Do you believe in God? Does it embarrass or comfort you? Few things are more controversial or give the world more trouble than God. The belief that God is definable or proprietary or conditional is false. It is worth exploring.
Most definitions of God are thousands of years old and portray God as conditional and a determiner of moral conduct. Over the last few hundred years, as humans have become freer to self-determine their beliefs about God, questions arise that have not been answered. The result is that many people have tossed God out as untrue, nonexistent, or an obscure and benign being. Even within religious communities as people “realize” God there is less emphasis on personalization. Let’s dig deeper, let’s not toss God out, let’s explore the disparity between traditional points of view and a more evolved awareness that humans have developed over the last thousands of years.
The overall tone around God includes an idea that there are some people that “know” God and have spoken to God or are a part of God and then offer insights, perspectives, and definitions from their experience or interpretation. These things are passed down and the more widely they are accepted, the more authoritative they become. This blind acceptance becomes easy and takes away the need for inner reflection and the creation of a unique and individual relationship with God. Whether the relationship is one of love and encouragement, hope and compassion, guidance and counsel, or any other meaningful form, developing a relationship is necessary and beneficial.
Give yourself the freedom as you read this article to drop all of these ideas and look within yourself, within your own heart and intuition. Dismiss whatever you have learned from institutions, religions, family members, books, or anywhere else, even what you have come to believe. Just listen to your inner intuition, heart, soul, and inner voice.
Question 1 – Is God real?
Question 2 – If so, what is God?
Question 3 – Does anyone truly know?
Question 4 – Is it possible to know?
Question 5 – Does it matter?
These questions are important. If you are flexible, you will be more likely to accept God, not only your god but the god of others too, or no god at all. The more precise you insist the answers must be, the less likely you are to being open to whatever God could be.
If it is the manipulation and control surrounding God and religion that you despise, your efforts to expose and change those things will serve better than to discredit something that can be as helpful and broad as God or love.
In the beginning…
There was a man, and then there was a woman. They noticed they were different and through exploration enjoyed those differences well into their first climax. Life was good.
Then came other men and other women and when one of those other men or women became more attractive to the one women or man, life was bad. Morality now had a reason to be discovered.
Rules and consequences were needed and created. Differences and non-conformity were discouraged, repressed, and persecuted. Life was good again, it was easier, and having rules made it seem fairer.
We are curious creatures. We like variety, we like and embrace new things and experiences, but only to a point. To some degree, it is politically and culturally incorrect to notice these differences. We have some black folks, and we have some white folks, and if we were innocent, we could enjoy and explore what those differences mean. Ditto with all the other different types of people.
But we are not innocent, and we must reconcile the repression and unfair treatment that has occurred. Reversing social trends is slow moving and crosses multiple generations in time, and is a necessary part of our evolution as a species. Nothing to change here, but we can better understand what is going on and become more honest about it.
Colorado legalized marijuana. Some people think marijuana is the best thing since sliced bread but I never really liked it. I decided to give it a fresh look, and my experience is a good example of the way we humans come in so many flavors. What I noticed is that it truly is possible to take 15 minutes at the gas pump, that counting money for a purchase takes a lot of mental resources, and that studying the fabric of my shirt was an important and lengthy task. Many people enjoy slowing everything down, not me. I like slowing down life about as much as slowing down an audio recording, and I understand them both about the same. I like to keep things moving, feel sharp, be ready willing and able on moments notice. I like to do algebra equations in my mind while waiting in lines. Thank God there are others that enjoy slowing down to explore the deeper meaning in things, some of them become amazing artists, scientists, and all the other sorts of people that come out of that preference. Me and my type, we get stuff those people discover, done.
When it comes to being alive, it is hard. I think we can all agree on that. Not necessarily hard all the time and maybe not even hard that much of the time, but we all get to a place that is hard. Getting through those moments takes additional resources, like a God, which in many cases is hope, kindness, understanding, and love. So if I describe God as faith or love, most people would be ok with God, but in an attempt to answer and define, we have boxed God in. But you really cannot do that with God, or love but love is allowed to be more flexible for some reason. And there is the power issue, the use of God as a resource that can control and manipulate people. If you have the guts to use God in that way or the belief that you alone know God, or feel that revelations you have adopted are intended for everyone and not just yourself, then you can impose God on others.
As a young man in my thirties, I attended a meaningful retreat. During the retreat, many interesting and curious things transpired, like feeling another man’s scratchy face and being taken back to my childhood and remembering that same feeling when being with my dad. We also watched a movie that showed two warring armies coming at each other, thousands of warriors eager to kill one another and both crying out in God’s name, the conviction that God was on their side was equal for both armies. How could God take both sides? It was a real head smoker, a conundrum that many great thinkers needed an answer to and for most of our history, that answer was that one side had chosen the wrong God, or that God did not favor their people, or they are being punished for wrongdoing. But we are more mature than this now, aren’t we?
Many years after seeing that movie I realized there was an important question that few of us ask, what if the human beings wanted to kill and die or what if, at the very least, that was something people needed to experience? What if God had watched an infinite number of creatures for eternity and knew that without this very form of direct experience the necessary evolution to become compassionate and understanding could not happen?
Ok, maybe you can swallow this thinking, and maybe it even makes some crazy sense, but making God a loving father figure just gripes you beyond control. No problem, just call God evolution. We’re good.
No, no, no! That will not do because the argument over God is about a defined and limited God that has been imposed on us for thousands of years, held over our heads, put out like a carrot. Not some feeling, concept, belief, or any other thing short of an old guy in the clouds with a white beard. We must rebel against this imposition of an inflexible definition; we must blow up the entire concept! But that would be a shame, let it go.
Look, our understanding of physics is far different than it was when we started, no matter what timeline you use. It just is. We can understand concepts that were not possible to comprehend even ten years ago, let alone a thousand. For example, the idea of seeing and talking to another person on a device the size of your hand. The idea that your voice or picture could travel invisibly was not conceivable, and there would have been no good way to define it. It would get described with terms like “magic,” some “unseen force,” and probably considered evil. Now it would be easy for us to conceive many possibilities that we could never have imagined previously and a thousand years from now our species will be so advanced as to have a completely different technology and be able to conceive things we cannot imagine today. The same thing goes for God. But we have never actually updated our idea or concept of God; we need God 2.0.
It would not be fair to skim over the personalization of God too quickly because it is a very real part of the issue and what keeps people involved or repels them away. Many people have “seen” God, they have “heard” God, “spoken” to God, and they have felt God. These experiences are real, and they are important. A skeptic would pass this off to that own person’s brain activity, a more liberal person might consider a collective consciousness, an extraterrestrial or a higher being from somewhere else, and a religious person would only say it was God. Any of these answers is entirely conceivable to the average modern man, which is saying a lot because not too long ago things were quite different. Whichever of these replies, or even an answer we can not currently conceive, may be true, is God a good thing? That is a more important question and one that will serve us better.
The image of God is partly out of date, somewhat convenient, and entirely modifiable. Do you think an all-loving entity lacks the humility to accept the ideas and sensations that individuals attribute to it? That this far more advanced being cannot allow us to grope around with the concepts and images we grope with as we become more sophisticated and aware? A personal relationship with God will challenge you, and it matters not that you are debating with your brain, entities from other planets, higher beings, or God itself, whatever God may be because you are discovering deeper meaning and awareness, and this is a good thing. This discovery is what allows you to evolve as a human being and perhaps help the species along its evolutionary path.
Most people do not take the time to investigate their feelings about one another, politics, or God, but that is the beauty of life and how the many make the whole greater. During the time I am writing this article Donald Trump is our newly elected 45th president of the United States, this is something that was inconceivable until it happened and his election has caused many people to look more deeply into what they believe. That is a good thing; probably exactly what we needed. Without something triggering many people into self-exploration, we get sleepy and let things “roll along.” Perhaps we can give ourselves permission to explore religion and God more deeply; they have “rolled along” for a very long time. The first step is to accept and acknowledge that we have the right to change our definitions and views. But that can be scary.
You may feel that the reason for religion was organic and came about as ultimate truth, like the sky and the ocean, or you might be willing to be more practical about it. Discussions about God and philosophy have always been going on, and that does not lead to a formal religion with rules and guidelines. The reason for religion is that it created moral and social rules that people agreed to and followed because if they did not obey they were doomed to hell or karma, this works. There are many good things about religion, but they are mostly byproducts of this fundamental need to have people agree to social conduct. Without religion overseeing human conduct, it gets determined by the political forces of the day, which rarely care how they obtain and keep power and money. If anyone wants to be a rapist and murderer, they are fine to go about their business as long as it does not interfere with the power and money being controlled by the political rulers. As a matter of fact, those rapists and murderers are usually good for political business. No, social interactions require a timeless and separate rule, and religion does a good job of this and has been a beneficial development of our moral and social development, which brings me to the story of Moses.
Let me tell you my version of the story of Moses, and to hear it correctly you will need to figuratively “close your eyes” while you read it. This way you can put yourself in place of Moses. We begin with a warm and truly genuine Moses, a great leader who saw that after weeks or months of living without food and proper shelter the thousands of freed slaves he was liberating were withering in the desert. Discouraged, disheartened, at each other’s throats and stealing any food or provisions they could find the tribe was in complete chaos. Something had to change, or they would surely kill each other. In deep contemplation over this dilemma Moses had a vision, and it included God, that vision told Moses to create some rules and guidelines that would keep his flock alive and morally supported.
Later, Moses reflected on the rules he had come up with, and they were good, but he was unsure of what would make anyone follow them. Another revelation hit him! If the rules came from God people would listen and obey them. Up the mountain he went, returning days later with the tablets of stone he had carved. Attributing the stone tablets to God was not a falsehood, as Moses believed God had indeed inspired the rules.
Reading this version of the story might make you cringe in horror or laugh out loud, and that is good because the story deserves reflection. What would you, as a loving and caring leader, have done in Moses place? Would attributing the story to God upset God? Where do God’s love and miracles start and stop, at the desire inspired in man’s heart or with some magical force? Does the act coming from Moses mean less than if the action were coming from God? Why?
Religion is good for more than moral conduct and social behavior, it creates beautiful and loving community, provides respite for tired and troubled souls, and creates stability in the fabric of life and each of our individual lives. It is an important part of our heritage and culture. It gives our quest to answer the ultimate question “Who am I?” a starting point and it promotes inquiry and personal decisions about good and evil and love and hate. There are far more reasons to keep God than to throw God out. There is a real and significant freedom to choose and pick traits and to build our own God.
Having a God is important. Reflecting on what values and morals are important to you is worthy and critical to the evolution and development of your life and our species. We have all heard over and over about how each of us contributes, and this is one place that we have the ability to participate. In hindsight had you been lucky enough to figure out fire or shelter or agriculture and had you shared that with others you can easily see your contribution. We are not developing physically so much anymore, we are developing emotionally and socially, and having God as a role model or guide or antagonist can help each of us to explore more deeply.
It does not matter if God is imaginary or real, its effect on you is more important than the question, love works the same way. No one person can define love so that every other person will agree, even in your individual life you have probably experienced love with brothers and sisters differently than with parents or spouses. You may have experienced love full of chemistry differently than love with trust and friendship. You may have seen love grow and blossom into things you never imagined love to be, and you certainly have found love to be a most important part of your life, perhaps the most meaningful thing in life. Did the fairy tales you heard as a young person influence your perspective or sense or interpretation of loving relationships? Did you ask people what love is when you were young? Have you had the freedom to change your definitions over time and even throw love out in a fit when love was sour? Do you believe the definition of love is more important than how it plays out in your life?
The real question isn’t whether God is real or not; the real question is what place we give God in our life. I believe that answer should be within the original spirit and intent that caused us to create or discover God in the first place. It pointed us to the place we do not know or understand and may never know or understand. It created a pathway for evolving our spirit, that thing that is more than emotions or thoughts and that we cannot quite define. If we can come to terms with the idea that we can not know everything, including God, we will find humility. We will embrace all forms of non-violent religions and worship, all non-violent beliefs, and all the ways in which each person chooses to relate with God and cope with life and evolve as a more loving human being.