Monday, June 14, 2010

Does it make sense to believe in God?

Creation of the Sun and Moon by Michelangelo, ...Image via Wikipedia
All "gods" in the sense that atheists use the term are in fact human-made. That is no surprise. All words reflect human mental constructions pointing to some idea or experience.

Even the lesser gods of polytheism reflect something humans perceived not only about the world outside of themselves but the world within. But if atheists think to little or narrow of God, we have theists to thank for it.

Any God that can be accepted or rejected is not God. What is accepted or rejected are images, depictions, and descriptions of God. To paraphrase Fr. Rolheiser, God's existence does not depend upon the quality of our imagination. The deep knowledge of the heart which carries an awareness of the Divine cannot truly deny or reject itself.

Instead we may ask, "Does our notion of the Divine bringing us closer to a greater awareness of the Source and a deeper appreciation of our participation in and as an aspect of It?" In this instance Source refers to what the philosopher Tillich refers to the ground of Being -- the focus of ultimate concern.

That is, God is not another thing, even the biggest or best of a category of things. God is instead freed from such limitations, even as this description itself falls short of completeness. God is allowed to be both immanent and transcendent, beyond what we can conceive and as closer than our own breath, source and sustainer of all that is.

Some assume "God" is an extra layer or texture spread over existence like jam on bread. God isn't an extra or an add-on. Whatever you are aware of is your level of awareness of God. If you are only aware of yourself, don't underestimate that. There are those who plumb the depths of existence through learning, meditation, praise, etc, but they are technically not "closer" to God than you. They may be more appreciative, and that could translate into a greater benefit, but they aren't somehow more "special".

God isn't a superior hypothesis or a better idea - (seeking/experiencing) God is an entirely different orientation to existence. God isn't a thing, a being, or any other phenomena. God is like a shorthand for discussing the totality encompassing existence, its sustaining power and source.

If we assume ("choose to believe in") God, then everything is part of that revelation.

On the surface, it may appear that "God" and "no God" are identical. This is not so. Let's make you an archeologist. If I give you an ancient bone with marks and squiggles on it but you assume it was before Homo (the group to which humans belong) had occupied the area where the bone was found, you might dismiss it as the effect of etching caused by plant roots as they passed over the bone. If you think Homo may have been there early, you would be open to analyzing it as potential symbolic markings and do additional tests. In the same way, if you assume "God" then you aren't just going to keep seeing that same old same old the same way.

Hence, it isn't really about seeking God, or Buddhanature, etc - at least not with your feet or your intellect. It's about getting to know God. If God creates and sustains all of existence, then you don't have to go anywhere. If, as many ancient traditions hold, we are a part of/participate in the divine, then God can't ever be far from us. That is, the difference between a world with God or without is whether you expect to find God or not.

We all know the importance of expectations and other assumptions in shaping how we look at things, at how we perceive reality. We tend to see what we expect to see and ignore or explain away the rest. No one be debated into making the basic choice to really try living with God.

Even if one was given or discover a logical metaphysical system that appeared better at explaining many things than atheism, that doesn't mean an atheist would upon hearing of it decide "Oh, OK, I'll accept the reality of God now."

An atheist will always view everything in terms of the default, which is the non-existence of God. Even an open-minded one. The same is true for those who believe in God. No set of facts will ever prove or disprove belief in God.

Does it make sense to believe in God?

Stop waiting for "some thing" to believe in. Follow the sense of humility and gratitude that comes from the wonder of an existence that defies our best models and theories. Seek a greater awareness of the well-spring of moment-to-moment existence and reflect on participating in it through periods of silence. Listen to your heart. Does it make sense to talk about believing or not believing in whatever you experienced?

Based on a series of posts published originally at Peaceful Turmoil (parts one, two and three).

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