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Belief in belief in God
Posted: September 2nd, 2008, 1:32 pm
It has come as something of a shock to me to read Dan Dennett's remarkable book, Breaking The Spell. In this book he highlights the difference between believing in God, and believing in believing in God, and suggests that the majority of those who say "I believe in God" really mean that they believe in belief.
As an example, he brings up the picture of the primitive man who believes that if he sacrifices a goat in the right way at the right time, his crops will grow well, and, conversely, if he does not, the crops will fail. There is no question in his mind that the goat must be sacrificed. It would never, however, occur to him to discuss the nature of the "god" who controls the crops and demands the goat. He would not sit around the cave discussing it with his peers. It is simply, A --> B; you sacrifice the goat, you get crops. He believes in the god.
Looking critically at my own history of religiousness (for that is what it is) I can see that I may have, at one time, believed in God; but probably, I simply believed in belief in God. My love affair with religion has been a stormy one, refused access to seminary by the Episcopal Church (they were right), changing to Lutheran because they'd let me go to seminary, enduring 3.5 years of parish ministry and finally "dropping out" in order to avoid a nervous breakdown; trying every occult thing in the books from astrology to TM; and all of it in pursuit of believing in belief.
Extesive studying, lately, in the writings of such amazing persons as Loren Eiseley, Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan, I found it impossible to continue to believe in belief in the tribal God Who is stil worshipped by the vast majority of Christians. Too much exposure to the scientific method can play hell with one's religion. Figures like "100 million galaxies, each with 100+millon stars and probably 100+million planets as well, all receding from the center at near the speed of light..." make one perceive an infinite Mind that cannot possibly be the local "god" described in the Old Testament, and one can see how mightily Jesus of Nazareth struggled to convey a bigger idea of God to men and women who were having no part of it.
I'm not sure where I'm gong with this, except to say that the more I examine the propositions of quantum mechanics and astrophysics, and the more I look at the claims of Christianity and the failure of those claims to come to pass, the more I become a deist. Yet as I read the Gita or the Tao Te Ching I "feel" that there is more to it than a detached "Mind" that started the universe and backed away from it. Somehow, He/She/It must be involved with it, and therefore with us, in some way. In what way? is the question that comes next...
What a journey it is...
BTW... Dennett allso goes into the concept of "memes," self-replicating concepts, "ideas" or beliefs that recur from generation to generation, duplicated rather the way physical traits are conveyed and duplicated by genes. And he considers "religion" to be such a "meme." Interesting.
Re: Belief in belief in God
Posted: September 7th, 2008, 2:48 pm
I’d like to suggest there is actually no contradiction between an enormously infinite God and a personal, “local” God. Simply logically speaking, if God is infinite, which, of course, is the only kind of God worth considering and indeed is what identifies God from all the apparent individuals, both God-like, and unGod-like – then within that infinity lies a very personal local God as well. We can have it both ways, there is no contradiction. God is local and intimate when we call on that kind of God; God is also infinite and impersonal when we call on THAT kind of God. The key is not “belief”, the key is understanding our position within that infinite universe, and our magnitude and complicity with both the infinite and local God.
As you state, the belief of the primitive in the value of sacrifice – it works, if that belief is certainty, and in both primitive as well as modern cultures, belief or certainty determines the outcome entirely. Fear, or lack of certainty, is what clouds the outcome. I do not mean by certainty to mean repetitive affirmations of belief. I mean by certainty conviction that what one “believes” or “states” is every bit as certain as the belief that one is a man, body, human, whatever or that the sun will come up in the morning. Indeed, THAT certainty of belief is what creates the man, body, human, whatever. The creative faculty is within, and it is not “mine” as opposed to “yours”. It is God consciousness. And that creative faculty is God, not “me”. It is the faculty of creation seated within all consciousness, expressed apparently individually through each human being. It is the hang-up with individuality that messes up the harmony and unfoldment of that harmony. If God is flowing through us, then the individual is inconsequential. Paradoxically, the individual, even though inconsequential, then becomes consequential by virtue of the unimpeded flow of God creativity through his/her creation, individual human beings. It is essentially from what end of the telescope one looks: we can choose to look through the back end, or the front end. In that respect, no doubt, God doesn’t care, because God knows who and what God is. It is only we who forget who we are, and think that we are simply body/mind, and nothing else.
And quantum physics supports this proposition. Indeed, it is a mathematical representation of infinite God's creative faculty flowing through human beings.
Re: Belief in belief in God
Posted: September 13th, 2008, 12:54 am
It would never, however, occur to him to discuss the nature of the "god" who controls the crops and demands the goat. He would not sit around the cave discussing it with his peers. It is simply, A --> B; you sacrifice the goat, you get crops. He believes in the god.
I wonder, do we know it would never occur to the primitive man to discuss the nature of the "god" who controls the crops and demands the goat? Is “modern” man really more sophisticated in that sense, more curious, more inner-looking, more insightful, more honest? Of course, there are some today who reach within to find the Truth of themselves, but is that a factor of the time we live in?
My guess is that there are always “primitive” men and women who, in effect, sacrifice "goats" in one form or another to God as they know Him in order to receive from Him crops of one kind or another, just as way back then and now and always, there are seekers who ask themselves about their nature and the nature of God.
I think that tendency resides within us to awaken in its good time, and it is there whatever era or period or age we seem to be living in.
I guess what I'm asking is, Is being an inner seeker a result or an aspect or an offshoot of civilization? My experience suggests they are unrelated.
As for the rest, it is great stuff to ponder. But all the while, we need to remind ourselves that we are using finite minds to explore the infinite, and we need to remember always which is which. We can define, describe, and articulate what we perceive, but not what is. Some of us speak Christian, others speak Buddhist, still others Hindu or Islam, and so on, but whatever language we use, our words are just words, the creation of finite minds, and therefore inherently finite. Even the word "infinite" is finite! The true infinite is not just “more” than the finite, not just bigger or farther or deeper or more complex. The true infinite is none of those things; the true infinite is no thing; the true infinite does not even exist in any way we can perceive or even imagine, much less know.
And yet, being truly infinite, it is thoroughly accessible to us now and always.
Re: Belief in belief in God
Posted: September 15th, 2008, 7:42 pm
Looks to me as if you've "nailed," it Anna. As "God" is no more than a concept we have formed in our minds from what we've taken as our own from the sources we have utilized, when, and if ever, we have considered the Subject, there is no reasoning, except our own, that prevents us from making "God" jump through hoops, as it were, to conform to our idea of "Him," at any particular time.
In the early sixties, I enrolled in a course of study about "Science of Mind," taught by Dr. Wayne Kitner in San Jose, California, eventually earning a Batchlor of Arts Degree in the subject. At the time, I could not reconsile within myself, the idea that "God" could be personal, as it ran counter to all I had accepted about what I had been studying. Eventually, I allowed my membership to laspe over this issue and later gave "Unity," of Palo Alto a whirl around the dance floor, under the auspices of the Reverend Stan Hampton.
Anna, you speak about "...our magnitude and complicity with both the infinite and local God," as if there were two of "Them," rather than These being Aspects of "The One." This is a common error enlightened humans are prone to make, even though they are mentally aware of the fact that it is not "God and Man," but "God as Man," that comprises the norm. I agree completly though, that the attainment of this end, should be the ultimate goal of "seakers."
And your cautionary note, Stefan, that so aptly remindes us to be descreet when flinging about comcepts such as "Infinity," are justifiable and well reasoned.
Re: Belief in belief in God
Posted: September 17th, 2008, 2:35 pm
Perhaps I was unclear in my use of two apparently discrete terms for God, the infinite and personal. I do not mean to imply that it is an either or situation, or a case of duality at all. It is because of the infinite nature of "God" that BOTH a personal, or local God can exist at the exact same time as an infinite impersonal God can exist. It is the definition of infinity, to my mind, that includes all things, all at the same time, and indeed, when viewed from infinity, is not a "thing" at all, but infinity itself. If viewed from that perspective, a local God is included WITHIN the infinite God - both, or many, for that matter, are included, as well as all the millions or billions of entities, which compose that infinity. In other words, the infinity is expressed as apparently discrete entities, and those entities are every bit as "real" as the infinite, but are limited in parameters and expression at any particular time, depending upon the consciousness which envisions "them" or "it". A vision of infinity is every bit as legitimate as a vision of a local God, since it is the perceiver, which envisions it, and that perceiver is the crux of the creative process. It is not a case of either or, but a case of both simultaneously.
It is rather similar to the incident when Krishna was envisioned by each of his Gopis, at different places, and at the same time. There was nothing incompatible with this experience happening to numerous beings at the same time, because the nature of God, or consciousness is such that it is infinite in form and substance, and thus unlimited. It is only a difficult premise to embrace if we view it from a limited perspective, and insist that "my" experience is "my" experience, as opposed to "others". Indeed, every experience is created through and thus by the consciousness of the experiencer, or perceiver, and embraces the entire world when it is perceived. Or - God sees through each of our eyes simultaneously, if we look at it as individual experiences. However, if God sees through any eyes, then he sees through ALL eyes - no eyes are separate from God. As well as no human is separate from God either, nor rock, nor tree, nor molecule, nor universe.
Re: Belief in belief in God
Posted: October 11th, 2008, 3:04 am
Extesive studying, lately, in the writings of such amazing persons as Loren Eiseley, Stephen Hawking and Carl Sagan
As I see it, here’s the thing to remember about that. Much as I share your admiration for these writers, particularly Stephen Hawking, the fact surely is that “Stephen Hawking”, like “Stefan” and “Art”, is on this side of the screen or curtain; that is, he is one of the characters in “Art’s reality” and “Stefan’s reality”. So, he is in effect a reflection of “me”, or at least a reflection of an aspect of “me”. And his perspective on the universe, while immense, is not infinite (because “my” perspective on the universe is not infinite, and clearly “he” cannot evince what is not within “me”), which means, from a seeker’s point of view, it is decidedly limited. Do you see what I mean?
I guess what I mean is, Stephen Hawking is not a Teacher
– not Self-Realized. His work remains extraordinary – exciting and inspiring, but, like "me", trapped on this side of the prism.
Here, I am reminded of the description of Sri Durga, an aspect of God in the Hindu tradition, in one of my frequent sources
. It includes words to this effect (I have not read it in a while, so this may not be an accurate quotation, but it is close, I think): “Durga, the unfathomable one, who nourishes the poor, dispels the demon of ignorance, and bestows the blessings of wisdom and love on those seeking God Realization”.
Notice – She bestows wisdom and love on those seeking God Realization, but not God Realization Itself. Why not? Presumably because, being an aspect of “my” reality (that is, an aspect of God as perceived by “me”), She cannot bestow more than is within “me” or is on “my” side of the “curtain”, which God Realization is not, for clearly It is above, beyond, other than, etc. whatever is “mine”. She cannot bestow what She does not have. Just so, Stephen Hawking cannot describe what he cannot See.
No matter how intricate, how imaginative, how expansive are the explanations of the physicists, including Robert Lanza
, as long as they are on this side of the illusion, so will be their theories.
Does that make sense?
Re: Belief in belief in God
Posted: October 11th, 2008, 12:30 pm
You are quite right; I find nothing in your post to dispute.
Searching for an analogy ... let's see. I am (hypothetidcally) lost in the wilderness somewhere in Australia. I know that I am not Australian, nor am I really equipped to survive in the outback, because "where I came from" is America, and there we have GPS systems and can call a cab.
I am aware that rescue will come in due time, but for the moment, the only things available to me to do are either (1) sit there and cry or (2) occupy myself exploring the place in which I find myself, examining the flora and fauna, looking to see if there is a spring just below the surface, or whatever else I can find to do. I have not yet arrived at the capability of bilocation or matter transfer, so where I is is where I is, for now.
That is basically why I enjoy Hawking and Sagan and Eiseley and other like them. They are part of the environment of my being for now -- call it "my dream" perhaps -- and I rather suspect that if I scorn the experience at hand I will miss some growth and conditioning that I will need in order to move on. They cannot tell me about anything that is not part of our shared experience in this "australian wildrness," nothing about alternate or parallel universes, nothing about the implicatiions of being divine in the sense of tat tvm asi; but then, I do not expect them to. That is a job for a Teacher, and I have one of those too, quietly calling, "Come up higher."
It's a grand adventure, and I'm enjoying it immensely.