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Objective Truth Vs Subjective Truth


Rodge
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I'm new to these Boards, so I apologize if what i write here has already been thoroughly discussed.

 

Suppose that I tell you that I have had a transcendental encounter with Zork that filled me with profound joy. Suppose you reply that you had a transcendental encounter with Manu that changed your life. We could then discuss how my experiential truth of Zork compares with your experiential truth of Manu. But then, say that I insist that the my truth about Zork is universally true, so your truth about Manu must be universally false, or at least that my truth is superior to yours. There is no constructive way to resolve this issue, because all spiritual truths are uniquely personal, in the sense that such truths cannot be defined, tested, and verified by a skeptic, but only offered as a personal testimonial. Instead, claims of universal spiritual truths lead to divisions and conflict. Just look at the history of the Christian Church's bitter fights over dogma.

 

My thesis is that the church (including many progressives) fails to recognize the implications of the fact that there can be no objective truths regarding the existence and nature of God. Personal, subjective truths, yes. But no universal, objective truths. You can't prove anything about God, one way or the other, not that God exists, not that God doesn't exist. To me, this suggests that we should move away from being an authoritative Proclamation Church to being a welcoming Testimonial Church. Am I wrong? Can anyone cite a truth about the existence and nature of God that can be defined and confirmed by a skeptic?

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I am a skeptic and I don't use the word "believe" in my active vocabulary. I think the term "I believe" is a weak proclamation because it implies a forgone conclusion, it a passive term. I prefer to use the term "I think" because it implies an ongoing process, it is an active term.

 

I do not think there is "a god" but I also don't think there is "no god". When a logical argument proving the existence of a god is presented, I will not need to believe it, I will understand it and know it. Thus far, with the greatest minds considering this problem, no one has come up with this argument.

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It is interesting that you posited this question today. Here is a question and answer I received in my email this morning from Bishop Spong.

 

Question & Answer

Janah, via the Internet, writes:


Question:

What do you think of the book, Conversations with God, by Neale Walsh? It is interesting and I want to believe it, but really don’t.


Answer:

Dear Janah,

Neale Walsh’s book has been very popular and has an appeal for a number of people. He writes in a lively and provocative style. He portrays a deity so engaged with human life that people feel comforted by his words. It has, however, a minimal appeal for me. That is not the fault of this book so much as it is an inability on my part to make most of the assumptions that he seems so easily to make. I cannot suspend my rationality. I cannot force my brain to operate within his universe. I am always questioning his presuppositions which keep me from ever accepting his conclusions. I am not able to turn off my skeptical mind. It is not the reality of God about which my skepticism is exercised, but by the way God is defined by him. I rejoice whenever people in search of meaning find it in any source, but theology is an ultimate mystery since it searches for a God who can never be described in human terms. I worry about those who believe they have arrived at “the Truth.” Neale Walsh falls into that category for me. So I am not a fan!

Thanks for asking.

John Shelby Spong

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I am a skeptic and I don't use the word "believe" in my active vocabulary. I think the term "I believe" is a weak proclamation because it implies a forgone conclusion, it a passive term. I prefer to use the term "I think" because it implies an ongoing process, it is an active term.

 

I do not think there is "a god" but I also don't think there is "no god". When a logical argument proving the existence of a god is presented, I will not need to believe it, I will understand it and know it. Thus far, with the greatest minds considering this problem, no one has come up with this argument.

 

Here is your conundrum as I see it. The existence of God is a belief. Let's say the only way to a have a relationship with a god which may or may not exist is to believe. The truth is that God either exists or does not exist no matter what we believe. So the question is, which way do you want to live your lif?.

 

  1. Do you want to live a life as if there is no God?
  2. Do you want to live your life as if there might be a God because but because there might not be you would prefer not to have a relationship with him because you don't want to take the chance that you've been a fool?
  3. Do you want to live your life as if there is a God and have a relationship with him on faith?

Let's say you choose 3 but find no benefit to the relationship so you either go to 1 or 2. Let's you choose 3 and your life is transformed in a positive way. Then how much does it really matter if God exists or not other than being picked on by the atheists?

 

(I realize that this is a limited line of questioning which might not consider all of your viewpoint, but it's a starting place.)

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Fatherman,

 

You addressed your comment to Harry, not to to me, but I couldn't help wondering if you really mean to say that fake belief can bring the benefits of true belief.

Placebo faith? Yes, I suppose. But belief is belief. I don't think it can be fake. Maybe you're saying belief in something that is fake? My idea is that we all live by a story. In the context of this idea, the question is not whether the story is a fact, rather, is this story working for you? Is believing in a loving God helping you live the kind of life you want to live? Is believing in a judging/punishing God helping you to live the life you want to live? Is believing that there is no God helping you to live the life you want to live?

 

In the end, it is not facts that make our lives better, it is results. Whether God exists or not is pointing to a fact. We just have no way of knowing for certain what the fact is. But when it comes down to it, we believe in God because we want a result. So which is more important, being right or being happy? It makes me think of The Matrix. There's that scene at the dinner table when people are given the choice between the illusion (a steak or something) or the reality (gray mush). In this case we know for certain what the reality is. The hero is portrayed as the wise one because he chooses the gray mush. But what if the reality was uncertain? Should he still choose the gray mush just in case that's the reality?

 

That is the choice of all people. Are you willing to relinquish the benefits of believing in God, or should say of having a relationship with God, (of which I can attest there are many benefits) based on a notion that it could be a fake belief?

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Here is your conundrum as I see it. The existence of God is a belief. Let's say the only way to a have a relationship with a god which may or may not exist is to believe. The truth is that God either exists or does not exist no matter what we believe. So the question is, which way do you want to live your lif?.

  1. Do you want to live a life as if there is no God?
  2. Do you want to live your life as if there might be a God because but because there might not be you would prefer not to have a relationship with him because you don't want to take the chance that you've been a fool?
  3. Do you want to live your life as if there is a God and have a relationship with him on faith?

Let's say you choose 3 but find no benefit to the relationship so you either go to 1 or 2. Let's you choose 3 and your life is transformed in a positive way. Then how much does it really matter if God exists or not other than being picked on by the atheists?

 

(I realize that this is a limited line of questioning which might not consider all of your viewpoint, but it's a starting place.)

 

I think it is better to live my life as though a god does not exist. No one has been able to supply a definition of a god. St. Anselm said that God is that which nothing greater can be imagined. That rules out so many other definitions I have ever heard and it certainly rules out a person. If a god exists it must exist somewhere and at some time. The universe includes all that exists so it must be where a god would exist. You see where that gets us.

 

I don't concern myself with being picked on, especially by atheists, those who believe in some religion are the people who pick on other people who don't believe as they do. They give up picking on me after a short time because they are made to think when I question their religions and they can't answer the questions. I'm a hopeless case to them.

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There is not a subject that I consider more intriguing or think about more than the reconciliation of the ideas of mortality and immortality residing in us all. It is through the acceptance of the idea of life force that I can accomplish this.

 

Life force being the prime force which has always existed along with the space-time continuum is in us all and in all things.

 

St Anselm said that god is "that which nothing can be imagined to be greater". He also said, along with others, that the existence of this god could be determined logically beginning with a priori knowledge. Descartes proved his own existence with a simple statement, "I think therefore I am." We can all do the same.

 

If I were to agree with St. Anselm's definition of God, "That which nothing can be imagined greater than." I would say I think I have discovered a logical answer to what God is. It would have to be infinite, no beginning and no end and it would have to be neither capable of being created nor destroyed. Anselm also said “existing is greater than not existing”.

 

Neither space nor time can be imagined to have a beginning or end and energy can neither be created nor destroyed. We know that energy exists and if something exists it exists in the space-time continuum.

 

Energy exists in many forms now but at the time of the big bang, it was heat of unimaginable intensity and temperature which at a given moment self-excited to expand to fill space.

 

As it cooled it condensed into the four natural forces from which matter also condensed.

 

All the combined forces were once one force which literally contained all of the energy in the universe. This force is the force from which life eventually evolved as a result of the cooling and the condensation of matter.

 

I choose to call this force the life force, it will always exist at some level or form in both energy and matter.

 

Life force meets St. Anselm's definition of God. It is in us all as it is in all matter. It is in our consciousness, our emotions, and each of our individual cells that reproduce and die.

 

To me, this is God, but we are not made in God's image because this concept of God Has no particular image.

 

Life force is the prime force that is in us all and we are products of the prime force. Like droplets of rain are individual until they become the sea. As the sea evaporates the water vapor rejoins the atmosphere where it condenses again to form new individual drops to fall again into the sea. The drops have changed, but the H20 molecules remain the same.

 

When we die, the life force in us "evaporates" to rejoin the ether. It is not destroyed because it is energy and cannot be destroyed, only changed in form. It will "condense" again in another life with another consciousness that will not be aware of the experiences of any prior consciousness except possibly at the quantum level where past, present and future all exist as the same time.

 

In this way we are immortal, not as individuals, but as a part of the greater sea of life force.

 

If there was a Jesus and l think it likely that there was, he was a mystic and understood the relationship of us all, he tried to explain it but most could not understand.

 

"Don't you believe that I am in the Father, and that the Father is in me? The words I say to you I do not speak on my own authority. Rather, it is the Father, living in me, who is doing his work." John 14:11

 

Replace the word Father with Life Force and you can understand my reconcilliation of mortal and immortal.

Edited by Harry
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Placebo faith? Yes, I suppose. But belief is belief. I don't think it can be fake. Maybe you're saying belief in something that is fake?

Fatherman,

 

I guess I have a different definition of "belief" than you do. My concept of religious belief is that it is deeply rooted, that it is a conviction that springs from experiences, learning, and discernment. It is more than a hypothesis or assumption. I cannot pretend to believe in something that I don't believe in. Your personal belief is that you have benefitted from a relationship with God. That is your subjective truth, and I would not dispute it. But it is not my subjective truth, and I am satisfied with my subjective truth, and do not find it lacking. My broader point is that the Christian Church should welcome both of our subjective truths, and provide a space for us to respectfully trade notes about our various subjective beliefs. The Church, however, should not judge our beliefs, and tell us that one is better than the other, because there is no objective way for an institution to evaluate subjective truths.

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I think it is better to live my life as though a god does not exist. No one has been able to supply a definition of a god. St. Anselm said that God is that which nothing greater can be imagined. That rules out so many other definitions I have ever heard and it certainly rules out a person. If a god exists it must exist somewhere and at some time. The universe includes all that exists so it must be where a god would exist. You see where that gets us.

 

I don't concern myself with being picked on, especially by atheists, those who believe in some religion are the people who pick on other people who don't believe as they do. They give up picking on me after a short time because they are made to think when I question their religions and they can't answer the questions. I'm a hopeless case to them.

 

I very much respect your viewpoint, Harry. It is honest, and I get the sense that you are at peace with it. So it's hard to believe in something that cannot be universally defined. My first response it that I choose God, not because of ideas or definitions, but because of what I've experienced throughout my life. But this is not a good case for God. Someone else might reach the opposite point of view based on their experience. But it's not an argument for making a case for me, it is a belief. I experience something that I call God, therefore I believe in God. If I had not experienced what I would call God, then perhaps I wouldn't believe, BUT, many do believe regardless of their experience. Perhaps you have experienced precisely what I have experienced and yet you did not call it God. Maybe it's genetic.

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Harry,

 

Why do you use the form "life force" instead of "nature"? I don't know of any scientists who argue that "life" existed at the moment of the Big Bang. As a non-scientist, my understanding is that gasses were created first, then congealed into stars, which then created matter, which spread into space when the early stars exploded, which matter accumulated into planets, where increasingly complex chemical reactions created life, which evolved into creatures with brains and self-awareness, which evolved into spirituality made possible by human consciousness. What is wrong with calling this vast, mind-blowing process "nature"? What is added by calling it "God"? And what difference does it make to us, individually, that our brief lives are part of a process of conservation of energy? If, as I think, spirituality is a produce of human consciousness, individual spirituality ends with the end of my human consciousness.

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Rodge, First I must apologize for the lengthly response, it is a tedious compendium of my ideas developed over the last decade and longer. Why to choose Life Force instead of nature you ask. It is because life force is supernatural, meaning so perfectly natural that it could be nothing else, perhaps ultra natural.

 

What is life, God, and consciousness?

A brief history of how I got to this point in my thinking.


I was born into a Catholic community and raised as a Roman Catholic. I always had questions about God and the whole creation story as a child but went along with the flow to satisfy my parents and teachers in my Catholic community. I went to a seminary for a brief period thinking I could be a priest and learn the secrets but learned none.

Throughout my life my belief in religious dogma had its ebb and flow; I would begin to see the light only to have more doubts as my teachers lost credibility. I realized I had to figure things out for myself.

Twenty-five years ago I was a devout Catholic who attended Mass daily and after Mass, carried communion to the sick and infirmed as a Eucharistic minister. I never stopped seeking the truth about God and life and my understanding evolved over the years.

As a prior seminarian, I’ve had enough contact with priests, cardinals, and bishops to know they are no different than anyone else, just doing another job in a different hierarchy. I imagine the same holds true for ministers, rabbis, and mullahs.

The problem I saw was that they said one thing and did another. I know a priest who married a woman who he worked with along with here husband as a marriage counselor. There was another who sought homosexual gratification in truck stops and still others who were pedophiles. Then there were the “Christian" leaders in the mini & mega-churches on the Trinity Channel who I always sensed were nothing but charlatans that were caught up in all kinds of activities like pedophilia, infidelity, and homosexual activity, all the things they condemned.

It eventually became apparent to me that organized religion is a sham and many of the teachers and leaders were in it for power, money, self-aggrandizement or some other selfish reason, sexual or otherwise. The teachers have no credibility. They were not being good but yet, they were "God’s chosen". They are not all bad but as I said, no different than the rest of us.

Here are some of my thoughts on God, life, and evolution:

I have a love for science and above average understanding of it. I am not a scientist but I subscribe to scientific publications and have taken courses and read books on relativity, quantum mechanics and string theory (of which I have a limited understanding) I’ve read books on eastern mysticism, cosmology, paranormal occurrence and psychic phenomena.

When it comes to cosmology, science can take us only so far. To this time, it has taken us to the big bang and then things get fuzzy with the prime cause issue.

What caused the big bang?

When we can no longer prove something we theorize about it then work on ways to prove or disprove the theory. At the subatomic particle level, all we can do is observe cause and effect and make things happen in cyclotron colliders to verify predictions. Right now string theory is in question. It's a way of explaining the quantum level and hopefully, the unification of natural forces first through reason and logic followed by complex mathematics for final proof.

Like many before me, I have pondered over what life is, when it began and why it began. Until someone or something can convince me otherwise here is the theory I’m favoring.

Currently, science recognizes four natural forces in the universe; weak nuclear, strong nuclear, electromagnetic and gravity.

I submit that there are not just four natural forces at work in the universe but, at least, five with Lifeforce being the primary force or prime cause and the basis for the universe and all that exists in it.

My self-consciousness is proof of my intellect and existence. (I think therefore I am) my growth proves I have life energy in me. I can affect particles, molecules and objects and other lives with my will and mind both directly and indirectly thus proving life is a force.

Individual lives have beginning and end points we call birth and death. When the organizing life force within any living entity can no longer support organized cell multiplication and energy conversion Syntropy ends and entropy begins.

When a brain is no longer functioning at a level that supports consciousness or motor and auto response for breathing and converting nourishment to energy death follows and the mind no longer resides within the mortal body; it is no longer active in any way; life force leaves the body and its energy is returned to the universe.

The lifeless corpse will eventually disassociate into the nonorganic elements created in the condensation of particles following the big bang. These elements will be available to be recycled by and through the life force into other living organisms or perhaps provide energy to support them.

The electromagnetic energy emanating from thoughts and experiences of the mind will continue to exist as it radiates outward from the source according to natural law much like the light emitted from a dead star will continue to be seen from other points in the expanding universe long after the star is no longer in existence. No energy is lost.

The theory of relativity, quantum mechanics and the laws of thermodynamics, entropy and syntropy sufficiently prove the following:

• Energy is matter
• Energy can neither be created nor destroyed
• Energy within the universe is constant
• Life is a force

The five natural forces hierarchically in order of appearance are:

• Life force – the prime unifying force from which all other forces emerged at the big bang.

• Weak Nuclear force - builds sub-atomic particles, quarks & leptons, etc. into atomic particles.

• Strong Nuclear Force - builds atomic particles, protons, neutrons & electrons into atoms.

• Electromagnetic force - builds elemental atoms into molecules, chemicals and compounds, matter.

• Gravity force - builds matter into massive objects throughout the universe.

The incomplete grand unification theory has been able to prove unification of the strong nuclear, weak nuclear and electromagnetic forces but to this point does not resolve gravity into the equation. It is hoped that when science can mathematically explain unification of the forces, explain them in terms of each other, we will be able to answer the questions regarding life, truth, intellect, consciousness, psychic energy and others in the origin of the universe.

Scientists think that proving the existence of the Higgs boson will be a major step to that end. The Higgs boson is a sub-atomic particle that is believed to give other particles their mass. They hope to isolate the Higgs with the Large Hadron Collider at CERN, within a year. At CERN, the LHC could re-create conditions that last prevailed when the universe was less than a trillionth of a second old. CERN is the reference for the European Organization for Nuclear Research.

(note: The Higgs Boson was verified in the summer of 2012 at CERN)

Before the big bang, there was only the prime cause and there were zero dimensions.

I propose that consciousness, truth and love are all facets of the same unifying force from which all other forces and dimensions were released at the big bang.

1. First, at the instant of the big bang, all other dimensions and forces began condensing in hierarchical order as the universe began expanding and cooling.

2. Then came the sub-atomic particles and the weak force;

3. then protons, neutrons, and electrons formed atoms with the strong force;

4. then elements, chemicals and compounds and all associated wavelengths of electromagnetic energy with the electromagnetic force;

5. Finally stellar bodies, stars, planets, black holes and dark matter and energy condensed with gravity force.

The instantaneous release of energy began expanding in limitless space over a period of about 15 billion years as the universe expanded and it continues to expand and cools as it does so. It is important to understand that the universe is limitless in expansion potential because of limitless space in which to expand.

Without the Higgs boson giving particles mass, as is theorized, there would be no planets or stars. Space would be filled with energy and elemental matter, equally distributed as if in a homogenized solution. Without Higgs, nothing would provide these the particles with mass for gravity to act upon.

This I imagine is why the Higgs is referred to as the “god particle”. It is the particle that causes mass, therefore, allowing gravity to form the interstellar bodies and gas clouds.

As can be seen, all five of the forces are syntropic in that they are attractive forces. They all tend to build with the matter in some way.

Is it possible that the Higgs Boson not only gives other particles their mass but also a syntropic characteristic attracting them to cooperate with each other in the work directed by life force in a logical ordering process?

To me, it is within reason that consciousness, truth and love are all unique expressions of the same force and cannot be isolated from one or the other but exist in tri-unity, all equal and inseparable as one.

If and when science is able to mathematically unify all of the forces under one force, I think they will discover that this Triune Force, Life Force, will be the primary cause of all that exists.

All natural laws are resolved in the Triune Force (Life Force) which has always existed and always will exist. It is because Triune Force can neither be created nor destroyed that it existed before all known and unknown dimensions of the universe and it cannot be limited by any dimension but is expressed throughout the entire universe causing all energy and matter to interact, cooperate and organize. The universe is organized as it continues to expand and grow In Mae-wan ho’s quasi-continuum of self-similar patterns. Entropy exists with Syntropy in the natural ebb and flow.

Could it be that God is synonymous with the Triune Force (Life Force); that humankind is simply part of the universal evolution beginning at the big bang giving rise to a subset of expressions of Life Force that some men call god because it is easier for them to believe in an anthropomorphic supreme being and a mythical creation story than to understand universal truth?

If you wish to refer to Life or Triune Force as God then in my way of thinking you would be correct. If A = B and B = C then C = A. I prefer to think of God as a word to reference Life Force, the prime cause of all that exists. I think of it this way so as not to confuse Life Force with an anthropomorphic being that created the universe in 7 days and that is treated as a deity by many major religions.

I think of my mind as my soul and my consciousness is the experience of the life energy that keeps my body alive and self-conscious between birth and death.

I see no need for such a being, deity or entity as the anthropomorphic god except as an instrument to explain the unknown to children and those who believe they need to fear or worship a deity; to be good, or else go to hell. The anthropomorphic God concept is also quite useful in organized religion for controlling followers and raising money.

I think man created God in his own image in his mind, not the other way around. I think man naturally evolved from the Life Force as did the entire universe. I find no reason to believe there is a heaven or a hell. If god is life and god is love and god is truth then god is in us all and heaven and hell are constructs of some ancient evolving reasoning that served the purpose at the time.

Science struggles with the question of when life first appeared on the planet. What caused the first single cell and how was it able to replicate itself. My contention is that life was always here and is a force throughout the universe since all other forces and dimensions emerged from it.

It is easier to believe in magic or miracles than to seek and learn the truth. History is rife with examples of wrong beliefs caused by intellectual laziness and groupthink. Witness how long the Catholic Church denied that the earth traveled around the sun and how long men believed the earth was flat and that if you went to the edge you would fall off never to be seen again. These two thoughts were both intuitive for the time and were thought to be true. If they were taught by the church they were dogma and the church wasn’t going to change its teaching just because a few new facts got in the way.

It is not my intention to convert the reader or anyone to my current understanding, only to explain how I got here. My ideas of god have evolved over the course of my life and I believe I am getting closer to the truth. I contemplate this theory of the life force on a continuing basis and especially as I write and read my own thoughts. I am eager to discuss them with others on the same path or on a different path.

Stephen Hawking wrote the following final thought in his book, “A brief History of Time – From the big bang to black holes”, regarding the grand unification theory.

"If we discover a complete theory, it should in time be understandable by everyone, not just by a few scientists. Then we shall all, philosophers, scientists, and just ordinary people, be able to take part in the discussion of the question of why it is that we and the universe exist. If we find the answer to that, it would be the ultimate triumph of human reason - for then we should know the mind of God."

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Harry,

 

Thanks for sharing your extensive story. I hope you realize that it covers far too much territory for me to respond to here. In some sense, you seem to have journeyed from the most encompassing scale to the particular of your life. My journey has been the opposite. After years of hearing theological debates and trying to decide what I thought were "right" and "wrong" answers, brought myself up short a few years ago and decided to start with my experience and work outward. A prime question was whether I was an actor playing nature's script, or did I have a role in writing my own script. In other words, did I have "free will," which doesn't mean that I could do whatever I want, but whether I had the ability to choose among real options. I decided that many of my decisions were too trivial to have been encoded in the universe at the moment of the Big Band, and my mental processes of false starts and revisions were of a different kind from nature's pattern, which abandoned false starts but didn't go back to correct them. So I became convinced that I had free will, which required that my human consciousness had an element that was not the mechanical result of physical law. Voila! There was a non-physical aspect to my reality, which could be called spirituality.

Edited by Rodge
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Harry,

 

Something happened and what I was writing got posted before I was finished. So, continuing on. . . .

 

Since I was in college I have had trouble with the idea of a theistic God and literal reading of the Bible. More recently, I discovered the writing of Bishop John Shelby Spong, who affirmed and expended my doubts about theism. But I also came to sense that, if there was no theistic God, then it didn't really matter much whether and what God was. During this same time, I got involved in some Internet discussions between theists and atheists, and came to see the obvious — discussion of "proof" about the existence or non-existence of God required physical evidence, and there could be no physical evidence regarding spiritual matters. (The effects of spirituality might be measured, but there was no way to prove that spirituality is the cause.) Still, I recognized that, for many people, a theistic God was an important part of their reality. To them, this was subjectively true, confirmed by their own experience. SInce I believe we are all recipients of the gift of spirituality, without doing anything to earn the gift, I came to believe that I should respect the product of my spirituality, as well as the spiritual beliefs of others — so long as someone didn't try to impose their spirituality on me.

 

These were things I came to believe, based on my own experience of human life. These conclusions are important to me, and I think theyn could be relevant for the broader Christianity. At the same time, I realized that there are many things I don't know: Where did the universe come from? Did it even have a beginning? Is there some purpose to it all? Where did the gift of my human consciousness come from? What happens to "me" when my body dies? Such questions stir my intellectual curiosity, but only as a kind of hobby. I don't find them to be significant as I try to get the most from the gift I have received.

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Harry, I enjoyed reading your post beginning with "I was born a Catholic," very much. It's too big to quote/post. I have many responses to what you've written. But I've found one that goes with my "God User Interface" thread that I would like to work into this discussion.

 

 

 

I see no need for such a being, deity or entity as the anthropomorphic god except as an instrument to explain the unknown to children and those who believe they need to fear or worship a deity; to be good, or else go to hell. The anthropomorphic God concept is also quite useful in organized religion for controlling followers and raising money.

I think man created God in his own image in his mind, not the other way around. I think man naturally evolved from the Life Force as did the entire universe. I find no reason to believe there is a heaven or a hell. If god is life and god is love and god is truth then god is in us all and heaven and hell are constructs of some ancient evolving reasoning that served the purpose at the time.

 

In my illustration, I contend that humans lack the ability to understand the full nature of God except, perhaps, in extreme cases of mysticism, and that we have no choice but to construct, as you say, images of God if we are to relate to him, if indeed it is something we can relate to. In my post, I'm calling them interfaces with God (of which there are thousands or millions) which allow us to participate in a Life Force (God to me) in a conscious way. These two ideas, Life Force and Interfaces with God may not be compatible depending on what you believe that the ability of understanding of the Life Force gives us, and whether it is something that can be related to or worked with.

 

I've lived with the principle of a Life Force or the Energy or the Source in many years of my adult life. My experience was that my spirituality involved becoming aware of the force and communing my consciousness with it. The principle being that when you flow with the Energy then your living will be more peaceful and abundant in some way. In that practice, which I do not reject nor do I indulge, the personification of the Energy is in our own greater self/divine/soul pattern and that this becomes the focus of the personification of God....the perfect emanation of the Energy in our lives. It is the Life Force, but in a form that we can relate to and learn from.

 

What I've done is simplify things for myself. I was born a Christian. I'm a music minister in a United Methodist Church. I live in the Bible Belt. I'm comfortable with it. So I've chosen to take the language and traditions of the church which relates to my spirituality and name them one in the same. I choose an anthropomorphised way of relating to God because it works well enough for me. The manner in which my mind creates an image of God does not change who or what God is and the way he/it/she flows through my life. To think that I can somehow stop being a product of the Life Force because I call it God or Father or whatever and say my prayers to it every night, would be giving myself way more power than I have. I do not know what having a conversation with a non-person which I imagine to be a person helps me, but it does. It either gives me wisdom, comfort, love, or it helps me unlock it within myself. It makes no difference to me at all. In a sense, I agree with you that we create fairy tales to help us understand the unknown. I also happen to believe in the power of stories to help us navigate more complex systems. We do this in software engineering all of the time. It doesn't mean that we believe in fairy tales. It just means that the details only need to be exposed to some levels. Most people don't need quantum physics to know God. Although I love the way you do.

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Fatherman,

 

As I've tried to make clear, I'm not into judging another person's subjective truth about God. But I am eager to learn more from someone whose experience is so different from mine.

 

First, "God" seems to be at the core of your faith. Did God come to you, or did you search out God?

 

Second, Do you ever ask yourself questions like: Was the universe created by God or have they always co-existed? If God was the creator, why did God do it? Was the universe created with a purpose?

 

(P.S. I love church music. I'm a member of a large (liberal) Methodist church with a vigorous music program.)

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Fatherman,

 

I guess I have a different definition of "belief" than you do. My concept of religious belief is that it is deeply rooted, that it is a conviction that springs from experiences, learning, and discernment. It is more than a hypothesis or assumption. I cannot pretend to believe in something that I don't believe in. Your personal belief is that you have benefitted from a relationship with God. That is your subjective truth, and I would not dispute it. But it is not my subjective truth, and I am satisfied with my subjective truth, and do not find it lacking. My broader point is that the Christian Church should welcome both of our subjective truths, and provide a space for us to respectfully trade notes about our various subjective beliefs. The Church, however, should not judge our beliefs, and tell us that one is better than the other, because there is no objective way for an institution to evaluate subjective truths.

Ok, We're on the same page. Sounds like you'd make a good United Methodist. It is a non-creedal church. You get to believe what you want. No such thing as heresy. When you say "The Church", what exactly do you mean? The Christian religion? A church you attended? A church you saw on TV? Or the concept of a Christian community?

 

It's a loaded question, Rodge. The load is that I'm wondering if you're over-generalizing by using the term The Church in this case. The Church to me has been a very good grounds for working out my own beliefs. I am fortunate to have grown up in the Presbyterian Church where this kind of thing is not only accepted, but encouraged. Now I have friends who see The Church as something that told them what and how to believe. If they used this as an excuse to me for not going to church at all, I would simply suggest that they try a different church, because there is really no The Church. There's my church and your church. Or my denomination and yours.

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Fatherman,

 

As I've tried to make clear, I'm not into judging another person's subjective truth about God. But I am eager to learn more from someone whose experience is so different from mine.

 

First, "God" seems to be at the core of your faith. Did God come to you, or did you search out God?

 

Second, Do you ever ask yourself questions like: Was the universe created by God or have they always co-existed? If God was the creator, why did God do it? Was the universe created with a purpose?

 

(P.S. I love church music. I'm a member of a large (liberal) Methodist church with a vigorous music program.)

 

First, "God" seems to be at the core of your faith. Did God come to you, or did you search out God?

 

I was brought to God by my parents. They baptized me and took me to church. The raised me to pray and read the Bible and to be a kind person. My dad was a minister. I stuck with it. At some point, though God became something very real to me. I began to have experiences of conscious contact with God. I believe God is always reaching out to me, and I've seen that in miraculous ways. But mainly, I'm the one looking for ways of connecting with God in a conscious way, through prayer, meditation, reading, worship, AA, discussion, living in the moment, music....

 

Second, Do you ever ask yourself questions like: Was the universe created by God or have they always co-existed? If God was the creator, why did God do it? Was the universe created with a purpose?

 

I believe that God is eternal. I like the story that God has lived eternally in a perfect state of love, but he desired relativity. He wanted to experience loving and life in the form of matter relative to himself. Big bang. I believe that humanity is an experiment in love. Love is good stuff. But it only really exists in relationship. God is relative, he is a Triune force so God can experience love within himself, but maybe he wanted something more. God created something with free-will, great intelligence, the ability to form beliefs, the ability to ask if there is a God, perhaps all for the sake of love. Love only exists when non-love can be chosen. That makes us different than other forms of life on the planet. It also introduces suffering into the world. But I believe that God loves to grow good things out of our suffering. The more God creates, the more he can experience. All life emanates from God,or as has been discussed today Life Force, in every second in every cell of everything . I say "he" for lack of a better pronoun. I don't really like "it".

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Rodge and Featherman, You have both expressed some very personal and interesting ideas which I hope to digest a little more and respond to tomorrow. I will be out of here for the rest of the night because tonight is Pool shooting night and there is another presidential debate to watch. I enjoy it all but can't do it all at the same time. I enjoy most the type of discussion we are in.

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Fatherman, you wrote: "I'm wondering if you're over-generalizing by using the term The Church in this case. The Church to me has been a very good grounds for working out my own beliefs. I am fortunate to have grown up in the Presbyterian Church where this kind of thing is not only accepted, but encouraged. Now I have friends who see The Church as something that told them what and how to believe. If they used this as an excuse to me for not going to church at all, I would simply suggest that they try a different church, because there is really no The Church. There's my church and your church. Or my denomination and yours. "

 

Yes, indeed, I used a sweeping generalization for the sake of brevity. Do Presbyterians never talk about "God"? Are there actually Christian churches that do not have "God" (however defined) at the core of their religion? If I say that the church should forget about "God" and "Christ" (God in human form), and instead focus on the human Jesus — if I say that, do you know of Christian churches that would welcome that approach?

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Fatherman, you wrote: "I'm wondering if you're over-generalizing by using the term The Church in this case. The Church to me has been a very good grounds for working out my own beliefs. I am fortunate to have grown up in the Presbyterian Church where this kind of thing is not only accepted, but encouraged. Now I have friends who see The Church as something that told them what and how to believe. If they used this as an excuse to me for not going to church at all, I would simply suggest that they try a different church, because there is really no The Church. There's my church and your church. Or my denomination and yours. "

 

My comment: Yes, that's a sweeping generalization made for the sake of brevity. But am I really wrong? Do Presbyterians never talk about "God"? Do you know of churches that do not talk about "God" (however defined)? Are there Christian churches where I would be welcomed to declare that they should stop talking about "God" and "Christ" (God in human form), and instead focus on the human named Jesus and what we know about what Jesus said and did?

 

Also, I appreciate and respect what you wrote about your beliefs regarding God: "I believe that God is eternal. I like the story that God has lived eternally in a perfect state of love, but he desired relativity. He wanted to experience loving and life in the form of matter relative to himself. Big bang. I believe that humanity is an experiment in love. Love is good stuff. But it only really exists in relationship. God is relative, he is a Triune force so God can experience love within himself, but maybe he wanted something more. God created something with free-will, great intelligence, the ability to form beliefs, the ability to ask if there is a God, perhaps all for the sake of love. Love only exists when non-love can be chosen. That makes us different than other forms of life on the planet. It also introduces suffering into the world. But I believe that God loves to grow good things out of our suffering. The more God creates, the more he can experience. All life emanates from God,or as has been discussed today Life Force, in every second in every cell of everything . I say "he" for lack of a better pronoun."

 

My comment: Am I correct in assuming that you believe in a theistic God? You seem to suggest a God who has personality and purpose and ability to interact with humans. So, could you say a bit more about how you view this God's interaction with God's creation? Did God shape the universe and its laws, or did they exist eternally? Does God continue to intervene, causing events that can't be explained by natural law? What about God's interactions with humans? Are they constant and universal, or only in response to something humans do or think? Is the interaction something emotional )like a flooding sense of peace or joy)? Or advice about how to handle a problem? Or instructional about what you should do? Or commanding, like ann order to do something? I hope it is clear that I ask these questions to get a better understanding of your subjective truths, and not to challenge them.

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Fatherman,

 

I thought I posted responses to a couple of your posts, but they seem to have disappeared from the site. At the risk of repeating myself, I'll try again.

 

First, My reference to the "Christian Church" was indeed a generalization. But do you know of any denominations that call themselves "Christian" that do not place God and Christ (God in human form) at the core of their teachings? I think this is a mistake in the modern world, since "God" is an abstract concept about which there can be no persuasive proof. The man named Jesus, however, is a concrete concept that we can (with difficulty) study and learn from, making that a superior foundation for a modern church.

 

Second, you seem to be saying that you believe in a theistic God. If so, I'm curious about what that means to you. Did God create the universe, or did they co-exist from the beginning? The God's need for relationship exist from the beginning? Were humans part of the universe from the beginning, or a later modification? And what is the relationship you experience with God? Is it an emotional reaction, a sense of hope or joy? Is it a source of specific advice? Is it a directive about what to do? I hope it is clear that I ask these questions in order to better understand your subjective truth, not to pass judgment on it.

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Ah, I see now that there are multiple pages to these exchanges, so I ended up posting three responses, thinking they had not "taken" because they were on a second page that I did not know about. Sorry for my confusion.

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Fatherman,

 

I thought I posted responses to a couple of your posts, but they seem to have disappeared from the site. At the risk of repeating myself, I'll try again.

 

First, My reference to the "Christian Church" was indeed a generalization. But do you know of any denominations that call themselves "Christian" that do not place God and Christ (God in human form) at the core of their teachings? I think this is a mistake in the modern world, since "God" is an abstract concept about which there can be no persuasive proof. The man named Jesus, however, is a concrete concept that we can (with difficulty) study and learn from, making that a superior foundation for a modern church.

 

Second, you seem to be saying that you believe in a theistic God. If so, I'm curious about what that means to you. Did God create the universe, or did they co-exist from the beginning? The God's need for relationship exist from the beginning? Were humans part of the universe from the beginning, or a later modification? And what is the relationship you experience with God? Is it an emotional reaction, a sense of hope or joy? Is it a source of specific advice? Is it a directive about what to do? I hope it is clear that I ask these questions in order to better understand your subjective truth, not to pass judgment on it.

 

On the first, I was a member of a progressive Methodist Church for 15 years in which there were many atheists and agnostics, who put the teachings of Jesus above the divinity but in the end, it's still a Christian church, and God is kind of the point. Universalist Unitarian is a mix as well.

 

Question: Are you looking for a church home or is this a hypothetical?

 

On the second, yes I'm a theist. But I acknowledge that theism is a human construct. It may not be a fact. To me it simply means that there is only one God which is the source of all divine intent/consciousness. It also means that the concept of God that I am working can take a personal form. As far as creation and universe and humans, I'll refer you back to this.

 

 

I believe that God is eternal. I like the story that God has lived eternally in a perfect state of love, but he desired relativity. He wanted to experience loving and life in the form of matter relative to himself. Big bang. I believe that humanity is an experiment in love. Love is good stuff. But it only really exists in relationship. God is relative, he is a Triune force so God can experience love within himself, but maybe he wanted something more. God created something with free-will, great intelligence, the ability to form beliefs, the ability to ask if there is a God, perhaps all for the sake of love. Love only exists when non-love can be chosen. That makes us different than other forms of life on the planet. It also introduces suffering into the world. But I believe that God loves to grow good things out of our suffering. The more God creates, the more he can experience. All life emanates from God,or as has been discussed today Life Force, in every second in every cell of everything . I say "he" for lack of a better pronoun. I don't really like "it".

 

 

 

 

And what is the relationship you experience with God? Is it an emotional reaction, a sense of hope or joy? Is it a source of specific advice? Is it a directive about what to do? I hope it is clear that I ask these questions in order to better understand your subjective truth, not to pass judgment on it.

 

The relationship is manifold. When I learned to live in the moment, I became compelled to start the process of surrendering myself to the care of God. I let go of my worries, need for approval, pride, intellect, fears, family, personal interests, anything which could interfere with me being in service to others or continuing living in the moment. Letting go doesn't mean quitting, it means putting into the hands of God' will. It means admitting that my way of doing things has not worked out so well, my will, and that I'm willing to try God's will.

 

I don't know what God's will is. Who can know that? That is not what I'm saying. I'm saying that when I surrender, when I empty out my selfishness (focus on self), that it leaves room for God to put something else in me which will lead me into God's will. I've written a study on the Beatitudes. The Spirit of the Poor focuses on this concept.

 

My response is gratitude. True gratitude has an emotional component. The feeling I get is peace. Peace which stems from assurance, not that everything will go the way I want it to, but that God intends for goodness to take seed in my life if I continue to surrender. Surrender isn't a one time thing. It may very well be a lifelong process. It leaves room in my life for God's goodness, God's Will.

 

Then there is the God who talks. Say wut? This is where I step into the realm of mysticism. Mysticism has been studied fairly extensively. State of the brain, etc. It's a real state of mind, so to speak. The question is whether it is all in the mind or if it is a direct contact with a spiritual entity outside of oneself. I'm not sure it really makes a difference, but to me it is something greater than me, something that has it's own consciousness. I've experienced the ecstasy, peace, reassurance, and companionship of the presence of God. As crazy as it sounds, I've also spoken with Jesus,and seen his face. I believe I've had plain conversations with God on two occasions. The experience is unique and different than having a conversation with myself. God's voice comes in waves and pulses at first, which eventually forms the rhythm of speech so that when I begin to focus on it, it tunes into spoken word. God does not always make sense to me and does not always say things that I agree with. I have no history of psychosis, in case your wondering. It is a mystical state, and maybe not everybody is wired for it. I'm not the only member of the board who can do this. God does not tell me what to do, nor does Jesus.

 

I don't expect you to believe me. I don't need you to. It would be very easy to construe what I'm saying as delusional, and there's no way of knowing whether it is true or not. But that is my experience of God.

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