Pantheism Explained

Physicist Albert Einstein seated at desk with cigarette.
Bettmann Archive / Getty Images

Pantheism is the belief that God and the universe are one and the same. There is no dividing line between the two. Pantheism is a type of religious belief rather than a specific religion, similar to terms like monotheism (belief in a single God) and polytheism (belief in multiple gods).

Pantheists view God as immanent and impersonal. The belief system grew out of the Scientific Revolution, and pantheists generally are strong supporters of scientific inquiry, as well as religious toleration.

An Immanent God

In being immanent, God is present in all things. God didn't make the earth or define gravity, but, rather, God is the earth and gravity and everything else in the universe.

Because God is uncreated and infinite, the universe is likewise uncreated and infinite. God did not choose one day to make the universe. Rather, it exists precisely because God exists, since the two are the same thing.

Value of Science

This does not need to contradict scientific theories such as the Big Bang. The changing of the universe is all part of the nature of God as well. It simply states there was something before the Big Bang, an idea that is certainly debated in scientific circles.

Pantheists are generally strong supporters of scientific inquiry. Since God and the universe are one, understanding the universe is how one comes to better understand God.

Unity of Being

Because all things are God, all things are connected and ultimately are of one substance. While various facets of God have defining characteristics (everything from different species to individual people), they are part of a greater whole. As a comparison, one might consider the parts of the human body. Hands are different from feet which are different from lungs, but all are part of the greater whole that is the human form.

Religious Tolerance

Because all things are ultimately God, all approaches to God can conceivably lead to an understanding of God. Each person should be allowed to pursue such knowledge as they wish. This does not mean, however, that pantheists believe every approach is correct. They generally do not believe in an afterlife, for example, nor do they find merit in strict dogma and ritual.

What Pantheism Is Not

Pantheism should not be confused with panentheism. Panentheism views God as both immanent and transcendent. This means that while the entire universe is a part of God, God also exists beyond the universe. As such, this God can be a personal God, a conscious being that manifested the universe with whom one can have a personal relationship.

Pantheism is also not deism. Deist beliefs are sometimes described as not having a personal God, but in that case, it is not meant to say the God has no consciousness. The deist God actively created the universe. God is impersonal in the sense that God retreated from the universe after its creation, uninterested in listening to or interacting with believers.

Pantheism is not animism. Animism is the belief that animals, trees, rivers, mountains—all things—have a spirit. However, these spirits are unique rather than being part of a greater spiritual whole. These spirits are frequently approached with reverence and offerings to ensure continued goodwill between humanity and the spirits.

Famous Pantheists

Baruch Spinoza introduced pantheistic beliefs to a wide audience in the 17th century. However, other, less known thinkers had already expressed pantheistic views such as Giordano Bruno, who was burnt at the stake in 1600 for his highly unorthodox beliefs.

Albert Einstein stated,

"I believe in Spinoza's God who reveals himself in the orderly harmony of what exists, not in a God who concerns himself with fates and actions of human beings."

He also stated that "science without religion is lame; religion without science is blind," underscoring that pantheism is neither anti-religious nor atheistic.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Beyer, Catherine. "Pantheism Explained." Learn Religions, Sep. 8, 2021, Beyer, Catherine. (2021, September 8). Pantheism Explained. Retrieved from Beyer, Catherine. "Pantheism Explained." Learn Religions. (accessed May 29, 2023).