Transcript of OnionUnlimited podcast episode 035
HELLO AND WELCOME TO EPISODE 35 OF ONIONUNLIMITED—THE PODCAST. I’m your host, Daniel Torridon. This episode is in response to my previous post entitled The Freedom to Rethink God—My Journey to Pandeism.
What can I say? Wow! I never expected to receive so many emotive comments on this subject. Most of them have been from Christians who have expressed that I have now lost everything—God, my salvation, my eternal life even. Some commenters have been a bit vague and just told me “Jesus is Lord” for some reason. I’m not really sure how that helps anything, but I honestly never thought that declaring myself a Pandeist would result in so many comments and direct messages, not all particularly positive, but it has.
So, let me just explain something. I don’t know what the truth is about God, creation, the Universe, consciousness, life and death, and so forth. I have absolutely zero evidence that a Pandeistic viewpoint relates to reality in any way, shape, or form, but I’ve adopted it because it feels right to me. It answers a number of questions I’ve contemplated for many years and does so in what, I feel, is a quite elegant way. In my mind, Pandesism is a minimalistic philosophy—it doesn’t require me to belong to a religion, or worshipping anyone or anything—but it provides scope for there being an initial Cause, and coupled with the concept of a cyclic Universe, allows for human consciousness to return to something, and start over. It gives me an initial “God”—although I prefer the term “Source”—that started things off, one who set out the laws of nature at the beginning but it also explains why he (or it) doesn’t appear to intervene in the Universe—namely, he no longer exists. Simple. His becoming the Universe, and everything in it, including us, makes a great deal of sense to me. I know with some certainty that the Universe is real. I know I exist, that I am conscious, and while this “knowing” may not be how things actually are, it feels real and it gives me a foundation to build and live my life on. Whereas, a transcendent, intervening God, does not. I simply see no evidence at all of that on a day-to-day basis, and it really adds nothing to my life. Granted, if I joined a religion it would provide me with a social aspect, a group to share my spiritual thoughts and feelings with, but I feel I can do that anyway. I have great, spiritual conversations almost every day with people.
Just to map out my reasoning a little—So, there is theism. Theism is essentially the belief that there is a God, or gods, who created the Universe and who continues to intervene in it by means of miracles, supernatural revelations, and so forth. Now, I personally have never seen a miracle. I’ve seen things that seem unexplainable, but nothing I could say was an actual miracle. I’ve never seen anyone convincingly healed, or raised from the dead for example, and those who claim to speak for God—supernatural revelation—how do I know? Anyone could claim to have a revelation from God. I could. It doesn’t mean it’s real. For me to remain a theist, as I was for 50 years, would require a personal experience of God, and it would have to be so overwhelmingly convincing that I couldn’t deny it.
Now, as a Jehovah’s Witness, and as one of the “anointed”, I felt I was “born again” and I experienced what I felt at the time was the indwelling of the holy spirit which lasted for some 15 years, but to be clear, I did not view this experience in the way that a typical Jehovah’s Witness thinks of it. For example, I didn’t believe in the 144,000 doctrine. I actually identified as a “born again Christian”, just trapped in a cult. I used to listen to Christian music in private. I frequented Christian bookshops, and chat rooms, and I had many a conversation with other Christians of many denominations or none. I do still believe I had a spiritual experience in 2004, but I no longer think of it so narrowly as being a Christian experience. I believe it was a spiritual awakening, and that I interpreted it at the time within the religious framework I was familiar with at the time, but all that said, that does not mean that God exists. What it means is that in 2004 I had a spiritual experience. I was engaged in much prayer and Bible reading at the time and I felt my spirituality ascend a level. That’s it. It may be that I was connecting to a Universal force of some kind—a residue of an initial spirit being, or Source,—or I may have just been imagining things. The experience felt was very real. I felt connected to “all that is”, but as time’s gone on I’ve realised that simply feeling “the spirit” or whatever doesn’t in itself mean that Christianity, or any other religion for that, is wholesale “the truth”. It just doesn’t.
To be fair, my experience of religion has been a bad one. I was a Jehovah’s Witness for 50 years, during which time I felt spiritually suppressed, suffocated, to be honest. I was told what to believe by a governing body who claimed to be appointed by Jesus as God’s only channel of truth on earth. I was never allowed to question what was presented as “the truth” and I was even mentally abused when I did dare to question. Now, that put me right off Jehovah’s Witnesses and religion in general. I did look elsewhere, within Christianity, but to be honest, I wasn’t that impressed. Everywhere I looked there were men, leaders, claiming to have found “the truth”, claiming to speak for God, with no perceptible credentials. You were just expected to accept it. In fact, most, not all, but most were quite arrogant in their outlook—they were right, everyone else was wrong—and then there were the threats, believe or spend an eternity in hell. It just felt completely wrong to me. So did the Bible. Everywhere I turned, people had a different interpretation of what the Bible meant. I could find no real evidence that the Bible was 100% inspired by God. I found contradictions in it. I found sections that I found morally repugnant, such as God killing 70,000 Israelites because King David dared to count how many soldiers he had in his army. I found accounts that condoned genocide, the rape and pillaging of non-Israelite nations, slavery, abuse. It just didn’t feel right.
Granted, I do find some Universal truths in the Bible. I’m not saying it’s completely useless, but I just feel nowadays it’s unnecessary. For example, Jesus’ teaching that we should love others as we love ourselves—that’s great, I mean, it really is, but it’s not exactly unique, is it?—and I could have figured that out myself. In fact, I don’t think the Bible has anything to offer that I couldn’t just, with a bit of thought, work out for myself. Basically, be nice to people—that’s it. In fact, the Bible is actually used as a weapon. Just think of the millions of people that have been abused or even killed “in the name of God” or “in the name of Jesus”, using the Bible as their authority. The same goes for other holy books. Basically, I came to the conclusion, that I didn’t need the Bible, or any other book, to live a moral, kind, unselfish life, and I certainly didn’t need to belong to a religion—Jehovah’s Witnesses, mainstream Christianity, or any other. In fact, I honestly do believe I’m a better person now than when I belonged to a religion. I’m certainly more honest now because I don’t feel a need to pretend anymore—to pretend to believe things that I don’t, simply because I’m told my salvation depends on it.
So, for me, theism is currently out of the question. I can not see, for the life of me, a God who is present in the Universe, and I see no religion out there—and trust me I’ve looked at many many religions—that teaches “the truth”. What I do see is very much falsehood, which is way easier to identify than truth and through a process of elimination, I’ve eliminated every religion, cult, sect, denomination that I’ve investigated, but in doing so, I’ve been careful not to immediately “throw the baby out with the bathwater”. Accepting that God may not exist now, does not in itself lead me to the conclusion that he has never existed, and this is where Pandeism comes in.
Deism, to start with, is the belief in a Creator, which I find completely plausible, but a Creator that does not intervene in his creation. That, for me, seems to fit the facts I can see. I certainly see no evidence of intervention in the Universe, but I needed to reconcile in my mind why God would not intervene. It seemed strange to me that God would set things in motion and then just stand by watching the good, bad, and ugly take place in his creation. Why does he not intervene when he observes, for example, atrocities taking place? There could be any number of reasons. Maybe he doesn’t care to intervene. Maybe he doesn’t have the ability to intervene. Or, maybe, and this is just one option among many, maybe he doesn’t exist anymore. That, to me, makes so much more sense—and why doesn’t he exist? Where did God go? He became the Universe. He became us.
Now, if I was alone in thinking these things, I could understand why people would accuse me of being crazy. Of course, that wouldn’t mean I was wrong, but I’m not even alone. Pandeism is an accepted belief by many people. It’s not new. It goes back at least as far as monotheism. It bears many similarities to Hindu philosophy, which dates back possibly as far as 2300 BC, and the more I study science, quantum physics and so forth, the more I find thoughts and ideas that fit into this Pandeistic worldview. Above all, and this is really important, it works for me. It’s a spiritual framework that my enquiring mind feels settled with. Nevertheless, all that said and done, I accept that Pandeism may simply not be true. It may not be, but that doesn’t make Christianity true, or Islam, or Judaism, or any other religion that I’m constantly being told is the only truth—and it’s okay, that’s okay. It’s my life. These are my beliefs. It’s all good.
When religious types come onto my Twitter feed and start telling me I’m “going to hell for giving up on Jesus”, or that my Pandeistic views are just a “reboot of paganism” as if I should be embarrassed by that, or that I’ve “lost everything—God, my salvation, my eternal life”, this does nothing to make me think those people have the truth, absolutely nothing. In fact, it completely turns me off, because I spent 50 years being forced to believe things by men who claimed to be God’s only channel of truth on earth.
I have met some Christians who are humble, not forceful, but on the whole, in my quest for truth, I’ve been subjected to many a religious type who comes across as extremely arrogant. They are right, everyone else is wrong, and if you don’t believe you’re going to be tortured forever in hell, or lose your eternal life, or die a horrific death at Armageddon. None of this does anything to warm me to the Christian God of the Bible. It may be true. Maybe God really is that cruel. Maybe there is no choice. Maybe it is a case of “do what God says or die”. If that’s true, then I’m sorry, but no. I won’t be forced by means of threats to worship a God like that. No way.
So, as it stands now, with Pandeism, I have a working model of how the Universe came into being. I also have a simple explanation as to why God permits evil—it’s not that he can’t or won’t deal with it, it’s that he no longer exists. I have the Universe. I have me. I have my consciousness. I have my love for other people and I honestly don’t mind if this is it—and if it turns out that there was no Source to start the Universe off—if atheism is a more realistic model—then I’m okay with that too. Or if any religious person out there can convince me that they have “the truth” without being arrogant or hurling around threats for my non-compliance, I’m open to that too, but for now, I still pray, I still meditate, I still feel I have a purpose in life. I still feel spiritual—whatever that means—and I don’t feel I need a religion. My thoughts are my own. I share them with others but I don’t claim to have “the truth”, and I don’t expect anyone to believe what I believe. I claim no authority whatsoever in these matters and above all, I remain open-minded and ready to learn.
Thanks for listening again. That’s all from me this time. Have a great day.