Although believers in God outnumber those who don’t, atheism
remains on the rise around the world, especially in the U.S. Even more are those considering themselves non-religious and the two combined now outgrow believers by a faster pace.About 40% of Americans consider themselves atheists or non-believers while the percentage of believers has dropped to 60% and the gap is closing.(Gallup Poll, August 15, 2012, Christian Science Monitor)
When I read or hear these reports, I ask myself, “Why does this trend keep growing around the world?” I assume people keep deciding the ideas of God taught or picked up in society are irrelevant, dangerous and even repugnant. My own ideas of God evolved over the years and to many of my former friends, I would be presently considered an “unbeliever,” as I am no longer comfortable with most former beliefs. So what or who is my idea of God?
I begin by understanding God as an idea. By definition God represents one’s allegiance to an idea which guides his or her thinking and actions. It could be money, power, a country, a
person, or an object which determines our basic thinking toward actions to bring us pleasure and freedom. Our inward perceptions become our outward projections toward the world around us. Whatever they are, they become our idol or idols, the source of decision-making.
The idea I have of God is Spirit, unknown or beyond definition yet everywhere present. Among various ideas presented in the 4th century book called the Bible, God is defined as Spirit. “God is Spirit and those who worship Him must worship Him in Spirit and Truth.”(Gospel of John, chapter 4, verse 24) This “Truth”, seen in many Biblical ideas, is often an extremely angry, punishing, and vindictive idea toward those who do not believe or conform. Islamic ideas of God or Allah also emphasize His Justice and Mercy, but like Christianity become judgmental and punishing to those who reject Him. Both are based in Judaism which also contain God ideas which appear bipolar in swinging from eternal love to eternal hate. In Eastern Religions, Hindus refer to God as Atman, “unborn, undying, never ceasing, never beginning,
changeless and eternal.” Buddhists refuse to give God any name since the goal is to reach “Nirvana” or peace with the sense of detachment and total freedom. To define God is to lose God and the Higher Self becomes known only through the experience or practice of love and compassion to all sentient beings.
One of my late teachers Anthony DeMello taught me that when you seek to define or “make” a God, try to at least make sure the idea is among the very best among us. Make the idea become the greatest love possible; a forgiving, kind, and patient Entity. He criticized his own Christian tradition by following ideas of God as vengeful and wrathful, one who wipes out billions of souls in eternal damnation, ideas still prevalent in today’s Christianity. These are not noble ideas of God but projections of our egocentric fears of Identification with bodies and temporal possessions.
What then is God? God is a “no-thing” or “Nothing,” nothing like anything we can see, touch, or think. God just Is as Spirit everywhere, beyond forms, beliefs, creeds and buildings. Such belief in a No-Thing translates more easily into love, a love which
sees or senses beyond mortality and forms to a mysterious and liberating Oneness. Of course, it is practice which brings the experience. It is experienced in silent mediations and stillness, focusing on a word or just the breath. “Be still and know I am God”, a verse from the Hebrew psalm, a verse quoted by my first teachers in India to explain their purpose and ideas to me. It
then becomes the practice of living the Presence of the Unknowable, treating others with acceptance and forgiveness rather than as outward sources in our thirst for love.
So believe in a God or ultimate purpose but with the most noble
and highest qualities. And whether a “believer” or not, find the deepest experience of peace, bliss and joy by practicing
forgiveness, love, compassion and kindness with all. Remember or think of yourself not as body with separate mind, but as Spirit, together in Mind with all the universe, beyond time and space.
As always, comments and questions welcomed.
Dave, great in-depth wisdom as usual, you express what most of us associate with, but cannot begin to understand.
Hi Pastor Dave. My feeling is somewhat different in that I define God as some entity that set in motion all that is. An entity that takes an interest in where we are headed. I don’t have any difficulty in believing in God because I see , in us, the very essence of Godliness. I feel that you can define God in scientific terms. For example (one of many explanations for those that cannot reconcile science with their belief in God).
The Universe is about 14 point something Billion years old.
It was set in motion by a series of equations that balance forces Just SO.
Weak force not too weak. Strong force not too strong
One moment of “Let there be light” and the Big Bang happens
In time it cools enough for Hydrogen gas to form due to the interplay of the Weak & Strong Forces
The same forces, give rise to Gravity
Gravity, working at the atomic level, causes clouds of gases to attract more gas
This creates a gravity well and more and more gases fall into this well until…..
A STAR is born… the star burns fiercely and heavier and heavier elements are forged
Suddenly it explodes, because the same atomic forces finally can’t be sustained.
In that swirling, expanding cloud of gases, heavier elements exist that can now form planets
That life looks out at the universe.. and finally comprehends its place in.the universe .. and it also understands that for it’s very existence, there has to be a law, an order a simple word…so sublime… that it’s very utterance caused the whole cycle of the Universe to start in a flash of energy. We stand on an immense threshold. We are almost able to grasp the law that set the whole of space time into motion.
I look out and I see the Universe as chaos..underpinned by ONE law. I feel that understanding that one law will give us a beautiful and complete view into the whole of the Cosmos and that, when we finally grasp this level of understanding, we will be able to see inside it all… the hand of a higher power. The hand of a power that looks back at us and see’s that we truly are made in it’s own likeness and that we too, finally, are able to grasp that science and God are just two parts of the same Law.
I know I am not eloquent enough to put my view across but I have this feeling .. that we are just about to look into the depths of space time and finally see the shadow of God moving behind it all.
Hi Mark, I appreciated your comments. I’m having a bit of trouble adjusting to Windows 8.
I came to the place several years ago to understand the world, the universe is but an illusion of reality. God, the Unchangeable could not create such a chaotic, changing, and uncertain entity. It also coincides I believe with early Christianity with was called “Gnostic” which saw the world, etc. as created by a demiurge, an entity much lower that the true God. It also, I believe, is supported by higher parts of the Eastern religions I have studied here and in India. In seeing the world as a dream, an illusion of the ego, it gave me conflict at first but later a constant growing peace and sense of freedom. The book, A Course in Miracles, became a wonderful source over the last 25 years to help reinforce this idea. The study of Quantum Physics and the contributions of Einstein and later scientist teaching the laws of chaos and uncertainty also deepened by change of thinking. So what I am is Spirit, one with the Creator, God or whatever name, and my coming here was but a crazy idea of thinking I could be unlike myself and succeed in form and time. Until I “awaken,” it was quite the trying, stress, disappointing journey.
Thanks again for your thoughtful comments and blessings to you on your own journey. May you find deep peace and contentment in freedom.
Hi Dave. I have a question for you based on my education in AI programming. When the AI in the games reaches human level. When that AI is able to reach a level of self awareness. When the figures in games like Call of Duty become aware enough to seek self preservation with a human level of “Self”, what do they ask of their own being. Where am I? Who made me? What is my Universe?
The electronic awareness that looks out of the game will ask if it too is made in the image of its creator. It will be right because we have made our games in our own image. It is a 2 dimensional entity in a virtual 3 dimensional world…which is basically the same as us. Its entire existence will be based on electronic projection. Our eyes project what they see, via electronic impulses, into a part of our brain which perceives everything in 2 dimensions. We are not seeing much more than the captives in Plato’s cave allegory.
So my questions are as follows. In what way, in which ways, would the reality of that AI being be different from ours? It’s inability to communicate with us does not negate our existence. The manner in which we communicate with the AI can be take many different forms from direct instructions to the individual AI to intervention in the game itself. The AI’s refusal to acknowledge our existence doesn’t impact the reality of our creative process which gave rise to the AI.
I guess what I am trying to say is.. in what way is our reality different from that of the one perceived by the AI? I am especially interested in how a Deist would say that our realities differ.
Sorry if it all sounds confused but I am sure you understand what I mean..:)
Hi Mark, not certain if I got exactly what you wrote but I’ll try. (Hey, perceptions are always changing by nature.) If the AI looks out and discerns it came from us, or you as the maker, then you question is, can this analogy fit for a “proof” we came from a God who made us in his image, or its. My hunch to begin with is that it is much the same. Was it Paschal who said or wrote, “God made us in his image and we then returned the favor.” Or someone. If we start with identifying ourselves as bodies, it is logical then to “return the favor” seeing Creator as having form and stability like ours, which in the long or short run isn’t very stable. I think of Plato’s words as more as our seeing only shadow of ourselves rather than the reality as formless, oneness, eternal, spirit, beyond perception. The “Is-ness.” It actually is beyond our comprehension, as higher forms of Christianity once at least taught as well as higher forms of eastern religions. Buddhism, like I have grown to see, doesn’t do a lot with defining “Ultimate Reality” or God; it is all in our practice of detachment and staying forgiving, kind, and compassionate. Only such can we sense the “other self” and the release of guilt for not doing enough, being alone, needing competition, wars, etc.
I will remember your image of the AI because I think of ourselves as kind of AI’s lost in our forms and ephemeral universe of time/space. Thanks for your sharing your thoughts and may peace and joy run deep. Dave