Ietsism

The Jedi Path 2

Ietsism [eets-iz-uhm] (Dutch: ‘somethingism’) is an unspecified belief in some higher force. In some Eastern European censuses (Albanian, for example), those having ietsistic beliefs are counted as believers without religion. An opinion poll conducted by the Dutch daily newspaper ‘Trouw’ in 2004 indicated that some 40% of its readership felt broadly this way.

It indicates a range of beliefs held by people who, on the one hand, inwardly suspect – or indeed believe – that there is ‘More between Heaven and Earth’ than we know about, but on the other hand do not necessarily accept or subscribe to the established belief system, dogma or view of the nature of God offered by any particular religion. Some of the English language equivalent terms are agnostic theism (the belief that one or more gods exist, but that a person cannot know that god or those gods) and deism (the belief that while a higher being exists, people should rely on logic and reason and not religious traditions).

The name derives from the Dutch equivalent of the question: ‘Do you believe in the conventional ‘Christian’ God,” a typical ‘ietsist’ answer being ‘No, but there must be something (something being ‘iets’ in Dutch)!’ The term became known in the Netherlands after atheist political columnist Ronald Plasterk (who later served as the Dutch Minister of Education, Culture and Science) used it in a feature for the television show ‘Buitenhof’ (‘outside the Binnenhof’). But the term possibly existed already. In 2005, the word ‘ietsisme’ was included in the 14th edition of the Dutch Language Dictionary ‘Dikke Van Dale,’ but and also began to circulate among English-speakers as a loanword. More recently; the word ‘ietsers’ (‘somethingers’) has emerged in the Netherlands to describe people of this viewpoint, but this has not yet been borrowed into English.

Ietsism may roughly be described as a belief in an end-in-itself (intrinsic value) or similar concept, without further assumption to exactly what object or objects have such a property, like intrinsic aliquidism without further specification. (Intrinsic aliquidism is the belief that something in the world holds value; it is the opposite of intrinsic nihilism, the belief that nothing does.) Other aliquidistic lifestances include the acceptance of ‘there is something – that is, some meaning of life, something that is an end-in-itself or something more to existence – and it is…,’ assuming various objects or ‘truths,’ while ietsism, on the other hand simply accepts ‘there is something,’ without further assumption to it.

In contrast to traditional agnostics who often hold a skeptical view about gods or other metaphysical entities (i.e. ‘We can’t or don’t know for sure that there is a God’), ‘ietsists’ take a viewpoint along the lines of, ‘And yet it feels like there is something out there….’ It is a form of religious liberalism or non-denominationalism. Ietsism may also be described as the minimal counterpart of nihilism, since it accepts that there is something, but yet, assumes as little further as possible without any more substantial evidence.

Ietsism also shares many attributes with similar viewpoints such as Deism and the so-called ‘God of the Gaps’ (a theological perspective in which gaps in scientific knowledge are taken to be evidence or proof of God’s existence), whose origins lie more in questions about the nature and origin of the physical universe. It could be said that ietsism is ‘Deism for the spiritually-inclined.’

As the ietsist will not have found any of the ‘pre-packaged’ gods offered by traditional religions satisfactory, each ietsist’s conception of God will be different. This can range from the Judeo/Christian/Islamic concept of God as a force / intelligence that exists outside the world, to a position similar to the Buddhist worldview with collective spiritual power existing within the world. Other ietsists take a truly agnostic viewpoint – that the actual nature of God is totally unknown.

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