photo by Chris Halderman
I came to the realization a few weeks ago that I no longer believe in God. I had claimed it before, but it hadn’t truly sunk in until recently. I attribute that to the lingering effects of my Catholic upbringing.
However, this is not to say that I am an atheist either. Not that the label matters so much to me, but I wanted to explore the question. If someone asks me what I believe, what do I say?
I usually say that I’m Buddhist, and kind of leave it at that, but that’s not really honest. I am what some would consider a practical Buddhist because the Buddha-dharma in its truest form is simply a set of practices. It has almost nothing (yet everything) to do with what I believe about “God.”
This led me to lay all my thoughts on the table regarding religion – well, more specifically on a piece of paper in list form:
- I believe in a universal consciousness that permeates all things, and NOT an all-knowing, personal, humanoid god (or gods)
- I believe the universe and its consciousness are “divine”– based on my own reverence for and feelings of awe and mystery about the natural world that surrounds me.
- I believe that because we are made up of the same matter that makes up the rest of the cosmos, we are truly a part of the universe – created, preserved, and destroyed by it.
- I believe our earth is sacred, like a temple, and should be treated as such, and thus:
- I do not believe humans are greater or better than the natural universe
- I believe that all things visible and invisible are both divine and mundane simultaneously – as in, to me, there is no distinction or separation between what most people would call “God” and the material universe.
- I believe all miracles, apparitions, and unexplainable things are manifestations of the universal consciousness
- I believe that after death, our consciousness disperses and is conducted into wherever and whatever is needed by the universe – thus:
- I do not believe in an after-life or re-incarnation in any traditional sense
- Finally, I believe that morality is an individual endeavor, and the will to do “good” as opposed to “evil” is born out of one’s reverence for the natural world, which he/she is a part of, and thus for life – and that the rewards for skillful (good) behavior are the riches one reaps from living in accordance with his/her values here and now.
After I had my list, I researched different belief systems regarding “God.” Let me tell you, there are far more than I would have ever imagined. Was I an atheist, an anti-theist, a humanist, an animist? Some parts from each of those fit, but mostly not.
Finally, I found a term that seemed to more or less work: pantheist. What I then found was that there are multiple types of pantheism. Some promote actual nature worship; some are dualistic in nature claiming that there is only one spiritual reality and that the material world is an illusion.
What I landed on was naturalistic or scientific pantheism, which comprises most of what I’ve stated in my list above minus a few of my own additions. This site, though ugly, is probably your best bet for online information about pantheism.
In any case, this is all to say that it has helped me come to a better understanding of myself and my values. Not to mention, it’s a thought-provoking conversation piece.
What matters most to me in any belief system is that there always be openness to other beliefs and systems. I would never look at those above-listed beliefs as hard and set rules, or anything that I would try to force on anyone else.
If you have a moment and the inclination today, think about what you really believe. Push aside all of the dogma, and doctrine if you can. Go with your gut. What do you think and feel is right for you? Then, keep exploring if you so choose.
Wishing you a beautiful week.
Chief Editor and Founder of Urban Spiritual, I’m a classically trained singer and actor living in New York City, who has performed in the U.S. and Europe. I’m also a writer, traveller, meditator, arts-lover, and well-being enthusiast.