Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dirt worshipping heathens

That phrase has gotten some play lately. Spot doesn't intend to rehash the matter. But there was something in a Suddenly South post today that caught Spot's eye. Gump copies—or, shudder, maybe recites—part of the Baltimore Catechism he learned growing up Very Catholic. Here's the question and response that is of particular interest to Spot:

15. Q. Where is God?
A. God is everywhere.

The author of "dirt worshipping heathens" was obviously referring to pantheism. How much different is pantheism from the Baltimore Catechism?

Ambrose Bierce, the author of The Devil's Dictionary, didn't think very much. He defined pantheism thusly:

n. The doctrine that everything is God, in contradistinction to the doctrine that God is everything.

Bierce was being ironic, of course, boys and girls. But he makes a point.

Here's another definition of pantheism:

Pantheism is a metaphysical and religious position. Broadly defined it is the view that (1) "God is everything and everything is God … the world is either identical with God or in some way a self-expression of his nature" (Owen 1971: 74). Similarly, it is the view that (2) everything that exists constitutes a "unity" and this all-inclusive unity is in some sense divine (MacIntyre 1967: 34). A slightly more specific definition is given by Owen (1971: 65) who says (3) "‘Pantheism’ … signifies the belief that every existing entity is, only one Being; and that all other forms of reality are either modes (or appearances) of it or identical with it." Even with these definitions there is dispute as to just how pantheism is to be understood and who is and is not a pantheist. Aside from Spinoza, other possible pantheists include some of the Presocratics; Plato; Lao Tzu; Plotinus; Schelling; Hegel; Bruno, Eriugena and Tillich. Possible pantheists among literary figures include Emerson, Walt Whitman, D.H. Lawrence, and Robinson Jeffers. Beethoven (Crabbe 1982) and Martha Graham (Kisselgoff 1987) have also been thought to be pantheistic in some of their work — if not pantheists.

Spot thinks it is the Baltimore Catechism's position that God is in the dirt, too.

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