Process theism anyone?

During a conversation about religion yesterday, an individual plainly stated, “There is no such thing as God.”
Later on, another individual prefaced some remarks referring to the 1st individual as an agnostic (which I thought somewhat generous, given the matter-of-factness of the first’s remarks.) The first responded, “I am not an agnostic, I am a process theist.” He proceeds to explain that while he does not believe in any type of personal God who intervenes in individuals’ lives, he believes that the universe is greater than the sum of its parts. And whatever “extra” there is, whether it be love, nature, etc., is what he considers God.

To me, this seems somewhat Humpty Dumpty-ish. Why profess to believe in a God that is so un-godlike?

Because Nominalists like to invoke the name “God” in order to avoid criticism. Even though what he refers to does not resemble the christian, muslim, jewish, or any other remotely personal god in any way, it makes other people feel better to call whatever vauge force you belive in, “God”.

Nowadays, people don’t care too much what you believe, only THAT you believe. Curious.

Dinsdale: because there’s no other useful word for it in the English language.

My beliefs seem to be similar to those of your friend; I refer to them as Wicca, or more generally as neo-Pagan, or even more generally as animist. In fact, I like to say that I seem to be Wiccan for the same reasons that a lot of people are atheist. I don’t believe in a Jehovah-like ruler of the universe, although I occasionally worship certain aspects of the universe as personified deities (e.g. Freya, Brigid, Hecate, etc.)

What I do believe in is the interconnectedness of everything in the universe, and the deity/ies that I worship are everything in the universe. I like to say that my deities are omniessent rather than omnipotent; they don’t rule the universe, they are the universe. And I call them the Goddess and God, not because they’re a big Man and Woman In The Sky but because that’s as close as we come in English to describing such concepts without writing out an entire paragraph like I just did.

If I were speaking Japanese or Gaelic I’d be sitting pretty (compare the concepts of kami and sidhe), but as it is, I’m afraid I’m stuck with God/dess, as inadequate as those words are.

It goes both ways. I am disappointed in people who say you don’t need God to be moral and then turn around and say being moral requires Empathy, and then basically end up describing Empathy as God – which means they do believe in God they are just loathe to say so.

Sounds like he/she was just stating disbelief in the Judeo-Christian God figure, not stating disbelief in all spirituality. Without the standard definition, he/she was free to define the terms.

That person could ask you why there’s a need to limit your definition. (I assume this person does not take scripture literally.)

It also sounds a bit like Pantheism, which is equating the sum of the universe with God. (nothing extra…the universe itself is enough)

Aimin’ that dig towards anyone in particular, dear? ::fluttering eyelashes coquettishly:: I do so hate it when people insist on telling me that I “really” believe.

You mean, God as Love, sometimes three Loves in one Love: Love, Lover and Loved?

But, forgeting the subject, verb, object distinction, Everyone knows the Christian God is Love. I would think they’d get hassled more going around claiming not to believe love exists.

I suppose God is the only word you can use to describe whatever “otherliness” you believe in, but the “big three”
religions use the word in a very specific sense, it is the NAME of their deity, not a class of being. Imagine if someone, responding to the question “Do you believe in Thor, the god of Thunder?” answered "Yes, but my Thor is just the fundamental order/endless love/yadda-yadda of the universe; we are all Thor.
Sounds a bit stupid to me. If the word is so ill-defined that it can be used for anything vaugely supernatural, then it just ain’t a good word.

Aw, Gaudere, you know I ain’t digging on you darlin’. You can continue leading people down the path of perdition in you prefer. Just don’t be hiding that little light of yours under no bushel.

And Peloguin – the Christian God does have a name – it’s “I am he who am,” usually left untranslated in Hebrew as Jehovah. It is an elegant name.

(But anyway, God is just short for Good. You couldn’t go around saying I believe in God. Which God? Lucifer. It is a limitation of the language.)

You could say “I believe in gods” or “I believe in the god of thunder” or “I believe in demons.” Just because Christianity has coopted this word in this society doesn’t mean you can’t try to take it back.

Oh! I thought you were just calling me a theist. Thanks for clearing up that you are in fact saying I am a theist actively seeking to lead others to their utter destruction and eternal damnation. Why, I almost got offended there! :smiley:

I guess what I am trying (and failing) to get at is that people often use their own fuzzy definitions for God as a social lubricant; a way to escape judgement.

To be perfectly honest, I guess I just resent the fact ANY belief in ANY kind of afterlife or deity is respected, no matter how incoherent, but when I say that I am an atheist, I get looked at like I just said that I kick puppies as a hobby.

It seems to me that people are so desperate to believe in any kind of deity, that they will take the beliefs of others, no matter how different, as confirmation of their own.

Heck, Peloquin, I even know of some people who like to insist atheists really do believe in God, they just won’t admit it. ::shaking head sadly:: Of course, if you define “God” as something that evidently exists, then you can tell atheists they don’t really disbelieve in God so then everyone can be one big, happy, God-believin’ family and no one will have any beliefs or questions that might make you uncomfortable about the very existence of one of the pillars of your beliefs. (“God is everything Good; Frosted Flakes are Good. You believe in Frosted Flakes, right? So you believe in God! You’re just scared to admit it. Here, have a pamphlet.”)

Peloquin wrote:

I’ve noticed that, too.

If an evalgelist comes to someone’s door to spread “the Word of Jesus,” and the person who answers the door says that he is Jewish, or Muslim, or Buddhist, or Shinto, or even (gasp!) Mormon, the evangelist will usually say, “Oh, sorry to have disturbed you,” and move on.

If, on the other hand, the person who answers the door says that he is an atheist, the evangelist will try to convert him. It’s as though an evangelist respects your religion if you have one, but doesn’t respect your decision not to have a religion. Or, worse, the evangelist thinks atheists are people who were raised Christian but later “rejected Christ,” or are people who just haven’t made up their minds yet about which religion they want to follow.

Tell him he’s a Taoist.

Well, I suppose if people asked me if I believe in God, I could say, no, I believe in the sidhe. Or kami. Or the animist lifestream. Which would be fine, except they’d have no idea what I was going on about.

Hey. Maybe it’s a good idea then.

matt-mcl- You are right, it IS a good idea to lay out your beliefs like that. See, if you say to this hypothetical person, “Yes, I believe in God” then you are lying. Tell them the truth and face their confusion and/or condemnation. It helps everyone to have their beliefs challenged in the open air.

(This is a little perverse on my part, but I LOVE it when a conversation among a group of casual aquaintances turns toward religion and everyone gets quiet and really, really uncomfortable. I call it the “oogies”.)

Well, this conversation (actually 2 conversations) took place in our UU church, where you don’t last long if you get the “oogies” about discussing religion.

I’m not sure it is appropriate to take a term that you have reason to believe the majority of people interpret in a certain way, and assign it a personal definition. Or, if you are using a word in a manner removed from the common definition(s), you should specify your meaning through your context.

In a previous conversation, the “process theist” talked about the “worship” we engaged in at our church (if you don’t like calling it a church, fine). Mrs D asked if that was the appropriate word, because didn’t worship presuppose a divinity? PT responded, “If you look in a good dictionary”, you’ll find it has something to do with communal striving for betterment and understanding, or something like that. So I decided to look thru a few dictonaries, abridged and un, and they seemed to pretty consistently presume a divinity being worshipped. So when I informed the PT of that, he responded, “Well, if you look in theology texts …” But dammit Jim, I’m a lawyer, not a theology student! And he TOLD me to look in a dictionary!

I know I always used to dislike it when Howard Cosell would use some word, and I’d think, “That’s wrong.” And I’d look it up and find that he was properly using the 8th archaic definition.

I acknowledge that in my christian-dominated community, it is handy to say, when asked, that my family attends a Unitarian church, because most people don’t know that means God is optional.

IMO process theism is to theism as processed cheese food is to a nice aged cheddar.

well, the Christians do

jmullaney wrote:


“Jehovah” is merely the vulgate Latin attempt to spell out the Hebrew name of God in the 2nd or 3rd century A.D… The Old Testament scriptures write out the name of God as four Hebrew consonants (written Hebrew had no vowels until the 7th century A.D.); these 4 consonants are best transliterated into modern English as YHWH. Most modern scholars agree that the probable pronunication of the Hebrew name of God was “Yahweh.”


Gaudere, honestly! You are like someone who claims not to believe in pretzels, but admits to believing in a brittle or chewy glazed usually salted slender bread often shaped like a loose knot, and then you get flustered if someone should point out to you that that is what a pretzel is, and then complain the word pretzel has a lot of overhead because of they way it is described as a nice way to kill an afternoon in the Karma Sutra and you don’t want anyone to think you are one of “those” people.

This is the same thing.

I don’t get it. Don’t you, as a moral person, want others to be moral also? So why is it when people come to you, who have this sense of being in their heart which tells them what is right and what is wrong that they call God, and ask you if you believe in God, you turn around and say no? Now there are plenty of wolves lined up to mislead these people. Why must you be antagonistic? Why do you insist on complaining about it when these people get misled while not helping get these people pointed in the right direction yourself? Why must you be dim? Or is your whole morality a lie?

Not only that, but you are stealing from atheists who don’t believe that empathy exists or can be taught or that people have love in their hearts or want to do what is morally right the name I’m sure they would prefer to reserve to themselves. If you are an atheist despite your belief in love, what are these people supposed to call themselves?

Thanks tracer – I knew that. I just didn’t want to do all that extra typing. Feel free to follow people around on this board who mention Jesus that his name is really Yeshua too! :smiley: