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Rejecting Religion Led To Rejecting God


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Apologies in advance if I should have posted this in another category.

 

I guess this is not so much a discussion thread about Bishop Spong's newsletter per se, but it is initiated by a sentence from his latest newsletter that I particularly identify with: "Since the church as they experienced it seemed to have no other idea of God, they wanted no part of religion."

 

Spong was referring to the closed-mindedness (my words) of fundamental, literalist churches and how a number of christians find the God espoused in those churches to be 'too small' for the world they live in.

 

I guess like so many members here, this was the situation I found myself in when at 18 years of age, I was unleashed onto the big bad world of adulthood and employment, where for the first time I became seriously exposed to relationships with respectable adults outside of the confines of my fundamental, literalist church family. These relationships and experiences in life led to me simply rejecting the God of the bible I had grown up believing in. I did not consider much of an alternative. I pretty much threw the baby out with the bathwater.

 

25 years on and I have been so distanced from religion and God that I genuinely question whether God exists at all. To me, it feels like God doesn't exist. But then there's a little niggle that makes me asks if I might me missing something. Admittedly, part of it still might be the fear that "He' is waiting for me on the other side and I am trying to convince myself that this is nonsense, but a part of it also is that I do genuinely question whether there is something spiritual to our world.

 

So I find myself here, possibly 'hoping' that I'll come across some magic answer, but moreso simply acknowledging that maybe there is something that I've missed and so I'll see what others have to say about the matter and ask them about their experiences.

 

So I wonder if anyone would be prepared to sum up in only a few sentences, just what they think God is and why do they think God is real? I realise such a subject matter could go on and on, but I'm asking you not to try and convince me, but if you would be preapred to put out there as succinctly as possible, just what & why you think about God.

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Paul, your timing is perfect....wander over to the tcpc.org forums, Progressive Christianity and Dialog and Debate, we been tossing that very question about recently....come read what we've shared, perhaps there is something waiting for you to find it there...

 

Jenell

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Hi Paul,

There is quite a bit of information already written and discussed as Jenell said but to answer your specific in short. I think as you expect, God is not so small as religion seems to make God seem. Conceptualizing God can only point and won;'t to me provide what i think you are looking for.

 

I believe you, as many are and i was after a similar time of perceived separation, looking for experience rather than idea or words. Because, "you'll never know that its true til it happens to you." (lyrics to a song that grabbed me) In short, when the time was ripe, i experienced God without form yet as the very being by which i exist and cannot be separated from. In that experience in which i have no magic button in words for others, i knew that God has been with me always regardless of my acknowledgement or realization. When i have the most primal thought that i can have being, "I" or "I am" but without words i am at the door-less door of God who is All in All. There is nothing more i can really say.

 

Joseph

 

PS To me, to realize God is just a matter of awareness.

Edited by JosephM
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Yes, I've mentioned this before, but it is worth repeating. I rely on sources that have a solid reputation for academic honestly. One of those is the Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy. Under the heading of "Intuition" it states ... "One can have an intuitive awareness of God." And that's all it says. No further explanation is possible because that is how intuition works. It's "just there", that little voice keeping track of how things fit together and sometimes telling us what is missing from our rational processing.

 

Myron

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Hello Paul,

 

Welcome and thanks for the meaningful question. With the wide variety of beliefs and theologies represented here on the board, I hope others chime in as well.

 

I've been a doubting individual too, and it seems that in our current cultural climate, it is an uphill battle to make virtually any spiritual -- or even positive -- claim about our existence. But despite this I think it's attainable to come to an affirmation of mind and meaning. I see these as fundamental categories, by which I reason about the nature of existence. Therefore, I approach the universe as 'enminded' and 'enmeaninged', not necessarily in the sense of 'mind' or 'meaning' being imposed from the outside, but of emanating and being realized intimately from the inside-out.

 

I suppose I found my entrance into spirituality and religion through studying some forms of contemplative practice, basically surrounding the themes of non-duality. I don't look for God as something outside or external to my existence or the meaning of my existence; God, to me, is not an object among objects. I see the idea of "object" as a conceptual construct or category, not subtle enough to do justice to the true nature of our existence. The difference between the 'gross' and the 'subtle' can perhaps be better expressed by Father Merton,

 

Lord God, the whole world tonight seems made out of paper. The most substantial things are ready to crumble apart and blow away. How much more so this monastery which everybody believes in and which has perhaps ceased to exist? O God, my God, the night has values that the day has never dreamed of.

 

Peace,

Mike

Edited by Mike
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Thanks Jenell, will do.

 

Joseph - You're very close to the mark when you suspect I seek experience of God rather than words or ideas. I find it a funny situation to be in (although I'm not laughing alot!) - wondering if there is 'a' God, wondering if there is a way to experience this God, but then also wondering if I do have said experience will it be genuine or is it something psychological brought on by all this God-talk and wondering about God? Kinda catch 22 really. I am encouraged by a number of people that I am 'on the right path' and that 'things' will come in due course, so in the meantime I'm happy to read, poke around, ask questions, contemplate. I suspect my desire to know the 'right' answer has more to do with my fundamental upbringing and whilst I can shake that most of the time, it pops into my mind from time to time.

 

Myron - I can appreciate that definition. Thanks for sharing it with me.

 

Mike - I have entertained what I think you're explaining (and thanks for doing so) where I do wonder if God is us - the whole world, every rock, mineral, plant, animal, person, feeling, emotion, thought. That certainly makes more sense to me than my traditional understanding of a master controller sitting 'out there' somewhere. Whilst it is probably so cliche to say it is a 'mystery', I guess for me that is most accurate. Thanks again for your view.

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(snip)

Joseph - You're very close to the mark when you suspect I seek experience of God rather than words or ideas. I find it a funny situation to be in (although I'm not laughing alot!) - wondering if there is 'a' God, wondering if there is a way to experience this God, but then also wondering if I do have said experience will it be genuine or is it something psychological brought on by all this God-talk and wondering about God? Kinda catch 22 really.

(snip)

 

Well Paul, that is an interesting position you place yourself in. Everything you experience is subjective in this world. Without the senses to perceive the world, the world would not even exist for you. Do you wonder if this experience of the world is genuine or just psychologically brought on? What does it matter? You are here now and know you exist, that to you is genuine. If you have no aware experience of God then what good is it to wonder if you were to in the future whether it would be genuine or not? It seems to me hypotheticals have no real existence in reality. When it happens, it will be real enough and there will be no wondering if it is genuine unless of course you decide you like to wonder about it. :)

 

I perceive that all who genuinely seek, find.

 

Joseph

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Paul salutations to the God, Divinity within you, Great question. I feel God is in the physical and in the non-physical so contemplation helps me to quiet or silence my mind to feel a medium permeating everything including myself. I like to call it an ocean of pure consciousness then when I open my eyes I feel that same presence permeating the solid and mental states. A mirror 360 degrees smiling and grinding my rough edges so the medium has no barrier. God is all round and inside so I only need to witness grace removing the barriers that keeps the medium from my consciousness.

"Love your neighbor as yourself." I think Jesus was saying for some it is good to start with one's self and when you see God in you then you can love and see it in others. Spiritual practice is seeing the medium, God in your wife, boss, the people who annoy you and just be. There is no where to go to be in God because we are already there so we just love.

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  • 1 year later...

Hello Paul-

 

I am a very recent member here. Like most enthusiastic 'newbies' I have spewed forth on a bunch of topics. I'm sure the tried and true here will breathe a sigh of relief as I settle down.

 

But not quite yet!

 

I believe that, until proven otherwise, God is a choice. Choosing God doesn't make God real. God remains utterly improvable. I am left with my desire to believe in, and create, the perimeters of God. For me it is personal. I cannot join a collective approach. I don't live there. Belief in God has everything to do with what each of us 'need' God to be, how we 'need' God to act, even what we 'need' God to 'need' from creation and from us.

 

My mind does not find comfort and resolve in the purely scientific approach. I can get on board with every aspect of the extraordinary processes of the universe, including it's physical beginnings. I love all of that! What I have not been comfortable with (at my own deepest level) is the concept of everything from nothing. I 'need' a creator. Belief that everything needs a creator does not attempt to answer the 'next' question, "Then who/what made God? Oddly enough, I don't need to go there. Minds can compartmentalize in the strangest ways!

 

Bibles, Qur'ans or Christian Canon are not elevated into supernatural writings simply because they are said to be so. Human Beings wrote them, Human Beings have commented upon them endlessly and Human Beings use them to accomplish their very Human Being ends.

 

It is up to each of us to determine for ourselves what we choose to believe. There is tremendous honor in believing and admitting that it is merely that. We have a word for that. Faith.

 

Best to you!

 

Donald

Edited by DrDon
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Thanks Don (and welcome to the forum, I hope you have found a home of sorts),

 

I'm not so sure one has a 'choice' when it comes to belief. In the past I have chosen to believe in God, but it's never really worked because my thinking eventually tells me I'm only fooling myself, and the 'belief' in God is over-ruled. However, up until about 18yrs of age I did believe and I remember that feeling.

 

For others it has clicked into place for them for whatever reason and they can hold their belief. However I see that less as a choice and more as a belief that fits them so it 'works' for their brain.

 

I'm certainly not arguing against other people's belief (I believe others have genuinely experienced what they feel is God) or against the existence of God.

 

I appreciate your thoughts. Thank you.

 

Cheers

Paul

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think that you can arrive at a belief through the choices you make, but I don't think you can choose a belief - you simply either believe or you don't.

 

Take Santa for example. Could you believe in him right now even if you wanted to? I would suggest that it's not a choice to make - you simply can't believe in Santa because of the things you have learnt in life. You could choose to read books that promote the existence of Santa, you could choose to say you believe Santa lives, but I don't think you could genuinely believe it unless something in your head clicked that allowed you to hold that belief.

 

Using me as an example, I used to believe in God & Jesus in the fundamental and literal sense. Later, life experiences and other learnings changed my belief. I struggled to believe, I struggled to remain 'in the fold', but at the end of the day the 'belief' left me. I did not have a choice. I could have gone through the motions and pretended to believe, even perhaps almost convincing myself that I believed, but at the end of the day I would have simply been unable to believe in something I didn't believe in.

 

On the other hand, if I wanted to believe in God, I simply couldn't unless something made that belief click with me. I could arrive at such a belief through certain ways of thinking, research, experience etc, but again, if I had those which convinced me of that belief then again I've had no choice, I have simply begun to believe.

 

 

Does that make my thoughts any clearer?

 

Cheers

Paul

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Exactly.

 

A belief structure that is no longer tenable, that no longer fills our needs, ceases to be our choice. When we discover that Santa cannot be real we cannot continue choosing to believe. If our long held belief in the fundamental/literal view of Christianity steadily crumbles we must choose what to do about it and, in so doing, choose what our next structure, if any, will be.

 

Many people need to throw out the entire previous structure before they can begin a new search, that is a choice. Carefully exploring new approaches that are contrary to our former belief is a choice. Finding a new way of thinking, of believing and embracing it, is also a choice.

 

I suppose I take this stance because the absolute center, being improvable, is a choice. Because of this, I tend to assign subsequent actions as choices as well.

 

Perhaps we are stuck in semantics and really are in agreement.

 

Best!

 

Donald

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Maybe. It seems we agree that one can't make theselves belief something that they have lost belief in, but then get thrown by your correlation with the absolute centre being a choice. I'm not sure what you mean there.

 

II still believe (no pun intended) that to believe in anything is not a choice, it just happens. You can't make yourself believe whatever you want to make yourself believe.

 

 

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By center I am referring to God. There is absolutely no proof that God exists. In spite of everything that mankind has ever come up with regarding God, including quite elaborate religions that go so far as to assign attributes to God, there is not a shred of evidence to support any of it. God is a choice. I believe God exists. I have, like everyone else, created my own version of God to suit that choice and the needs that come out of it. These are my beliefs. I have chosen to pursue this process because I want to for my own personal reasons (needs).

 

I sense that you feel some form of pettiness in this and I can fully understand that. It is very important to me to avoid any form of transcendence in this process. Each of us seek answers in our individuality. We cannot do otherwise. We may be greatly inspired by the concepts of others but even that lands on an emotional level. Concepts either 'feel' right or they 'feel' wrong. We then choose what to do about them. This is not a process of 'making' yourself believe something. I agree with you fully on that.

 

Where we seem to disagree is in the consequence of the 'Aha!' moment, either from within ourselves through our own work, or externally through the reception of the concepts of others. I hold that it is still a choice, you seem to be saying that the content adheres to us without our choosing. I can fully appreciate your stance on that.

 

I hope I've not merely kicked a dead horse in this. My apologies if I have.

 

Best.

 

Donald

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Donald and Paul,

 

There is strong evidence that we are genetically inclined toward religious belief.

 

Pascal Boyer (in "Religion Explained") discussed this at great length. His thesis is related to our natural tendency to assume agency which developed through evolution. When we cannot account for some occurence by natural means (a hurricane, good fortune, a plague, etc.), we have a tendency to assume a divine agent.

 

Chistakis & Fowler (in "Connected") suggest that religion is related to our evolution as social animals and social connectedness. They think that God can function as a "node" in social networks.

 

George

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George, thank you for your thoughts.

 

I agree that humankind has a need to 'file' that which it cannot understand. The development of an angry God folder for events which are outside the comfortable and safe existence has been demonstrated through extensive mythology and resultant social practices. Scientific knowledge counters with another folder in which to 'file' such things.

 

It is amusing to hear such Evangelical 'authorities' as Pat Robertson continue to to use the angry God folder for such events as the recent destruction of Hurricane Sandy. Clearly hurricanes are phenomena that are a fully natural part of our planets systems. To assign the supernatural to them harkens back to a very ancient mindset. Mr Robertson needs to believe such things to satisfy his choices for how his God works in our physical world.

 

I do not find anything genetic in this. Do you have other examples that would support such a gene? I'd be very interested in that.

 

Best.

 

Donald

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By center I am referring to God. There is absolutely no proof that God exists. In spite of everything that mankind has ever come up with regarding God, including quite elaborate religions that go so far as to assign attributes to God, there is not a shred of evidence to support any of it. God is a choice. I believe God exists. I have, like everyone else, created my own version of God to suit that choice and the needs that come out of it. These are my beliefs. I have chosen to pursue this process because I want to for my own personal reasons (needs).

 

I sense that you feel some form of pettiness in this and I can fully understand that. It is very important to me to avoid any form of transcendence in this process. Each of us seek answers in our individuality. We cannot do otherwise. We may be greatly inspired by the concepts of others but even that lands on an emotional level. Concepts either 'feel' right or they 'feel' wrong. We then choose what to do about them. This is not a process of 'making' yourself believe something. I agree with you fully on that.

 

Where we seem to disagree is in the consequence of the 'Aha!' moment, either from within ourselves through our own work, or externally through the reception of the concepts of others. I hold that it is still a choice, you seem to be saying that the content adheres to us without our choosing. I can fully appreciate your stance on that.

 

I hope I've not merely kicked a dead horse in this. My apologies if I have.

 

Best.

 

Donald

 

Donald,

 

Please understand that there's not any intended sense of pettiness on my behalf. In no way do I wish to portray what people believe as petty or incorrect. I simply mean to say that people don't choose their beliefs, but that in a sense their beliefs choose them. The aha moment is exactly what seals it for people. I think though, with so many aha moments with so many people of so many different faiths and beliefs, that those aha moments have more to do with the individual than a one and only truth (I think you would agree with me there). Which indicates to me that people aren't willingly choosing one belief over another but that rather for whatever reason one beliefs connects and resonates with them whereas another doesn't. Not by choice, but just by 'because'.

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I do not find anything genetic in this. Do you have other examples that would support such a gene? I'd be very interested in that.

 

To grossly oversimplify Boyer's case, we intuitively and automatically assume agency when something happens. This is evolutionarily beneficial. If our ancient ancestors had to stop and reason every time they heard a threatening sound, a number of them would not have survived. They would have been eaten by the tiger or whatever before they reached a reasoned conclusion about the source. Those who had the 'agency gene' (my term), reacted automatically, avoided danger and lived to procreate. There was no harm to assume danger even when none existed. So, we developed an intuitive instinct that assumed agency behind all events. (Sorry Pascal if you are reading this).

 

George

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Donald, a quick PS,

 

Religion is a cultural universal - it is found in every human society. It can be documented back 40-50K years (cave art and grave goods). It persists even when suppressed (see USSR and Red China). This universality and persistence suggests a genetic basis - something shared by all humans. As a result, a number of scientists have proposed various evolutionary motivations and explanations.

 

This does not mean that there is a biological imperative for everyone, but that religious thought is a strong, human tendency.

 

George

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Paul, permit me to clarify that my use of the word 'pettiness' was too strong and, evidently, unclear. For that I apologize. I was only referring to our stalmate regarding choice, certainly nothing beyond. I sensed in your words that my use of 'choosing' was a diminishment on the impact of belief. I do not hold that we stand back in our comfort of control and review possibilities of belief/faith and decide which one grabs us more; like buying a wedding ring in a jewelry store. I do not mean to imply this in any way. I do hold that the 'aha' or 'that's it' moment does contain a subconscious response of 'I will go this way'.

 

George. I suggest that the exponential growth of atheism and agnosticism are directly a result of the advances in science that has so shattered the sheer volume of the unknowns that resulted in 40-50K years of humans filing life in the supernatural folder. Due to the still exploding advances in understanding our world, galaxy, solar system and universe beyond we are unique to the 99.999% position from all of those 40-50K years of human existence. That number holds true for the last 2000 years as well. This is Bishop Spong's point in discussing the near fatal demise of Christianity. He rightfully refers to the quandary of being second millenium humans tying ourselves up into "1st Century pretzels".

 

In a way, I am hearing you offering up a 'genetic' card to maintain an argument for the existence of God. It is a bit backward from the usual examples as it holds that due to humankinds near universal development of a supernatural creator being; through such 'wiring', indeed, such a being exists.

 

Again I will say that I stay well clear of anything that leans toward transcendence (and therefore supernatural). I believe that the glory of the natural/universal laws of the Universe do much more to honor God than calling up the Supernatural can ever hope to do. In fact, I see such things as being a diminishment.

 

I do not accuse either of you of that, by the by. It's just a particular rant that I am often led to trot out!

 

This is enjoyable for me. I hope it is the same for you. If not, please tell me to stop and I will!

 

Best to you both.

 

Donald

Edited by DrDon
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In a way, I am hearing you offering up a 'genetic' card to maintain an argument for the existence of God. It is a bit backward from the usual examples as it holds that due to humankinds near universal development of a supernatural creator being; through such 'wiring', indeed, such a being exists.

 

Sorry, I was not clear and was mixing points. The genetic explanation is not an argument for the existence of God. It is an argument that explains the universal cultural condition - why humans are inclined to have religious thought.

 

Independently, there is also a logical argument based on agency. Do we, or science, know of anything that has no cause? If everything within natural law has a cause, it follows that our existence itself has a cause (an agent).

 

George

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I couldn't agree more!

 

This is what brings me to my choice for a creator beginning. Whether a single source or multiple, whether we are all merely a portion of the expanse of living thought... Whatever we are a part of, it is up to each of us within this unknown vastness of origin, to come to terms with it in a way that allows us to feel safe and secure within it.

 

Due to the central issue being one of improvability (thus far) we are all left to our own determination. I call this 'choice' due to the overwhelming weight of unknowing.

 

Thank you both!

 

This has been a pleasure.

 

Donald

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  • 1 month later...

When the arguments for religion crumble, one is left with a choice. I side with Dr Don. It becomes a choice in the end to believe in God or not. If you choose not, then there are plenty of "experts" who make very succinct arguments for the NON existance of any devine athourity.

If you choose to find a definition of GOD that can fit with your reasoning then you join places such as this one. Paul, you will NEVER find an answer to you question if ultimately you do not CHOOSE God.

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And which God would you propose I choose, Betty? You seem to suggest I choose a God of my own making - one that fits my own reasoning. That doesn't seem so much a choice as a creation.

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