Tag Archives: belief

belief in a personal god

through my twitter connection @UUsoul i came across a post on the topic of a personal god at celestial lands. i figured that rather than replying, i’ll comment in a post here.

david from celestial lands says

i believe that there is no division in god, that every moment of every day we are intimately involved with god; in a flight of birds, in a breath of wind, in a cab driver who cuts us off, in a moment on the zen cushions… all one, all god. we are a part of god, and nothing can be more intimate than this. god is a holy spirit that is intimately involved in all things, and we are intimately involved in the part of god we can touch and sense.

however, god does not, in any personal way, know that we exist as individuals. i wonder whether god is even capable of “knowing” in any human sense. more, my faith in god does not require god’s knowing of me. i am “known” simply in my being, along with all of being, and together we are becoming… and becoming… and becoming. to me, nothing could be more intimate than this.

my reply:

very interesting!

if i may spin this a little further, in a bit of a free-association way …

i can have a personal relationship with (a) god, believing on an intellectual level that god mostly IS, as you describe it, yet allowing myself to imagine some sort of intelligent god, which makes the interaction easier. (an analogy: i know that the number 1,000,000,000,000,000 exists but i am not capable of imagining more than 7 discrete things at a time) (wow – i’ve never written it down like that before. talk about the limitations of being a human animal!)

if my guiding principle is that god simply IS and add to that the belief that god is infinite, then i can invite all sorts of imaginary, emotional and intellectual helpmates. for example, i can be open to and play with the possibility of god having some sort of intelligence, consciousness, or even power of intervention.

is this related to the idea of “i believe THAT god” rather than “i believe IN god”?

unexamined belief: spiritual atheism?

here, finally, is the continuation of my conversation with jan about spirituality and atheism.

says jan:

well, really, how could mulder [from the X-files] possibly have believed in UFOs? something for which there is no tangible proof. he would have had to believe simply on the basis of … faith. that would be silly.

believe simply on the basis of … faith. that would be silly.

i’ll use these dictionary definitions to help me think about the word “faith”:

  • confidence or trust in a person or thing: faith in another’s ability.
  • belief that is not based on proof: he had faith that the hypothesis would be substantiated by fact.
  • belief in anything, as a code of ethics, standards of merit, etc.: to be of the same faith with someone concerning honesty.

the silliness, i presume, refers to the idea that there is no logical reason to believe in a god. yes, i said ‘idea. not ‘fact’ because some people – good old pascal and his wager being one of the more solid examples – would argue that there are logical reasons. but let’s just assume that there is no such logical reason.

i have lots of non-logical reasons why i do and think things. indeed, i assume most of my reasons aren’t very logical. i love my children, dislike liquorice and don’t much care for opera. i go out of my way to write poetry and am proud of the rubbermaid sticker on my laptop.

“ah, but these are personal preferences! they’re your private business!”

i am against capital punishment. i believe adequate housing is a right not a privilege. i am pro choice.

ok, we’ve moved out of the personal now. but you know what, if i’m honest, at rock bottom, the reasons for these values are also, how should i put it, extra-logical. the way in which i hold these values dear is not much different from the way i love my children.

is a belief in god different? (and some of you may remember, i don’t “believe” in god per se; i believe in goodness. but that’s beside the point for now.)

perhaps it goes like this: if a belief in god is unexamined, the way my dislike for liquorice is unreflected and if far-reaching decisions are based on such an unexamined belief, then we could have a problem.

let’s throw something else in the mix. jan says

i suspect that many “religious” people don’t really believe. they just want to believe.

and in the meantime they’ll go to all the meetings, listen to all the same old stories from the same books, always hoping that some day they’ll attain that elusive state of belief/faith they keep hearing so much about.

these “religious” people are actually spiritual atheists: they’re atheists as they don’t believe in any deity, and they are spiritual as they’re very concerned with religion, the sacred, the spirit.

does “don’t really believe” refer to an unexamined belief? is it maybe the same as with love – what seems like love, on reflection, frequently turns out to be a craving for the feeling that comes with love-like experiences: being wanted, needed, cared for and cared about; if it’s romantic love, the crazy hormonal surges; knowing that we’re not alone; and generally the warm-and-fuzzies. love as work is often not what we really want to sign up for: staying up all hours of the night to make sure our teenage children come home ok; working on being tolerant of the other’s incomprehensible foibles; supporting our loved ones’ decisions because they’re good for them, even when they tear at our heartstrings.

perhaps it’s the same with faith. most people probably go with comfortable faith: the jubilant choir at christmas mass; the solemnity – never mind the ample buffet – of a funeral; the this-is-the-way-it’s-done of the wedding of a couple that hasn’t darkened the doors of a church for ten years. however, going to the trouble of engaging with god – well, that’s just a lot of work.

these are probably regular congregants of the church of spiritual atheists. great concept, jan, by the way. and i would add that these congregants aren’t even that concerned with religion, much less the sacred or spirit.

i used to be very critical of them; indeed, they are a major reason why as a teenager, i refused to get confirmed in the lutheran church, despite the fact that at that time, confirmation was the biggest and most gift-laden event in the life of a person of that faith.

now i feel much more ambivalent.

is a faith that is not well-thought-out less valuable than one that is deeply examined? and just because someone’s relationship with their deity is not very close, does it mean that relationship has little or no meaning?

i don’t know. what do you think?

dr. joe capista on: concepts of god

okay, this is the third and last instalment of my review of dr. joe capista’s book what can a dentist teach you about business, life and success?. we’re looking at dr. capista’s reflections on spirituality. so far, we’ve learned about being committed to going on retreats, and studying sacred text together with others. today, ideas about belief.

i have had people ask me if i am 100% certain about my concept of god and spirituality. actually, it doesn’t matter if what i believe is true or not. i say this because if i died tonight and i get to wherever i’m going only to find there is no heaven and no god, i would be satisfied. i’d look back on my life and say, “i’m glad i did it that way, because i was a happier person. i lived my life based on principles that made me happy and made others happy.”

so i don’t live or think this way to reap the benefits of heaven. i live this way and believe this way because it gives me a quality of life that is truly passionate, joyful and loving.

i know life is fragile; it could fall apart tomorrow, but i’d still have my sense of self and the knowledge to recreate and rebalance this gift we call “life.”

holding paradoxes in one’s mind is one of the delights – and consternations – of a life lived in open-eyed spirituality. the paradox here, the seeming contradiction, is about believing in something that we are not 100% certain is “true”. how can you not only believe but also base so much of your life on something that is intangible and maybe not even “there”?

see how i put the words “true” and “there” in quotation marks?

the crazy thing is that belief, truth and certainty are completely abstract. they’re just words.

what counts, and what delights our hearts, is to live all of this stuff. to live prayer. to live joy. and when it looks like none of it makes sense to simply throw up our hands and grin. because it feels right.