The Debate on God – A Pagan Perspective

Any argument attempting to prove or disprove the existence of a personal God inherently presents a false dichotomy. God is a subjective concept and therefore cannot be reified, rendering the use of logic insufficient as a means to resolve this argument. In any case, efforts to actually personify God are, in essence, clear examples of anthropomorphic fallacy.

The ongoing debate between atheists and non-pagan theists is an exercise in futility, a complete and utter waste of time in my opinion. Both sides rely upon argumentum ad ignorantiam, meaning an argument based upon ignorance, a practice which violates the laws of logic. Most atheists would disagree with this assessment as they maintain the burden of proof resides upon the claimant; they purport to make no claim and therefore shift the burden of proof to the theist but this practice is itself a fallacy. By the act of engaging in debate and demanding proof, the vocal atheist is effectively claiming that the theist’s belief is lacking evidence and is therefore false. The non-pagan theist in comparison will always find themselves claiming that God must exist simply because the existence of God hasn’t been successfully proven false.

I do not pretend to understand atheists who challenge any public statement of religious belief with incredulity and generally seem obsessed with the need to castigate those who possess such beliefs. Albert Einstein once characterized such individuals as “slaves who are still feeling the weight of their chains which they have thrown off after hard struggle. They are creatures who—in their grudge against the traditional ‘opium of the people’—cannot bear the music of the spheres.”

To prove with certainty that something is indeed true one must define all factors in the equation and then proceed with the argument for or against. Reasonable assumptions must first be agreed upon before the argument can continue. If you wish to hold a valid debate on God’s existence you must provide a basic definition for God. As previously inferred atheists and non-pagan theists usually attempt to personify God in their arguments and therefore encounter a logic block before they even begin.

Contemporary Pagan philosophy posits that God is immanent in the universe and equivalent to all that exists. Our definition by itself provides the proof to our claim. Allow me to explain in greater detail; the Pagan argument uses deductive reasoning to conclude that from our perspective, all that exists is God and therefore God exists. We do not conceive of God as supernatural but rather as the essence of nature itself.

The Pagan religion does not rely on doctrine, dogma, scripture or myth despite misconceptions to the contrary. We know beyond any possible doubt that God exists and indeed that consciousness itself continues after the death of the physical body although we do not claim to know in what form it continues. Conscious thought must be energetic for all that exists is fundamentally comprised of energy in one form or another. One of the basic scientific laws maintains that energy cannot in fact be destroyed, it may only be changed in some way.

I often think of Richard Feynman’s description of this principle when he said “There is a fact, or if you wish, a law, governing all natural phenomena that are known to date. There is no known exception to this law—it is exact so far as we know. The law is called the conservation of energy. It states that there is a certain quantity, which we call energy, that does not change in manifold changes which nature undergoes. That is a most abstract idea, because it is a mathematical principle; it says that there is a numerical quantity which does not change when something happens. It is not a description of a mechanism, or anything concrete; it is just a strange fact that we can calculate some number and when we finish watching nature go through her tricks and calculate the number again, it is the same.”

It is not terribly difficult to put this into context, from a Pagan perspective at any rate. Again, as God is in everything so too is everything within God, infinite and eternal. The death of one’s physical body is but a transformation to a different energetic state and the immaterial substance of one’s consciousness must also transform for this is the mandate of scientific law. We may not yet understand the mechanism for such change but the fact that the transformation takes place is incontrovertible.

I have said before that in order for religion to be relevant in this modern age, it must mark its beginning where science ends while remaining in agreement with everything science has previously determined to be true. I would like to conclude by returning to the words of Professor Einstein, who believed that “science without religion is lame, religion without science is blind. A person who is religiously enlightened appears to me to be one who has, to the best of his ability, liberated himself from the fetters of his selfish desires and is preoccupied with thoughts, feelings and aspirations to which he clings because of their super-personal value. It seems to me that what is important is the force of this super-personal content … regardless of whether any attempt is made to unite this content with a Divine Being, for otherwise it would not be possible to count Buddha and Spinoza as religious personalities. Accordingly a religious person is devout in the sense that he has no doubt of the significance of those super-personal objects and goals which neither require nor are capable of rational foundation … In this sense religion is the age-old endeavor of mankind to become clearly and completely conscious of these values and goals and constantly to strengthen and extend their effect. If one conceives of religion and science according to these definitions then a conflict between them appears impossible. For science can only ascertain what is, but not what should be.”

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About William Knox

Rev. William Knox is the founder and current Chancellor of the Contemporary Pagan Alliance. Ordained in 1995 as an interfaith minister, he serves as senior priest at the Sanctuary of Light in Ravenswood,WV. and is an invested brother in the Shanddite Order of Pagan Secular Monks.
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18 Responses to The Debate on God – A Pagan Perspective

  1. Pingback: Religion For Dummies | THE GOOD WORD

  2. I’d say that’s very spot on. That’s probably how I’d go about explaining it to an atheist. Something people have to keep in mind is – we haven’t explored the entirety of our planet or her oceans yet. There still could be things, places, even people we haven’t seen yet. Some may be peaceful and harmless, others may be hostile and aggressive but beautiful in their own right. Just because we don’t know something exists doesn’t mean we can discredit its existence. That’s like telling a person to their face, “You don’t exist!” when clearly everyone else can see them and now thinks the person who said that, is crazy or has issues to work out. I try not to limit myself this way.

    Here’s maybe a bad example to some, but a very good example to others. Santa Claus. The one we envision and see flying around on a sleigh, delivering presents for Christmas Day. Just because you’ve never seen him, does that really mean he can’t do these incredible and amazing things? I’ve heard my fair share of stories from some honest people who claim there might just BE some magick and truth behind the “Santa Claus” we know. Do I believe it? I’m not sure. I want to, I’d like to because to me it’s part of the Yule-tide, Christmas and seasonal magick. I like that. It bolsters the positive energy and thoughts during December.

    And just throwing this out here. They have supposedly come up and out with a new theory about the Universe essentially being like a giant “Brain” of sorts, which lends into the theory or “Law of Attraction” if you think it, you can make it happen, create, etc.

    • William Knox says:

      I find it humorous when people come up with these so called ‘new’ theories when we Pagans have been proponents of such unified theory for ages; we have always understood that everything is intimately connected on a spiritual level.

  3. Dear Mr. Knox,

    I decided to write a rather lengthy reply to your post, given its various, and rather bold assumptions, all of which make your article more of an ex cathedra exposé, than a shorter treatise about what your beliefs are, which is fair and all right, given this is your blog, and are as anyone else, master of your thoughts and convictions.
    Being offered nevertheless the generous possibility of a reply beneath your article, I’ll take my chance😇.
    Coming from a rather overly-qualified background, with nearly two decades of active Christian faith and ministry dumped following a confrontation with a reality-type of crisis, I hope to have properly seen your point(s) of view, and decided to respectfully comment the following…
    As much as anyone would want to equate Panentheism with a “one true religion”, it would be ultimately impossible to avoid identifying this “god”, who is supposed to be the sum of all that is, an infinite mass of personalities and non-personalities, impersonal nevertheless manifest, nowhere nevertheless everywhere. And even if my previous statement looks like identifying that of which I have said it cannot be identified, it’s just a delusion…
    The real problem begins though when your article juxtapositions concepts as “religion” with the Panentheism you advocate, eventually (directly or indirectly) with “paganism”, which in the end represents the puzzling effect having had prompted me to write this comment…
    As I said, I am a theologian, having learned, taught, preached and experienced religion(s) from various perspectives, having also acquired quite a bit of knowledge about history’s ancient, new and lately new-old systems of beliefs, all centred around identifying “god” with someone (…morphism) or something […(en)theism].
    Your article, even if vigorously disagrees with any “personification” of a “god” concept, does exactly the same, simply because from a rather more complex and rather stretched philosophical angle, “person” becomes anyone or anything defined as …(to be filled in, according to one’s personal understanding, and/or purpose).
    Defining is the first step to personification. And when you define your perception of “God” from your Panentheistic point of view, you have actually granted “personhood” to your concept, which given the fact that in your opinion it consists of even people, it becomes at least fragmentarily, anthropomorphic…
    All right, so what’s left!?
    Well, as tasteless and odourless the concept does sound, agnosticism is the one, humble attitude/choice for something which cannot be neither understood, nor defined, leaving us with the stern reality of having the suspicion of being not alone, feeling nevertheless the very real and painful reality of our cosmic loneliness…
    We do not know, simply because we don’t…
    Does that impede us from all the good we are capable towards each other and our lonely planet?
    No, not at all!
    Do we need some religion, institutionalised or not, for that?
    No, definitely not at all…
    Mankind’s greatest tragedy is having allowed religion(s) to hijack and usurp all the bits of good in us.

    You see, we all grow up from childhood to adulthood. Would it be possible for all to act as when we/they were young? You know, when the lion and leopard cubs play with the lambs and bunnies!?

    That way no one would ever have to wait and dream about a time when some god would have to usher such a wonder world, in…

    Because for us, humans, it is, as it’s always been, a meter of personal choice.
    As for our furry and feathery cohabitants, they’ll follow, as they’ve always been doing it…

    With friendly respect,

    (Rev.) Romulus Campan BA (Lic. Th.), Cert.Ed.,
    P-grad. Cert. Religion, Spirituality &Mental Health,
    P-grad. Cert. Special Psychopedagogy
    etc. etc. etc….

    • William Knox says:

      I am indeed speaking ex cathedra as I write from the perspective of one who has personally experienced theophany and I do not doubt the validity of my relationship with my Goddess. I find your response to be well reasoned and I thank you sincerely for your contribution to the great conversation. I should like to point out that, when placing my faith aside for the purposes of engaging in logical debate, I actually agree with you; agnosticism is the only reasonable position for anyone applying reason and logic to the question of spirituality.

      There is no question in my mind that spiritual practices are completely illogical and cannot be supported by reason alone. With that in mind, we must also consider that as a species we ourselves are not logical beings by nature. In the absence of any evidence to the contrary, it is reasonable to assume that religion is a product of humanity’s evolution, for we alone of all life forms on our planet seem to possess the capacity for such belief.

      You are correct that my panentheistic beliefs do in fact personify the divine universe for, in my view, all is Divine and the Divine simply is (sum deus ergo deus sum). It is important to recognize, however, that I do not actively engage in debate with others with the goal of arguing for or against the existence of God; I find such arguments to be wholly unnecessary.

      In the end one’s personal beliefs do not matter in the slightest; many avoid the truth in this instance but we cannot deny that everyone faces the unavoidable transformation of death and the mystery of what lies beyond the veil with equal ignorance. If spirituality allows one to live in harmony day to day, it follows that one’s faith serves similar purpose as it allows us to embark upon the final journey free from our natural human tendency to fear the unknown. Is it logical to believe in the Gods and the continuation of spirit? Clearly it is not….but it is very human.

      • Dear Rev. Knox,

        I am absolutely delighted by your coherent and indeed, intelligent reply. There is one instance alone, where reason and logic will have lost their necessity, and that is as you have mentioned, a theophany.
        With all my knowledge and -unfortunately- acquired, general skepticism, I must raise my hat, as no human being should have the right confront the sincerity of such an intimately personal matter. Respect has to raise above doubt!
        I am also extremely pleased with the truly academic manner in which you assess and acknowledge parts of an opponent’s argument, even if generally you may be situated on a rather remote, in our case theologically opposite position.

        As a conclusion -for the moment-, allow me to thank you for your openness, promising to closely follow your posts.

        With friendly respect,

        (Rev.) Romulus Campan

  4. Pingback: Addressing William’s Immanent God | Call Me Em

  5. Pixie says:

    I find myself in this “argument” with atheists all the time since I seem to know quite a few closed minded ones. I think in my personal experience at least, the Einstein quote is spot on that these individuals are often recovering from what I’d consider spiritual abuse (often at the hands of one of the large mainstream religions). I’ve just come to the conclusion you can’t have a real, actual debate with folks in this situation so I just let it drop. I’m glad you put it out there though, so nicely 🙂

    • William Knox says:

      Thanks for the compliment 🙂 Although this is only my opinion, I find those whom Professor Einstein would call ‘fanatical atheists’ to be as aggressively confrontational and unreasonable as fundamentalist Christians who routinely condemn all non-Christians to the flames of perdition. Whether they realize it or not, the absolute atheist who engages in religious debate for the purpose of changing the mind of their theist opponent is equally guilty of proselytizing.

      I have always felt that one’s religion is an extremely personal matter. Like most Pagans, I treat any attempt to directly and forcefully convert another to a different spiritual tradition (or none at all) as utterly disrespectful. Our job when confronted by the atheist in debate, assuming we choose to participate in any such endeavor, is not to convince them of the existence of Deity but rather to show them that they simply do not know the answer to the great question.

      Do our Gods exist? Looking through a spiritual lens, we theists would say yes. The strong atheist will say no when actually pressed into answering rather than prevaricating as they usually do. From a logical scientific perspective however, the only valid and acceptable answer is to admit that one doesn’t actually know and therefore one cannot successfully argue either claim in the first place.

      • Pixie says:

        I agree. lol But for the record, those atheists do NOT like it when you point that out. I agree with you on the front that honestly, it’s best to keep an open mind – when you don’t actually have proof.
        I can only assume that this has become such a public issue in recent culture because of rampant spiritual abuse. I think that’s an important connection to make because most people I know like that haven’t had positive experiences with religions that allow you to think and decide for yourself. While I certainly intend to raise my children to be Pagan meaning – in our home, we will celebrate Pagan holidays, perform Pagan rituals, and talk about the divine in a Pagan way if my kids should express an interest in other religions that would be something I can guide them in exploring. That’s how I was raised, and I just think that’s important. (Well, not the Pagan household part, I actually was raised in a Christian household but no real discouragement was made of my path either despite that they don’t understand it and certainly think it is wrong. I’m not saying my experience was perfect but it’s a far cry from the experiences of many people I’ve known both Pagan and not.)

      • William Knox says:

        I was fortunate enough to be raised in a predominately Pagan household and while my mother is a devout witch she always allowed me the freedom to explore any spiritual path I felt drawn to. I follow the same philosophy of parenting with my own children and though we happily celebrate Pagan holidays and family ritual should they someday decide to become Mormons I would support them fully (I might privately question their sanity but that’s not the point). I have always believed that it is my responsibility as a parent to love my children for who they are, not for who I should like them to be.

  6. “… the immaterial substance of one’s consciousness must also transform for this is the mandate of scientific law.”
    In the Upanishadic scientific and philosophical tradition of non-duality, a distinction is made between ‘reflected consciousness’, that of the individual, and pure, unchanging, unconditioned and eternal consciousness: atma/brahman, the absolute reality. I agree with most, or all of what you say in this post, which is very well argued. Alberto Martin.
    (PS. There is room there for a personal dimension of that reality, called God, ‘Ishvara’, as well as for an impersonal dimension, without any qualifications or attributes – nirguna Brahman). They would correspond to Being and Beyond Being.)

  7. janineyork says:

    While this argument was hard for me to follow, as it was necessary for me to look up many of the words used (haha), I am very impressed and intrigued by the logic. I will be back and following your arguments in the future. I simply can no longer follow any religion that excludes or coerces those who do not agree. It was a great conundrum when raising my child in the deep south “Bible belt” where I did not want her to be ostracized nor did I want to mislead her. I simply did not take her to church and taught her to be good and follow her heart. The Divine rule of “Do unto others” was the rule of our house. I believe that much good sense can be derived from all prophets. I am a lover of Khalil Gibran, Jesus Christ, Buddha, Voltaire and Einstein equally. I feel what is right for me, it is within my spirit. I have no right to tell you how to feel or find what is right for you, unless you infringe on my rights to believe what I find true in my heart (I do not wish to question someone elses beliefs, as I do not know what is true any more than any other, but at the same time I ask that people respectfully give me the same right.) I do not argue spirituality with anyone, it is personally theirs alone. I will debate and I love to educate myself, and open my mind to new possibilities as I know that I am incapable of knowing all. Voltaire said “If God did not exist it would be necessary to invent him.” Since I started to question my religion (Presbyterian) I realized that fear of the unknown mandates religion for most. This has been a very enlightening debate. I am very happy to have found your blog. Thank you for the enlightenment!

  8. Henry Jekyll says:

    Once again sir, it is nothing short of delightful to read your posts. Deus sive natura provides an unshakable foundation for a much less violent world.

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