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God Says So


DavidD
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OK, we had our talk. The genie’s out of the bottle, this time in public.

 

There are so many things where I could state my understanding as God says, … then God fills it in. Now it’s only right that people should ask, “What do you mean by “God”? What do you mean by “says”? Fair enough, times have changed so much from thousand of years ago when people were dependent on someone to speak for God. Nowadays, anyone can make some inference about God, about what is good and loving, about what is true, for himself or herself. Anyone can think it through, with so many facts, so much knowledge that is available now about the past and present, about the world, about human beings, human nature, and how human beings interact with the world and anything that might be not of this world. Who needs God?

 

Well it is hard to do all that without God. People come to all sorts of conclusions about what is loving and true when they try. If you look at all of that, there are parts of it where one person is irreconcilably contradicting another. Still some try to draw broad principles where many people agree, feeling secure that there is truth in consensus. Why believe that? If everyone makes the same mistake, it guarantees that the consensus will be wrong. It’s what science calls “systematic error”. Furthermore given the incredibly large universe of all possibilities for what is loving and true, what are the chances that unaided human beings are ever going to pick out the one possibility that’s real? It’s vanishingly small. Multiply by 6 billion people or 100 billion people, it’s still vanishing small that anyone is right, much less everyone is right, in his or her own way or otherwise. Still everyone gets to decide for himself or herself. It’s a free country, not just because of the Constitution, but because there is something natural about freedom, especially in our own thoughts, even if our thoughts are hopelessly tangled up in what comes to us through genetics and learning. Despite all that, we have some mechanism of choice. What should we use it for?

 

In ancient times, people used it to decide whom to believe about God. Could a prophet foresee the future accurately? Could a prophet demonstrate signs that show that God is with that person? I can’t do that. The closest thing I ever did to what Jesus does in the gospels is to suggest someone with hysterical weakness back to normal strength. That can be impressive, but it’s a trick, not a miracle. One might say it’s a technique rather than a trick, but trick says it better. One fools the patient into using the limbs that the hysterical part of them doesn’t want to use. It might look like a miracle, but it’s just psychophysiology and neurophysiology. It’s just science.

 

I remember caring for the teenage niece of a local psychiatrist. She just couldn’t walk one day. Oh my God, has she had a stroke, MS, a tumor? No, in examining her she used her limbs subconsciously the way anyone with hysterical weakness does. If someone’s faking, it can be a difficult exam, but if someone is cooperative it’s easy to diagnosis hysteria. Mostly one can place a patient’s limbs in positions where you wouldn’t think it takes any strength to maintain, but it does. In someone with organic weakness, that limb falls right down. In someone with hysteria, he or she doesn’t realize what their limbs should do if they were organically weak.

 

This teenager was interesting. Not only was it obvious that her weakness was hysterical, she was talking about how this was so unlike her. She kept talking about how hard she “strived” in school. What a strange word for a teenager. I guess her legs were sick of striving. They needed to have a talk, those parts of her that had different ideas on this point. But first she needed to walk, and any neurologist worth his or her salt knows how to do this. You examine a patient and manipulate someone’s limbs so that you can bring out the strength that is really there and then say, “Look, you’re getting stronger. You’ll recover.” If you do it right, you can suggest anyone out of the hysteria. Academic neurologists get so competitive about just how fast they can get a patient with hysterical weakness back on the street. Ah, it’s a gift, if you’re trained well. Ordinarily it’s enough to just talk a patient back into normal strength fast enough to avoid hospitalization, any further complications. Strangely hysteria is much less than it once was, less now than it was in 19th century Vienna. I wonder how much there was in 1st century Jerusalem. There’s no way to know except ask God, and His answer on that is not for the public.

 

I wish I had a technique to suggest people out of all their other miseries. “God says, …” has so much potential that way, yet it’s a different time, a rational time for the most part. How does one prove that it’s not a rational universe? I don’t know. I’m convinced there is a Spirit, through both secular and spiritual experiences, and the Spirit keeps showing me that there are ways to demonstrate God for people, even without tricks. They don’t work well. People have already made up their minds on so many things. Even first-hand it was hard for me to accept the truth of a being arising within my consciousness and saying, “I am God”. There had to be other things that confirmed that, and there were, but they are largely within my consciousness, not proof objectively. That’s good for me. Is there any benefit for anyone else?

 

I’m still not sure what the main point of this is for anyone else. I don’t think it’s that everyone can experience God this way. Maybe that is the future, because if everyone has what I have here, the world’s problems would evaporate in a cloud of selflessness and efficiency. If that’s it, why not before now?

 

I suspect the real future is not so magical. Maybe everyone can communicate with God, but for most it’s limited. Still to know that would focus people on God instead of pride. That would be a big improvement. So how do I do that, even participate in that? Beats me, I just do what I’m told, really.

 

And it’s not all candy and nuts. Because I will tell you that when God tells me what He really would like to do, it’s to post some rules, tell people what horrible things will happen to them if they disobey, be God in all His glory, … Oops, tried that. That’s not the best way. Love is the best way, but how to tell that to all these dimwits! God says things like that, not me, only under extreme distress. I’m more constrained than He is. But I have the peace that comes with knowing I didn’t make any of this up, not one word. God says so, and there is more to back that up, even in the here and now, than anyone can imagine. You never would believe what I’ve seen, never. It’s easy, right up to some boundary that’s hard to cross, like trying to use words to describe all this.

 

God says that’s enough for now. 2 pages exactly, man, what a perfectionist.

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I get really get irritated when people say that God says so, because God never said anything of the sort. God's will and their will usually coincide very closely. I believe the Bible to be the authors' perceptions of God. We have no idea if their idea of God and the reality match up. :unsure:

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I get really get irritated when people say that God says so, because God never said anything of the sort. God's will and their will usually coincide very closely. I believe the Bible to be the authors' perceptions of God. We have no idea if their idea of God and the reality match up. :unsure:

 

Yes, I understand. I'm quite sure the Bible was written by men, not dictated by God. So we can each learn to hear God directly or we can figure out how to most reliably understand God through whatever things or people we trust Him to come through or we can give up on God and go our own way. Have you decided which way is your way?

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Yes, I understand. I'm quite sure the Bible was written by men, not dictated by God. So we can each learn to hear God directly or we can figure out how to most reliably understand God through whatever things or people we trust Him to come through or we can give up on God and go our own way. Have you decided which way is your way?

 

 

The problem is how do we know that God is talking to us, and it is not wishful thinking on our part?

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The problem is how do we know that God is talking to us, and it is not wishful thinking on our part?

 

Ah, a very good question. I think the answer rests in every bit of context one can perceive in looking at a purputed word from God. Over in the thread about unity, I describe a road-to-Damascus experience I had 17 years ago. As a neuroscientist I could look at that and say, "There's no way that was natural." Its features were not like epilepsy or migraine. God didn't just show up in my consciousness. He brought the equivalent of a brass band with Him. If I had taken LSD just before that, I would have said it was the LSD. But I didn't do that. There is no natural explanation that matches my perception of this event.

 

Now someone can say I'm just nuts. Well, there's not any wisdom in that, just denial. It is possible to label this as a brief psychosis, but it doesn't match anything typical of psychosis, unless one wants to say it's just nuts. That's not being a good scientist. A good scientist considers all possibilities.

 

It's not so much that anyone should trust a single encounter with God. We have an entire lifetime to build a relationship with God. I wish I understood why some people get a God with sensory phenomena, while for others God is always an abstraction. I really do, but as attention getting as a spiritual experience might be, it doesn't affect the question you ask. God speaks to me in words, but even those who only know God as an abstraction can get some notion in their head. How do you know it's from God?

 

By context. Were you praying to God to give you an understanding of something? I actually was before that first experience. Does the purported word from God make sense with the God of your understanding? Psychotics hear from God all the time, but it doesn't make any sense. God is good. There should be some kind of help in a message if it's really from God.

 

Secular people can get very squeamish about those who are directed by God. Islamic terrorists are directed by the God of their understanding, and the context of it and the integrity of it confirm for them that it really is God directing them to violence, not something in themselves or an evil spirit. I think it's a false god that would drive them this way, whether that's something purely natural or an evil spirit, but I don't see any way to convince an Islamic terrorist of that.

 

The thing is that nothing rational would convince them to turn from a militant god. So the secular fantasy of saying, "Let's just say that no one can hear from God and stop all this nonsense," doesn't work. It doesn't stop religious violence. It only cuts the speaker off from whatever good communication that speaker might get from God. Communication from God is a resource that many people use, and many people use badly. That doesn't mean one can't learn to use it well, but it takes years.

 

Now as far as me personally, how do I know that it's not just wishful thinking that I hear from God? Because God gives me direction that I could never have done for myself. He gives me strength and comfort that I can't manufacture through my will. He loves parts of me I don't love. The presence of God didn't grow in my life like a fungus. It grew in prayer, a little at a time, apart from the first big experience and a few more. This is how I know it's not wishful thinking.

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Ah, a very good question. I think the answer rests in every bit of context one can perceive in looking at a purputed word from God. Over in the thread about unity, I describe a road-to-Damascus experience I had 17 years ago. As a neuroscientist I could look at that and say, "There's no way that was natural." Its features were not like epilepsy or migraine. God didn't just show up in my consciousness. He brought the equivalent of a brass band with Him. If I had taken LSD just before that, I would have said it was the LSD. But I didn't do that. There is no natural explanation that matches my perception of this event.

 

Now someone can say I'm just nuts. Well, there's not any wisdom in that, just denial. It is possible to label this as a brief psychosis, but it doesn't match anything typical of psychosis, unless one wants to say it's just nuts. That's not being a good scientist. A good scientist considers all possibilities.

 

It's not so much that anyone should trust a single encounter with God. We have an entire lifetime to build a relationship with God. I wish I understood why some people get a God with sensory phenomena, while for others God is always an abstraction. I really do, but as attention getting as a spiritual experience might be, it doesn't affect the question you ask. God speaks to me in words, but even those who only know God as an abstraction can get some notion in their head. How do you know it's from God?

 

By context. Were you praying to God to give you an understanding of something? I actually was before that first experience. Does the purported word from God make sense with the God of your understanding? Psychotics hear from God all the time, but it doesn't make any sense. God is good. There should be some kind of help in a message if it's really from God.

 

Secular people can get very squeamish about those who are directed by God. Islamic terrorists are directed by the God of their understanding, and the context of it and the integrity of it confirm for them that it really is God directing them to violence, not something in themselves or an evil spirit. I think it's a false god that would drive them this way, whether that's something purely natural or an evil spirit, but I don't see any way to convince an Islamic terrorist of that.

 

The thing is that nothing rational would convince them to turn from a militant god. So the secular fantasy of saying, "Let's just say that no one can hear from God and stop all this nonsense," doesn't work. It doesn't stop religious violence. It only cuts the speaker off from whatever good communication that speaker might get from God. Communication from God is a resource that many people use, and many people use badly. That doesn't mean one can't learn to use it well, but it takes years.

 

Now as far as me personally, how do I know that it's not just wishful thinking that I hear from God? Because God gives me direction that I could never have done for myself. He gives me strength and comfort that I can't manufacture through my will. He loves parts of me I don't love. The presence of God didn't grow in my life like a fungus. It grew in prayer, a little at a time, apart from the first big experience and a few more. This is how I know it's not wishful thinking.

 

I respect your point of view, although I don't quite see it that way. Once I thought God was calling me to take a course of action, it seemed to be a good thing to do, and helped a person out. Without going into details, it all turned out disastrously. I will never again be able to trust that 'still small voice', because either God got it wrong, or I did. Either way I could never be sure if it was God directing me, or my psyche.

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I respect your point of view, although I don't quite see it that way. Once I thought God was calling me to take a course of action, it seemed to be a good thing to do, and helped a person out. Without going into details, it all turned out disastrously. I will never again be able to trust that 'still small voice', because either God got it wrong, or I did. Either way I could never be sure if it was God directing me, or my psyche.

 

If you fall off a horse ... If you fall off a bicycle ...

 

I know many people have stories of when believing in God failed them, from accepting an impression as you mention to God not answering some prayer. I think of an atheist I met who was a fundamentalist until a child in the congregation developed leukemia, and watching that child slowly die, he quit believing in God at all. It is a real thing both ways, that spirituality can do great things for some people and nothing for others. And those first people include many who may not be as dangerous as Islamic terrorists, but they still don't seem to be following the real God to me.

 

Spirituality has many more examples of people following themselves or a false God than those who follow who I have come to believe is the real God. I wish that were different. I wish I had had better role models . My coming to God could have been a lot less confusing and distressing. But under my circumstances I had enough to keep trying again and again and again and again.

 

I don't know if it's about fate or whether spirituality is about about scattering so much seed and only some take root. I don't mind people who give up nearly as much as fundamentalists who have a system that doesn't work, but refuse to listen to those who say it doesn't work, from scientists to their own people behaving badly to year after year going by with no Rapture. That's the real logjam. Maybe in 500 years that will all have broken up and the world can start to learn who the real God is. In the meantime, it's possible to know God, but it is very difficult. Part of what I had to learn is that I had expectations based on the traditional view of God, that God could get it right every time, for example, even though I was raised a liberal. That is not who God is. My experience is that God is far from perfect and cannot manipulate circumstances at all. What does impress me is how God cuts through many possibilities to pick the best one. I don't know how He does that. He tells me He doesn't either. He has no mirror to watch Himself. His existence is nothing like an old man in an easy chair. We don't appreciate His limitations. I don't see anyone who does apart from my personal experiences serving Him.

 

I can communicate with God much as the Bible describes, with a lot of time and practice, but God has limitations one can only know by coming to the real God. Of course nobody wants to believe me, but I can only share my experience, for what it's worth to anyone. God is not who traditionalists say He is, yet there is a God. That is something to be learned. People talk about that vaguely, but if one comes to know the real God better, I think one can speak about what the real God is like better than mystics who talk about Him being so much mystery. Maybe even the 21st century is too soon for this. Maybe the old ways need to fall on their face even more. Whatever it takes is what will happen.

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I appreciate you sharing your experiences, DavidD. I admit to ambivalence on the subject of "revelations" & "God talk." I don't dismiss the possibility but remain a tad skeptical of ultimate source-personally I believe we each "hear" the divine message in the way most personally relevant for each of us both in content and mechanism. Don't know we can ever be entirely sure how much of any message is simply colored by our own subconscious.Overall, though I don't sweat the authenticity of such much. I'm sort of a "by their fruits" kind of guy-that, the issue is does the message result in worthwhile fruits? So we have the Course in Miracles & Neil Walsch stuff whose messages seem pretty fruitful. At any rate would be interested in dialoging with you re some of the actual revelations you received. take care, earl

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If you fall off a horse ... If you fall off a bicycle ...

 

I know many people have stories of when believing in God failed them, from accepting an impression as you mention to God not answering some prayer. I think of an atheist I met who was a fundamentalist until a child in the congregation developed leukemia, and watching that child slowly die, he quit believing in God at all. It is a real thing both ways, that spirituality can do great things for some people and nothing for others. And those first people include many who may not be as dangerous as Islamic terrorists, but they still don't seem to be following the real God to me.

 

Spirituality has many more examples of people following themselves or a false God than those who follow who I have come to believe is the real God. I wish that were different. I wish I had had better role models . My coming to God could have been a lot less confusing and distressing. But under my circumstances I had enough to keep trying again and again and again and again.

 

I don't know if it's about fate or whether spirituality is about about scattering so much seed and only some take root. I don't mind people who give up nearly as much as fundamentalists who have a system that doesn't work, but refuse to listen to those who say it doesn't work, from scientists to their own people behaving badly to year after year going by with no Rapture. That's the real logjam. Maybe in 500 years that will all have broken up and the world can start to learn who the real God is. In the meantime, it's possible to know God, but it is very difficult. Part of what I had to learn is that I had expectations based on the traditional view of God, that God could get it right every time, for example, even though I was raised a liberal. That is not who God is. My experience is that God is far from perfect and cannot manipulate circumstances at all. What does impress me is how God cuts through many possibilities to pick the best one. I don't know how He does that. He tells me He doesn't either. He has no mirror to watch Himself. His existence is nothing like an old man in an easy chair. We don't appreciate His limitations. I don't see anyone who does apart from my personal experiences serving Him.

 

I can communicate with God much as the Bible describes, with a lot of time and practice, but God has limitations one can only know by coming to the real God. Of course nobody wants to believe me, but I can only share my experience, for what it's worth to anyone. God is not who traditionalists say He is, yet there is a God. That is something to be learned. People talk about that vaguely, but if one comes to know the real God better, I think one can speak about what the real God is like better than mystics who talk about Him being so much mystery. Maybe even the 21st century is too soon for this. Maybe the old ways need to fall on their face even more. Whatever it takes is what will happen.

 

You talk about the 'real' God, I wonder if it is a case of one person's 'real' God not being the same as another person's 'real God? I don't think there is a one size fits all perception of God, what works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another. You obviously have it sorted to your satisfaction David, which is great for you, but it wouldn't work for me.

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loveapple;

 

With an atheist husband at home and a daughter who is an Anglican priest, you must have had and still have some really interesting discussions with them sometimes around the table. Or are the obvious issues avoided somehow to keep the peace ? Not to pry, but your situation does seems unique.

 

How have you and your psyche survived so well being in the middle of that all the time ? I suppose your statement regarding the "real G-d" above says a lot about your life of searching for answers, like the rest of us have.

 

I tend to believe that it will become increasingly convenient for each of us to "customize" our beliefs due to digital capabilities. On line communities like this do a lot to augment the sort of "honest " discussions that are somehow more possible here than are those one might have in a church setting on a face-to-face basis. As we all know, those sorts of commonplace discussions can and do lead very often to "judgemental" situations which more often than not seem to turn out badly for all involved.

 

flow.... :)

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I wonder if it is a case of one person's 'real' God not being the same as another person's 'real God?

 

Is there more than one Earth going around the Sun? Physicists who believe in parallel universes say there are. It's speculative. There's no way anyone can give a definitive answer, no matter how much physics one knows. Yet I know enough physics to know it is indeed mere speculation and see no value in spending any time exploring this idea.

 

Whether there is more than one God is similar in that there can be no definitive answer. Yet one reason I like being a liberal is that I'm free to speculate. Suppose everything I can write or say about God is contained within my brain, that this simply came together the same way I have an image of my mother or of quantum mechanics in my brain. Experience put it in there. My brain processed it. Now it is what it is. It can even take me over the way the phrase "in the Spirit" implies for charismatics who experience that. Atheists I know say that is all that spirituality is for anyone, neurophysiology on a grand scale. Maybe they're right. I can't disprove that. Of course the Spirit says to me, "No, that's not right," and I've learned to trust Her.

 

Consider a different speculation. Suppose there is a spiritual, non-physical side to the universe. Suppose our mind is indeed more than our brain, and whatever is not the same as the brain extends in this "spiritual reality". So we're born with a brain that interacts with the world just as neuroscientists understand, not being mature enough even to have event-based memory until age 3. At some point we begin to grow a spirit. Maybe some do and some don't. What is in a spirit? I don't know. It's hard for me to really get into this speculation, but if someone wants, this is a way to say that everyone grows a different God as there is some sort of condensation in this spiritual side of them, a condensation that provides us with conscience, meaning, and all the sorts of spiritual experience that someone like me reports. Yet it will all die with me and only live on in the culture, if it does, to stimulate the growth of a spirit in someone else. Or maybe it doesn't all die with me, and there is some future for the spirits we grow. Either way, there can be many Gods this way.

 

There are countless possibilities. You just have to work at it. Yet one possibility is that there is one real God for everyone, as there is one real Sun. It's real because we can interact with it in a consistent way. That's not true for other universes in the idea of multiple universes.

 

People don't like countless possibilities. They like one. It's easier on one's mind. So I accepted one, that the presence building up in my prayers, who said, "I am God" to me was telling the truth. That took a while, but there was plenty of time for it. Is He the only God? He says He is. He does cosmology better than I do. I had a vision of going back to the creation of the universe with Him. I don't think anyone else would get anything out of my describing that one. It was very much about my own understanding of physics and ways I had narrowed my sense of the possible too much. Everything else about my living my life with Him has me trusting Him. So I trust Him in uncertainty over anything else, including me.

 

But is it the only possibility? Absolutely not, and that is the right word, absolutely.

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I respect your point of view, although I don't quite see it that way. Once I thought God was calling me to take a course of action, it seemed to be a good thing to do, and helped a person out. Without going into details, it all turned out disastrously. I will never again be able to trust that 'still small voice', because either God got it wrong, or I did. Either way I could never be sure if it was God directing me, or my psyche.

 

I think that some of the most dangerous people in the world have been those who were sure that God was directing them.

 

There is nothing wrong with not being 100% sure of what God is telling us. On the contrary, perhaps that is the sign of a mature faith. Humans are fallable people. We are bound to make mistakes, including in our attempts at discerning God's will. We do have several tools at our disposal to help us try to get a handle on what God is telling us. We have our individual consciences, of course. But it goes beyond the individual. We all don't have to start from scratch because we have both the past record of previous communities of faith who tried to know God's wil--the Bible, for example--and we can build on what they tried to do. And we have our contemporaries in various communities of faith who both can act as a kind of check on our own hubris when we start getting carried away with our own visions, and who can offer their own recognitions of divine will as a kind of inspiration towards our collective discernment. I think of trying to discover what God wants is both a collective process and a continuous one, and it is one that will necessarily be marked by mistakes.

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You talk about the 'real' God, I wonder if it is a case of one person's 'real' God not being the same as another person's 'real God? I don't think there is a one size fits all perception of God, what works for one, doesn't necessarily work for another. You obviously have it sorted to your satisfaction David, which is great for you, but it wouldn't work for me.

 

Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki draws an analogy between God and the quantum physics of light. Light is perceived as having wave qualities if you look for wave qualities, and particle qualities if you look for particle qualities. This contradicted the pre-quantum conception that something can be either a wave or a particle, but not both.

 

Another analogy is through the famous ancient parable of the blind man and the elephant, where an elephant is seen to have different qualities, depending on what part of the animal the blind man happens to be feeling. Perhaps each of us is only capable of sensing some part of God, the part we happen to feel with the "hands" of our faith.

 

Suchocki talks about the pluralism of communities of faith as being an inevitibility, brought about by the diversity of the human community, as each community participates in what she calls the "call and response" of God who calls and humans who response.

 

But this same pluralism can, no doubt, apply to individuals within communities. Different individuals have different qualities, and respond to God differently. What works for one individual may not work for another. It seems to me that the diversity of humanity applies not just to communities, but to individuals as well. In my previous comment I emphasized the importance of communities in helping to discern what we think of as divine will. But by the same token, how we respond to God in the first place, how we even get to the point of thinking we are participating in the process of listening to divine will, surely differs from individual to individual.

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With an atheist husband at home and a daughter who is an Anglican priest, you must have had and still have some really interesting discussions with them sometimes around the table. Or are the obvious issues avoided somehow to keep the peace ? Not to pry, but your situation does seems unique.

 

How have you and your psyche survived so well being in the middle of that all the time ? I suppose your statement regarding the "real G-d" above says a lot about your life of searching for answers, like the rest of us have.

 

We all get on very well, my husband and daughter are very close. Religion just isn't an issue in our home, it is rarely discussed. When my daughter decided to join the church after 8 years as a school teacher we were very supportive of her. My husband helped her with her studies, one of his four degrees is in theology. We attended her ordination and priesting ceremonies and have done everything we can to help and encourage our daughter. My husband is happy in his atheism, my daughter is happy with her calling and I am happy doing my own thing. As long as no one wishes the other to be different, there is no problem

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I think that some of the most dangerous people in the world have been those who were sure that God was directing them.

 

Like Jesus? I understand the sentiment, but if you look at these dangerous people critically, it's not hard to see where they went wrong. If you look at Jim Jones, you see a man who was passionate for God, but was also a charlatan. He used animal blood and animal parts to fake healing "tumors". That's not a white lie. From press accounts, it sounds like another charismatic Christian gone bad, but from biographies, you can learn that he renounced Christ before ever leaving San Francisco, declaring himself to be the Socialist Worker God. He forced himself sexually on both genders of his congregation, saying that he wanted to show the men that they were closet homosexuals. Some interviewed after the mass murder/suicide still spoke lovingly of their Leader, that he was right to have sex with them and all the rest.

 

Is this the Spirit or is this evil? I think it's a shame that some lump the two together. Yes both can be intense, but it's not the same quality.

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There is nothing wrong with not being 100% sure of what God is telling us. On the contrary, perhaps that is the sign of a mature faith. Humans are fallable people. We are bound to make mistakes, including in our attempts at discerning God's will. We do have several tools at our disposal to help us try to get a handle on what God is telling us. We have our individual consciences, of course. But it goes beyond the individual. We all don't have to start from scratch because we have both the past record of previous communities of faith who tried to know God's wil--the Bible, for example--and we can build on what they tried to do. And we have our contemporaries in various communities of faith who both can act as a kind of check on our own hubris when we start getting carried away with our own visions, and who can offer their own recognitions of divine will as a kind of inspiration towards our collective discernment. I think of trying to discover what God wants is both a collective process and a continuous one, and it is one that will necessarily be marked by mistakes.

 

I'm not 100% sure of what God tells me. I have to ask for clarification. Something God tells me today has a somewhat different context tomorrow. I don't know I said anything about being 100% sure. I experience God's voice and I've learned to trust it. I think that's a sign of a mature faith.

 

You speak of our attempts at discerning God's will. People of many types of religion speak like this, about my struggle, my journey, my faith. Isn't God motivated to have people know His will? It's my experience that He is, when people are able to hear it and do it. It says something that many people don't recognize that. I may be wrong. Maybe the real God cares nothing about me, and what I experience is really just self-love. I doubt it. I really do. I'm a very experienced man, and I don't think I'm making anything up. But I could be wrong. If I am, I'm not sure why anyone bothers with religion.

 

Yes, trying to discover what God wants is a collective and continuous process, but how can people contribute to that process? Are you saying that only rational methods are acceptible? Some of my fellow liberals would say that, but I think they're wrong. I think they're cutting themselves off from the biggest part of faith if they do that.

 

There is something in me that wants to live to end poverty and live to end conflict. I can't know for sure how it got there, but I can have some ideas about it that I think are valid. Jesus is certainly a big contributor. So was Gandhi. There are many people. There is also God, and I would guess that God is behind the contributions of all the people. I think God can speak to me directly as well. I didn't think that before I experienced it, but I do now. If I talk about that, many of my fellow liberals react as if there's something wrong with that. Why? Is there anything more to that than fear?

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Marjorie Hewitt Suchocki draws an analogy between God and the quantum physics of light. Light is perceived as having wave qualities if you look for wave qualities, and particle qualities if you look for particle qualities. This contradicted the pre-quantum conception that something can be either a wave or a particle, but not both.

 

Another analogy is through the famous ancient parable of the blind man and the elephant, where an elephant is seen to have different qualities, depending on what part of the animal the blind man happens to be feeling. Perhaps each of us is only capable of sensing some part of God, the part we happen to feel with the "hands" of our faith.

 

Suchocki talks about the pluralism of communities of faith as being an inevitibility, brought about by the diversity of the human community, as each community participates in what she calls the "call and response" of God who calls and humans who response.

 

But this same pluralism can, no doubt, apply to individuals within communities. Different individuals have different qualities, and respond to God differently. What works for one individual may not work for another. It seems to me that the diversity of humanity applies not just to communities, but to individuals as well. In my previous comment I emphasized the importance of communities in helping to discern what we think of as divine will. But by the same token, how we respond to God in the first place, how we even get to the point of thinking we are participating in the process of listening to divine will, surely differs from individual to individual.

 

It is interesting to go from a duality in physics to a pluralism in faith, but how well do you know the reality behind the words? My undergraduate degree is in physics. It makes a nice story that subatomic matter exists as either particles or waves depending on how somehow looks at them, but the mathematics for quantum mechanics that works best shows that this matter exists in a form that always has a frequency and always attenuates in space as these fuzzy particles do, not like little ball bearings, but with the fuzziness that is in keeping with the uncertainty principle. They are just that way, all the time, no matter how one looks at them.

 

This actually is the real example of the blind men and the elephant, because for some time, before there was quantum mechanics and the mathematics of wave mechanics, people were confused by their experiments with subatomic particles. All sorts of strange, mystical things were said by early 20th century physicists, and still quoted today, but it was just confusion. It was like one blind man saying an elephant is like a tree and another saying an elephant is like a snake, when in reality there is only one elephant with a number of features that could be mistaken for the whole instead of a part. In reality that's exactly what happened in this wave/particle duality that has gotten so entrenched into the culture. There is no duality, except in the records of the blind men. There is one reality, but who knows how long it will take for so many blind men who got the wrong idea and passed it on to other blind men to either have their eyes opened or die.

 

No one knows if God can be known to be one being as a subatomic particle can. Maybe yes, maybe no. As I was saying in my last comment to loveapple, there are many possibilities that cannot be reduced to one anytime soon. People can't follow many possibilities at once. They have to pick one that seems most promising to them. I'm sure God understands that.

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You speak of our attempts at discerning God's will. People of many types of religion speak like this, about my struggle, my journey, my faith. Isn't God motivated to have people know His will? It's my experience that He is, when people are able to hear it and do it. It says something that many people don't recognize that. I may be wrong. Maybe the real God cares nothing about me, and what I experience is really just self-love. I doubt it. I really do. I'm a very experienced man, and I don't think I'm making anything up. But I could be wrong. If I am, I'm not sure why anyone bothers with religion.

 

Yes, trying to discover what God wants is a collective and continuous process, but how can people contribute to that process? Are you saying that only rational methods are acceptible? Some of my fellow liberals would say that, but I think they're wrong. I think they're cutting themselves off from the biggest part of faith if they do that.

 

There is something in me that wants to live to end poverty and live to end conflict. I can't know for sure how it got there, but I can have some ideas about it that I think are valid. Jesus is certainly a big contributor. So was Gandhi. There are many people. There is also God, and I would guess that God is behind the contributions of all the people. I think God can speak to me directly as well. I didn't think that before I experienced it, but I do now. If I talk about that, many of my fellow liberals react as if there's something wrong with that. Why? Is there anything more to that than fear?

 

 

I am not saying that it is solely a rational process. I think that we can come to experience God through mystical knowlege. I just think that, as fallable beings, we don't always understand very well what God is saying to us. Nor is it very easy to be sure whether what we think God is telling us is really the voice of God or just our spin on what we think God is telling us. What happens when two people who are 100% certain that that have received a message from God, but the messages are exactly opposite to one another? In fact, the world is full of people on opposite sides of the fence who insist that they are carrying out God's will. Which one is right? Both? Neither? To quote the line from the old Dire Straits song "Industrial Disease": "Two men say they're Jesus; one of them must be wrong."

 

According to some reports that I've seen, which may or may not be credible, George Bush has allegedly claimed that God told him to invade Iraq. Whether or not he really said that, this is consistent with the sort of absolute certainty that he exudes, which, combined with a born-again religious mentality, has led to disastrous consequences. That's the scary part about religious certainty.

 

Yes, there are people who, inspired by God, have led struggles for social justice and peace. I commend those people. The struggles for peace and justice are consistent with my understanding of God and God's will. Certainly people can argue for their understanding of God's will, and feel quite strongly about it, and can act accordingly. But in the overall picture, I just think that we need to be careful. The immature faith that I refered to is that of the fundamentalist who says, "God said, I believe it, and that's final." Of course, when they say "God said it", they are refering to the Bible. But the Bible itself, which we acknowledge to be flawed and imperfect, was the product of people's experiences with God. And historyis replete with self-identified mystics who claimed to be in touch with God who went off the deep end.

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