich or poor, the well traveled or homebodies. No more creeds to mindlessly repeat. I’m still lying in bed and I can hear birds and an occasional crow of a rooster down the road, the sunlight streaming in the windows this morning. Soon I’ll look out the kitchen window while I make coffee and watch the chickadees and cardinals at the feeder, see the colorful blooms on the trees and shrubs in the yard, then wander to the porch and feel the wind and sun on my face. This is my church, my Sunday mornings now, and I love that. I’m really thankful that in my small southern town, where little churches are all over the place, many of them Baptist (though I was Methodist myself), I found a new way to be religious, to connect to what I call God, that works so perfectly for me.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

(also posted in Universal Pantheists Facebook Group)

My Soul

The question came up recently in the Universal Pantheists Facebook group I’m in about whether we have souls and what happens to them when we die.  My thoughts I shared:

I believe my energy will remain, but I don’t believe it will be organized as “me,” but instead mingled with lots of other energy from different sources.

For me personally, I don’t distinguish the body from the electricity and neurons that spark our brains. I think it all stays in the universe (God). I started to say goes back into the universe, but it never left. Some parts may go into growing trees and some may go into another person’s breath.

The bottom line is that I’m never separated from the God I believe in, whatever forms the dispersed energy that makes up “me” now may take in the future.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

Afterlife

I apologize for this being a bit long, but there’s something I want to share that made me think about my feelings as a pantheist regarding death and an afterlife. I know pantheists vary somewhat in their views on that, but personally I don’t believe in an afterlife in the sense of a soul going to heaven or hell, or a physical resurrection, or seeing our dead relatives in another life. My idea of an afterlife is in memories and things I’ve written or spoken or taught, genes I’ve passed down, people I’ve touched, and hopefully helping a few flowers or trees grow, too.

Anyway, a young woman here in town recently died unexpectedly after a bout with pneumonia. This is a small town and most everyone here knows someone in her family. My daughters do, I do, so it was pretty shocking and sad. She was survived by parents, husband, children, sister and her family, and a big extended family. So there have been tons of outpourings of sympathy to them all from the whole community, and especially to her sister in person and online. The sister has a side business involving promoting a line of products and she does live feeds and videos periodically on Facebook, with a huge number of followers, and I watched a couple of them yesterday that I could see through my daughter’s FB page. They were from soon after her sister had died, and of course she was crying off and on, but mostly just talking about being real and authentic, feeling sad and irritable sometimes, sitting in the floor crying, all of which I can identify with. She was very thankful for all the love and prayers shown to her and her family. Then she said she didn’t know how anyone could get through tragedies in life without the support of so many people and without faith in God. If someone didn’t know what that kind of faith was like or hadn’t experienced it, to let her know or speak with someone else who knew and they could help them find this for themselves. Knowing the family, I know it is the Christian God and Christian faith she speaks of.

I respect each person’s right to find God for themselves (separation of church and state is another issue). I love sharing pantheism with people sometimes, but I’m not trying to make them become pantheists. In fact, I used to believe in that Christian God myself, a long time ago. But what some people don’t understand is that people like me, who believe God is essentially Nature, not a man, not someone who wrote the Bible, also get through tragedies as well as they do. We are strong and ethical and resilient and love life, and we grieve and cry and love and move forward like they do. They may not understand how we do that because they have relied on their God and prayer for so long and can’t imagine not having that, and I get that’s why a lot of people are drawn to more traditional religions; they need and want more than what they can experience with their senses, more hope that there has to be something else besides this short little life we lead. But I hope through sharing pantheism and my own experiences, that I can at least help them understand that we do get through these kinds of things and we do experience the same tragedies in life and the same feelings of sadness and loss and move on, happy and healthy. This woman is planning and counting on seeing her sister again one day in her recognizable form in heaven. Almost 7 years ago my dad died on Easter Sunday after being sick with an infection for weeks. About 4-1/2 years later, my mom (who was then living with me due to health issues) was in the hospital with pneumonia for weeks and died the week before Christmas. It was the hardest thing I ever went through losing my mom, the only parent I had left, the person who had known me the longest. A grown woman with adult children and a little granddaughter, and here I felt like an orphan. I’m an only child, and I was glad to have my daughters, son-in-law, granddaughter, and 3 cousins at the hospital with me. But that’s all the people I really needed there. My family is very small, private, and we didn’t have huge numbers of people reaching out to us. We have never needed or wanted that. I don’t expect to see my parents again in heaven and I’m fine with that. Some of their ashes are in an urn in my living room; other ashes have been scattered outside. I want people to know that just because we don’t believe in their specific version of God, we can still handle life and death. Yes, I cried a lot and it took a few weeks before I realized I had a day when I didn’t cry even for a minute or two, but I kept functioning and remain hopeful and joyous about this experience called life. I have my own kind of faith, and that is in the cycles of life and nature. Just because my parents aren’t here in front of me, I know I’m connected to them all the time. The pear tree and other shrubs in my yard, my dad helped me plant them. Things in my house, photos, features of my own body, my children’s bodies, our sense of humor, our language, values, our approaches to life, how we deal with people, and tons of memories are very much a reminder of both my parents every day, and we extend those things in some ways to everyone we meet. And now some of their ashes are in the ground and the atmosphere, in trees and leaves. When they died, yes, it made me focus more on the religious aspects of pantheism, but it never made me believe I would see them again as the only way I could keep going on with my life. It never made me turn to the Christian God and to that kind of prayer and belief in an afterlife. It did make me thankful for what I do believe, for every little “ordinary” thing I see or experience, to appreciate and not take it for granted, for the people who are in my life, the animals, everything around me.

I’m glad I have pantheism as my worldview, as my religious path. It makes me happy. It gives me comfort to know I always feel connected to nature, the universe, the people I know and have known, along with the stars and the trees and the creeks and the mountains. This is the only God I need and want. But I wish people wouldn’t think I’m missing something and try to “fix” me or think I even need fixing. My heart goes out to this family; I know it has been incredibly hard for them, and I’m glad they have a way of coping with it and going on with their lives. It’s not a way that would work for me, but it is important to me to have a path to follow and a worldview to believe in and live by, too, and for me, that is pantheism.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press

(Also posted in Universal Pantheists Facebook group, as well as the UPS Ning discussion site)

Inauguration Day

Today, a man is being inaugurated in my country who many feel, myself included, is not qualified to be our president, who is not the best or even a good choice, and who is selecting other people to serve with him who don’t have the interests of all the people or other animals or the planet at heart.  We worry that the constitution is being trampled upon, as well as our wilderness lands, that people we may not even know but are our neighbors nonetheless may suffer, if not we ourselves.  It’s a sad day and yes, I feel a little depressed about it.  Will I watch any of it on TV?  Yes, at least some of it because it’s part of our history now, and I want to be a witness to what can happen when about half of our citizens who vote supported a candidate who ran on hate and fear instead of inclusion and diversity.  I want to be informed, and sometimes that means looking at something that’s uncomfortable.

But at the same time, I feel hopeful, too, because I know there are many people who are fighting for me and for all people, for animals, for the earth itself.  I will keep doing what I do.  Support and love my family, my pets, the rights of all animals.  Fight and stand up against injustice, racism, homophobia, religious bias, nationalism, speciesism, limiting voting rights, hurting the poor, discrimination of all sorts based on color, gender, sexual orientation, religious beliefs, income level, education, ethnicity, and more.  I may disagree with you, but I’ll stand up for your civil and human rights, not just yours, but everyone’s.  I can’t bury my head in the sand or burrow in my covers for four years and hope things change.  I have to do what I do and speak up, write, make calls, and I will, peacefully resisting.  I also hope, though don’t necessarily expect, that our new president will pleasantly surprise me in some way when campaign rhetoric gives way to real-life governing, though there has been no real evidence that will be forthcoming.

I just came in from outside, doing chores, and the sun is shining, there is a mix of gray and white clouds and lots of blue sky.  I was playing “I Want To Know What Love Is” by Foreigner full blast.  It’s a warm day for January, almost has a spring-like feel, and for today, that’s a good thing because spring is about growth and new life and hope, and a lot of us need a good dose of hope today.  I’m a part of all this, of nature, of life itself, and no man or woman, no president, no committee, no tearing down anything that people worked hard to build up and will eventually have to be rebuilt by others, can ever take that away from me.  I can never be separate from what I call my God.  It’s home and it’s also healing.  That’s something to be grateful for and to be inspired by.  This afternoon, tonight, tomorrow, and in the days and weeks and months and years to come, life goes on, and I’ll do what I do.  And this afternoon when I’m babysitting my little granddaughter, I’ll give her an extra special hug and see in her our future, our sweet children who don’t know anything about defining and dividing us because of skin color or religion or politics or other such things, and who also love to run and play outdoors in nature.  Let’s learn a little something from the children in our lives while we’re at it and embrace them instead of trying to change them and make them grow out of it.  All our lives and the life of the very planet we call home depend on it.

~Sharon

copyright (c) 2017 by Raindrop Ridge Press