Do you believe in God? Does it rile or comfort you? Few things are more controversial or give the world more trouble than God. There is no way to prove whether God is real or not. If God is real, it is evident that God is not proprietary or conditional, and does not care which religion you choose or if you are an atheist. It is all about faith. It is worth exploring.
Most definitions of God are thousands of years old and portray God as conditional and a determiner of moral conduct. Age old answers to some of life's tougher questions are no longer valid. The result is that many people have tossed God out as untrue, nonexistent, or an obscure and benign being. Even within religious communities, people are asking questions, and there is less emphasis on personalization. Let's dig deeper before we toss God out before we let go of a personal God. Let's explore the disparity between traditional points of view and the more evolved awareness that humans have developed.
The overall tone around God includes an idea that there are some people that "know" God and have spoken to God or are a part of God and then offer insights, perspectives, and definitions from their experience or interpretation. These things are passed down and the more widely they are accepted, the more authoritative they become. This blind acceptance becomes easy and takes away the need for inner reflection and the creation of a unique and individual relationship with God. Whether the relationship is one of love and encouragement, hope and compassion, guidance and counsel, or any other meaningful form, developing a relationship can be necessary and beneficial.
As you read and answer the following questions, give yourself the freedom to drop all of the ideas you have read or heard. Dismiss whatever you have learned from institutions, religions, family members, books, or anywhere else. Even go so far as to give up what you have come to believe. Just listen to your intuition, heart, soul, and inner voice.
Question 1 – Is God real? Question 2 – If so, what is God? Question 3 – Does anyone truly know? Question 4 – Is it possible to know? Question 5 – Does it matter?
These questions are important. If you are flexible, you will be more likely to accept God, not only your god but the god of others too, or no god at all. The more precise you insist the answers must be, the less likely you can remain open to whatever God could be. If it is the manipulation and control surrounding God and religion that you despise, your efforts to expose and change those things will serve better than to discredit something that can be as helpful to so many people as God or love. God is a choice. God is about faith. Whether God is real or not is irrelevant compared to whether God provides comfort, love, guidance, solace, peace, and more. If you feel God is not real, you have the right to change what God is. Perhaps there is far more to God than we know. Let me share a few random stories and thoughts with you.
In the beginning...
There was a man, and then there was a woman. They noticed they were different and through exploration enjoyed those differences well into their first climax. Life was good. Then came other men and other women and when one of those other men or women became more attractive to the one women or man, life was terrible. Morality now had a reason to be discovered. Rules and consequences were needed and created. Differences and non-conformity were discouraged, repressed, and persecuted. Discovering morality and establishing rules made life more comfortable and seemed fairer. Life was good again.
We are curious creatures. We like variety and enjoy new things and experiences, but only to a point. To some degree, it is politically and culturally incorrect to notice these differences. We have some black folks, and we have some white folks, and if we were innocent, we could enjoy and explore what those differences mean. Ditto with all the other different types of people. But we are not innocent, and we want to reconcile the repression and unfair treatment that has occurred. Reversing social trends is slow moving and crosses multiple generations in time, and is a necessary part of our evolution as a species. Nothing to change here, but we can better understand what is going on and become more honest about it.
Colorado legalized marijuana. Some people think pot is the best thing since sliced bread but I never really liked it. One day I decided to give it a fresh look, and my experience is an excellent example of the way we humans come in so many flavors. What I noticed is that it indeed is possible to take 15 minutes at the gas pump, that counting money for a purchase requires a tremendous amount of mental resources, and that studying the fabric of my shirt was an essential and lengthy task. My experience with marijuana is that it slows everything way down. Many people enjoy slowing everything down, not me. I like slowing down life about as much as slowing down an audio recording. I want to keep things moving, feel sharp, be ready willing and able on a moments notice. I like to do algebra equations in my mind while waiting in lines. Thank God there are others that enjoy slowing down to explore the deeper meaning in things, some of them become amazing artists, scientists, and all the other sorts of people that come out of that preference. Me and my type, we get the stuff those people discover done. When it comes to being alive, it can be hard. I think we can all agree on that. Not necessarily hard all the time and maybe not even hard that much of the time, but we all get to a place that is hard. Getting through those moments takes additional resources, like a God, which in many cases is hope, kindness, understanding, and love. This is usually better than pot or alcohol or other substances.
As a young man in my thirties, I attended a meaningful retreat. During the retreat, many interesting and curious things transpired, like feeling another man's scratchy face and being taken back to my childhood and remembering that same feeling when being with my dad. We also watched a movie that showed two warring armies coming at each other, thousands of warriors eager to kill one another and both crying out in God's name. The conviction that God was on their side was equal for both armies. How could God take both sides? It was a real head smoker, a conundrum for which we want an answer. For most of our history, that answer was that one side had chosen the wrong God, or that God did not favor their people, or that they were getting punished for some wrongdoing. But we are more mature than this now, aren't we?
Many years after seeing that movie I realized there was an essential question that few of us ask, what if the human beings wanted to kill and die or what if, at the very least, that was something people needed to experience? What if God had watched an infinite number of creatures for eternity and knew that without this very form of direct experience the necessary evolution to become compassionate and understanding could not happen? Or some other crazy thing. Ok, maybe you can swallow this thinking, and perhaps it even makes some crazy sense, but the part about making God a loving father figure just gripes you beyond control. No problem, just make God evolution. We're good.
Look, our understanding of physics is far different than it was when we started out as cavemen. It just is. We can understand concepts that were not possible to comprehend ten years ago, let alone a thousand. For example, the idea of seeing and talking to another person on a device the size of your hand. Not very long ago, the notion that your voice or picture could travel invisibly was not conceivable, and there would have been no way to explain it. It would get described with terms like "magic," some "unseen force," and would probably have been considered evil. Now it is easy to conceive many possibilities that we could never have imagined previously. A thousand years from now our species will be so advanced as to have a completely different technology and be able to conceive things we cannot imagine today. The same thing goes for God. But we have never actually updated our idea or concept of God; we need God 2.0.
It would be unfair to skim over the personalization of God because it is a genuine part of the issue and what keeps people involved or repels them away. Many people have "seen" God, or they have "heard" God, or "spoken" to God, and they have felt God in some meaningful way. These experiences are real, and they are an important part of being human. Even if these experiences are no more than brain activity, communication within a collective consciousness, input from an extraterrestrial or higher being from somewhere else, they can be valuable. So if a person mistakes any of these things for God, is it ok? That is a good question.
The image of God is partly out of date, somewhat convenient, and entirely modifiable. Do you think an all-loving entity lacks the humility to accept the ideas and sensations that individuals attribute to it? That this far more advanced being cannot allow us to grope around with the concepts and images we grope around with as we become more sophisticated and aware? Do you think it is wrong to believe in God if there is no God? Can you allow others to define God merely as their desire to believe in God?
If you choose to have a personal relationship with God, it will challenge you. It matters not that you are being duped or debating with your brain, entities from other planets, or God itself because you are discovering deeper meaning and awareness. This is a good thing. This discovery is what allows you to evolve as a human being and perhaps to also help the entire species along its evolutionary path. Most people do not take the time to investigate their feelings about one another, let alone God, but this investigation is a beautiful thing. It is how we grow as individuals and as a species.
You may feel that the reason for religion was organic and came about as ultimate truth, like the sky and the ocean, or you might be willing to get more practical about it. Discussions about God and philosophy do not require religion, but rules and guidelines do. There are many good things about religion, but they are mostly byproducts of the fundamental need to have people agree to social conduct. Without religion overseeing human behavior, it gets determined by political forces, which rarely care how they obtain power and money. If anyone wants to be a rapist and murderer, they are okay to go about their business as long as it does not interfere with the power and money being controlled by the political rulers. Rapists and murderers are usually good for the business of politics, because they create a need for legislative intervention, justify the need to raise more tax dollars. Social interactions require a timeless and separate rule from governments, and religion does a good job of this. Religions have been a beneficial tool for our moral and social development, which brings me to Moses.
Let me tell you my story of Moses, and to hear it correctly you will need to figuratively "close your eyes" while you read it. This way you can put yourself in place of Moses. We begin with a warm and genuine Moses, a great leader who saw that after months of living without enough food and shelter thousands of freed slaves were withering in the desert. Discouraged, disheartened, at each other's throats and stealing any food or provisions they could find the tribe was in complete chaos. Something had to change, or they would surely kill each other. In deep contemplation over this dilemma Moses had a vision, and it included God. The vision told Moses to create some rules and guidelines that would keep his flock alive and morally supported. Moses reflected on the rules he had come up with, and they were right, but he was unsure of what would make anyone follow them. Another revelation hit him. If the rules came from God people would listen and obey them. Up the mountain he went, returning days later with the tablets of stone he had carved. Attributing the stone tablets to God was not a falsehood, as Moses believed God had indeed inspired them.
Reading this version of the story might make you cringe or laugh, and that is good because the story deserves reflection. What would you, as a loving and caring leader, have done in Moses' place? Would attributing the story to God upset God? Where do God's love and miracles start and stop, at the desire inspired in man's heart or with some magical force? Does the act coming from Moses mean less than if the act were coming from God? Why?
Religion serves more than moral conduct and social behavior, it also creates beautiful and loving communities, provides respite for tired and troubled souls, and creates stability in the fabric of life. It is an important part of our heritage and culture. It gives our quest to answer the ultimate questions a starting point, and it promotes inquiry on important topics. There are far more reasons to keep religion than not, despite all the bad things that happen because of or in the name of religion. The same is true of God.
Having a God is important. It does not matter if God is imaginary or real, its effect on you is more important than the question. Love works the same way. The real question is what place we give God in our life. I believe that answer should be within the original spirit and intent that caused us to create or discover God in the first place. It pointed us to the place inside ourselves we call a heart or soul. The undefinable place we may never know or understand. The pathway for evolving that is more than emotions or thoughts. When we can come to terms with the idea that we can not know God, we find humility. We become capable of embracing all non-violent religions and worship, all non-violent beliefs, and every non-violent way a person chooses to relate with God, cope with life, and evolve into a more loving human being.