How I Became Pantheist (And You Can, Too!)

Nebula

            A while ago, I wrote a post about Pantheism. I couldn’t go as in-depth as I would have liked because it was getting pretty long and I didn’t want to lose anyone. In this post, I thought I’d dive into how I arrived at Pantheism.

At the ripe age of three months, I was indoctrinated into the Catholic Church by a ceremonial cleansing of my inherent association with a rebellious young couple that just had to eat apples, acquire knowledge, and cover their nakedness. I was probably a Catholic before then, too, but I was still destined for Hell because I was carrying around Adam and Eve’s dead weight.

Anyway, I was officially a Catholic for a good part of my life. When I say “good,” I mean large because it was really an atrocious part of my life. My dad had always been a devout Catholic and would not have married my mother had she not converted to Catholicism. We went to church every single Sunday and attended bonus masses for Christmas, New Years Eve, and other random ones the church threw at us when it was feeling underappreciated.

In my early years, I accepted what they taught me without question. My sweet, innocent child self didn’t know any better. I had thought I could trust authority and that my parents knew best. I assumed God was silent just because He didn’t feel like talking to me. Eventually I started thinking I wasn’t good enough or that He didn’t like me. It wasn’t fair that He showed other people signs, came to them in their sleep, or spoke to them when no one else was around.

I started to become skeptical around the age of 10. I started actively searching for proof of His existence. I started begging Him to show me a sign, any sign, just so that I knew He existed. I didn’t think that was too much to ask of Him, given that He had all the power in the universe and was always watching me anyway. Still, no sign came.

Gradually, I started to accept that He probably didn’t exist since I’d never heard from him and could not wrap my head around how anyone could know the story of Adam and Eve if no one else was there to witness it. I guess I was a literal apologetic atheist around this time because I would begin every prayer at church with “Dear God, please forgive me for not believing in you…” The only reason I prayed at all was because in church there would be moments of silent prayer, and if I’m going to be kneeling there pretending to pray, I might as well try to get in good with Him just in case.

When I was twelve, I relapsed. This was a dark time in my life where I was experiencing depression for the first time and wanted to kill myself. I thought about death almost constantly. With that, I thought about Hell and how I would be going there when I died. I needed something to cling to, some sort of promise from the other side. I became pretentiously religious at this time. I would carry around rosary beads and prayer cards in my purse. I read a little bit of the Bible every night. My mom was working for a nondenominational Christian church at this time, so I received a lot of books and information from them. I even joined a youth group just to try to feel some sort of connection with God.

He still seemed to ignore me, and my depression only worsened. I felt so out of place in the youth group and in the religion in general. It always felt like I was simply putting on an act to fool everyone around me. If God was real, He’d see right through the act anyway. I still began every single prayer telling Him I was sorry for not believing in Him.

Gradually, my depression lessened. I still had bad days, but the suicidal thoughts were less frequent. Religion fell into the backdrop of my life. I didn’t believe, but I didn’t not believe either. I just stopped thinking about it. It was easier that way.

This apathy gradually reverted back to passive atheism. I was okay with this for the most part. It was easy to discredit the church and most of what it stood for. I agreed with very few of its teachings, it had no proof, it blatantly ignored science, and I felt like an outsider anyway. However, I still could not stomach the idea that we’re all completely alone in this world and no one was listening to us or looking out for us. As a result of this fear, I became a good-time atheist. Whenever things we’re going well, I was all “eh, there’s probably no god,” but when things got difficult or I felt desperate or sad, I would pray to God, apologizing for renouncing my faith and promising him anything if He would just help me out a little.

This worked until I was around 15 years old. My sophomore year of high school brought with it another long period where I was extremely depressed. This time was even worse than the first. I had planned out my own suicide, highly detailed, doing online research to make sure I got it right.

Thankfully, before I actually went through with it, I stumbled upon The Secret, a self-help book utilizing the law of attraction (not gravitational attraction, but the other one). I read the book, desperate for a way out that did not involve taking my own life because I was scared. The book did wonders for me that I am still eternally grateful for. (IMPORTANT NOTE: I am not at all endorsing the book itself. I am highly skeptical about its efficacy. It just happened to be the gleam of hope I needed at the time to hold onto life.)

There was something one of the interviewees, James Ray said in the book that stuck with me: (This is all spoken by the same speaker, James Ray, just embodying different perspectives.)

 

“Speaker: Describe energy.

‘Scientist’: Okay, it can never be created or destroyed; it always ways; always has been; everything that ever existed always exists; it’s moving into form, through form, and out of form.

Speaker: Who created the universe?

‘Theologian’: God.

Speaker: Okay, describe God.

‘Theologian’: Always was and always has been; never can be created or destroyed; all that ever was, always will be, always moving into form, through form, and out of form.”

Speaker: You see, it’s the same description, just different terminology.* and **

 

This was incredibly enlightening to me. It was perfect. God equaled energy. Everyone knew that energy existed. I just had to meditate or something to tap into that internal energy so that I could communicate with God. I still loosely kept with Catholicism just because I had to go to church regardless, but I explored the implications of this new idea and the opportunities it opened for me.

I still couldn’t get it to line up with science, however, and being a person of science, this discomforted me a lot. I couldn’t just ignore facts that didn’t align with what I believed, and I couldn’t keep disingenuously manipulating my way around questions my token atheist friend threw at me. Also, it was inconvenient not having an actual label for my religion, even though I was still superficially Catholic. (And labels are very, very bad.) Internally, I was in a state of religious-flux that consumed my psyche for a long time.

It wasn’t until my first year of college that I found clarity. I was talking with an anonymous stranger at a party (I still openly referred to myself as Catholic so that I wouldn’t seem weird) and we came upon the subject of religion. I was anonymous enough and he was inebriated enough for me to talk about my real beliefs.

“You know, that sort of sounds like pantheism.”

And there was my epiphany.

I researched the religion and found that it coincided with what I believed so perfectly that I adopted it as mine. Of course, I started with panentheism because I still wanted that supreme being. Gradually that being fell away and I was left with where I am now: a happy, no longer that confused pantheist.

Unfortunately, I’m still not completely comfortable being open about my religion. I told a few friends, and just a few months ago I said it in front of a large group of mostly strangers, so I’m getting better.

My parents still don’t know, though. Last summer, I accidentally let it slip that I hadn’t been going to church, and my dad immediately took the offensive. I told him I didn’t believe in the Catholic principles, and it infuriated him so much he said words that cannot be taken back, threatened to disown me, and then disappeared for a few hours. When he came home, I immediately recanted everything I had said, telling him that I didn’t mean it and that I was only using fighting words. I basically groveled for fifteen minutes, he begrudgingly accepted, and we moved on, with me hating myself just a little bit more. I felt like I sold myself out for my father’s approval, but I couldn’t afford for him to disown me while I was still relying on him for part of my college tuition.

Perhaps once I graduate and become self-sufficient, I’ll tell him. Most likely I won’t, though. Once I’m a good distance from him, it won’t really affect him at all, and so it would probably be better not to crush his spirits.

So anyway, that’s how I got to where I am now. I’m still highly agnostic and probably always will be because, really, we can’t ever know with 100% certainty, and I still really like the idea of some greater being looking out for us. However, the cold, disturbing truth is always better than a comforting lie, and I’ve found that I’m better able to appreciate life and the beautiful complexities of our universe.

 

* Byrne, Rhonda. The Secret. New York: Atria, 2006. Print.

**While most of the scientific claims in the book are horrendously false or misrepresented, this one is actually true, as Einstein demonstrated.

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2 Responses to How I Became Pantheist (And You Can, Too!)

  1. First and foremost, you have my sympathies with regards to your struggle with depression. Getting close to the point of ending one’s life is a dark, miserable, and lonely place. You are an excellent writer, and at least the fact that I always seem to like and (less frequently) comment on your posts tells me that I greatly enjoy your writing. For whatever this sentiment is worth, your existence has had a positive impact on me, and I am grateful that you are around.

    Second, I hope you are able to find a happy place in which you can express your views on religion to your family. I myself am a closet atheist to most of my family (only my older brother and sister know). The argument and subsequent emotional turmoil you had with your father is a great fear of what might happen to me with my family. I am saddened that we live in a world where one human can talk to another across the entire globe, but there are those of us who cannot express ourselves as we perhaps need or would like to.

    The former Lutheran in me wants to add some positivity to this comment to make up for the negativity (I heard once that Lutherans were Catholic Lite: half the sacraments and twice the guilt, ha!). So I shall say this then: that you are able to talk freely online about your views is a great thing, and I think your words enrich the human experience.

    Like

    • Iris says:

      Sirius, thank you so much for your kind words. This post was very personal, and so I was nervous about putting it out into the world. I really appreciate your support. Your comments are always so enlightening, comforting, and uplifting, much like your posts. Depression is a dark, dark thing, and living in denial of our true selves only makes it so much worse. I’m especially sympathetic to your own story because I honestly cannot imagine a religion with more guilt built into it than Catholicism.

      Like

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