inside out or outside in

In the English language, the word "God" is used in many different ways and contexts. For example, for some people "creator of the universe" is an attribute of an Entity Referred to As God (ERTAG). In other contexts, the word "God" has different meanings, and the ERTAG has different attributes, for example, "The God named 'Zeus' hurls thunderbolts and lives on the top of Mount Olympus".

As the above two examples show, the word "God" has many different and often contradictory meanings. And the word "God" is used in a wide range of different contexts to describe beings with different and often contradictory attributes.

Some people believe an ERTAG created the universe and stands outside zer own creation, ie outside the universe. The ERTAG is believed to have created time, but is believed to stand outside of time. And yet, the ERTAG is believed to be omnipresent. But if the ERTAG stands outside of creation, ze clearly is not omnipresent. These beliefs are illogical, contradictory and inconsistent.

It's not surprising that adherents to these beliefs act and think in illogical and inconsistent ways. Nor is it surprising that these beliefs have been and continue to be a cause of much pain, suffering, death, delusion, confusion, despair and more besides.

Clearly, if one is taught to worship and revere the sacred, and if the sacred stands outside the universe, then nothing in the universe is sacred enough to warrant worship or reverence.

Clearly, if the ERTAG is believed to stand outside the universe, then believers will believe they are separate from the ERTAG, and from each other.

Clearly, if the ERTAG is said to have said in a holy book that people have dominion over the world and its creatures, and if the ERTAG stands outside the world and its creatures, then believers will feel free to use and abuse the world and its creatures, unto their doom.

In contrast, pantheists believe (correctly) that each and every thing is part of Everything That Is, Has Been, Will Be, and Could Be (ETI). Pantheists believe (correctly) that nothing exists outside of ETI, nor can anything exist outside of ETI. Pantheists believe that ETI is alive, aware, sentient and interested in what happens to every part of ETI-self.

A Pantheist does not feel separate from divinity. Ze feels part of divinity. A pantheist does not feel that the world and the creatures in it are separate from divinity. The pantheist does not believe that humankind has dominion over the world and all the creatures in it. The pantheist believes that this world and all the creatures in it and other worlds and other creatures are all part of ETI, and share in the divinity of ETI.

You may or may not have picked up on the fact that I'm bending over backward to avoid referring to ETI as "God". Because that is where the trouble begins: when people apply the same label or name or sign to different concepts. If Jehovah is the name of the ERTAG then Zeus cannot be the name of an ERTAG, and vice versa. If Brahman is the name of an ERTAG then Ahura Mazda cannot be the name of the ERTAG, and vice versa.

These arguments about the differences between this ERTAG and that ERTAG have been going on for thousands of years. And I find it incredible that no-one yet has realised there are no grounds for argument; that if there were the arguments would be at cross purposes, the arguments would be from different premises, that east is east and west is west and ne'er the twain shall meet. The dialogue below shows what I mean:

Solomon the Jew: We believe there is an entity to which we refer using the word "God". We believe the name of God is Jehovah, and that Jehovah has certain attributes, and that we must relate to Jehovah in certain ways.

Nabila the Muslim: You are wrong. The name of God is Allah, and does not have the attributes that you attribute to God.

Alexandra the Ancient Greek: You are both wrong. There are many gods, known under many different names, such as Zeus, Apollo, Aphrodite and so on. Each god has different attributes, nothing like the attributes you attribute to your so-called Gods.

Jon the Atheist/Scientist: You are all wrong. There is no such thing as God or gods. The universe exists, and has certain attributes, and the universe does not have the same attributes you attribute to your Gods or gods.

Pan the Pantheist: Before you start killing each other, understand that each of you has applied the same label (or sign) to different things with different names. So let's get rid of the label. Let's say that the word "God" does not exist and has never existed. Now, let's alter the previous statements slightly, and you'll see there are no valid grounds for disagreement or hostility. Here goes:

Solomon the Jew: We believe there is an entity to which we refer using the word "Bigjew". We believe that the name of Bigjew is Jehovah. We believe that Bigjew has certain attributes.

Nabila the Muslim: Yes, that's fine. We believe there is an entity to which we refer using the word "Megamus". We believe that Megamus has certain attributes. Obviously the attributes of Megamus are not the same as the attributes of Bigjew. And why would they be? Two different things, called by different names. Each with different attributes to the other. No surprises there.

Alexandra the Ancient Greek: You are both right. There are many entities of a certain type in the universe, and we use the word "Greekling" to refer to those entities. Each Greekling has a different set of attributes and those attributes are different to the attributes of Solomon's Bigjew and Nabila's Megamus, named Jehovah and Allah respectively. And why wouldn't they be different? A Bigjew is not the same thing as a Megamus, which is not the same thing as a Greekling. So of course they have different names and different attributes.

Jon the Atheist/Scientist:"Mmm, yes I see what you mean. The aspects of reality that we scientists describe as a force of nature or a law of physics or a theory of how the world works are described by Alexandra as Greeklings. The sea is a Greekling called Poseidon or Neptune. War is a Greekling called Ares or Mars. Gravity is a Greekling that hasn't been invented yet.

Pan the Pantheist: Yes, and can you also see that the same principle applies to the positions adopted by Solomon and Nabila? Solomon refers to his conception of the universe as Bigjew. Nabila refers to her conception of the universe as Megamus. Solomon and Nabila have different conceptions of the universe so it's just plain common sense that a different word is used in each case, and that the different conceptions of the universe are named differently.

Of course, we pantheists don't have these problems. For pantheists, deity is truly omnipresent, as indicated by the acronym ETI---Everything that Is, has been, will be and could be. ETI is big enough to contain all the Greeklings, Megami and Bigjews, and all the Jehovahs, Allahs, Zei (plural of Zeus?). It doesn't matter what you call them or what word you use to refer to them, as long as you don't use another tribe's word to describe your tribe's thing.

Copyright © S R Schwarz 2007. All rights reserved.

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