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For Whitehead, God is not necessarily tied to religion.[119] Rather than springing primarily from religious faith, Whitehead saw God as necessary for his metaphysical system.[119] His system required that an order exist among possibilities, an order that allowed for novelty in the world and provided an aim to all entities. Whitehead posited that these ordered potentials exist in what he called the primordial nature of God. However, Whitehead was also interested in religious experience. This led him to reflect more intensively on what he saw as the second nature of God, the consequent nature. Whitehead's conception of God as a "dipolar"[120] entity has called for fresh theological thinking.

The primord

The primordial nature he described as "the unlimited conceptual realization of the absolute wealth of potentiality,"[118] i.e., the unlimited possibility of the universe. This primordial nature is eternal and unchanging, providing entities in the universe with possibilities for realization. Whitehead also calls this primordial aspect "the lure for feeling, the eternal urge of desire,"[121] pulling the entities in the universe toward as-yet unrealized possibilities.

God's consequent nature, on the other hand, is anything but unchanging – it is God's reception of the world's activity. As Whitehead puts it, "[God] saves the world as it passes into the immediacy of his own life. It is the judgment of a tenderness which loses nothing that can be saved."[122] In other words, God saves and cherishes all experiences forever, and those experiences go on to change the way God interacts with the world. In this way, God is really changed by what happens in the world and the wider universe, lending the actions of finite creatures an eternal significance.

Whitehead thus sees God and the world as fulfilling one another. He sees entities in the world as fluent and changing things that yearn for a permanence which only God can provide by taking them into God's self, thereafter changing God and affecting the rest of the universe throughout time. On the other hand, he sees God as permanent but as deficient in actuality and change: alone, God is merely eternally unrealized possibilities, and requires the world to actualize them. God gives creatures permanence, while the creatures give God actuality and change. Here it is worthwhile to quote Whitehead at length:

"In this way God is completed by the individual, fluent satisfactions of finite fact, and the temporal occasions are completed by their everlasting union with their transformed selves, purged into conformation with the eternal order which is the final absolute 'wisdom.' The final summary can only be expressed in terms of a group of antitheses, whose apparent self-contradictions depend on neglect of the diverse categories of existence. In each antithesis there is a shift of meaning which converts the opposition into a contrast.

"It is as

"It is as true to say that God is permanent and the World fluent, as that the World is permanent and God is fluent.

"It is as true to say that God is one and the World many, as that the World is one and God many.

"It is as true to say that, in comparison with the World, God is actual eminently, as that, in comparison with God, the World is actual eminently.

"It is as true to say that the World is immanent in God, as that God is immanent in the World.

"It is as true to say that God transcends the World, as that the World transcends God.

"It is as true to say that God creates the World, as that the World creates God ...

"What is done in the world is transformed into a reality in heaven, and the reality in heaven passes back into the world ... In this sense, God is the great companion – the fellow-sufferer who understands."[123]

The above is some of Whitehead's most evocative writing about God, and was powerful enough to inspire the movement known as process theology, a vibrant theological school of thought that continues to thrive today.[124][125]

For Whitehead the core of religion was individual. While he acknowledged that individuals cannot ever be fully separated from their society, he argued that life is an internal fact for its own sake before it is an external fact relating to others.[126] His most famous remark on religion is that "religion is what the individual does with his own solitariness ... and if you are never solitary, you are never religious."[127] Whitehead saw religion as a system of general truths that transformed a person's character.[128] He took special care to note that while religion is often a good influence, it is not necessarily good – an idea which he called a "dangerous delusion" (e.g., a religion might encourage the violent extermination of a rival religion's adherents).[129]

However, while Whitehead saw religion as beginning in solitariness, he also saw religion as necessarily expanding beyond the individual. In keeping with his process metaphysics in which relations are primary, he wrote

However, while Whitehead saw religion as beginning in solitariness, he also saw religion as necessarily expanding beyond the individual. In keeping with his process metaphysics in which relations are primary, he wrote that religion necessitates the realization of "the value of the objective world which is a community derivative from the interrelations of its component individuals."[130] In other words, the universe is a community which makes itself whole through the relatedness of each individual entity to all the others – meaning and value do not exist for the individual alone, but only in the context of the universal community. Whitehead writes further that each entity "can find no such value till it has merged its individual claim with that of the objective universe. Religion is world-loyalty. The spirit at once surrenders itself to this universal claim and appropriates it for itself."[131] In this way the individual and universal/social aspects of religion are mutually dependent.

Whitehead also described religion more technically as "an ultimate craving to infuse into the insistent particularity of emotion that non-temporal generality which primarily belongs to conceptual thought alone."[132] In other words, religion takes deeply felt emotions and contextualizes them within a system of general truths about the world, helping people to identify their wider meaning and significance. For Whitehead, religion served as a kind of bridge between philosophy and the emotions and purposes of a particular society.[133] It is the task of religion to make philosophy applicable to the everyday lives of ordinary people.

Isabelle Stengers wrote that "Whiteheadians are recruited among both philosophers and theologians, and the palette has been enriched by practitioners from the most diverse horizons, from ecology to feminism, practices that unite political struggle and spirituality with the sciences of education."[89] In recent decades attention to Whitehead's work has become more widespread, with interest extending to intellectuals in Europe and China, and coming from such diverse fields as ecology, physics, biology, education, economics, and psychology. One of the first theologians to attempt to interact with Whitehead's thought was the future Archbishop of Canterbury, William Temple. In Temple's Gifford Lectures of 1932-1934 (subsequently published as "Nature, Man and God"), Whitehead is one of a number of philosophers of the emergent evolution approach Temple interacts with.[134] However, it was not until the 1970s and 1980s that Whitehead's thought drew much attention outside of a small group of philosophers and theologians, primarily Americans, and even today he is not considered especially influential outside of relatively specialized circles.

Early followers of Whitehead were found primarily at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where Henry Nelson Wieman initiated an interest in Whitehead's work that would

Early followers of Whitehead were found primarily at the University of Chicago Divinity School, where Henry Nelson Wieman initiated an interest in Whitehead's work that would last for about thirty years.[84] Professors such as Wieman, Charles Hartshorne, Bernard Loomer, Bernard Meland, and Daniel Day Williams made Whitehead's philosophy arguably the most important intellectual thread running through the divinity school.[135] They taught generations of Whitehead scholars, the most notable of whom is John B. Cobb.

Although interest in Whitehead has since faded at Chicago's divinity school, Cobb effectively grabbed the torch and planted it firmly in Claremont, California, where he began teaching at Claremont School of Theology in 1958 and founded the Center for Process Studies with David Ray Griffin in 1973.[136] Largely due to Cobb's influence, today Claremont remains strongly identified with Whitehead's process thought.[137][138]

But while Claremont remains the most concentrated hub of Whiteheadian activity, the place where Whitehead's thought currently seems to be growing the most quickly is in China. In order to address the challenges of modernization and industrialization, China has begun to blend traditions of Taoism, Buddhism, and Confucianism with Whitehead's "constructive post-modern" philosophy in order to create an "ecological civilization".[71] To date, the Chinese government has encouraged the building of twenty-three university-based centres for the study of Whitehead's philosophy,[71][139] and books by process philosophers John Cobb and David Ray Griffin are becoming required reading for Chinese graduate students.[71] Cobb has attributed China's interest in process philosophy partly to Whitehead's stress on the mutual interdependence of humanity and nature, as well as his emphasis on an educational system that includes the teaching of values rather than simply bare facts.[71]

Overall, however, Whitehead's influence is very difficult to characterize. In English-speaking countries, his primary works are little-studied outside of Claremont and a select number of liberal graduate-level theology and philosophy programs. Outside of these circles his influence is relatively small and diffuse, and has tended to come chiefly through the work of his students and admirers rather than Whitehead himself.[140] For instance, Whitehead was a teacher and long-time friend and collaborator of Bertrand Russell, and he also taught and supervised the dissertation of Willard Van Orman Quine,[141] both of whom are important figures in analytic philosophy – the dominant strain of philosophy in English-speaking countries in the 20th century.[142] Whitehead has also had high-profile admirers in the continental tradition, such as French post-structuralist philosopher Gilles Deleuze, who once dryly remarked of Whitehead that "he stands provisionally as the last great Anglo-American philosopher before Wittgenstein's disciples spread their misty confusion, sufficiency, and terror."[143] French sociologist and anthropologist Bruno Latour even went so far as to call Whitehead "the greatest philosopher of the 20th century."[144]

Deleuze's and Latour's opinions, however, are minority ones, as Whitehead has not been recognized as particularly influential within the most dominant philosophical schools.[145] It is impossible to say exactly why Whitehead's influence has not been more widespread, but it may be partly due to his metaphysical ideas seeming somewhat counter-intuitive (such as his assertion that matter is an abstraction), or his inclusion of theistic elements in his philosophy,[146] or the perception of metaphysics itself as passé, or simply the sheer difficulty and density of his prose.[24]

Historically Whitehead's work has been most influential in the field of American progressive theology.[124][138] The most important early proponent of Whitehead's thought in a theological context was Charles Hartshorne, who spent a semester at Harvard as Whitehead's teaching assistant in 1925, and is widely credited with developing Whitehead's process philosophy into a full-blown process theology.[147] Other notable process theologians include John B. Cobb, David Ray Griffin, Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki, C. Robert Mesle, Roland Faber, and Catherine Keller.

Process theology typically stresses God's relational nature. Rather than seeing God as impassive or emotionless, process theologians view God as "the fellow sufferer who understands", and as the being who is supremely affected by temporal events.[148] Hartshorne points out that people would not praise a human ruler who was unaffected by either the joys or sorrows of his followers – so why would this be a praise-worthy quality in God?[149] Instead, as the being who is most affected by the world, God is the being who can most appropriately respond to the world. However, process theology has been formulated in a wide variety of ways. C. Robert Mesle, for instance, advocates a "process naturalism", i.e. a process theology without God.[150]

In fact, process theology is difficult to define because process theologians are so diverse and transdisciplinary in their views and interests. John B. Cobb is a process theologian who has also written books o

Process theology typically stresses God's relational nature. Rather than seeing God as impassive or emotionless, process theologians view God as "the fellow sufferer who understands", and as the being who is supremely affected by temporal events.[148] Hartshorne points out that people would not praise a human ruler who was unaffected by either the joys or sorrows of his followers – so why would this be a praise-worthy quality in God?[149] Instead, as the being who is most affected by the world, God is the being who can most appropriately respond to the world. However, process theology has been formulated in a wide variety of ways. C. Robert Mesle, for instance, advocates a "process naturalism", i.e. a process theology without God.[150]

In fact, process theology is difficult to define because process theologians are so diverse and transdisciplinary in their views and interests. John B. Cobb is a process theologian who has also written books on biology and economics. Roland Faber and Catherine Keller integrate Whitehead with poststructuralist, postcolonialist, and feminist theory. Charles Birch was both a theologian and a geneticist. Franklin I. Gamwell writes on theology and political theory. In Syntheism - Creating God in The Internet Age, futurologists Alexander Bard and Jan Söderqvist repeatedly credit Whitehead for the process theology they see rising out of the participatory culture expected to dominate the digital era.

Process philosophy is even more difficult to pin down than process theology. In practice, the two fields cannot be neatly separated. The 32-volume State University of New York series in constructive postmodern thought edited by process philosopher and theologian David Ray Griffin displays the range of areas in which different process philosophers work, including physics, ecology, medicine, public policy, nonviolence, politics, and psychology.[151]

One philosophical school which has historically had a close relationship with process philosophy is American pragmatism. Whitehead himself thought highly of William James and John Dewey, and acknowledged his indebtedness to them in the preface to Process and Reality.[3] Charles Hartshorne (along with Paul Weiss) edited the collected papers of Charles Sanders Peirce, one of the founders of pragmatism. Noted neopragmatist Richard Rorty was in turn a student of Hartshorne.[152] Today, Nicholas Rescher is one example of a philosopher who advocates both process philosophy and pragmatism.

In addition, while they might not properly be called process philosophers, Whitehead has been influential in the philosophy of Gilles Deleuze, Milič Čapek, Isabelle Stengers, Bruno Latour, Susanne Langer, and Maurice Merleau-Ponty.[citation needed]