WARNING: This will likely be very long. I ask you to bare with me, as I would love to have a nice, RESPECTFUL, flowing dialogue in the comments area. I know at least one person will join in that, since they are the one who prompted this thought flow. And please comment like you mean it, politely, and seriously. I’m not going to accept rude discussion.
On to the main event!
Let us start with this: this post is about belief in god. WAIT! Don’t close the window just yet! I’ve been having a very compelling discussion on this with a person on Yahoo of all places (I’m RanaSimon surprisingly, and Rolling Thunder is the lovely counterpart in the discussion), and realize there is a lot I have to say about others’ faith versus my own interpretation. I am not going to spew some religious rant that you’ve all heard before, and I don’t plan on repeating arguments that are used every day. I do not expect anyone read my ideas, drop everything they’re doing and come to some greater understanding or some bull shit. I simply want to get all my thoughts on the subject out. I love talking to others about this, which is why I’m posting on my blog instead of in a journal somewhere under my bed. So work with me, sit back, and prepare to debate!
Let’s begin with this. I am not an atheist. Nor am I an agnostic. I am not affiliated with any religion, although I was raised as a Catholic for 18 years, and practiced for another 2. I have studied Catholicism as a practicing Catholic and after leaving the church. I have studied Buddhism, Hinduism, read the Bible front to back twice (along with listening to its teachings for 20 years), browsed the Torah, and am currently reading the Quran (that was not entirely my decision, but I figure I’ll learn why Islam is the way it is while I’m at it). I have a reasonable understanding of Native American folklore, and have lightly dabbled in other, smaller religions, although I would have to find and site a source to have a full-on conversation in these last ones.
My point is that, I may be young, but in the topic of written religion, I’ve made myself pretty well-rounded for the time I’ve had. Not to say I know everything, and not to say I am anywhere near learned in anything in particular for people to take my word for anything. But when I begin to explain what I base my life off of in terms of faith and belief, know that I am not basing it off of nothing. I have created a perspective on religion, god, faith and belief, based on what I’ve been taught, what I have taught myself, and what I learn from the world around me. With that in mind, I’ll start with why I’m not following a religion in my belief, as most would ask first, “Why did you leave the Church?” instead of, “What do you now believe?”
First, I hold nothing against religious people. I have nothing against those who believe in any church (and yes, this even includes Islam). I mean no offense or attack against any believer of any sort. Frankly, I have the utmost respect for people who can put so much faith in a church, whether the building, the community, or the rules and regulations of that religion. It takes a lot to put that kind of faith in something outside of yourself.
I’m sure everyone has heard this before, but the reason I left the church is one word; hypocrisy. And I do not mean the people who believe and then go out and don’t ‘practice what they preach.’ I mean the contradictions of what those religions are based off of. Honestly, the Eastern religions don’t have much in the way of contradiction, but concepts that are not easily translated into our lives. It is a very interesting idea, living on a religion of such complexity, since the idea of god(s) as beyond human comprehension (a Western concept) is so well-represented in that fashion. And yet there is so much ignorance on the basis of polytheistic religions in the West. If analysis of other religions besides your own was a more practiced effort, religions would be changing and adapting in ways the human race has never attempted before, opening doors and eliminating some contradictions. But that is a tangent for another day. I’m not going to get into the contradictions of the Quran and the acts of Muhammad. This post is going to be long enough as it is. And I’m sure you have all heard the basic discussions of contradictions in Judaism and Christianity. Most involve contradictions in the books (Torah and Bible) and in word versus action (Crusades). I won’t go any more in-depth into contradiction and religion, as again, it is all repeats of what I’m sure you have all heard before. But what contradiction broke my religious back?
Let’s put all this talk of religious institution aside and look at the basics, the core of all religion; the concept of the creator.
NOTE: In this discussion, I will be referring mainly to the Christian ‘God’, as that discussion will likely be the only one to be commented on. I will be using parentheses around the ‘God’ of Christianity because I do not capitalize my concept of god, and don’t want problems in distinction between god and ‘God,’ in case I use my reference as the beginning of a sentence. Sorry if this seems odd. I am also going to put he in quotes when referring to ‘God.’ This is not a feminist comment, I swear. I hate feminism. I feel it wrong to assume that god is a gender, that is all. I will refer to my god as it. Comment about it if you want.
Creator: ‘God’ versus the god I believe in
The way I see ‘God’ portrayed is this; ‘He’ holds unconditional love for us. ‘He’ is all good, and evil is the absence of ‘God.’ To be good is to follow ‘God,’ but to be good without direction from ‘Him’ and ‘His Son,’ Jesus, is not enough. You must living thanking ‘God,’ not just through being good but by worshiping ‘Him’ by going to Church, contributing to the Church, raising your children in the Church. If your children turn away from the Church, you did not do your job as a good ‘God’-loving person. If you commit bad/evil things while following the Church, you must repent for those things through the Church’s system. To simply feel bad and repent in your own mind, repent to those you wronged, etc., is not enough. If you have no way to know the Church in your life, you will be presented to ‘God’ and Jesus after your life and must accept ‘Him’ as the ‘Truth,’ or be without him, or in hell. If you accept ‘Him’ in your life, or accept ‘Him’ after death (when you did not know ‘Him’ during that life), you will live eternity in heaven, where you will have the privilege of existing in ‘His’ presence forever, worshiping ‘Him.’
All well and good. If this concept, or something close to it, convinces you to be a good person, loving and respecting those around you, and convinces you to help others be good people in turn, more power to you. Keep in mind, I speak of this portrayal of ‘God’ in the most basic terms I can. If my wording seems off, my apologies. But look at what I have written. Seems clean, right? Seems like a good way to go. ‘God’ loves us; awesome. ‘God’ wants us to be happy; also awesome. ‘God’ asks us, in exchange for happiness, to be good in ‘His’ name; okay, done. Help others learn how to be good; very easy and, again, awesome. Use the Church as your tool to accomplish all of the prior; sure thing. What’s one hour a week, right? Nothing compared to the eternity we have coming once this life is over.
No stop it there. The eternity we have coming. All the time and space in all the cosmos and beyond is waiting for us. All of it is a creation of god. So if one hour a week for a lifetime is nothing compared to that vastness, isn’t also our whole life but a speck on the spectrum of god’s world? God gave us the gift of existence in this lifetime, on this Earth. Many consider this existence a test. A test of ‘Faith,’ of belief in the ‘Truth’ that is ‘God.’ However, ‘God’ is all-loving. ‘His’ love is supposed to be unconditional, and I completely agree with this concept. If god did not love us, it could just wipe us away and start over. But it loves us, and so allows us to continue our lives here, despite all the evil and wrong we commit as a people. We exist against ‘Him,’ as it were, committing ‘sin’ left and right; even the most righteous of people do small wrongs. And these wrongs, if not righted in the heart and through the Church, are held against us when we finally are presented to ‘Him.’ ‘He’ knows our hearts, and knows if we are truly repentant over our wrongdoings. If we are not sorry for them on Earth, then likely we will not be sorry for them before ‘Him,’ and so will be sent away as punishment, forever without ‘His’ recognition. Now I ask you, does this sound like a creator with unconditional love? Is this not more the way a human would react? Despite knowing that a person was already going to do something wrong, we still hold it against that person. Why, then, does ‘God’ do the same? This is judgment, a fundamental flaw of humanity which pits us against each other. If god is beyond us and greater than us, should it not exist beyond the petty reaction of judgment? On a basic level, this develops a point of contradiction in the image of ‘God.’
Okay, let’s backtrack a bit. There is another aspect of ‘God’s’ power which also catches a snag that I have not touched on in the portrayal: ‘God’ as an omniscient being, or all-knowing. Again, I am completely okay with this idea. If god is the creator of all, including time and space, then likely it is outside the confines of those creations and therefore omniscient over them. But here is the problem; if ‘God’ knows all, then ‘He’ knows what our choices will be. We make them of our free will in our time, but ‘He’ already knows what’s going to happen. It is as if ‘He’ is watching a movie ‘He’s’ seen enough that ‘He’ knows every line and every move. Sure, I know the storyline of Lord of the Rings by heart, so when I watch it, I know which characters I will like and which I won’t like. Now imagine I have the ability to punish those characters I felt could have done better when the movie is over; let’s say Boromir should have known better than to attack Frodo over The Ring. If I know the movie line-for-line, don’t you think I’d just fast-forward to the end and get the judging and punishing over with? The movie isn’t going to change this one time around, I know that for a fact. This is the image I have with ‘God’ watching us live our lives; if all ‘He’ plans to do is judge us in the end, when ‘He’ knows what we will do, knows our true hearts; then why keep watching the movie at regular speed? In fact, why not just pop the movie out and start a new movie where ‘He’s’ happy with everyone? It would be said that ‘He’ loves us and would not want destroy us, ‘His’ greatest creations. Agreed, but the description of hell, of existing away from ‘Him,’ sounds a lot worse to me than not existing at all. Actually, it sounds about the same as not existing at all. This is another more opinionated tangent, though. Moving on.
Now, if ‘God’ is all-loving and all-knowing, why put us here simply to make us live out our lives as ‘He’ already knows we will? It can be argued that we brought our problems on ourselves, the story of Adam and Eve, or of ‘original sin,’ and that we must experience the consequences of falling from ‘God’ in order to redeem ourselves to ‘Him.’ In other words, we must live out the good or bad in our lives, as a punishment or redemption, all its own, and possibly still not overcome original sin in our actions. This leaves us to be banished from ‘God.’ But to be punished for the actions of our ancestors Adam and Eve? I think not. If it is not our fault for the choice of those first two, why be judged for the consequences of their actions? Is ‘God’ holding a grudge? Again, a human emotion put onto ‘God’s’ image, and a very sad one at that.
To continue on the story, let us also remember that ‘God,’ the creator of all, created the Tree which Adam and Eve ate from. Are we to believe that ‘God’ created a creature who is gifted with choice, free will, and left that creature with full access to something that it was forbidden to have? Can ‘God’ expect that creature not to, at some point, act on that free will in a negative way, especially since ‘He’ knows what they are going to do anyway? To me, this is a ridiculous notion. It’s like putting a 3-year-old in the middle of a kitchen with nothing but a huge jar of freshly-baked cookies and telling the child it cannot have the cookies, then walking out of the room and expecting all the cookies to be there when you get back. It is human nature, as ‘God’ created us, to be curious and to choose. ‘God’ knowingly put man in the position to commit sin, and it happened. Let us also remember that ‘God’ knows all, and so knew they would eat of it. As an omniscient being, the only such being, ‘God’ should be the only one who can act against the future ‘He’ knows will happen. In this way, it is not man’s fault to act on the ‘God’ given gifts of curiosity and free will. If we are given free will as a gift, how is it proper to not act on those gifts? Should we not use them, for good or ill? Again, it reminds me of a parent giving a child a cookie and telling the child they can do anything like with the cookie except eat it. To portray god in this fashion is to put guidelines in all the wrong places, and if we are to assume that god has the best intentions for us, it is improper to assume that it would put stipulations on the gifts it gave us if it has the power to 1) take them away, 2) keep us from misusing those gifts, 3) start over and make a being that will not ‘misuse’ those gifts, or 4) simply show us directly that it does not want us to use our gifts in certain ways. This is another contradiction of ‘God’s’ intentions for us as ‘His’ creations as ‘He’ is illustrated.
I will end the contradiction-based discussion here, as it can go on for quite a length, and it’s taken me days to get just this down. If you find any other contradictions you’d like me to consider and discuss, please put them in the comments section and I will be happy to let you know my view, should you want to read it. But if you’ve gotten this far, I expect you’re interested in what I have to say. And keep in mind I may address your concerns below, so keep reading before you post.
Now, on to the true main event: how I believe in god.
Earlier, I addressed two aspects of god which I agree with and believe in: god as omniscient and god as all-loving. I don’t necessarily know if there is only one god or many, and I suppose leaning toward one instead of many is a reflection of my Christian upbringing. I do keep my mind open to the possibility of multiple gods, but I will get more into that later. For now, bare with me that I believe in one god. (ha, that wasn’t intended to be a Christian phrase, but I’m keeping it)
The two aspects of god written above are the only aspects of god I am certain of. The concept of omniscience I think I fairly clearly explained earlier, but let me restate. If god is the beginning and creator of all things, I would expect that it has power over all those things, making it above all things, and so know about all things, a.k.a. omniscient. This does not mean that god acts upon all of its creations, but merely that it has the power to. I will get more into the idea of why god would or would not act upon our lives directly soon. To continue, god exists outside time because it created time, and so knows everything within time; the same can be said for space in this plane. I refer to ‘this plane,’ because we cannot be sure if this is the only world of god’s creation, and modern science is delving closer to the idea that there are multiple planes or universes, suggesting god has created more and is still creating more.
This greatly connects to my view on god’s love for us, as well as it’s lack of judgment against us and what we do on Earth in our lifetimes here. God as the creator had a few options once it created us all. Once it saw what it had created, it could: stick with this one creation until it decided to end time and do nothing else but put all its effort into us; destroy us and start over to make something better; or, create other worlds, other creations, and love us all alike. It clearly has not chosen the second option or I would not be typing this to you all, so we are left with the other two options. And since there is no clear cut way to decide which could be right or wrong, I will try to outline them both.
Looking at us as the only creations, we will hit some bumps, I’m sure. Mainly because there is nothing to prove that we are the only creations on this plane, meaning there may be other planets in our own universe that hold life. A possibly tangent to this could be made, saying, “What if they are created by a different god than our own?” Honestly, I can accept that as a possibility, just as I can accept that I could be wrong and Christianity or Judaism or any other standing religion is the truth and my views are wrong. There are arguments for and against the theory of multiple gods in this world, or multiple gods, each creating their own plane, and so on. I am here to present my own theory, so I’m not going to delve into these other possibilities here. Comment if you want to discuss this idea more.
My point is that god created us, whether in its image or not does not really concern me. To assume that because we have a more cognizant thought process than other animals on this planet, we must be more like the creator, is a very pompous conclusion, especially if we are to believe that god is all-loving. As I have described before, god as an all-loving creator is a concept which goes beyond all human flaws, including judgment and, in this case, preferences. I look at god as everything that humans naturally aspire to be but cannot be. Most, if not all religions do the same, or think they do. But I also look at the aspirations of all animals, plants, and all other aspects of the universe in turn as well. The stars, the plants, the animals, and humans all live to find the perfect balance. We live to find the comfort zone, the neutral. Because we live in a constant struggle between life and death as well as good and evil, we look for a constant which can be a haven from these things. Religion evolves as a constant, revolving around god, the eternal constant of the universe, the beginning, the creator. There are many who believe that our aspiration is to find the complete good, and attribute that good to god. However, if god is goodness, then either god created the opposite of itself, evil, or we are to assume that evil existed with god as a separate part of the beginning.
There is also a third option; god is not goodness, but instead, it is neutrality. Animals do not aspire to be good, they aspire to be, to live out their lives with the experiences offered to them through the way they were created. They learn to eat or hunt, learn from experience, have families, and die. We as humans are given more options, considered by many a sign of preference toward ourselves. Again, I call this pompous. Giving us a different part to play, different opportunities from other creatures, does not make us higher on the creation scale. We simply are given different tools than other creatures, to differentiate the creations of god. Otherwise we would all be the same being. With this in mind, we can see that god, as an all-loving creator, cares for all its creations equally, another aspect of humanity which is perfected in god. This encompassing love is not like the favoritism humans consider love, but more a rounded appreciation by god for its creations. Humans could never achieve overall love for humanity in this way. Even Pope John Paul II would not consider Hitler a man to be in ‘God’s’ favor; John Paul II, not out of evil, but out of humanity, could make a human judgment against Hitler for following evil, which has negative effects on other humans. This is how humanity has decided to view its existence, in a fight against evil, instead of a fight to balance between the good and evil of the world, a fight to be neutral, like god.
I see god’s relationship with us on Earth through this metaphor: a loving parent sending the child off to college. We are created and given subtle guidelines in our DNA from god, if you will. This is our childhood, the instilling of instinctive knowledge and tools to help us find balance. Our lives here are our college years. It is not the beginning, but no near the end of our existence. It is simply an opportunity to experience an aspect of the world without the direct guiding hand of our parent, god. On our way, god watches us, observing how we decide to spend our time here, delving into the many facets of his creations on this plane, including good and evil. We may choose to use the ‘advice,’ it has given us; the knowledge that good deeds offer a better stimulus for us then evil deeds; that good deeds benefit others as well; that there is a creator at all; etc. These are not rules to live by, but simple guidelines to help make our life here better for us, as a parent gives advise to the college child to keep the child from making his or herself miserable. However, it is in the child’s power to deny that advise. The child may rebel, go against all logic and comfort, and make the wrong decisions. But is it the parent’s duty to shun or punish that child for ignoring that advise? No. An unconditionally loving parent will love that child no matter the child’s choices in life. Even in the case of a killer, a fiend to society; the parent(s) may dislike the child, but most good parents will still love the child as their own, no matter what. This is something beyond human understanding, the best of people, and this is where I see god most prominent in our world today.
And so I will leave this long discourse here. I believe in a god that is better than us. It is not in laziness or an attempt to escape judgment for which I believe this. It is the faith I have in something better than petty human squabble which waits for us. It does not judge what we do, though when we suffer it too weeps. It does not prefer us to other creatures, though it does not hold us any lower than them either. God knows all and lets it be at that. There is time to explain the rest of the world to us, in the vast expanse beyond the cosmos. For now, though, we live this life as a time of experience, and no matter our decided path here, whether a path of healing and happiness or anger and despair, it will love us all the same. We will all have the same place beside it in the end, and when that time comes, we will know the tranquility of the perfect neutral and have the rest of eternity to know it all.
And to that, for once, I can say with all my heart; Amen.