Pantheism is a theological theory, commonly associated with the New Age movement in recent times, which equates God with the Universe. Often characterized as "Nature worship", it has been equally attacked by theists as being Atheism in disguise and by atheists as being theism in disguise. Because of this ambiguity, it has also served as a label applied to many scientists of questionable religiosity, but who clearly had a spiritual reverence for energy and nature, such as Albert Einstein and Carl Sagan.
Many east Asian religions have strong Pantheistic leanings, with Hinduism, Buddhism, and Taoism all exhibiting substantial forms, as well as some some African and Native American folk beliefs, and even Classical philosophy schools like Stoicism and those of some Pre-Socratic philosophers. The earliest known Pantheistic thoughts are found in those currents, although the whole matter is complicated due to the often intensely philosophical, inscrutable nature of their ideas (and the usual diversity of sects and branches of those religions which might have their own interpretations each of the whole concept), something that has led many western academics to argue unceasantly about which of the subtypes below it is actually being spoused every time.
There are significant divisions among Pantheists, based on how they view the essential nature of the revered universe.
- Monist Physicalist (or Naturalistic) Pantheism: Only believes in the proven or material, but reveres it; generally views the world with a scientific and mechanistic mindset. Represented by the World Pantheist Movement.
- Monist Idealist Pantheism: Only believes in the mental (i.e. panpsychism) and sees consciousness as the fundamental reality; tends to give credence to mental powers.
- Dualist Pantheism: Believes in both the physical and the spiritual, with varying bias towards either side. Perhaps the driving force behind the Universal Pantheist Society.
- Monist Neutral Pantheism and various other offshoots reject all of the above categories, but have minuscule followings due to sheer vagueness or specificity, and have not been substantially developed.
- Panentheism: Tries to bring back some of the theism by saying God is the universe but also exists transcendent to it. More specifically, it says either the universe is within God (part of his mind, usually) or God himself is within the universe (which might or might not transition into Pandeism below). This is generally idealist.
- Pandeism: Incorporates Deism by saying God once existed but has become the universe itself.
- The word "pantheism" once also denoted a belief in all gods, e.g. both pagan ones and Christ. However outside some role-playing games this meaning is essentially dead. Nowadays the term "omnitheism" is sometimes used for this instead.
- A God Is You: Everyone is part of nature - but since it's everyone, no one person is elevated above the rest as a result.
- Call a Rabbit a "Smeerp":
- One of the main criticisms against naturalistic pantheism, which is based on the belief that God is non-personal, non-sentient and in fact nothing but nature, energy and space-time in the scientific sense. Some Pantheists specifically object to using the word God, because everyone else expects it to have the personal, sentient meaning.
- This often leads to the confusion as to whether persons such as Einstein and Sagan, who expressed high levels of respect and wonder for nature, should be considered pantheists. As Richard Dawkins also expresses similar feelings regarding nature, it's entirely possible for one to feel about something as religious persons do about their faith without being religious.
- According to WPM, if this is the case, the person is already a Pantheist, and simply does not acknowledge it. It is, of course, possible to treat Pantheism as religion, philosophy, or both, and there are many avowed Pantheists who are also Christians, Wiccans, Unitarian Universalists, etc.
- Cessation of Existence: Most monist physicalist, and many other Pantheists, agree that existence as an independent consciousness ends upon death, and that all parts return to the whole, though that whole can be anything from the physical universe to an over-soul. Humanity is ultimately unimportant individually but we're immortal as part of the whole.
- Flat-Earth Atheist: Pantheist paladins in D&D games are entirely possible despite the presence of actual gods.
- Pieces of God: Pretty much the trope namer, though the standard Pantheist will believe that the pieces are all that there ever was, and still constitute some degree of a whole. Pandeism claims that God destroyed itself to become our universe (though this may be only temporary) - Pantheism claims that the pieces are all that ever was and ever will be.
- Sentient Cosmic Force: Basically, what they tend to worship versus a traditional god or goddess. The sentience may come from humanity versus the universe itself.
- Take a Third Option: Splits the line between atheism and theism (and so is often accused by each of belonging to the other). Or may sometimes be claimed by both sides. In general, most practicing pantheists insist they're a religion but they simply don't believe in the supernatural as people traditionally define it. Which makes no sense to some people until you recognize life, itself, is a miracle to them.
- You Mean "Xmas": Some people's interpretation of the Pantheist Festival of Light, a 12-day event from December 20th to 31st - which takes up the space around Winter Solstice, Christmas (which is replaced with Yule and certain naturalistic pagan traditions, depending on believers' preference), and the New Year (okay, the last second before it).