Tag Archives: religion

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

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)

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)

My Pantheism

I’m thankful for pantheism, which is both my worldview and spiritual path, discovered for myself about fifteen years ago.  Pantheism may not be A religion, but it’s MY religion.  There is no “official” institution or creeds or leaders, and while there are groups to participate in, membership is not required.   Pans vary a lot in their specific beliefs and practices and needs for expression, but we do share an awe and reverence for nature and our own unique experiences in relation to this universe we call home.  For me, in a nutshell, pantheism is best described by this quote:  “I believe in God, only I spell it N-A-T-U-R-E” (Frank Lloyd Wright).   That also means that human beings are not the purpose of the universe, not the be-all end-all, not a special creation above everything else.  My spiritual practices include observing, writing, photographing, appreciating, cooking and eating, celebrating, spending time with family and friends, searching family roots, learning, questioning, looking at the stars, meditating by candlelight, reading, social justice, recycling, shopping local, feeding birds, having rescued pets, loving, helping, giving, sharing, but consciously, mindfully, and with deep gratitude.  This God of my pantheism is awesome and expansive, and I will gladly use words like divine, sacred, holy, and spiritual, but it’s all natural, not some old, supernatural, bearded man in the sky.   These particular words are part of who I am and how I express these feelings I have inside of me that quite often seem overwhelming, like my heart could burst with the experience of being alive, connected to all of life, in all its forms.  I’m part of something huge and magnificent and eternal in one manifestation or another, as close as a breath, a raindrop, a grandchild’s smile, or a ray of sun shining through my window, available to any and all of us equally, no matter where we are.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2016 by Raindrop Ridge Press

(This post also appears on the Universal Pantheist Society Ning network site blogs page)

My God

An article by Franklin Graham criticizing President Obama for visiting a mosque recently inspired me to think about my own belief in God.  I believe in a living God (although apparently not the same one as Mr. Graham does). My God isn’t the one described in the Bible, but the one I see in the chickadee at my feeder, my granddaughter‘s endearing smile, the early spring buds, and the babbling creek down the hill, even the snowflakes coming down outside my window right now and covering my driveway, just to name a few.  You see, I’m a pantheist, and I’m happy and thankful to live in a place where I don’t have to believe in Mr. Graham’s God, but instead one that is all encompassing.  It isn’t defined by a collection of ancient writings, but very much alive and accessible by everyone, free of creeds and shoulds and thou shalt nots required to belong to the fold, one from which I can never be separate and that I sometimes call Nature or Universe.  Finding this God years ago changed my life.

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2016 by Raindrop Ridge Press

My Prayer

Mary Oliver defines prayer as “paying attention.” Using that definition, this morning my prayer has consisted of walking Bentley and guiding him away from the poison ivy, giving him breakfast and a snack, feeling his tongue on my hand, fixing my mom’s breakfast and giving her her medicines, counting them out one by one, feeding the kitties and giving Spirit his insulin, watching the hair part and the needle go in, seeing the spider that had drowned in the saucer under the begonia, trimming bushes and preparing ground for new ones I’ll buy today, watching the chickadee on the bird feeder and hearing the cardinal’s song, smiling at the baby bunny scampering down the road with his little white cottontail shining, watering flowers and admiring their bright pinks and reds and soft whites. This afternoon, tomorrow, even in the next minute, my prayer will be a different one. Seen this way, life is endless prayer if we just “pay attention.” It’s that “pray without ceasing” that religious people sometimes speak of but in the way I understand prayer and God; it’s what some call mindfulness.  It’s realizing that ordinary life is actually extraordinary.

Sometimes people ask for prayers when they’re going through a hard time.  I have tended to shy away from that, but I reality I can offer them my prayers, even though I may not mean exactly  what they mean by that word.  I can’t really ask for special treatment or favors from the kind of God they believe in, but I can pay attention and for that moment give them my thoughts, my heart, and be fully there for them in that time while they’re hurting.  Sometimes that connection is all they are really wanting.  And maybe I need to be less antsy about using that word.

I have worries about finding time to do what I need to, how to pay for it all, not forgetting to check on my daughter’s cats, hauling off the garbage, filling bird feeders, lowering Kaitlyn’s crib because she is getting so big.  Viewing prayer as paying attention may not always be pretty; in fact, it can be downright messy, but it’s real life, and for this minute, engaged in what I’m doing, with what is in front of me, around me, I’m content and thankful.  Later today, those worries will become my new prayer as I “pay attention.”

~Sharon

Copyright (c) 2014 by Raindrop Ridge Press

What Pantheism Means To Me

I want to share the first major thing I ever contributed to a WPM group on the Community List. I was scared to post anything at all when I first joined other than a brief introduction of who I was and where I lived and maybe a few innocuous comments now and then to remind people I was still there. But 1-1/2 years or so into my membership we were asked by someone what pantheism means to us, and I was moved to write something a little more personal and just very honest. After posting this and getting some positive feedback and encouragement, I found the courage to start contributing more and more, sometimes with more positive feedback, sometimes not so positive, and sometimes no response at all (the worst!).  Discovering Pantheism changed my life.

What Pantheism Means To Me

To me, and I truly do speak only for myself here, pantheism has meant living in turmoil for the past 1-1/2 years since I discovered this group and other information about pantheism (I had heard the term before but didn’t know what it meant).

Pantheism means rethinking my belief system of 40+ years, letting go of old ideas that promised false hope and false security in a world that doesn’t exist, letting go of words that had become commonplace to me and learning new ones, letting go of “God” and that “God is all good.” It means being confused about how to celebrate holidays with my family. It means not fitting in with a lot of the people in my community. It means finding new meanings in old rituals so I can still share with the people important in my life. It means creating new rituals.

It means truly living each day one at a time, because now is all there is, and being more aware of the decisions and choices I make through the day, because I realize that my choices can affect other people, animals, the planet, the universe, and there is no savior to wash away “sins” or make it right in another life. Thus, it means living a more thoughtful life. I won’t always make the best decisions or the “right” ones (if there are right ones) but I will think more about them, and some of them will become my new commonplace.

It means respecting other people’s rights to be here even if I think they are making a mess of their lives. It means letting them make their own choices, some of which are not popular and some of which are destructive and speaking up when I feel it’s appropriate. It means standing up for human rights and hating certain behaviors even while I try to put myself in the place of other people and understand better why they act as they do.

Being a pantheist doesn’t mean I love nature more. I loved nature before. I was always most at home and most deeply moved sitting by a river, canoeing on a quiet lake, hiking in the woods, or sitting on the porch looking at the mountains. Looking up at a winter sky full of stars filled me with awe then and still does. I appreciate it more now. I realize how right it all is and how I’m part of it, as is every part of creation. It means knowing that when I die I am still part of it just in a different way.

It means living my life with integrity and in a way that will be remembered for positive contributions to my community or whatever part of the planet I come in contact with rather than for destruction. It means letting go of the importance of my individual personality in the big scheme of things and realizing I live on through my children (and possibly my children’s children) genetically, through the things I have taught them and how they act in the world, through my own actions and effects on people I meet, and through memories others have of my life.

As far as social issues, I have my chosen ones to take up a cause for (gay rights and gay marriage, separation of church and state, anti-racism, animal rights). I don’t personally think there should be global WPM shoulds and oughts as far as particular causes to follow. I think people will take up causes that touch them in some particular way. Those social issues were important to me before pantheism and still are just as important to me.

Finally, pantheism means being me, living my life authentically and not letting other people determine how I think or feel or act. It means expressing the source or nature or creation as the unique me, here and now.

~Sharon

 

copyright (c) 2005 by Raindrop Ridge Press

(Originally appeared on the WPM Pantheist-Community list 5/4/04)