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8.4 Consequences

The Argument from Being does not establish that we are distinct from God at all. If we were somehow identical to God, then our being would be being itself, and our continued existing would be obvious. This argument, by itself, can lead to several non-theistic accounts of the manner in which we depend on God. For now, I only explain what these other accounts are. Then at the end of the chapter, after the next Argument, will we have the logical means to discriminate between the other accounts and core theism.

The first non-theistic account says that all things of creation--all of us finite individuals--are in fact equal to God. This appears to solve the problem if all of us really are God (or Gods) though we simply never knew it. This is pantheism: that everything is God. An equivalent formulation is to say that “God is All That Is." Every smallest atom, every last bacterium, every planet, every galaxy, would then in fact be God. Religious life would then consist of learning (or remembering) this fact, which on the face of it is not obvious. It might be justified by Jesus saying that “the Kingdom of God is in you"8.4 or Sankara saying that “everyone is in fact Divine."8.5 Certain mystical experiences, such as those arising in nature mysticism, certainly appear to show that the Divine is present in all of nature, and these can be used to support pantheism. In the next chapter I will dispute pantheistic belief. Here I only note that its simplicity seems attractive intellectually. However, most of us, on practical reflection concerning our state in the world, cannot bring ourselves to believe that we are identical with God. Our everyday world certainly seems to be far from God.

A second non-theistic account states that the everyday world is an illusion: a false appearance produced by imperfect perceptions. Reality--if only we realized it--is actually the Infinite glorious God and only that God. This account is called non-dualism, and asserts that our everyday world is maya, a veil or an illusion. There appears to be a duality between the Eternal Brahman and the world of finite creatures, but reality is actually non-dual. Only Brahman exists, and the religious task is to acknowledge that in our souls.

There are further accounts which develop some kind of monism about what exists. In Idealism, God is taken as some kind of thought (or thinker) that includes all our individual ideas that appear to make us separate. There is even a way to bring in materialism, if we take energy as eternally existing and therefore divine. In that case, God (as being itself) is identified with energy, and then, according to our Argument from Being, is the being itself of everything that exists. We see that it is sometimes strangely difficult to distinguish pantheism from materialism.


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