Archive for the ‘Christianity’ Category

Does Religion Have It Backwards?

September 26, 2008

When people mindlessly delegate their spiritual belief system to the pages of an old book (or the words of a religious leader) they insult the creator. Why? Because if God created us in his own image (with intelligence, curiosity, reason, and capacity for logic), then he himself must possess these traits. Furthermore, it follows that he must value them as well.

How disappointing it must be to the creator when someone pushes these wonderful gifts aside to blindly follow the written or oral words of mere mortals, disregarding the tools that God himself provided to examine the world and discern the truth.

Here is a thought to ponder. Religious people generally think that accepting their creed differentiates them from others, those they call unbelievers, infidels, pagans, heretics and the like. I agree! Unfortunately, I think they have it backwards.

Who is the wheat and who the chaff? Perhaps God created religion to find out who among us would be willing to shirk the moral obligation to personally seek him. Perhaps God wanted to see who would have the courage to reject religion and question the status quo (much the same way Jesus was reported to have done when he refuted the Pharisees). It is possible, even likely, that God gave us the gifts of intelligence, curiosity, reason, and the capacity for logic so that each of us would find genuine faith and not accept the pale, man-made imitation of faith that we call religion.

One can choose to blindly be lead by others. As for me, I choose to use my God-given gifts to question what has been handed to me by others before I swallow it whole out of fear or laziness or lack of confidence in my own divinity.

If there is a day of judgment and I stand before God to account for my life, at least I will be able to look him in the eye and say, “I may have been right, I may have been wrong, but at least I didn’t take the easy way out. If nothing else, I tried to find the real you.”

You Can Change the World

September 23, 2008

I’ve been writing lately about how God’s will intersects with the free will of people. In my view, we do not dance on invisible strings manipulated by some higher puppeteer. A long time ago, our creator set up this whole thing, stepped back (just in case), and flipped the switch on. God started up the cosmic party bus, but left it up to us to figure out where to drive it.

God’s will handles the natural laws that govern matter, and the spiritual laws that govern life. But what occurs within this framework, which road the party bus takes, is determined by the free will of people. I believe that God chose to make it this way for a reason, and the reason has something to do with allowing his children to make their own mistakes. How else do children learn?

By default, the world is a safe place for us. If it is dangerous, it is because we have made it that way – step by step, inch by inch – by the destructive personal choices we have made. There is darkness, but the opposite is also true. There is beauty and light in the world, also brought about by the personal choices of people.

Because people are imbued with the ability to create and destroy, we have a tremendous power as well as a sobering responsibility. Mahatma Gandhi is credited with saying:

“Be the change you want to see in the world.”

If you want a kind world, be kind. If you want peace, love your neighbor. Some of us chase after God, thinking to find him in a building or in the pages of a dusty book. We travel great distances to a sacred temple or ancient wall, hoping to feel God’s breath, vital and real. Do you want to feel God’s breath on you? Then love someone.

I bet that right now, as you read this, you are in a unique position to help someone. Someone at work, a neighbor, a friend, whoever. There is something you can do to heal or encourage, something that nobody else can do as effectively as you can – all because of your unique situation.

Do you want to feel God? It’s easy! Just open your eyes, see the need, and jump right in there. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Intelligent Creationism

September 22, 2008

I don’t know why people argue about opinions. Opinions are like crazy relatives. Everyone has one and none of them is quite right.

For example, the argument between creationists and evolutionists makes me crazy. Grossly simplified, creationists believe that God created the universe, with life pretty much the way it is now, about 6,000 years ago. Evolutionists believe that the universe was formed billions of years ago by the Big Bang, and that life evolved spontaneously from that event.

First of all, are these really the only two choices? Darwin’s disciples scoff at the Christians, dismissing them as zealots – nothing more than mindless religious fundamentalists. The faithful dismiss the scientists, thinking they are lost in spiritual darkness. I think that both the creationists and the evolutionists are religious fundamentalists. Both are lost in blinkered darkness. Both are intolerant of contrary opinions, blind to any position but their own. Both are apt to sweep any dissuading evidence under the carpet of dogma.

I propose a compromise, not only because I like compromises, but because in most cases a compromise actually comes closer to the truth. This may not be a new idea, but it is something I have thought about for a very long time. It is an idea I call “Intelligent Creationism”.

Assuming there is a creator, isn’t it possible that he created the universe by way of the Big Bang?

Maybe that is how he chose to get this party started. In this version of intelligent design, God set up a perpetual system of natural and spiritual laws that would govern the formation of the stars and the planets and of life itself. Among the many processes that God set into place was evolution. So if it is the case that Homo sapiens evolved from lower forms of life, then perhaps that was how God intended it to be.

So stop fighting about it. Maybe you are both wrong, or right.

Light Through a Prism

September 11, 2008

Many times I have noted the hand of a higher power move in my life. I think we all experience this, but in our infinite variability, each of us interprets the hand in a different way. Some call it luck, or fate, karma, providence, whatever – each of us filters life through a unique sieve. However, our so-called differences are really just individual facets of the same Truth. Think of it as light through a prism; one light, many colors. One crystal, many facets. One creator, many creations.

And if there is one creator, then each of us represents one of the many creations. We are more alike than different, really. It doesn’t matter what we choose to label ourselves and others. In all the ways that really matter, we are all the same.

Is God a Muslim? How about a Hindu? Or a Buddhist? Maybe God is Jewish.

If God is not a member of one of those major world religions, then perhaps God is a Christian. If that is so, then God must be a Baptist, right? Or maybe a Catholic. Or a Pentecostal. Wait, I know. God is a member (in good standing) of the Ezekiel Ebenezer Greater Tabernacle Community Ministry, Reformed.

Now that we have determined God’s religious faith, I have to ask another question. Is God black? If not black then God must be white. No? How about red? Perhaps God is the color of a Double Ristretto Venti Nonfat Organic Chocolate Brownie Frappuccino Extra Hot with Foam at Starbucks – after you stir it up of course.

Is God a man? A woman? Is God a Republican or a Democrat? Gay? Straight? Do you really think God cares about this petty nonsense? God doesn’t recognize labels! Labels are temporary, limiting, illusory constructs that only describe the surface of what we are. Labels tend to divide and distract us.

God couldn’t care less what religion you claim to follow. Nor the color of your skin, nor your sex or even your sexual preference. I don’t claim to know what God does care about because there is no way to prove that for sure. I may not be able to see God directly, or know for sure what God wants from me, but there is something I can see and know – right here, with my own eyes.

I see people, all different yet all the same. People want nothing more than to live in peace, love their children, eat, work, and play in freedom. Aren’t these the things that you most desire? If it is true that God created us in God’s image, then it would follow that these simple things are what God desires as well.

So the next time you note the hand of a higher power moving in your life, mark it well and know that many times we are the hand that moves. The decisions we make every day inevitably change the world, inch by inch, for better or worse. Love your neighbors.

What God Is Not

April 26, 2008

Perhaps before I get into any discussion of what God is, I should clearly define what I believe God is not.

One thing I am pretty sure of is that God is not Christian. Nor is God Hindu, Buddhist, Islamic, Confucian, Jewish, Taoist or a member of any other religion. It seems to me that you cannot limit God like that. Besides, most religions claim to have the only true path to God. They cannot all be right. If there really is only one true path, then at most only one can be right, but it is more likely that they are all wrong.

Another thing I’m pretty sure of is that God is not a megalomaniac. She is not interested in your worship. Someone great enough to create the universe would not need to be put on a pedestal and adored. Such a desire would imply that God is immature and shallow. Why would anyone respect such a god?

Did I refer to God as a she in the previous paragraph? Yes I did. If God created us as males and females, then he must possess the attributes of both. In my opinion, God is not just male or female.

There is one last thing I want to mention that I believe God is not. God is not a judge. God did not create us just to put us in imminent danger of eternal damnation. If there is a literal hell, it is a place that we put ourselves. God will not condemn you if you do not believe in her. She might be a little disappointed, perhaps hurt, maybe even confused, but angry? You were created with the capacity for non-belief, so why would God be angry if you failed to believe?

The more we discover about this universe, the more we find that it makes sense. Things work together in an intricate web that creates and supports life. Why would we think that the mind that created such an orderly world would be anything but orderly? If there is anything disorderly in the world it is us, not Nature. Nature makes sense, so I think God does too.

If God makes sense then we have a responsibility to think about God and use the minds he gave us as spiritual bullshit detectors. If someone tells you something about God and it sounds wrong, it probably is! If you read something about God in an old book and it doesn’t make sense, think about it before you swallow it whole.

I believe one reason God created us was for companionship. Assuming you think of God as a friend, why would you accept second-hand interpretations concerning her when you can go right to the source? A sermon is second-hand. The Bible is also second-hand.

On the other hand, the knowledge of God that one receives through prayer and personal experience is first-hand. First-hand knowledge can always be relied upon with greater confidence than second-hand knowledge, which is really nothing more than hearsay.

Think!

Questions for God

April 16, 2008

Imagine you have just been hit by a bus or something and you are standing there in Heaven and God says, “Welcome into my presence, beloved child. You may ask me one question, any question, and I will answer it.”

What would the question be?

In my previous post, I asked for help to start a new religion. Ok, maybe I really don’t want to start a new religion, but I do really want to wear one of those crazy Pope hats though… Actually, what I want to do is to develop a list of questions that people would ask God if they were standing right in front of him.

Step 1: Develop a list of questions for God with help from my readers.

Step 2: Post the questions so the blog community can comment on them.

Step 3: Spend the rest of my life agonizing while I try to figure out what it all means.

What a plan!

Post your questions to God here.

Help Me Start a New Religion

April 15, 2008

I want to start a new religion and I need your help. Religion in its current form has failed and proven itself false. We need a fresh perspective, one that serves reason as well as emotion – a holistic faith that allows for the sacredness of personal experience as well as the power of shared group vision. Sound good? At the end of this post I’ll let you know what you can do.

On a broad scale, popular religions like Christianity and Islam have mainly served to divide us with the bloody blade of intolerance. Millions of dead, entire cities and towns full of innocent people slain in the name of God or Allah or whoever. That bloody blade’s given name is Love, but that is just to cover up what religion really is: an instrument to control and exercise power over the masses.

The Church’s hidden agenda has lain just under the skin of humanity, festering for centuries until today the sickness of the monster has surfaced and lies exposed for all to see. While people starve for physical and spiritual nourishment, the Pope lives in splendor in a guarded palace, his fount of power wasted trying to conceal the decadence of the Church.

Religion has become diseased and people are becoming increasingly dissatisfied with doctrine that just doesn’t make sense. Dogma – the idea that one should believe something or do something just because it is the expected norm and not because of any logical reason – is becoming unacceptable because people are asking questions, questions the Bible and the Koran are unable to answer without relying on dogma. “That’s what it says in the Bible” is no longer enough to satisfy the increasingly sophisticated curiosity of modern thinkers.

So, what are these questions and what are the answers? Well, I was hoping you would know. Maybe we can figure it out together as we create the new religion, actually more a kind of anti-religion.

Want to help? Send me your religious and spiritual questions, especially the ones that religion has failed to answer. Post them here as comments and I will repost them for discussion by the community. Once we reach a consensus, the new religion will be born and then who knows? I always wanted to wear one of those crazy Pope hats.

Does Religion have it Backwards?

December 9, 2007

In Religions: Godly Garbages, sulochanosho wrote:

The whole world may glorify and sanctify the so called holy books of religions and sermons. But that is just an act not less than that of a suicide venture and an explicit insult to the life force.

I couldn’t agree more, especially the part about people glorifying the holy books of religion. When people blindly delegate their spiritual belief system to the pages of an old book (or the words of religious leaders) they insult the creator. Why? Because if God created us in his own image (with intelligence, curiosity, reason, and capacity for logic), then he himself must possess these traits. Furthermore, it follows that he must value them as well.

How disappointing it must be to the creator when someone pushes these wonderful gifts aside to blindly follow the written or oral words of mere mortals, disregarding the tools that God himself provided to examine the world and discern the truth.

Here is a thought to ponder. Some people believe that their religion separates them from others, that they are “saved” and those they call unbelievers, infidels, pagans, and heretics are lost. In Biblical times, farmers used to “winnow” their harvested wheat by crushing the dry husk (chaff) off the grain and allowing it to blow away, lost in the wind. The wheat was then saved. Christians use that ancient practice as a metaphor when they refer to God separating the chaff (unbelievers) from the wheat (themselves). I agree! Unfortunately, I think they have it backwards. What if the religious among us are actually the chaff?

Perhaps God created religion to find out who among us would be willing to shirk the moral obligation to diligently seek him personally. Perhaps God wanted to see who would have the courage to reject religion and question the status quo (much the same way Jesus was reported to have done when he refuted the Pharisees). It is possible, even likely, that God gave us the gifts of intelligence, curiosity, reason, and the capacity for logic so that each of us would be able to find genuine faith and not have to accept the pale, man-made imitation of faith that we call religion.

You can choose to blindly be lead by religion. Or, you can choose to use your God-given gifts to question what has been handed to you by religion before swallowing it whole out of fear or laziness or lack of confidence in your own divinity. By testing the tenets of religion you can determine what is good and what is pure and what is true. You can transmute dogma into faith! If there is a day of judgment and I stand before God to account for my life, I want to be able to look him in the eye and say, “I may have been right, I may have been wrong, but at least I didn’t take the easy way out. If nothing else, I tried to find the real you.”

God is a Woman

December 6, 2007

God is a woman. Actually, it is more accurate to say that God is feminine. Before anyone gets upset, let me add that God is also masculine. Does it sound sacrilegious to say that God is both male and female? Before you reject the idea, consider that at the time when our present concepts of God were being formed we lived in a largely patriarchal world, and in many cases we still do. If God is both male and female, it seems likely that the feminine aspects of God were diluted over the course of male-dominated history. This is what created the modern interpretation of God as masculine only.

Why do I suggest that God is both male and female? Read on.

Have you ever created something? Of course you have. From time to time each of us realizes there is something inside – an idea, a movement, a song, or something else – that simply has to get out. There is something inside of you and it just won’t sit still.

If you’re a writer, it comes out as words on paper. If you’re a dancer, it comes out as a series of steps, and if you’re a musician, it comes out as chords and scales. The general idea is that something first exists inside the creator and is subsequently transferred from their mind into the physical universe through an act of will.

If you accept God as the ultimate creator, the same holds true for him on a much larger scale. God created the physical universe and populated it with life. There were a series of things inside God that simply had to get out, and we were one of those things.

Since God created us male and female, it follows that maleness and femaleness first existed within God and that they were subsequently transferred from her mind into the physical universe through an act of will. (That reference to ‘her’ got you, didn’t it?)

If you like to refer to the Bible, note that we were created in the image of God, so it follows that since we are male and female, then maleness and femaleness must be an integral part of his makeup as well.

This idea is further backed up if we consider that our understanding of God is bursting with attributes typically recognized as being masculine or feminine. For example, we ascribe to him dominance, authority, power, strength, invincibility, judgment, and discipline. On the other hand, we ascribe to her nurturing, caring, relationships, empathy, love, healing, and acceptance.

Throughout this blog, and in most of my comments, I refer to God as a ‘he’ only because by using the expected masculine reference I can keep readers on topic, rather than wondering why I used ‘her’ to refer to God. In my opinion, however, either reference is accurate and acceptable.

To Believe or Not to Believe, That is the Question

December 5, 2007

I recently posted an entry that asked whether you believe in God or not and why. I tagged it with religion and atheism among others, hoping for a balanced response. I got responses from five readers; three were believers, one was atheist, and one seemed agnostic with a lean towards believing. In this post I want to attempt some kind of analysis of the results.

Will Claybourne wrote: … how else would the earth have been made? There is too much evidence supporting God/the Bible, that nobody in their right mind could not believe in him …

This was an interesting comment. I’m not aware of any scientific, verifiable evidence supporting the existence of God, but one of the reasons I believe in a creator is that I cannot fathom how this world came to be without some intelligent mind bringing it into existence. The big bang theory? Sure why not? It makes as much sense as anything else we have been able to come up with. Six days of creation followed by the Garden of Eden? Maybe. I wasn’t there so I cannot say for sure.

One thing seems to be evident and that is that the world exists and we exist. If we follow time back to the beginning, whenever that beginning was and whatever form it took, the physical universe had an origin. (Even if you believe that time is circular, having no beginning and no end, some intelligence must have set up the system.) Where did the matter that comprised the big bang come from? Even if one can explain away the origin of the inanimate universe, where did the first spark of life come from? In my opinion a powerful creative mind brought all things into existence, although what form it took initially I cannot say. In other words, if the big bang theory is correct, then that is the method by which God chose to create the universe.

faint4b wrote: … I ‘feel’ Him. And those miracles that have happened in my life and family explain it all. …

andielle wrote: I believe in God because of the personal relationship that I have with this entity. …

These two commenters say they believe because of personal experience. This is the other main reason I believe in God. One of the things I have always prayed for has been that God would reveal himself to me in a way I could understand. In my youth I was a Christian fundamentalist. I honestly think that it was this prayer, fervently made over time, that helped me see that the church was more about control than about trying to find the true God. I succumbed to pressure from religious leaders, the Bible, and other church members into believing their fear-based dogma until the true God finally got through to me and broke the spell.

My creator showed me that I have a mind to think, eyes to see, and a heart to feel. Ever since then he has encouraged me to use these gifts to question my faith to see if it is true. I no longer believe something just because I am told it is so and as a result my faith is stronger now than ever before. Now I know what I believe, but even more importantly I know why I believe it. Unquestioned faith is weak and will not stand up when things get tough because its not really your faith. It belongs to someone else.

Ron H wrote: … There are two ways to find God: by wanting to find him, and by not wanting to find him. I started at the former, gradually receded into the latter, and I never found Him. …

This commenter is an atheist because he searched for God and never found him. I can buy that. I respect this person’s point of view more than that of a “religious” person who has never really searched for God at all, never really examined their faith. At least Ron looked and didn’t allow the words of a man in a fancy robe standing on a stage or the phrases written in an old book to replace his moral duty to search for God himself.

Don’t delegate your search for the truth to the church! If you want to find out if God exists or if your understanding of God is genuine, go to God himself for the answers. Anyone who professes to be a Christian has doubts. There is a reason for that. The true God, the one who created you is trying to get through to you directly. God doesn’t need a priest or a holy book to reveal himself to you. Religion is man-made and has twisted the original message. Ask God to reveal himself to you in a way you can understand and he will.

sulochanosho wrote: We need not believe in either of these dirty things: theism or atheism. Just LIVE your LIFE totally here and now. That alone is beautiful and GOD comes to you unasked!

Kudos! This is perhaps my favorite response because it best embodies faith in God. If God is truly transcendent, why do we need to worry about finding him at all? Don’t you see? By not worrying about it, by just living our lives totally, here and now, we leave it up to God to take care of the details. Even the Christian Bible says that we should have the faith of little children.

Do children worry about the details or do they just live their lives? They believe what they believe because they believe it. As they mature, new beliefs take the place of outgrown ones. As children grow, they are subjected to more and more reality until they become (in the best case) fully-functioning beings. Children explore their world and ask questions about everything. Isn’t this the ultimate purpose of life, to grow and mature until we become fully-functioning spiritual beings? Isn’t that what God wants for his children? So don’t worry, be happy, explore your faith and ask lots of questions. If the answers don’t make sense, go to the top and ask God himself.