Inciteful comments from Vern Poythress, on the inevitable drift into superstition and pantheistic speaking and thinking, even by the most advanced technological societies–especially when we try to shut out the idea that there’s anything in the universe except matter, time and chance. (I don’t know about you, but I feel like this kind of stuff is everywhere…)
If matter is at the bottom of everything, there is continuity between human beings and trees. This conviction may lead some people to dismiss what is uniquely human: they could say that consciousness and moral judgments are illusory. But they could also travel in exactly the opposite direction. They could try to commune with trees and imagine that trees too must dimly possess quasi-human characteristics.
A hard-nosed scientific materialism in one part of the mind can actually be combined with a soft yearning for communion with spirits; people can travel toward new forms of animism, spiritism, polytheism, and pantheism.
Everyday people within advanced industrial societies are looking into astrology and fortune-telling and spirits and meditation. That direction might seem paradoxical. But actually it is not surprising. In principle a thoroughgoing materialism breaks down all hard and-fast distinctions within the world. If a materialist viewpoint is correct, all is one. And the many—the diversity of phenomena—all flow into this one. This result has a name—pantheism—that shows its religious commitment.
Such religious commitments may begin to populate the world with many spirits and many gods, which are semi-personal. When a viewpoint includes spirits and gods, it may in a sense appear to be personalist. But ultimately it is impersonalist, because the “one” dissolves what is distinctive to persons.
–From Inerrancy and Worldview, pg. 31-32