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Mapping out religious beliefs and learning to think

I drew this up flowchart / map of religious beliefs about three years ago. I agree with this quote in part. Thinking can be terrifying. At the time I drew up this map I was at the beginning of an emotional process of learning to think – discovering where the worldview of my upbringing fit with the worldview of other people’s upbringing.

Can you see where your beliefs fit?

There seems to be an endless list of ism’s. Have I missed yours? If I’ve missed any to do with key categories of beliefs about the universe then please let me know so I can add it.

It was during this process of surfing wikipedia and exploring different ism’s that I first came across “Panentheism” (from Greek πᾶν (pân) “all“; ἐν (en) “in“; and θεός (theós) “God“; “all-in-God”) – the idea that everything is in that which we call “God” is different from “Pantheism” (πᾶν (pân) “all“; θεός (theós) “God“; “all-is-God”) which equates The Universe or Nature to “God”.

I like the idea of Panentheism so much that I’m now writing a thesis on it.

I like of pantheism too but seeing as we will never know what lies beyond what we know (until we know it) I cannot see a reason to keep the doors of our imagination open for what might exist beyond our universe. For example, the energies/macrososm we call “God” could encompass a universe of universes, or even a universe of universes of universes… we will never know. Ok, now I’ve lost myself.

I guess this is flowchart is the basis of a number of entries that I will post as I research Panentheism and Process Theology (the idea that everything is a process, an event, that nothing (even “you”) is ever a static “thing”). And by combining these ideas with what I told you about the other day – Narratology (the study of narratives) – I hope to see where and how these different ism’s may actually meet, differing mainly in the historical context that the words, images and stories that describe their beliefs developed.

“ISM” means adherence to an ideology.

Ideology refers to ideas that constitute a person’s goals, expectations and actions – what makes up a person’s view of the world.

My hypothesis is that all the above ideologies might actually meet each other in the idea of Panentheism.

That is, I think that everyone – atheists, agnostics, Christians, Hindus, Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, new-age people, etc. etc. – are panentheists, they just don’t know it yet.

What would this mean? Well, maybe if we see that our ideologies are talking about the same thing, it will be harder for our identities to get caught up in them. And seeing as misuse of identity-driven ideologies is a major cause of violence, from terrorism to intolerance, maybe some forms of violence will discover a peaceful resolution.

Of course a lot of people will disagree – which is the fun of having a hypothesis and exploring it.

Maybe I will like my conclusions, maybe I won’t, but it is in the process of thinking and exploring that I expect I will learn and grow and get even just a little bit closer to “truth”.

So somewhere in the intersection of philosophy, religion, and science, I have over the last few blog entries, attempted to introduce the narrative-oriented research project that I suppose will (after many years, if not my entire life), be my magnum opus.

Anyway, I’ve spent enough entries telling you what I want to do… now I have to figure out how I’m going to do it.

Any research project (at least any academic research project), starts with a “literature review”. The objective is to learn who has had similar thoughts in the past, what influenced their ideas, how their ideas evolved, how their ideas influenced other people’s ideas, (and so on and so on), and observing what practical actions have come from it.

As a friend said to me the other day, “There are no new ideas… just new applications of old ones. It’s how ideas are used that matters.” Hopefully whether or not we like the conclusions of our thinking, our ideas will be used in ways we can be proud of.


Taken at a cafe I often walk past on my way to work – it always has these cool little quotes so sometimes I stand there feeling a little silly taking a photo of it with my phone.

Where are we, where are we going, and how?

‘I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work the more I live. I rejoice in life for its own sake. Life is no “brief candle” for me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.’ George Bernard Shaw.

The following snippets of youtube videos are inspired by an initiative called “Awakening The Dreamer” which involves a half-day seminar that uses these video and more to step through where we are, how we got here, where we want to go, and how we can move toward that goal. taking groups through these questions. I attended the seminar and was impressed with how succinctly these clips summed up the present human predicament that I had been researching last year. Their conclusions, the same conclusions as mine, combine sustainable living, social justice and spiritual fulfillment, and in the end come down to one thing: INDIVIDUAL’S MAKING CHANGES LOCALLY, WHICH ADD UP TO GLOBAL CHANGE. Their videos inspired me to put this post together, so that the message can get out there as fast as possible. You may have seen some of these already, but if you haven’t seen any of them then this sequence of clips will take about one hour… something to do over the (what in Australia is going to be quite a rainy) Easter long-weekend. Enjoy!

Where are we?

A world divided into the “haves” and “havenots” – where the “havenots”, almost half the world, don’t have a place to shit, and a growing number of the “haves” are depressed, dissatisfied with the fulfillment material consumption and acquisition brings, and more and more are becoming mentally ill and committing suicide.

A miniature earth:


It’s just not fair:


But this is not an accident. Inequality is designed into the system. That’s why we in the western world can buy lots of things for cheap, can earn more than we spend and save money to buy houses or travel.

While apologists of global capitalism still adamantly state that the capitalist model is the best path to eradicate poverty; economist and policy director Andrew Simms clearly proves this “trickle-down” theory nothing but a myth. Simms shows that on our current trajectory it would take 15 planets’ worth of earth’s biocapacity to reduce poverty to a state where the poorest receive $3 per day. In other words ‘we will have made Earth uninhabitable long before poverty is eradicated.’[1]

The “developing” countries are in fact a ‘transmission belt’ with value (for example raw materials) forwarded to the ‘developed” nations such that ‘the total arrangement is largely in the interests of the middle class.’[2] It seems that poverty is ‘no longer a side effect, but an intended product of globalization’ with its continuation ‘seen as beneficial for the middle class’ likely to cause a resistance to ‘change and redistribution.’[3]

It seems clear that while markets ‘won’t do the job by themselves’, and governments are ‘often cruelly short-sighted’, for the IPE structure shift to a sustainable model it will ‘be a choice, a choice of a global society that thinks ahead and acts in unaccustomed harmony.’[4] A shift in values from capital-accumulation to social justice and environmental responsibility is likely to result from a widespread realisation that continuing on our current trajectory will, without a doubt, end with devastating calamity. It seems that only a well-informed global population, with leaders and citizens of developed and developing nations acting out of “enlightened self-interest” and for ‘the wellbeing of their children and children’s children’, will allow the IPE structure to enter a sustainable paradigm. [5]


How did we get here?

Dawn of human conscious, collective learning, development of separate identities, and the industrial revolution. Our human journey:


The story of stuff, by Annie Leonard:


Where do we want to go?

Well, I know I don’t want humanity to go extinct. Nor do I want future generations of humans and animals to live on a toxic planet as a consequence of the chemicals we use to support our consumption and acquisition…

What alternatives do we have? We need A NEW DREAM… one that is environmentally sustainable, socially just and spiritually fulfilling. (See the Awakening The Dreamer initiative).

The new dream begins with the realisation that “success” is really about the amount of happiness in your life – not the amount of money in a bank account. People are starting to value creativity over capital, experience over “things”, and time over consumption and accumulation. Is there any better feeling than the one felt when you make another person happy?

The new dream is based on an identity that transcends our individual self, appreciating our connectedness to all people, to all life, to our land, and our universe. Our new dream does not fear change, it embraces the transitivity of everything that exists, seeing everything as a process. Life will never be static. Reality is dynamic, and as humans we each have a part to play in creating a sustainable and peaceful planet for ourselves and future generations.

How are we going to get there?

Invest in Cradle to Cradle design – turning waste into food:


Invest in “Social Business”:


A “Global Mindshift”


Hold our governments accountable to the Millennium Development Goals:


Other exciting ideas and initiatives:

Why should we care?

Our planet is alive. We have adapted to live as part of her ecosystem, if we destroy this for ourselves, we have no where else to go:


Her resources are limited, our needs are expanding and infinite:


Whatever we do to our web, we do to ourselves:


The world is not made up of me and “the other”:


Listen to the wombat – “all is one”:


Where should we to start?

Reflect on our world-view and question our assumptions.

Rethink our values and communicate them with others.

Ask ourselves: what is my role in making the world a better place?

Be the change: know that one person can make a big difference:


And then don’t hesitate, make plans and put them into action!

“FOUR YEARS. GO.” A campaign to shift humanity onto a sustainable, just, and fulfilling path … by 14 February 2014.


Want some ideas about what you individually can do, check out this page on the Awakening The Dreamer website

Start by sharing this message – let’s change the world in the next four years!


[1] Andrew Simms, ‘Trickle-Down Myth’, New Scientist (18 Oct 2008). p. 49. Andrew Simms is the policy director of the New Economics Foundation in London. In this article Simms steps through the mathematics to show the system is designed such that for the poor to get ‘slightly less poor, the rich have to get very much richer’. This means it would take ‘around $166 worth of global growth to generate $1 extra for people living on below $1 a day’.

[2] Ibid. p. 84.

[3] The Hague Institute of Social Studies, Collateral Dammage or Calculted Default? The Millennium Development Goals and the Politics of Globalisation, 2003. p. 35.

[4] Jeffrey Sachs, Common Wealth : Economics for a Crowded Planet (London: Allen Lane, 2008). p. 81.

[5] Ibid. p. 5.