NITHEISM (uni-, one united; -theism, belief in deity— French unithéisme
) has yet to be included in most dictionaries. As such it is without established definition, nor does it imply subscription to or belief in particular doctrines. Yet persons who for whatever reason describe themselves as unitheists find they have many beliefs in common.
There are two main catagories of unitheism, deific and cosmic. In a general sense deific unitheism refers to unity of deity of different faiths; cosmic unitheism refers to unity of divinity and the cosmos.
Unitheism has been used in conjuction with monotheism, in the particular sense that all monotheists believe in the same deity— e.g. that Yahweh and Allah are one and the same (Abrahamic unitheism).
Since in the above example both have the same historical roots, this would seem hardly controversial, particularly with the acknowledgment that if anyone was claiming to worship supreme or ultimate reality it would have to be the same as anyone else’s supreme or ultimate reality; by definition there couldn’t be more than one such entity.
However a deity by most faiths is more than just such an ethereal concept, revealing, often through the particular history of a religion, immanent aspects— specific characteristics, even personality or in some cases various personalities, which can differ from faith to faith, if not in most details at least in some important ones.
Even where the same history or scripture is embraced in all or part, interpretations may cause differences in divine characteristics which are too-often explained as misguidance or misinterpretations on the part of the adherents to the faiths that are other than ones own.
Besides basic monotheisms (such as the above-mentioned Abrahamic) there are forms of inclusive monotheism that could be and have been called unitheistic— Wiccan belief that what are revered as many gods/goddesses are various manifestations of one god/goddess; and Hindu belief that all gods/goddesses are emanations of one supreme, multi-personed deity.
If we carry deific unitheism to its logical extent, supreme or ultimate reality or being is neither singular nor plural but the same throughout the universe, and while it is highly unlikely that any one faith has a monopoly on truth, most if not all have much that is positive to offer toward an understanding of and relationship to the divine.
In the cosmic sense the connective principles of unitheism are further expanded to include all of existence. As meaning unified or united, there’s a merging or joining not only of concepts of the divine but of faith and world views— all is sacred and the sacred is all; humanity is infused with divinity; ultimate reality is encountered in life and nature.
Deity worthy of the title is beyond existence. To say something is capable of being categorized as existing or not existing is to put boundaries on it, and deity as truly divine is beyond boundaries and therefore beyond questions of existence.
Yet to the extent deity is beyond comprehension it is beyond meaningfulness— the paradox of theology. Grappling with this dichotomy is a challenge for any faith. Carried to its logical extent cosmic unitheism blurs the boundaries between transcendence and immanence, theism and nontheism, even belief and disbelief.
Science overtook religion, having developed its technique of forcing itself to remain objective via the scientific method, expanding observational and theoretical capabilities such that if scientists of our world were to come into contact with those of another world similarly advanced, they would agree on the basics of math, physics, and chemistry.
Not so with the movers of faith and to some extent philosophy, who have trouble just agreeing amongst themselves on so many of the even most basic issues. But why? Just as there are universal principles of science, surely there are cosmic principles relating to being, purpose, meaning, and other great issues of life.
Nor can such deficiency be blamed on superstition or even prejudice— thinkers of faith are no less sincere than the boffins. Perhaps because so much more is expected— the physics of the universe are mechanical in nature, whereas faith principles relate more to individuals and societies, which mechanical or not tend to be a lot more irregular.
There’s a wealth of scripture and other writings by sages of the past, well worth perusal. These often agree on some major issues but— particularly between different religions and philosophies— disagree on a lot more. While these ancients were often ahead of their time they lacked much of what we now know, and had causes of their own to promote.
Luckily for us there is a more direct, universal form of revelation— that is natural revelation based on the greatest creation of which we know, which is creation itself— our life and world— as it is presented to us, and through our reasoning abilities.
Still unitheists don’t expect everyone to eventually agree on everything, only that as people mature intellectually they will tend to agree on more of the philosophic and theological issues while differing on those affected by cultural and other individualities. Yet there are still many disagreements— we have only begun our journey of understanding.
Good and Evil
Let’s begin with a postulate— a likely assumption, albeit a fairly safe one— that life is good and worth living. A few might argue with this, particularly those who for whatever reason are discouraged or physically distressed. But most of us are happy most of the time, and would readily decline an opportunity to give up awareness for nothingness.
Existence is good— our ability to rise in the morning knowing for the most part who we are, to greet our family and friends, go to work, recreate, eat, drink, and laugh. We know something about our world— the universe and generally how it operates, life and its reproductive capability, the ability to enjoy and share through love, art, giving, etc.
Whatever we do to enjoy or share life (love in all its forms), including experience, is thereby good— divine. Evil could be defined as the opposite— whatever is more destructive of consciousness and love than creative of it. No act is purely good or evil, but as a rule more one than the other.
An obvious example— killing another human is usually much more evil than not, but not all evil. Why not? Any number of reasons— the victim himself might have been destructive, his death resulting in others being saved; the killer might have been acting in self-defense, to safeguard his loved ones, or as a soldier in a so-called just or defensive war.
This suggests a purpose for life— to enhance and enjoy awareness through love. We enhance awareness not only by enriching our own life, loving ourselves, but by sharing with others. Yet enjoying our own life is key— we wouldn’t be enriching others if they didn’t benefit, so when it’s our turn to be the recipients we should benefit.
The more we appreciate and enjoy receiving love, the more we would be likely to give it, desirous not only of sharing but being able to empathically participate in the recipient’s enjoyment of the gift. To the extent we enjoy and share life we connect with the divine— the ordinary becomes extraordinary.
Besides obvious ways of realizing love— intimacy, parenting, caring-for, donating, etc.— we consider also the less-obvious— finding time for someone who is socially-challenged, being a good listener, being sensitive to the needs and problems of others, caring for the environment, becoming an activist for quality-of-life issues, and so forth.
What if people reject our gifts? We design an invention but no one buys, we offer laughter and stories but none want to listen. We still have many options. We look for a different audience— set up a website. We find something new to share. Or we turn recipient— enjoy the offerings of others and return our thanks, which too is love.
On a light note there’s the one about the painter who became so discouraged trying to sell his work that he finally removed all his prices and replaced them with “collection the artist.” A friend tried to console him, “At least you have good taste.”
A life of worship through joy. What better praise than to embrace the gifts— acting unitheologically rather than just thinking it. Not that we can’t also choose to worship, reflect, or pray in more traditional ways, alone or with others. But a spiritual life can be— and often is— a spirited one.
(See also Rev. King’s article, “What is Unitheism?”; and Being, a unitheological, free-spirited inquiry, the second book in Faith by Reason.)
© 2009 Warren Farr — revised 9/4