A Different Shade of God

Since my last post dealt largely with what I don’t believe, I though in this one I’d talk a little bit about what I do believe.  Although, I want to be careful in using that word “believe”.  The definition of believe is to have confidence in the truth, the existence, or the reliability of something.  I think when speaking about that which is unknown, and perhaps unknowable, it’s ignorant and even dangerous to speak in such absolutes.  For myself, I rather like to think in terms of things that I am open to or that I have an idea about, rather then in what I belief.  So, I thought I’d share of few of the ideas and concepts that I am open to and hope to explore more.  (This post is going to be all over the place, with quotes, random thoughts and ideas, and no real conclusion.  Not my finest work, but bear with me.) 

A fellow unbeliever who went through a similar de-conversion as me had this to say about how her ideas of God changed once you stripped away all the religious dogmas:

The concept of God got far larger, kinder, vaster, more loving, less male, more inclusive, less exclusive, less separated, more innate, less “out there,” more “in here,” less human-hating, and more human-integrating. So that even the word “God” no longer fit, being far too limiting for All That Is.

This has been my experience as well- once you tear down the Golden Calf of our ideas and dogmas concerning God, you’re free to explore more vast, open, and positive ideas about the what lies beyond nature.  You are free to ponder ideas from other religions, philosophies, ideas, and integrate the good into your understanding, while leaving the rest.  You can come up with your own metaphors and expressions of the divine based on your own understandings, and your own human experience, as opposed to accepting some pre-packaged  religious ethos that demands total devotion to a rigid ideology.

Freedom is the gift whereby you most resemble your Maker and are yourselves parts of eternal reality. – C.S. Lewis

At this point I feel the same way about God(s) as I do about life on another planet.  We currently have no scientific evidence that life exists beyond earth, but with there being 20,000 planets in out solar system alone that contain the right conditions for hosting life, there is a very strong possibility that we are not alone in the galaxy.  In fact, NASA believes that we will discover extraterrestrial life within the next 20 years.   I’m very open and excited by the idea of life on other planets, and am hopeful that someday we can find proof of extraterrestrial life.  But until then, I’m not going to run around proclaiming, “We are not alone!”  It’s the same with God(s) – there’s no proof that he/she/it exists, at least in he finite, Judeo-Christian version- therefore I’m not going to devote my life to any one specific concept of God, but I’m open to the possibility of something bigger existing.

You may laugh, but I think George Lucas was on to something in regards to The Force in Star Wars.  The Force is described as an energy field created by all living things, that surrounds and penetrates living beings and binds the galaxies together.  This idea that all living things are connected isn’t just the stuff of great science-fiction.  Genetics has proven that all living things are related, and that we all came from common ancestors.   As much as some want to believe that humans were created set apart and different then the rest of creation, we now know that this is simply not true.  Human DNA is 99% identical to a chimpanzee’s, 95% identical to a monkey’s, about 79% identical to a mouse, 36% identical to fruit flies, and 15% identical to mustard grass!  Could this interconnection, this “Force”, be metaphorically called God?  Could, as Francis Collins suggest, DNA truly be the “Language of God”?

My idea of God is that of an infinite growing that discourages definitions but not knowledge. I believe in an intellectual experience that intensifies our perceptions and distances us from an egocentric and predatory life, from ignorance and from the limits of personal satisfaction. The greater our knowledge, the greater God becomes. Even the Bible, this marvelous book written by extraordinary visionaries, is small and reductive with respect to the greatness of God. – Toni Morrison

I’ve always been interested in mystics.  Their way of seeing the divine, of using spiritual disciplines to “tap-in” to that which is beyond ourselves, of seeking truths that are beyond normal intellect.  The enlightened writings of mystics and their emphasis on common truths and seeking the greater good of humanity and creation are much more attractive to me then the tribalistic and dualistic thinking found in most religions.

Meditation and other spiritual practices are often seen as hippy-dippy, New Age practices, and are often labeled as “dangerous” by fear-mongering Christians.  Yet, meditation has been shown in studies to be  associated with improvement in a variety of psychological areas, including stress, anxiety, addiction, depression, eating disorders and cognitive function, among others.  There’s also research to suggest that meditation can reduce blood pressure, pain response, stress hormone levels and even cellular health.

Apart from the physicals benefits to meditation, it along with other spiritual disciplines (silence and solitude, fasting, pilgrimages) are a way of transcending the everyday mundaneness of life, of experiencing something else “out there”, of tapping into some spiritual vein or tuning in to a certain otherworldly frequency.  However you want to look at it, I do think there is something bigger out there.  Could whatever that vein or frequency is or where it comes from  be “god”?  Or, is meditation simply of way of opening up the doors of our inner consciousness, of exploring parts of ourselves that have been pushed back by the hum-drum of everyday life? 

I think there’s a reality beneath what we can see with our eye and experience with our senses. There’s ultimately something mysterious and unmaterialist about the world. Something large and awe-inspiring and eternal and unknowable. I’m not particularly mystical myself, but I have a lot of respect for the notion of the mystic experience. It’s important to me to know that this is a possible dimension in the world. – Jonathan Franzen

I know these ideas may seem very vague and confusing to those who follow traditional religion, but the paradox is exactly the point.  When speaking about the spiritual realm, it’s better to speak in uncertain terms.  It’s better for one’s understanding to be fluid.  I think that our “understanding of the Mystery”, as Rohr puts it, should continue to change and be shaped by what what we learn and observe throughout our lives.

We need to revise our understanding of ultimate reality so it conforms to everything else we know.  We understand our experience of God as an experience of belonging — not just to a family, or a nation, or even a galaxy, but to everything: the experience of ultimate belonging.  The experience of God intimately and extensively connects us to everything — all that is present in our lives and our world, as well as all that is past and all that is possible.  In a word, God is the experience of possibility. – Galen Guengerich


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