Syntheism

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Syntheism is a new religious movement focused on how atheists and pantheists can achieve the same feelings of community and awe experienced in traditional theistic religions.[1] The Syntheist Movement sees itself as the practical realisation of a philosophical ambition for a new religion dating back as far as Baruch Spinoza's pantheism in the 17th century and, most directly, British-American philosopher Alfred North Whitehead's pioneering work towards a process theology in his books Religion in the Making in 1926 and Process and Reality in 1929.[2][3]

Syntheism may also be viewed as a response to the lack of atheistic and pantheistic belief systems in Western cultures, while being more abundant in Eastern cultures, for example as Zen Buddhism, Dzogchen Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta Hinduism, Zoroastrianism and Jainism.[4]

Logo used by The Syntheist Movement, describing the Universe as an ellipse over the circle of the primordial void

Etymology[edit]

Syntheism comes from the Greek syntheos (from syn- for with or creating with and -theos for god). It implies that the proper approach to the concept of God is that humanity has created, creates or will eventually create God – as opposed to the traditional monotheistic view that God created the world and humanity.

Besides the activism of The Syntheist Movement, a syntheistic approach to philosophy and religion has also been advocated by American philosopher Ray Kurzweil in his concept of the forthcoming Singularity.[5] It is also supported by French philosopher Quentin Meillassoux in his idea of "God is a concept far too important to leave to the religious" in his book After Finitude.[6]

Communities[edit]

Syntheism has an international Facebook community with over 1,500 members.[7] Its website hosts a blog, holy festival information, and links to media and other resources.[8] A Swedish community of over 700 members has held several local events.[9][10]

Spiritual naturalism is considered to be an American version of Syntheism.[11]

A Syntheist congregation conducting a workshop in Lindsberg, Sweden in June 2014.

Notable works[edit]

As early as 1982, Mikhail Epstein, Russian–American critical thinker, produced his "Manifesto of Minimal Religion" claiming that post–atheistic spirituality in the Soviet Union moves beyond all differences among traditional religions and establishes a new type of spirituality, principally non–dogmatic and unorganized, aspiring for the God in the future rather than in the past tense. [12]

American theoretical biologist and complexity theorist Stuart Kauffman published a syntheist manifesto called Reinventing The Sacred in 2010.[13] In it, he calls for an emergentism beyond traditional scientific reductionism towards a new syntheist spirituality. American philosopher and neuroscientist Sam Harris published Waking Up: A Guide to Spirituality Without Religion in 2014. In this book, Harris promotes a syntheistic, post-atheist spirituality beyond traditional religion, especially beyond the Abrahamic faiths, inspired by Buddhism and the Indian philosophical school of Advaita Vedanta. Harris advocates the search for a love and happiness that transcends cause and effect - which he claims to have found in deep meditation and during psychedelic experiences - while entirely set within a monist and immanent universe.[14] Both Kauffman and Harris are widely quoted as inspirations for the foundation of The Syntheist Movement.[15]

American philosopher and theologian Robert Corrington has advocated a syntheistic approach he refers to as ecstatic naturalism to religion and spirituality in a series of books, including Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism, Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecstatic Naturalism and A Semiotic Theory of Theology and Philosophy.[16][17][18] British political philosopher Simon Critchley calls for syntheist subtraction (a position he refers to as mystical anarchism) as the proper response to the call for a revolutionary radicality in his book The Faith of The Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology.[19]

When Swedish cyberphilosophers Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist published their syntheist manifesto Syntheism - Creating God in the Internet Age in October 2014, it became the first book to actively use the term Syntheism in its title. Bard & Söderqvist frequently quote Kauffman, Harris, Corrington and Critchley in the book, but also find inspiration for a syntheist worldview from a variety of contemporary phenomena such as digitalisation, globalisation, participatory culture, psychedelic practices, quantum physics and the science of cosmology.[20]

Swiss-British philosopher Alain de Botton has advocated a syntheistic approach towards an atheist religion both in his book Religion for Atheists[21] and his TED talk Atheism 2.0.[22] American philosopher Daniel Colucciello Barber explores the potential for a syntheistic, post-secular spirituality of immanence rather than transcendence, inspired by French philosopher Gilles Deleuze, in his book Deleuze and the Naming of God.[23] Among the most quoted inspirations for Syntheism are the writings on a future atheology by French surrealist philosopher Georges Bataille in the 1950s.[20]

Beliefs[edit]

Syntheism is the belief that the classic division between theism and atheism in theology has become redundant and must be overcome to fulfill contemporary and future spiritual needs. This requires the acknowledgement that all metaphysical beliefs center on a divinity or focal point which is man-made. Therefore, all current and future religious beliefs are created by humans, as well as systems such as Individualism developed by philosophers like René Descartes and Immanuel Kant).[24]

Despite being human creations, what is important is that these beliefs strengthen, and not contradict, science. They must therefore be developed within a monist worldview (the conviction that there is one world and one world only, and that everything within this one world can affect everything else). In a more poetic vein, Bataille describes his atheology as “the art of non-knowledge”. He rather advocates a syntheist religion without a core set of beliefs.[1] Participatory festivals with utopian themes such as Burning Man are considered examples of syntheistic practice.[11]

To me, the name “God” is an amazing name for all the dreams of humanity projected into one point. What would you name that? You would name it God. And that is what we need to do, to retake the “God” word but just give God proper qualities that we can actually believe in. In that case, Syntheos is the God that we choose to believe in and can believe in. Whatever that means.

— Alexander Bard, Alexander Bard on Syntheism: Death, God, the Universe, and Burning Man, The Forumist[25]

Criticisms[edit]

Lack of central leadership and core beliefs have led some scholars, such as Dr. Stephen O'Leary, to believe Syntheism will fail. The idea has also been criticised for a potential lack of mystery.[1]

References[edit]

  1. ^ a b c Paulas, Rick, Can an Open-Source Religion Work?, VICE, archived from the original on 2014-11-11, retrieved 2014-12-26
  2. ^ Whitehead, A.N. (1926). Religion in the Making (New York: Fordham University Press, 1996)
  3. ^ Whitehead, A.N. (1929). Process and Reality. An Essay in Cosmology. Gifford Lectures Delivered in the University of Edinburgh During the Session 1927–1928, Macmillan, New York, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge UK.
  4. ^ Hegel, G.W.F. (1998). Aesthetics: Lectures on Fine Art, Vol. I. Oxford, UK: Clarendon Press. p. 364. ISBN 978-0198238164.
  5. ^ Kurzweil, Ray (1999). The Age of Spiritual Machines: When Computers Exceed Human Intelligence. Viking. ISBN 978-0965086134.
  6. ^ Meillassoux, Quentin (2006). Après la finitude. Essai sur la nécessité de la contingence, Paris, Seuil, coll. L'ordre philosophique (foreword by Alain Badiou).
  7. ^ The Syntheist Movement [ca. 2012], in Facebook [The Syntheist Movement]. Retrieved 2015-01-01 from https://www.facebook.com/groups/109834425805191/
  8. ^ "The Syntheist Movement". syntheism.org. Archived from the original on 2014-12-18. Retrieved 2015-01-01.
  9. ^ Bard, Alexander, And Here Are Some People Pictures From the Syntheist Workshop at Lindsberg, Sweden, retrieved 2014-12-26
  10. ^ Synteisterna [ca. 2012], in Facebook [Synteisterna]. Retrieved 2015-01-01 from https://www.facebook.com/groups/341167132580625/
  11. ^ a b Mattocks, Jeremy, Syntheism: A Naturalistic Spirituality in Europe, archived from the original on 2014-12-26, retrieved 2014-12-26
  12. ^ Jonathan Sutton. 'Minimal Religion' and Mikhail Epstein's Interpretation of Religion in Late-Soviet and Post-Soviet Russia. Studies in East European Thought. June 2006. Vol. 58, No. 2, https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11212-005-4625-7; Ian Fraser. Charles Taylor, Mikhail Epstein and ‘minimal religion’. International Journal for Philosophy of Religion https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s11153-015-9508-3
  13. ^ Kauffman, Stuart (2008). Reinventing the Sacred: A New View of Science, Reason, and Religion. Basic Books. ISBN 0-465-00300-1.
  14. ^ Harris, Sam (2014). Waking Up. Simon & Schuster. ISBN 978-1451636017.
  15. ^ Demarchi, Dino. "A few words about Baruch Spinoza's philosophy". http://syntheism.org. Archived from the original on 27 January 2015. Retrieved 27 January 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  16. ^ Corrington, Robert S. (2013). Nature's Sublime: An Essay in Aesthetic Naturalism. Lexington Books. ISBN 978-0739182130.
  17. ^ Corrington, Robert S. (1992). Nature and Spirit: An Essay in Ecstatic Naturalism. Fordham University Press. ISBN 978-0823213634.
  18. ^ Corrington, Robert S. (2009). A Semiotic Theory of Theology and Philosophy. Cambridge University Press. ISBN 978-0521093248.
  19. ^ Critchley, Simon (2012). The Faith of the Faithless: Experiments in Political Theology. Verso. ISBN 978-1844677375.
  20. ^ a b Piesing, Mark, Is the internet God? Alexander Bard's Syntheism paves the way for a new elite, The Guardian, archived from the original on 2014-10-08, retrieved 2014-12-26
  21. ^ de Botton, Alain (2013). Religion for Atheists: A Non-believer's Guide to the Uses of Religion. Vintage. ISBN 978-0307476821.
  22. ^ de Botton, Alain. "Atheism 2.0". http://www.ted.com. TED Talks. Retrieved 1 January 2015. External link in |website= (help)
  23. ^ Barber, Daniel Colucciello (2013). Deleuze and the Naming of God. Edinburgh University Press. ISBN 978-0748686360.
  24. ^ Bard, Alexander; Söderqvist, Jan (2014). Syntheism - Creating God in the Internet Age. Stockholm Text. ISBN 978-9175471839.
  25. ^ Wallenberg, Petter, Alexander Bard on Syntheism: Death, God, the Universe, and Burning Man, The Forumist, archived from the original on 2014-12-26, retrieved 2014-12-26