Since the first half of the 19th century, Pantheism has been the target of attacks by the Vatican. Over the past year those attacks have increased in frequency and extent. Coming later on this page we will look at the history of the Vatican attitude to Pantheism. First we look at the latest developments.

World Pantheist Movement Press Release of January 13, 2010.
View in situ at PRWeb

The Vatican appears to be launching an all-fronts attack on Pantheism – the belief that Nature should be the focus of our spiritual life. Vatican media have slammed the movie Avatar for promoting Pantheism, only a few days after Pope Benedict XVI attacked Pantheism in his New Year’s message for World Peace.

Pantheists focus on religious reverence for Nature and the wider Universe rather than for any supernatural God or gods. Concern for Nature is a central ethical concern, and Nature is also viewed as a major source of spiritual comfort.

“It’s beginning to seem like the Vatican sees Pantheism as a growing threat,” said Dr Paul Harrison, president of the World Pantheist Movement. “Maybe that’s because the whole world is undergoing a tremendous shift in values towards the environment because of climate change and disappearing species. As our destruction of Nature rebounds on us, people are realizing that Nature needs to be a central value in our lives. More and more people are also turning to Nature for relief from life’s stresses, and for a sense of real belonging.”

Dr Harrison welcomed the Vatican’s gradually increasing concern for the environment. “Catholics are the world’s biggest religious group, so it’s good that Rome now recognizes respect for nature as an important moral value. But the message will always be blunted as long as life after death and God’s planned destruction of earth, is placed above the value of life on this earth. Give us a break from Armaggedon, so we can get on with saving this beautiful planet of ours.”

The Vatican newspaper L’Osservatore Romano devoted three articles to Avatar, and said that the movie “gets bogged down by a spiritualism linked to the worship of nature.”

Vatican Radio also attacked the movie, saying that it encouraged “all those pseudo-doctrines that turn ecology into the religion of the millennium.” It claimed that in the film, “nature is no longer a creation to defend but a divinity to worship.”

In his New Year’s Day message for World Peace, Pope Benedict criticized the tendency to consider Nature as more important than the human person, and the “egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures.” “Such notions … end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings. They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.”

What the Pope said:

Message of Pope Benedict XVIWorld Day of Peace,  January 1 2010.

Pantheist commentary

Nor must we forget the very significant fact that many people experience peace and tranquillity, renewal and reinvigoration, when they come into close contact with the beauty and harmony of nature. There exists a certain reciprocity: as we care for creation, we realize that God, through creation, cares for us.

As we care for Nature, we realize that Nature – directly and without any mediation – cares for us.

On the other hand, a correct understanding of the relationship between man and the environment will not end by absolutizing nature or by considering it more important than the human person.

If the Church’s magisterium expresses grave misgivings about notions of the environment inspired by ecocentrism and biocentrism, it is because such notions eliminate the difference of identity and worth between the human person and other living things. In the name of a supposedly egalitarian vision of the “dignity” of all living creatures, such notions end up abolishing the distinctiveness and superior role of human beings.

It is precisely the attitude that humans are the reason for creation and the focus of creation that has encouraged humans to regard Nature as something to be plundered for human benefit.

Of course humans will always attach high importance to ethics towards other humans, but it will be only when we attach equal importance to our ethics towards other living beings that we will begin to live in balance with Nature.

They also open the way to a new pantheism tinged with neo-paganism, which would see the source of man’s salvation in nature alone, understood in purely naturalistic terms.

Humans do not need salvation in any supernatural sense.

We are not born guilty of any sin, there is no Hell where we will end up without belief in Jesus.

We do sometimes feel abandoned, helpless or lonely, and in those cases we can seek comfort  in Nature, and seek help from other humans,

The Church, for her part, is concerned that the question be approached in a balanced way, with respect for the “grammar” which the Creator has inscribed in his handiwork by giving man the role of a steward and administrator with responsibility over creation, a role which man must certainly not abuse, but also one which he may not abdicate.

Apart from scripture there is no sign whatsoever that any Creator Entity has entrusted us with the role of steward and administrator over Nature.

Through our technology we do have immense power to harm Nature, and we must use that power now to mitigate and revert the damage we have done.