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tentex

Life Is Accidental...how Can I Reconcile This?

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Spong wrote in his book Eternal Life: A New Vision in chaprter 2 that life is accidental. He cites billions of years of evolution and that we're really not as unique as we think we are as humans.

 

My idea of God changes daily, but this idea that life is accidental is totally shocking to me. How can we believe that life is totally accidental (thus I am assuming he thinks matter at all is accidental as well) and still be able to talk about life after death, God, etc?

 

When he says life is accidental that leaves my in a state of existential despair, confusion...I can't really describe it. Maybe total meaninglessness is a good way to describe it. I don't think of God as a supernatural being in the sky, but I find it hard to believe that life arose out of total accidental circumstances. The only thing I will say is that I believe there is an Unmoved Mover. I attribute that phrase to what I would call God.

 

My question is how can Spong believe the life is totally accidental, but still be open to the idea of life after death or anything spiritual at all for that matter? If life is purely accidental then so is matter. I don't see how he can even begin to discuss any idea of God or an afterlife if he first asserts that life is accidental. Any thoughts on this?

 

Also, people throw the word spirituality or spiritual around a lot. How is that different from psychological to you?

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Tentex,

 

Good question. I don't know what Spong meant if he said that, but you have to remember that Spong beliefs doesn't speak for Progressive Christianity anymore than anyone else. Also there is no need to believe anything just because another said it. I certainly for one don't believe that life is accidental. Other than general agreement of the 8 points, Progressive Christianity is, in my view, an individual journey.

 

Joseph

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Tentex, I agree with Joseph that you pose some interesting questions. I too am interested in the idea of "spiritual." Can one be spiritual and, at the same time, an atheist?

 

It seems to me that one can have a fuzzy sense of some higher, creative force without being able to define it or describe it with any degree of specificity.

 

BTW, welcome to the forum. We usually ask new members to introduce themselves in the thread with that name. We would be interested in the path that led you here. I hope you will hang around and join the other discussions.

 

George

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How can we believe that life is totally accidental (thus I am assuming he thinks matter at all is accidental as well) and still be able to talk about life after death, God, etc?

 

To my way of thinking, it is easier for me to believe that life is accidental than as a design from some deity in the sky. With all of the tragedy and pain humans suffer in living out their lives, just what kind of monster would this "creator" have to be?

 

It takes too many mental and philosophical gymnastics to reconcile a "loving G-d" to the suffering by significant numbers of this planet's inhabitants.

 

To me, it makes far more sense that our concept of G-d is a product of our evolved sense of self-awareness attempting to do the reconciling.

 

Toward that end, what gives me meaning is to work toward fixing the accidents of an accidental existence.

 

I do not believe in a life after death. I think that when we die, all sensation is gone. We won't feel a thing. I actually find the concept of eternity a bit daunting - frightening even. There are horror stories (the Myth of Sisyphus, for example) on this subject.

 

"Be" the miracle - justify your accidental existence!

 

NORM

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Toward that end, what gives me meaning is to work toward fixing the accidents of an accidental existence.

 

 

 

i like that, Norm. good post

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tentex,

 

Hi, welcome to the forum.

 

First,.......Also, people throw the word spirituality or spiritual around a lot. How is that different from psychological to you?

 

I try not to throw the word "spiritual" around as life is just life, reality is reality, without compartments - so again, no need to reflect upon any difference with the "psychological". The fundamental problem seems to arise from seeking all things from the basis of our self-aware thinking self, experienced as the centre of all things, from which we can only then look out at God as "object", and "believe" in God as object. The mystical dimension would seek rather to see God as the ground of being, not as a being, and therefore our experience of reality can take on a deeper dimension, one that is experienced to be prior to the subject-object division and thus embedded in the divine, in Whom we live and move and have our being.

 

Which can seem like a load of mumbo jumbo, but the reality of this can lead us to a life that knows the world of both/and, and not either/or. Meaning is not opposed to non-meaning, nor the accidental to purpose, and certainly not "God" to atheism. Our beliefs can take a back seat, rather than driving us towards pre-conceived conclusions, Maybe our hearts can open to the reality of love, of empathy towards others...........irrespective of any belief in "purpose", or any threat of being a cosmic accident! This may seem above our capacity, yet the reality is that it calls only for a simplicity of heart and mind. Yet sadly we often seem to prefer wringing our brains dry with thoughts of "origins", of either/or.

 

For me this all leads from the words of the Buddha, who advised us not to speculate on origins, nor even destinations, but to concentrate on "suffering and the ending of suffering". Who advised us to treat beliefs, if we must have them, more as rafts, for crossing over, not for grasping.

 

Or, "consider the lillies of the field" if we wish to, and consider love as greater than faith or hope.

 

All the best.

 

Derek

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Tentex- I am very new to this great group of people as well. I am so happy I found it!

 

As for your entry- If you don't mind my offering up my thoughts...

 

Accidental really slams into so many things we have been told along the way either through bible passages or doctrine. What are we left with if 'God' didn't know us before we were born and didn't count every hair on our heads (mine are greatly diminished so the count is easier!)? We seem to lose our unique position and, worse still, we seem to lose our 'personal relationship'.

 

I reconcile this with this (I emphasize that this works for me, it isn't in stone for anyone else)-

 

The entire universe and everything in it IS God, I use the Aramaic Alaha because I need a full break from everything that is attached from my past with the gendered word 'God'. My leap of faith is this; EVERYTHING (Alaha) is utterly aware of itself. Everything is also caught up fully in the universal laws of the universe, no magic, no supernatural. The particular 'soup' of this planet that has led to the vastness of life, and us, is fully within those laws whether replicated elsewhere on other distant planets or not. We ARE here because we are a part of the enormity of the universe that is EVERYTHING. We are, therefore, a part of EVERYTHING, even accidentally. The laws of the universe apply here. We are born and we die but we never stop being a part of the connected EVERYTHING.

 

I believe that the connective element of the universe is love (still my leap of faith) and we have, every day, the opportunity to harmonize with the rest of EVERYTHING through our decisions for love. The 'Good Samaritan', on that particular day, was called to harmonize with another part of EVERYTHING. His love for another piece of the pie was just too strong to ignore. Maybe he never did it before and maybe never again after but on that day he was hooked up and loving.

 

'I am the way, the truth and the life' addresses this. Fullness in life is found in loving. It is a direction and a way of life.

 

We are all nothing more than a wee piece of the enormity of Everything. What a wonderful thing to be just that!

 

I hope this does not hinder.

 

My very best to you in all things.

 

Donald

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Donald,

 

You have referred to the Aramaic word alaha several times. I don't know much about Aramaic, but I am interested in the Semitic languages generally (Arabic and Hebrew more specifically). You are suggesting, I think, that Aramaic-speaking Jews (including Jesus) had a concept of God different from that presented in the Bible and Apocrypha. Do you have a good reference for this word and its meaning to Aramaic speakers.

 

George

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Hello George and good morning to you!

 

My sources have been via the writings of the Aramaic scholar and author Neil Douglas-Klotz. More specifically through his titles THE HIDDEN GOSPEL and PRAYERS OF THE COSMOS.

 

It has been a challenge for me, especially in the last 5 years, to come to terms with the easy phrases of my christian upbringing. Terms such as 'God of the Universe', 'Creator of the Universe', etc, have always implied a separation between what is the universe and what created it. This, to me, has always implied that God was either a 'something' within the universe, the same as I am, or 'something' outside of the Universe yet tinkering with it from some yet further somewhere. This has been a limitation for me that I could not function with.

 

I think we can all agree that the greek 'filter', via translation of concepts that were not rooted in the natural vernacular, has had a profound effect upon the definitions that were distinctly different from the greek mind and imagery. Whereas the concepts of Heaven and Hell were more of a condition in the OT (Hebrew and Aramaic), the collision into Greek introduced both as geographical. It is impossible to divorce our translations of translations from the Olympian root and the Hades of Hellenic legend and myth. The Hebrew Sheol is nothing like the raging Hell of Revelation. In his wonderfully challenging book, LOVE WINS, Pastor Rob Bell illustrated this much to the righteous anger of most Evangelical pastors and organizations.

 

If we take a relaxed moment to allow all of the shifts to take place in our mind (at least it did for me) when we place God in the fullness of everything, not what God has made but, literally, what God IS, so many things can begin to reveal themselves as being reconciled. We are able to see a God of incredible vastness. Not a being 'in charge' of such vastness but the vastness itself. This does away very tidily with such concepts as the supernatural and all the populace that goes with it. It makes no sense for such an entity as everything to then create sub-supernatural beings whose sole purpose is to try to throw wrenches into every aspect of the glorious everything. That such a being would be encouraged to aggressively do such things without any perimeters until it ceased being a pleasure for 'God' to watch the ensuing carnage and 'He' snapped Satan out of existence again makes no sense.

 

This Everything functions on the laws of the universe that are not only unbending but, in and of themselves, are a wonderful reflection of the noble everything. "God' doesn't need to go back and forth through time, like the ultimate time traveler (another concept I was raised upon). What would the purpose of that be? All of the possibilities in the future are aligning themselves today all across the universe. Two planets that will one day collide are moving, second by second, toward their mutual demise. A star, maybe even our own, is moving ever closer to it's eventual burn out and end. It isn't magic. It is so much greater than that. It is the very nature of Everything.

 

I will not hang the development that I have worked so hard to discover upon Mr Douglas-Klotz. That would not be fair to him. It started with a simple sentence I read, somewhere, that equated the Aramaic word for God Alaha with the concept of EVERYTHING. It hit me like a lightning bolt and I've been charged ever since!!!

 

George, I will slow down a bit and say that under no circumstances do I believe I've 'got it' for everyone. God is, for the most part, a personal invention of everyone. We make God into exactly what we need it to be. I know a mean hearted, self-righteous man whose God is identical to him. Likewise I know a thoroughly loving Pastor whose God is exactly like her. Atheists very rightly spend a lot of energy denying everyone one else's God and for good reason. I have no use for most, if not all, of other peoples Gods and I really resent the groups that aggress on others to become like them 'or else!'. I think most Atheists are really just super fired up Agnostics who have a legitimate ax to grind. I believe Agnostics are incredibly brave and honest people who have the courage to say both 'I don't know' and 'I refuse to make one until I do know'. Whew!!!!

 

I hope that helps. Being new, my greatest fear is that I am a hindrance.

 

Wishing you the very best in all things.

 

Donald

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I will slow down a bit and say that under no circumstances do I believe I've 'got it' for everyone. God is, for the most part, a personal invention of everyone. We make God into exactly what we need it to be.

 

Donald, my question was more about the historical basis of the Aramaic word. I certainly find nothing in your theology to quarrel with. I especially like what you have to say about your concept of God as personal and not a claim to universal truth. I think we should apply this standard to others on both the left and right as long as what they believe is benign and not asserted as exclusive, universal truth.

 

George

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God is, for the most part, a personal invention of everyone. We make God into exactly what we need it to be. I know a mean hearted, self-righteous man whose God is identical to him. Likewise I know a thoroughly loving Pastor whose God is exactly like her.

 

Donald

 

I listen to a podcast titled 'Reasonable Doubts' which has a segment titled "God Thinks Like You", which is exactly the point you made here - funnily enough, most people's God aligns with their way of thinking!

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I got asked by a Christian in the church I go to, but not a member of, why I am such a nice person if I don't believe in God. First I had to explain that I just don't know if there is or isn't a God and in reality, it doesn't matter to me. It isn't a question I can answer and if it was I don't think it would change my life much. I don't live my life for a reward after I die. My reward is here and now in this life. It is very conceivable we are a cosmic fluke and I admire Spong for saying that. But that doesn't mean our time here is irrelevant. I hope when I am planted in the ground one or two of the people watching will feel their life was better because I was part of it.

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Stanley,

 

To me "belief" doesn't even need to enter the picture. as necessary though it has potential to make ones view of life appear different .

 

God is...... therefore "I am" and requires no "belief". God being a limitless and ever-present reality existing in all of creation neither being defined by nor being separate from such in all its limitless potentialities. In my view, Life itself as One, is its own proof of God of which rejection or acceptance does not alter nor is it a requirement to that reality.

 

Joseph

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I'm actually reading this book right now, with the book club at my church. I too found Spong's concept of "accidental being" difficult to reconcile, and I ultimately have rejected it.

 

Spong is a learned man, whose theological knowledge vastly outweighs my own. However, he is still a mere human being, not some sort of supernatural prophet or something. His ideas are his own, and he is entitled to them; agreement with him is not required.

 

I don't believe that I'm here by accident, or that the things that happen do so randomly. He seems to, and that's ok too.

 

The more I read and the more I ponder, the more I realize that there is no one journey. Everyone's encounter with God/The Divine/etc may very well be an individual thing. How you see it may be entirely different from how I see it, but they aren't mutually exclusive.

 

I think it's important to expose yourself to lots of different ideas and theories. You don't have to buy into all of them, or any of them, but it's good to get a glimpse of what other people think. If nothing else, that particular section of Spong's book reaffirmed for me what I *do* believe, which is not what he believes. It's ok.

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I stumble across this video and it reminded me your question about accidental life, check it out:

 

 

Whole video is very interesting, but go for ~53 minute. He says that universe is/was filled with so many opportunities for life that at some point or another the life had to appears and grow. Sure it was accidental, but sooner or later that accident was simply inevitable. Well watch it yourself, I can't describe it like he did lol.

 

God is, for the most part, a personal invention of everyone. We make God into exactly what we need it to be. I know a mean hearted, self-righteous man whose God is identical to him. Likewise I know a thoroughly loving Pastor whose God is exactly like her.

 

Donald

 

I think Thomas Aquinas addressed this idea of God as extend of one's mind and ego, and now there is a quite big theological "wing" of priests in catholicism who are more into saying what God is not, rather than repeating attributes stacked for centuries. They even like to say atheists in some way know God better than believers, because their "there is no God" is closer to truth than overload of personal attributes to him.

Edited by bearpawss

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I still haven't read Spong's book on the after life (for some reason, my local Booksamillion doesn't carry it at all but they have his newest book on biblical scholarship oddly), but I recall reading in one of Spong's older books that Spong believes we live on but only in the sense that we live on in the memories of our loved ones who have been left behind. I don't know whether or not there is an afterlife, but I find the idea that we're all an accident of life to be more empowering and freeing than believing we were created to be inherently wicked and depraved people who must beg a supernatural magic parent in the sky in order to be good. I think the idea of life being accidental frees us to create spirituality as we want it rather than having it handed down to us through dogmatic traditions and strident creeds.

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I have at least two responses.

 

One

I am on my phone and can't see the link for the video. It sounds like 'The Dance of the Fertile Universe'. It did all happen by chance but perhaps not by accident as Father Coyne suggests. One of the necessities that selects from the chance occurences is a desire for relationship. For example, out of billions of chance encounters two hydrogen atoms bump into each other under the right conditions and form a hydrogen molecule.

 

In Process Theology there are internal and external relationships between all entities. The idea of internal relationships leads us to the ideas that we are all part of the universe and/or expressions of the universe evolving.

 

Relationship requires two and we could say that God is becoming and evolving just as creation is. It takes two. Today is where we are in the relationship. As grampawombat said a year or two ago on this board and I paraphrase, "maybe some day God will evolve to the point that God is what we describe today."

 

Two

Life is accidental and we have no free will in the largest of meanings but in small ways we often live as if these were not true. "Life of Pi" speaks to this. Which story and in what circumstances would you tell? This is particularly important in the wake of calamanities. What story gets you through the night and leads to wholeness?

 

Michael Dowd says the word "God" is how we tell stories about "ultimate reality mythically personified". So tell the stories that feed you and don't interrogate them as if they were science about external relationships. Experience the internal relationships that connect us and make us one with all that is becoming through chance and the necessity of relationship.

 

You have no freewill. Live as if you do. Isn't that the challenge of existential despair?

 

Dutch

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