Pagans—the word is not an insult—believed that God was immanent. If you’ve seen Star Wars, you have it. “The Force” was God, and The Force was everything. To quote that most eminent of authorities, “The Force is a binding, metaphysical, and ubiquitous power”. Since people are part of existence, they are part of God. God was not a separate entity.
Of course, Pagans had more than God-as-all-that-exists; they also had created superior beings, i.e. the gods. But these gods were not God, only poor fractured creatures like us, subject to whim, emotion, calamity, even destruction.
Christianity intervened and explained that God was not immanent, but transcendent. God is not the universe: God created and creates and sustains, at every moment, the universe. Without God, not only could the universe (defined as all that exists, which includes, if they do exist, multiverses and the like) not come into existence, it could not continue existing even for fraction of fraction of a second without His constant, loving attention.
People are part of creation, but are not part of God. People owe to God a debt of gratitude that can never be repaid for the gift of their existence. With Pagans, Christians taught sin exists.
Then came the Deists, who kept the idea of God the creator but married to it the Pagan conception of God as merely superior being. God wasn’t part of everything, but He started the whole shebang rolling. Perhaps, though only every now and then, He checked up on his creation, but largely He was content to let things unfold by the rules He specified. God was not particularly interested in people. Where God came from was left vague. Sin began to disappear.
Finally we arrive at atheism, which isn’t anything. Saying, “I believe there is no God” is not a working philosophy. It doesn’t get you anywhere. But since we all need a working philosophy, one was invented; rather, it is now in the process of being invented. Since (mostly in the West) it is young, this working philosophy is still in its rebellious phase, and is now nothing more than petulant whatever-Christians-like-we-dislike reactions. This will pass.
Our task is to investigate this new metaphysics. It is the question of the new millennium. For a rough neologism, I suggest Malleism, meant to imply malleability, infinite changeability: I’m also fond of the mal- prefix. This atheistic, scientism-derived philosophy is the belief that we are gods, from which it follows we are in charge of our own creation, which is to say, us.
Malleists hold that reality outside humans exists as those in thrall to scientism say it does. Missiles and baseballs and electrons fly along paths dictated by the laws of physics, laws which arose out of nothing or “chance.” But we operate on rules we ourselves invent. Malleism is not scientism, though it relies on it. Scientism is paganism sans immanence. Nature is blind, uncaring, indifferent. But notice that Nature still exists and is spoken of as if it is a creature. Nature is all there is, and it operates on its (her?) own rules.
Except, somehow, we are above Nature. And superior, both beholden and not beholden to it. This explains the push to insist on the one hand that our bodies are subject to determinate physical forces, and therefore we do not have free will, but on the other hand—nobody knows how—some of us have risen above these forces to tell the world that we do not have free will and that we would make better choices if we only realized we cannot make choices.
We are what we say we are. If I, a man, insist I am a woman, then I am a woman. If I say I am married to a playground ride, then I am married to a playground ride. If I say I may kill myself whenever I displease myself, then I may. If I want to be given a child, then I must have one. Whatever I desire, I must have and must be given. And may my enemies be damned for disagreeing. Sin, except for disagreement, is entirely absent.
The anger over opposition arises naturally, as it would in a god unhappy over a missed sacrifice and who thus sends a raucous thunderstorm as punishment. Since we are gods, our authority over ourselves is absolute, and therefore unquestionable. So how, then, do we get along with the other gods? I have no idea.
Of course, no philosophy is free of influence from what came before. Paganism is still tooling along, as is Deism and even Christianity. But none of these will be the dominant metaphysics or religion. Something like Malleism will be. But what?