June 8 (Revised June 12)
By the way, Eunice and I will be heading to my brother's house at South Lake Tahoe on Monday, June 15, returning Saturday, June 20, this period being my break between Spring Semester and Summer Session. I will not be able to post during that time, but when I return, hopefully I will have some interesting vacation posts to supply to this blog. We plan, as usual, to do lots of fishing, especially trout fishing (plus possibly some fishing for other species as well), since the area is full of lakes and streams with populations of various varieties of trout. Hopefully, we will be on the "trout diet" for awhile. (Trout is healthy to eat just like Salmon.)
Call Me a Plurist
This post is a preview of my future series on Rational Spirituality. I plan to post on other topics for quite some time before getting into that series, but given yesterday's post and thought events of yesterday, this is the best time to have this particular topic.
I have spent a great deal of time thinking about spirituality during these past few years. Religion nearly always contains objectionable nonsense, although I cannot rule out the possibility of having a no-nonsense religion someday. Forms of spirituality which I have encountered from other sources also generally has aspects which I disagree with. Consequently, I have worked to define my own form of spirituality, something to help me understand this Universe in which we find ourselves without the nonsense or dogma of a religion. Thus, my attempt is to define a form of spirituality which is consistent with scientific evidence and all that we know about the human experience, while still allowing for that which remains a mystery to us, and that which we simply do not know -- yet. If others agree with me, even to the extent that they fall within certain general parameters which define my approach, so much the better.
A few years ago, I came up with an acronym, Plurist, which stood for Peace, Love and Understanding Rational Intuitive Spiritual Thinker. The first syllable of Plurist, "Plur," also stands for "plural," as in combining many different elements -- elements from different sciences, religions, and spirtitual ideas, plus my own ideas. This is not the same as something called "Pluralism," which is basically an well-intentioned attempt by religious people to reconcile different religious views. Pluralism also recognizes that there is no one "true" religion, but rather, that all religions can show a person the proper way to be. As such, Pluralism is basically an eclectic religious approach, while my idea of Plurism is a scientifically-based spiritual approach. I was okay with my acronym Plurist until yesterday. However, yesterday, while sitting in church, I realized that my acronym did not express my belief in and emphasis on evolution --biological, cultural, and spiritual evolution, as mentioned in yesterday's post -- and progress, a fine example of the kinds of things I do to pass my time while in churches with Eunice while being subjected to their nonsense. (I plan to write about what I do in church in future posts.) Anyway, I thought about what to do about that, and thought that there are some strategic words which start with the appropriate letters. Instead of Understanding, since I already had Rational, I could substitute Universe or Universal, I thought while avoiding the verbiage going on in church. Then I thought that perhaps I could replace Peace with Pure -- hmm, Pure Love Universe -- sounds good, but it does not include anything about evolution.
Shortly after church, I came up with the answer. Progress is the key. We live in a Progressive Loving Universe. That's it! Anyway, progress is peaceful, as I see it. Love has to be centrally displayed, since it is the main ingredient in anything divine. Some existing modern spiritual and/or religious ideas include Pantheism and Panentheism. Pantheism is a sort of science-based modern religion which believes that the entire Universe is in essense a living organism, which is God. It is a form of Universalism, as I see it. Panentheism is similar except that it views God as both part of the Universe, as well as something that extends externally from the Universe -- a sort of external creator of the Universe, which pervades the Universe that it created. Promoters of Pantheism, which I have learned about recently thanks to a fellow named Bob Quinn, a poster on Thom Hartmann's website, or Panentheism would say we live in a Progressive Living Universe. That is all to the good. Even the concept that everything is alive in a sense is not one I can discount. In the sense that the entire Universe is a unit, and it promotes life and growth, I suspect it is true. However, according to Bob, at least his view of Pantheism, there are two aspects of Pantheism with which I cannot agree. The first is that the universe is not conscious, at least not as we know it. I would say that our consciousness is part of the universe's consciousness, although microscopic in scope compared to the Universal consciouness. It is different in quantity, but similar in nature. The second problem with Bob's Pantheism is the idea that time has no meaning to it, so that everything is basically predetermined. Thus, according to Bob's Pantheism, we have no free will. I say that we must have free will. It is part of our progressive nature. It is also self-evident that we have free will, and any attempt to discount free will amounts to intellectual sophistry.
Another form of spirituality which I have read a little about recently is Progressive Theology. The Progressive part has got it right, but I suspect that it is just something which Progressive Christian Theologists came up with, a sort of Christian Theological orientation which believes in evolution and progress. As long as they still base their thinking on Biblical Scripture, such as the ideas that Jesus arose from the dead and is preparing to return, or that one must believe in him in order to avoid eternal damnation, or the general Judeo-Christian religious approach, which in my opinion has gotten so much about human nature tragically backwards, I am sorry, but they are still spewing nonsense as far as I am concerned. (I do give Progressive Theology credit for trying to fix that, but what they need is a completely new religion or form of spirituality, not a tweaking of an existing religion.) If I had to pick a mainstream religion, I would much rather be a Bhuddist, which is by nature progressive in its view of human nature and the Universe, and is far less dogmatic than the Judeo-Christian religions, although there is still nonsense in Bhuddism. If I were to pick a somewhat less-than-mainstream but established religion, I would pick Unitarian-Universalism, which is the orientation of my former church. In some ways, I still consider myself to be a Unitarian. It is more of a spiritual approach than a religion, is non-dogmatic, emphasizes the search for truth, and has good, prosocial emphases and principles, such as being rewarded for one's works both on earth and in the afterlife. Unitarians have a wide variety of personal emphases and beliefs, but tend to be progressive. As such, my approach seems to be compatible with Unitarianism. For me, however, Unitarianism does not address many important issues, at least not that I have heard, such as the role of science in spirituality, or the roles of consciousness or free will in the Universe, as mentioned above. Also, it is an outgrowth of Christianity, which I feel gives it a certain bias.
Consequently, I am still a Plurist, and my new acronym is Progressive Loving Universe Rational Intuitive Spiritual Thinker. This form of spirituality is then, Plurism, which stands for Progressive Loving Universe Rational Inituitive Spiritual Mentality. My general approach to spirituality, then, is one of Rational Spirituality. The more I read, the more I realize that ideas I have had, while perhaps not in complete agreement with these others, have much in common. There are far more of us rational spiritual thinkers than most of us realize, and we have a great deal in common. A study of religions as described in Wikipedia reveals that in addition to the plethora of older religions (pre-technological revolution) which often have ideas worthy of consideration (Major Religious Groups), there are a variety of relatively new religions (New Religious Movements) and spiritual ideas which have similar ideas in attempting to reconcile science, religion, and experience, as well as reconcile different religions with each other. A similar search of Wikipedia for descriptions of different spiritual approaches reveals far less information (Higher Concsiousness and Spiritual Approaches) and what there is tends to be conflated with religions such as Hinduism and Bhuddism. I find this unfortunate that we live in a world in which religion so dominates our views of spirituality. In future posts, I plan to summarize, critique and integrate the contributions of the various religions and spiritual approaches. But more importantly, I will describe the contributions of science to our understanding of the Universe and our spirituality. The main difference between Plurism and these approaches is that Plurism is more science-based and less based on beliefs or spiritual traditions. In common with Unitarian-Universalism, it emphasizes the individual's search for truth about the Universe and our place in it. As time goes on, I believe it is inevitable that Rational Spirituality as a movement will grow. I am one of those truth seekers who uses reason to understand spirituality. Just call me a proud Plurist.