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Chapter 8 ~ Unitheism

THE only difference between at least some theistic and atheistic constructs is the belief or disbelief in the existence of transcendent aspects. But as with the fully-transcendent (deistic) divine, any such aspects, by virtue of complete inaccessibility, are irrelevant from our standpoint.

Thus by ruling out transcendence— not as a reality unto itself, but as a consideration for determining faith— we see that both concepts are inherently identical, and apparent differences in belief are due primarily to differences in labels, the theist’s divine immanence being virtually the same as the nontheist’s ultimate reality.

Maybe there’s a better option. We don’t have to choose between theism, atheism, and agnosticism because, from our subtranscendent viewpoint, they’re really one and the same— at least in certain forms.

There’s empirical support for such a unified theism/atheism, or unitheism for short:

Great spiritual leaders tend to be compassionate and kind, but so with charitable humanitarians.

The avowed-atheist Joseph Lewis admonished, “We cannot help God, but we can help mankind,” yet any of the spiritual leaders could have said something similar without contradiction.

Nontheists and theists don’t fight as many religious wars between each other as theists amongst themselves.

Beliefs manifest more in action than in words. As society as a whole secularizes and the flow of information becomes freer we find life choices and actions (apart from formal worship) of theists, agnostics, and atheists becoming increasing similar.

(At this point I thought about conceding to having gone a bit ontological. It’s just that these days too many people equate ontological arguments with Daffy Duck.)

Is such a unitheism a form of agnosticism? We have to consider the possibility, since one definition of the latter encompasses everything between theism and atheism that involves any degree of doubt. Even though divine transcendence itself is external to our reality, the uncertainty it suggests is not.

However instead of making the decision to reject both theism and atheism, we’re challenged to take a double leap of faith (yeow!) and fully accept both, which we can do easily, immediately and without doubt. Since as theists we have what we call divine immanence and as atheists we have an identical natural ultimate, we can’t be wrong.

(Famous last words— cf “But this ship can’t sink!”).

Transcendent Unknowns

If skeptical theists acknowledge that any transcendence, by definition entirely obfuscatory of any characteristic anyway (transcendent existence, though not a characteristic per se, must still be unknowable) is beyond ascertainment as to existence, they can if they choose opt for unitheism over agnosticism.

For freethinkers desiring a similar option they have only to reason that since any possible transcendence is external to their reality, its existence one way or the other (a negative, e.g. “‘x’ cannot exist,” being unprovable anyway, as long as there are unknowns) wouldn’t affect their naturalistic outlook.

Beyond Contradiction

Since an ultimately transcendent form must by definition be fully external to our universe, it’s released from the constraints of reality as we know it, extending even to the mutual exclusivity of existence and nonexistence itself— in other words, beyond the law of contradictions.

We not only have the ability to neither believe nor disbelieve in transcendence, but to simultaneously believe and not believe in it (oops those statements are identical :).

As philosophy of religion has matured, so the recognition that conjecture having to do with the existential status, much less nature, of transcendence is probably meaningless—

We generally delineate existence, spatiotemporal or otherwise, by partition: Inside— or on one side— of the partition (whether sharp or fuzzy) is the existent, while what remains is not.

In a finite universe, partitioning usually works fine. In the case of immanent aspects we can choose to designate as divine or ultimate that which is more creative/enriching than degenerative/entropic— e.g. law, life, and love.

While in the above instance partitioning is value-quantitative rather than spatiotemporal, it’s still a boundary of sorts.

However in the case of possible transcendent aspects that are truly infinite and boundless— spatially continuous, temporally eternal, and non-value-quantitative— partitioning of any sort might be out of the question, such transcendent aspects devoid of, and as a result having, both existence and nonexistence.

Conceiving even one such aspect, much less rendering it comprehensible, is challenging. For example:

Let’s consider possibility itself— seemingly infinite and boundless. Yet while we can imagine that it either exists, as it must, or not exists, as might have been the case in noncreation (eternal nothingness)— we can’t imagine that it could everywhere both exist and not exist simultaneously. But why?

The reason is that there is a boundary, the boundary in our mind between our conceptions of existence and non-existence, which prejudices ideas concerning the nature and bounds of possibility.

Perhaps that’s the key. By going the other way, trying to conceive of transcendence that’s not only infinite, but so beyond boundaries that besides having opposing predicates (characteristics) it both exists and not exists, we come as close as humanly possible to an impression of it. That it both exists and does not exist makes it the greatest mystery.


Regardless of the status of any ultimately-transcendent aspect— existent, nonexistent, or simultaneously existent and nonexistent— we acknowledge its absolute inaccessibility, instead declaring to be the foundation of our faith, divine immanence/ natural ultimate— not in synthesis but oneness, two descriptions for the same reality.

Natural wonder and transcendent mystery connect via the ultimate, our highest level of being.

Since we’ve called immanent-oneness being and transcendence mystery, a concise combined designation might be mystery of being, perhaps shortened further to just ultimate. [If mystery was being only or vice versa, we could just call it that (or love or goodness) dismissing the need for a combined version, or words like ultimate.]

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© 1999-2007 Warren Farr — revised 9/13