Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444). This special issue belongs to the section "Religions and Humanities/Philosophies".

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (31 December 2022) | Viewed by 22011

Special Issue Editors

1. Faculty of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Groningen, 9712 GK Groningen, The Netherlands
2. Institute for Philosophical Studies, Science and Research Centre of Koper, 6000 Koper, Slovenia
Interests: religious phenomenology and experience; epistemology of religion; nature religion; religious language; interreligious communication
Institute for Philosophical Studies, Science and Research Centre of Koper, 6000 Koper, Slovenia
Interests: technopaganism; contemporary paganism; semiotics; media studies; media and religion

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Although the trend is slowly changing, discourse on the Science and Religion—as well as its subfield, Religion and Technology—in Western philosophy of religion and theology has been largely dominated by discussions of the relationship between variants of theism and particular scientific theories or methods. While pantheism and its ‘cousins’ (panentheism, pandeism) have experienced some vibrant development in this field in recent years, modern animist and pagan perspectives have had less critical attention in the same.

This Special Issue will strengthen neglected areas in the interdisciplinary field of Religion, Science, and Technology by introducing original research on the approaches to science and technology in, or related to, pantheism, animism and paganism—especially (but not exclusively) in their ‘Western’ forms. While we especially invite essays written from philosophical and theological approaches for this Special Issue, essays written from other Religious Studies perspectives (sociology of religion, anthropology of religion, history of ideas, and others) are welcome if they can relate meaningfully and originally to questions such as those below.

The questions to be addressed include, but are not limited to, the following: Given the strong preference for immanent divine and embodied spirituality in contemporary pantheism, animism and paganism, does this give (any of) them intellectual advantage in relating to science and technology, compared to theism? Why has animism often been suspicious of, and presented as alternative to, ‘Western rationalism’ and hence, to a notable extent, Western science? If the tension between animism and science is not inevitable, what are the philosophical and discursive approaches that allow contemporary animism to combine with rigorous scientific investigation/theory? Is the 4E approach in cognitive science positively compatible with animism, paganism or pantheism? What are the arguments for adopting the so-called naturalistic paganism (or scientific paganism)? How exactly does the technology-focused paganism (technopaganism) relate to modern science and technology on the one hand, and to the more nature-focused paganism on the other? Does the immersive and boundary-transgressing phenomenology of nature, characteristic of some forms of pantheism, animism and paganism, help ground better environmental ethics than a more ‘detached’ approaches to environmental ethics (which typically also rely more explicitly on technological solutions to environmental problems)?

Note: This special issue is a result of research undertaken for the project Creations, Humans, Robots: Creation Theology Between Humanism and Posthumanism (ARRS J6–1813), funded by the Slovenian Research Agency (ARRS).

Dr. Gorazd Andrejč
Dr. Victoria Dos Santos
Guest Editors

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Keywords

  • pantheism
  • animism
  • paganism
  • philosophy
  • science
  • technology
  • philosophy of religion
  • theology

Published Papers (11 papers)

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Research

13 pages, 226 KiB  
Article
Is There a Place for Pantheism in (Post-)Christian Ecofeminist Reconstruction of the God/Goddess–World Relationship
by Nadja Furlan Štante
Religions 2024, 15(1), 32; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel15010032 - 25 Dec 2023
Viewed by 781
Abstract
This paper is an attempt to consider an alternative pluralist pantheism (Mary Jane Rubenstein) as the next step in the evolution of interpersonal, interspecies, and God–human–nature relationships and its possible realisation in (post-)Christian ecofeminism and its epistemology. It follows the methodology and epistemology [...] Read more.
This paper is an attempt to consider an alternative pluralist pantheism (Mary Jane Rubenstein) as the next step in the evolution of interpersonal, interspecies, and God–human–nature relationships and its possible realisation in (post-)Christian ecofeminism and its epistemology. It follows the methodology and epistemology of theological ecofeminism, which assumes that the oppression of women and the exploitation of nature stem from the same constellation of phenomena: patriarchal domination, dualistic anthropologies, and global hypercapitalism. Recognising that pantheism is a very complex phenomenon and should not be viewed as a single codified viewpoint, but rather as a diverse family of different doctrines, this paper understands pantheism primarily as the paradigm that asserts that everything is part of a divine unity consisting of an all-encompassing, manifested deity or God/Goddess. The paper first explains the pan-en-theistic turn in Christian ecofeminism as a tool for deconstructing the dominant Cartesian dualistic binaries and their symbolism and metanarratives, and as the first “safe” phase of transition from Christian anthropocentrism. From this standpoint, Grace M. Jantzen’s defense of pantheism as an alternative to transcendental theism is further explored as she argues that divinity is found “in” the physical and material world and nowhere else. The paper then moves to the second phase, proposed in the final part of the paper, on the possibility of the theoretical adoption of pluralist pantheism in (post-)Christian ecofeminist ecotheology. Here, the question of the “fear and horror of pantheism” in Western thought is discussed. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
21 pages, 322 KiB  
Article
Pantheism from the Perspective of Wittgensteinian Nonoverlapping Magisteria (WNOMA)
by Gorazd Andrejč
Religions 2023, 14(12), 1551; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14121551 - 18 Dec 2023
Viewed by 1061
Abstract
This essay examines pantheism within the framework of the ‘faith and reason’ field in the philosophy of religion, with an emphasis on the question of the relationship between pantheism and empirical–scientific rationality. I address this question from what I call the Wittgensteinian Nonoverlapping [...] Read more.
This essay examines pantheism within the framework of the ‘faith and reason’ field in the philosophy of religion, with an emphasis on the question of the relationship between pantheism and empirical–scientific rationality. I address this question from what I call the Wittgensteinian Nonoverlapping Magisteria (WNOMA) approach to religion and science. WNOMA affirms a categorial difference between religious and scientific language and attitudes. This difference is interpreted with the help of Wittgenstein’s distinction between religious and scientific beliefs and van Fraassen’s distinction between religious and empiricist stances. This means that WNOMA is antievidentialist regarding religious beliefs and sees the experiential and instinctive aspects of religion as more fundamental than the systematic–intellectual aspect. Part of the variety in contemporary pantheism relates to the question of whether the emphasis is on the experiential–spiritual side of pantheism or its intellectual side, i.e., whether pantheism is ‘hot’ or ‘cold’. I examine a few telling examples: Spinoza, Einstein, the World Pantheism Movement and a recent awe-some argument for pantheism by Ryan Byerly. The main contribution of this paper is a critical reading of these versions of pantheism from a WNOMA perspective, through which I hope to establish the plausibility and show some of the persuasive force of the WNOMA approach to pantheism, focusing on the relation of pantheism to scientific rationality on the one hand and felt experience on the other. I argue that hotter kinds of pantheism can be intellectually virtuous if they find a way to combine the empiricist stance and pantheist religious stance, even without a developed philosophical or theological system. I also argue that colder and philosophically rigorous pantheism can be problematic if it assumes religious evidentialism, neglects the experiential part of pantheism in favor of intellectualism or/and confuses the spheres of science and religion. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
23 pages, 2229 KiB  
Article
(Techno)Paganism: An Exploration of Animistic Relations with the Digital
by Victoria Dos Santos
Religions 2023, 14(11), 1382; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14111382 - 03 Nov 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 1577
Abstract
The aim of this paper is to examine and illustrate how the animistic ontology present in neopaganism allows embodied and sensuous interactions with virtual worlds. By considering animism as a strategy with which to rethink human cohabitation with the techno-digital otherness, I will [...] Read more.
The aim of this paper is to examine and illustrate how the animistic ontology present in neopaganism allows embodied and sensuous interactions with virtual worlds. By considering animism as a strategy with which to rethink human cohabitation with the techno-digital otherness, I will show how neopagans who use computer technology for spiritual purposes experience the online context as an environment where lived religious practices can occur. To do so, I will particularly focus on religious practices taking place in digital games and 3D social virtual platforms due to their ability to induce immersive and interactive experiences. Because neopaganism recognizes the material living world as a central aspect of spiritual experiences, I will explore the ways that the spatial and material dimensions are articulated in neopagan’s online performances, the actions they make possible, and how they enable a more intimate relationship with virtual platforms. I will accompany the theoretical reflection with case studies and interviews with technopagan practitioners experiencing their religion with and within computer technology. This paper also aims to show how this new conception of animism connects to what Mikhail Bakhtin calls “dialogism”, a condition that recognizes the multiplicity of perspectives and voices and denies the possibility of not getting involved with the otherness. For such reasons, approaching the digital through an animistic ontology can help us acknowledge the convergence of humans with the techno-digital otherness and explore, on deeper levels, sensuous and embodied experiences taking place in the religious context. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
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9 pages, 651 KiB  
Article
On Dreams, Human Imagination, and Technology
by Lenart Škof
Religions 2023, 14(10), 1249; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14101249 - 30 Sep 2023
Viewed by 814
Abstract
In this paper, I reflect on human imagination, the intention of technology, and the future of humanity in the era of the Anthropocene. I begin by presenting the environmental crisis and declare a need to protect and safeguard nature. In the first part, [...] Read more.
In this paper, I reflect on human imagination, the intention of technology, and the future of humanity in the era of the Anthropocene. I begin by presenting the environmental crisis and declare a need to protect and safeguard nature. In the first part, I offer an explanation of a dream of an airliner and link it to the Bachelardian theory of aerial imagination and oneiric flight. I show how, today, technology has entered our lives profoundly and how it has become closely intertwined with us human beings. Based on this, the second part is dedicated to Martin Heidegger and his question concerning technology. By analyzing Heidegger’s seminal essay on technology, I argue for an alternative possibility of thinking about human artefacts (such as various tools or even an airliner) beyond them being merely a standing-reserve and thus rather as a mode of unconcealement. The third and last part of this essay is dedicated to Ilia Delio’s Teilhardian cosmic vision of the future of technological progress. Technology, for Delio, is a part of this cosmic narrative and human beings represent the thinking portion of the universe. I conclude with a thought on a new elemental consciousness and imagination, in which nature, its life force, and the most advanced technology, including AI, would become a part of a new panentheistic whole. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
14 pages, 273 KiB  
Article
Pantheism, Omnisubjectivity, and the Feeling of Temporal Passage
by Andrei A. Buckareff
Religions 2023, 14(6), 758; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14060758 - 07 Jun 2023
Viewed by 1408
Abstract
By “pantheism” I mean to pick out a model of God on which God is identical with the totality of existents constitutive of the universe. I assume that, on pantheism, God is an omnispatiotemporal mind who is identical with the universe. I assume [...] Read more.
By “pantheism” I mean to pick out a model of God on which God is identical with the totality of existents constitutive of the universe. I assume that, on pantheism, God is an omnispatiotemporal mind who is identical with the universe. I assume that, given divine omnispatiotemporality, God knows everything that can be known in the universe. This includes having knowledge de se of the minds of every conscious creature. Hence, if God has knowledge de se of the minds of every conscious creature, then divine omniscience implies omnisubjectivity. Assuming that eternalism is true, robust temporal passage is an illusion. But, conscious creatures, such as human persons, experience robust temporal passage. If God has the attribute of omnisubjectivity, then God experiences temporal passage. However, God also has a unified experience of the entire spatiotemporal continuum. God’s having these two perspectives creates a tension for pantheism given that God would seem to experience both temporal passage and an absence of temporal passage. I compare non-personal pantheism and personal pantheism and consider which one has better resources to answer the foregoing puzzle. I argue that personal pantheism is better equipped to address this problem than non-personal pantheism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
12 pages, 261 KiB  
Article
Animism and Science
by Hans Van Eyghen
Religions 2023, 14(5), 653; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14050653 - 15 May 2023
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3033
Abstract
I discuss whether animism, the worldview that (some) objects, plants and animals are capable of communication, rational reflection and intentional action, is in conflict with contemporary science. I distinguish two conflicts. The first points to conflicting claims regarding the abilities of objects, plants [...] Read more.
I discuss whether animism, the worldview that (some) objects, plants and animals are capable of communication, rational reflection and intentional action, is in conflict with contemporary science. I distinguish two conflicts. The first points to conflicting claims regarding the abilities of objects, plants and animals made by scientists and animists (agential vs. non-agential). I argue that the alleged conflict can be diffused by noting that science and animism advance different ways of looking at the world. The second conflict notes discrepancies between how animists treat nature and all therein (with respect and reverence) and how science does (instrumentalized). I argue that this conflict is more difficult, if not impossible, to overcome. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
14 pages, 323 KiB  
Article
Ecospirituality in French-Speaking Europe: Linking Ecological Thought with Alternative Spirituality
by Julia Itel
Religions 2023, 14(4), 510; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040510 - 07 Apr 2023
Viewed by 1410
Abstract
Contemporary ecospirituality is built on a double articulation between ecology (science) and spirituality (religion) and can be intertwined with practices and beliefs stemming from neopaganism and, more broadly, an animist vision. The study presented here is anchored in social anthropology, which adds an [...] Read more.
Contemporary ecospirituality is built on a double articulation between ecology (science) and spirituality (religion) and can be intertwined with practices and beliefs stemming from neopaganism and, more broadly, an animist vision. The study presented here is anchored in social anthropology, which adds an important empirical dimension that is often underrepresented within the contemporary debates of ecospirituality and the philosophical approaches to science and religion. I therefore propose to begin by describing the methodology I am using. Then, I will outline the sociological (and historical) roots of ecospirituality. Thirdly, I will present the main different currents that make up ecospirituality. Finally, I will end this article by exposing the different types of knowledge produced by ecospiritual actors, reconciling intuitive knowledge and rational knowledge. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
20 pages, 18008 KiB  
Article
Of Cosmological Visions and Creativity: Shaping Animism, Indigenous Science, and Forestry in Southwest China
by Katherine Swancutt
Religions 2023, 14(4), 449; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14040449 - 27 Mar 2023
Viewed by 1397
Abstract
How do cosmological visions unsettle animistic and scientific ways of approaching the world? Whereas ‘cosmovisions’ have the narrow meaning of ‘worldviews’, people unleash new ‘cosmological visions’ through the creative act of relating to—and simultaneously dismantling—their constructs of the world at large. Drawing on [...] Read more.
How do cosmological visions unsettle animistic and scientific ways of approaching the world? Whereas ‘cosmovisions’ have the narrow meaning of ‘worldviews’, people unleash new ‘cosmological visions’ through the creative act of relating to—and simultaneously dismantling—their constructs of the world at large. Drawing on my ethnography of the Nuosu, a Tibeto-Burman group of Southwest China, I show how an ethnohistorian and a priest set out, at the request of a local official, to address deforestation with a cosmological vision built upon animistic, indigenous scientific, social scientific, and natural scientific sensibilities. Holding sacrifices to land spirits across the Liangshan mountains of Yunnan province in the mid-2000s, they urged Nuosu to refrain from cutting down trees. Many Nuosu in the lumber trade responded with a counter vision that showed respect for land spirits but an unprecedented detachment from the world in animistic-cum-scientific terms. Cosmological visions like these proliferate among Nuosu, encouraging them to experiment with everything from testing the patience of land spirits to undercutting the science behind China’s forest protection policies. Here, creativity opens up new ways of envisioning indigenous autonomy and what it means to be alive to the world as an animist, a scientist, or both. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
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11 pages, 245 KiB  
Article
Digital Animism: Towards a New Materialism
by Victor J. Krebs
Religions 2023, 14(2), 264; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020264 - 16 Feb 2023
Cited by 3 | Viewed by 2048
Abstract
With the advent of ‘the virtual world,’ we have naturally gauged the ‘reality’ of the virtual in terms of how close it comes to empirical experience. However, the common association of the virtual to simulation depends on a representational dualism that reduces it [...] Read more.
With the advent of ‘the virtual world,’ we have naturally gauged the ‘reality’ of the virtual in terms of how close it comes to empirical experience. However, the common association of the virtual to simulation depends on a representational dualism that reduces it to a simulacrum of reality and prevents us from seeing its real import. Virtuality, rather than related to simulation, refers instead to potentiality. Far from being something that first appears with the digital-virtual as a technological simulation, the virtual constitutes the bare potentiality intrinsic to human experience, always subject to technological modulation. Despite the path of increasing abstraction marked by the evolution of the technologies of communication, I argue that the virtual world, paradoxically, reveals matter as ineluctably vital and in permanent movement and transformation. The digital thus does away with the dualism responsible for the modern disenchantment of nature and—decentering the human, placing it as equally part of a rhizomatic and entangled nature—lays the groundwork for an animistic ontology that is consonant with a new materialism. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
16 pages, 1172 KiB  
Article
Techno-Religion and Cyberspace Spirituality in Dystopian Video Games
by Tijana Rupcic
Religions 2023, 14(2), 247; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel14020247 - 13 Feb 2023
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3763
Abstract
Once a niche part of the cyber community, video games today represent one of the major industries and “the combination of technology and spiritualist narratives”. In the cyberspace dedicated to video game trivia, we can find intimate reports of players who claim that [...] Read more.
Once a niche part of the cyber community, video games today represent one of the major industries and “the combination of technology and spiritualist narratives”. In the cyberspace dedicated to video game trivia, we can find intimate reports of players who claim that video games impacted them spiritually or that they felt unity with the spirit of the universe. By analyzing three video games (Everybody’s Gone to the Rapture, Cyberpunk 2077, and Death Stranding), the author aims to explore how spirituality and cyberspace interact in narratives that follow the mentioned games and the interface that pulls the player deeper into the storyline. These games vary in styles and approaches and do not tend to support a view of one true God or any mainstream religion. Therefore, an intricate relationship between cyberspace, algorithmic patterns, and spirituality make these games different and exciting for examination. The author demonstrates the unique perception of spirituality and ideas that influenced the creation of these new spiritual cyberspaces within video games, especially New Age concepts of technopagans such as singularitarians and transhumanists. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
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17 pages, 307 KiB  
Article
Idealist Individualism or Indigenous Cosmology; Finding Entanglement across Species and Strata
by Ruth Irwin
Religions 2022, 13(12), 1193; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13121193 - 06 Dec 2022
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 1383
Abstract
Science and technology have been associated with modern Enlightenment, in a manner that elevated the rational mind over emotions and the body, a separation of the subjective mind from the object of observation, universal categories, objective observation, and linear causality. These assumptions, consolidated [...] Read more.
Science and technology have been associated with modern Enlightenment, in a manner that elevated the rational mind over emotions and the body, a separation of the subjective mind from the object of observation, universal categories, objective observation, and linear causality. These assumptions, consolidated by Descartes and then Kant, have underpinned the philosophies of science, economics, policy, and political theory. They have shaped the modern world and enabled corporate freedom to exploit all ‘resources’ in the name of consumerism and global trade. Idealism has alienated subjective rationality from an idealised universal created world. In contrast, ancient indigenous ways of knowing are emerging as better exemplars of the interrelationship between individuals, communities, and organic and anorganic life forms. Celtic shapeshifters and praise poems forge an interwoven dance of geology, weather, plants, animals, and humanity with wisdom and politics. The Māori concept of whakapapa is the kin relations of everything, tied into complex claves as a taxonomy of familial ties. Animism was understood as pagan misidentification by modernity, but if the alienation set out by modern linear physics is severed, then the intra and inter-relationship of strata, atmosphere, ocean, and species are better relayed by indigenous philosophy than by outdated, colonial, modern assumptions. Celtic and Māori pantheism show us how entangled we are, and how special relationships are in place that last across generations. Full article
(This article belongs to the Special Issue Religion, Science and Technology in Pantheism, Animism and Paganism)
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