Thursday, December 16, 2010


I believe that God is the universe. Everything that exists is a manifestation of the divine--a divinity that may not be "good" or personally interested or even purposeful, but is beautiful. God is the atoms and God is the clouds in the pale-blue winter sky, God is mold in the drywall and God is IRS form 2290 (Heavy Highway Vehicle Use Tax Return), God is you and me and Kim Jong Il and Carrot Top.

I've been asked how this differs from atheism, and I'm not entirely sure. I don't believe in the divine violation of natural laws, although I do think we haven't (and maybe won't) discovered all natural laws. I don't believe that existence has a purpose, at least not one useful to humans. Maybe the only difference is that I see atheism as a philosophy without worship, and I worship the beauty of existence. (I tend to worship the pretty parts more, but hey, I've only got a human brain to work with here.) I love the world, I believe in the world, in a way that "I'm not religious" really doesn't cover.

My point is, when I gasp "oh God, oh God" during sex, I'm not kidding.


  1. Carrot Top??? You lost me at Carrot top :P

  2. ^ Yeah, gingers are supposedly soul-less, right? ;)

    I'd say what you believe sounds a lot like just vanilla Paganism (which is where it's at, yo). I share your beliefs that god is everywhere and in everything, even though I self-identify as Buddhist. Beauty is in everything, in everyone, even if it's not readily apparent. :)

    And, well, some things are just OBVIOUS. :D

  3. I'm an atheist and that sounds a hell of a lot like what I believe. The world is a tremendously, heart-wrenchingly beautiful place, and it makes me feel something like worship.

  4. I'm atheist, that means that I don't believe in god(s) of any kind. It does not mean that I don't get to consider the world a wonderful and beautiful place.

    I think the difference is mostly down to a choice of phrasings. I don't worship the world, I just appreciate a hell of a lot!

    I mean, in my opinion, I am only a very complex set of chemical reactions going on constantly - good thing that this set of chemical reactions are able to simulate happiness!

  5. God is... take all functions of and views on a single object in all situations and unite them.

    God is... where all understanding converges.

    Belief is the other side of knowledge.

    "Reality and the Sacred" is one cool lecture.

  6. I've had a hell of a time trying to articulate this exact philosophy to other people. Thanks for doing it for me!

    People usually fall into two categories, according to conventional wisdom: theist or atheist. This is sort of like a Door #3, wherein one can be an atheist (in the sense that one feels that there is no real, objective God) AND a theist (in that there being no God doesn't render the universe any less sacred).


  7. My atheism actually makes me worship life and this planet more because without a maker nor a meaning, it is more miraculous, amazing and precious. It seems to be a common sort of world view amongst atheist speakers I've listened too. I don't think people realise this, because I always hear people say what you've said here.

    Not that I'm saying you should call yourself "atheist", whatever works for you, but I just don't like this underlying sort of assumption that people seem to have about atheism being this cold, boring philosophy.

    I apologise if this is inarticulate, I've only had about an hour's sleep!

  8. Holly,
    I'd be curious if you think this video has any of the feel of your own sense of things.
    I'm big fan of the Symphony of Science videos, of which this is one. "We are made of star stuff, we are a way for the cosmos to know itself."

  9. 0:30-2:30:

  10. I do believe in divine violation of natural laws, but given quantum uncertainty, it's rarely required.

  11. This made me think of something Martha Beck wrote in Leaving the Saints:
    "I say "oh, God" a lot. Mormons believe that this is "taking the name of the Lord in vain," but it doesn't feel vain to me. It feels like prayer. People tend to say it when the divine aspect of their being connects with the divine aspect of everything else, when God within touches God without. What else could a physicist say, contemplating the way light curves through the vast continuum of space and time? What else could a human body breathe when its lips touch the skin behind a lover's ear? Every form of beauty perceived, every form of lovemaking, is God meeting God. And it is all pure."

    I've always enjoyed that idea.

  12. (sorry no native english speaker)

    Me beeing something like an agnostic atheist (you can't say anything about god so I don't believe in it) I have a worldy (not religious) critic on pantheism. I the old monotheist religions, world and god kept seperate (no matter if something like this exists at all) so at least, people couldn't claim to be god. In Pantheism, they are effectivly claiming themself as a part of god which sanctifies everthing they do in the first place, no worldy matters considered. That's wrong.

    In opposition to that I can state, that no universe, no god defines my meanings and that I always give the meanings to the stuff myself, (worse case, society does). Thinking yourself as an pantheist, is just another iteration of that. So please stay human and think about what you're doing, on your own terms.

    Also, who want's to sanctify all the brutal shit happening? Just an outcome of a godly univers, no further human influence part of the show? To me, it doesn't look like that.

    (I really enjoy your blog - keep on!)

  13. Ozy/Ulc/Nio - I feel like the difference (and I acknowledge this is pretty subtle and objective) is that an atheist might perceive beauty and wonder in the world, but emotions like "sacred" and "numinous" and "transcendent" are--even absent the concept of a personalized deity--indicative of a religious experience.

    Mousie - I can't resolve for myself the combination of "God can physically interfere with the universe" and "God is looking out benevolently for human beings." It's the whole Holocaust/dead babies/problem of evil dealie, and I've never been able to take "God knows best, maybe it turns out the world will be better off without that baby" for a satisfactory answer.

  14. Anon - I don't think that God has to be good, or even intelligent in any human-comprehensible way, to exist. I also don't think that claiming to be God is hubris, when I'm quite clear that while I'm a fragment of God, I'm not any more God than a bit of dogshit in the gutter. Everything is sacred, but "sacred," to me, does not always mean special or good.

    ...and if you ask me what it does mean, I'm gonna mumble and talk about how pretty sunsets are, isn't it wacky that all that's just atoms and photons, dude?

  15. Holly, it wasn't in any way a attempt yo label your beliefs with my words - I don't get to say anything about your beliefs, that's your business. I merely tried to say that there probably is a lot of atheists that feel more or less the same way you do, but choose to phrase it differently.

    In the end it might come down to me having a problem with the word 'worship', since that to me is tied to Christianity, and my first encounter encounter with that faith was a priest telling me that I would burn in hell because my parents choose to not have me baptised as a baby - might have soured me on the whole "worship" concept.

  16. Holly,
    I don't know much about kink (I'm 20 and very sexually inexperienced) but I do know a whole lot of things about philosophy. Technically I think that the precise term here is panenthiesm, the belief that god is embodied in all things. I don't bring this up to be a pedantic dick (or at least not exclusively to be a pedantic dick), but to suggest that if you're still interested in reading stuff by people that share your views, you might want to look for panentheists. The most notable European one is Spinoza, who has a quote I love "Whatsoever is, is in God, and without God nothing can be, or be conceived.". Panentheism also was hugely influential to Transcendentalism, the school of thought which includes Emerson and Thoreau. For all I know, you might already know all of this stuff, as you've indicated that you're pretty classically educated/well read but if not it might be worth checking out.
    I think that it says something about me that of the two comments I've posted on this blog, one was about everclear enemas and the other was about obscure philosophy nerd stuff. not sure what though.

  17. There can certainly be multiple forms of atheism. For me, I know the hard-core, cold, and brutal atheism with which I was raised, so yes, I am reacting against that when I call myself a pantheist.

    When I was about 23, my brother revealed to me that he is literally incapable of feeling a sense of wonder. He could be on the lip of the Grand Canyon and all his hiking buddies would stop short, awed, but he'd just think, "Oh, that's cool. It would make a nice photo." I was shocked that I could be related to this person--as for me, I'm a mystic in the sense that I have direct sensory experiences that feel like touching God; it's just how my mind works.

    Because there genuinely *are* a lot of atheists who don't have experiences of divinity in the world (and probably some of that is hardwired brain stuff), I think it's valid to say "I don't believe in certain kinds of God, *and* I'm not an atheist in the traditional sense." For me, pantheism is a word that sits comfortably at this strange place on the complex Venn diagram of spirituality, religion, and lack thereof. Your mileage may vary.