A spirituality to suit the times

Paul Harrison wraps up his four-part series by explaining the complementary relationship between Pan

One of the strongest attractions of Pantheism for me is that it seems perfectly attuned for our times. We are living in world where scripture-driven fundamentalists from the three Western monotheisms are threatening international security and peace. A world where human neglect of nature and the environment has reached the point where it threatens all our livelihoods and lives.

What we need at this time is a spirituality of Nature and environment. This current is growing in all religions, as they re-interpret their core writings in line with the needs of our crisis. But Pantheism, from square one, places Nature at their very centre.

We need a spirituality that is not afraid of science, that doesn’t seek to deny science, nor to gradually withdraw into a hidden corner of untestable claims that can’t be investigated. Pantheism is possibly the only spiritual path that fully embraces science and the scientific method (that doesn’t mean we embrace all the technological products of science). It’s also possibly the only path that is utterly at home in space, in the Universe revealed by the Hubble telescope.

There’s no doubt that the numbers of self-described Pantheists is growing – we recently counted more than 10,000 separate members on WPM and related email lists. There’s also a vast number of “Pantheists who don’t know it yet” - people who don’t believe in supernatural beings but who do revere Nature.

The prospects for Pantheism as an organized religion are less certain. The World Pantheist Movement has made the strongest shot at it so far, but it is not easy to encourage people to form local groups. One reason is that Pantheists are non-conformist by nature, and many have been turned off all organized religion by bad experiences with traditional religions. Pantheists also tend to be secure in their beliefs – we believe in what’s in front of our eyes, and we don’t need the confirmation of group gatherings to reassure us that our beliefs are not crazy. Nor does our “salvation” or peace of mind depend on recruiting others to our beliefs.

If you simply revere Nature and the wider Universe, then there is no one correct way: ceremony is a matter of personal expressions and taste. So Pantheists vary widely in their interest in ceremony, and differ over what to do when they do meet. In a large survey, we found that 14% of Pantheists dislike ceremony and avoid it. At the other extreme 15% enjoy rituals such as dressing up, group chanting, or symbolic “props.” The rest of us are somewhere in the middle, not uncomfortable with group meditation or using natural objects for contemplation.

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Harriet Harman warns that the Brexit debate has been dominated by men

The former deputy leader hit out at the marginalisation of women's voices in the EU referendum campaign.

The EU referendum campaign has been dominated by men, Labour’s former deputy leader Harriet Harman warns today. The veteran MP, who was acting Labour leader between May and September last year, said that the absence of female voices in the debate has meant that arguments about the ramifications of Brexit for British women have not been heard.

Harman has written to Sharon White, the Chief of Executive of Ofcom, expressing her “serious concern that the referendum campaign has to date been dominated by men.” She says: “Half the population of this country are women and our membership of the EU is important to women’s lives. Yet men are – as usual – pushing women out.”

Research by Labour has revealed that since the start of this year, just 10 women politicians have appeared on the BBC’s Today programme to discuss the referendum, compared to 48 men. On BBC Breakfast over the same time period, there have been 12 male politicians interviewed on the subject compared to only 2 women. On ITV’s Good Morning Britain, 18 men and 6 women have talked about the referendum.

In her letter, Harman says that the dearth of women “fails to reflect the breadth of voices involved with the campaign and as a consequence, a narrow range [of] issues ends up being discussed, leaving many women feeling shut out of the national debate.”

Harman calls on Ofcom “to do what it can amongst broadcasters to help ensure women are properly represented on broadcast media and that serious issues affecting female voters are given adequate media coverage.” 

She says: "women are being excluded and the debate narrowed.  The broadcasters have to keep a balance between those who want remain and those who want to leave. They should have a balance between men and women." 

A report published by Loughborough University yesterday found that women have been “significantly marginalised” in reporting of the referendum, with just 16 per cent of TV appearances on the subject being by women. Additionally, none of the ten individuals who have received the most press coverage on the topic is a woman.

Harman's intervention comes amidst increasing concerns that many if not all of the new “metro mayors” elected from next year will be men. Despite Greater Manchester having an equal number of male and female Labour MPs, the current candidates for the Labour nomination for the new Manchester mayoralty are all men. Luciana Berger, the Shadow Minister for mental health, is reportedly considering running to be Labour’s candidate for mayor of the Liverpool city region, but will face strong competition from incumbent mayor Joe Anderson and fellow MP Steve Rotheram.

Last week, Harriet Harman tweeted her hope that some of the new mayors would be women.  

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.