Tag Archives: God

Responding to bonlou’s Hatch Creek Bible Blog post, "God or Mother Nature?"

I have finally decided to publish a detailed response to a religious (conservative fundamentalist Christianity, in this case) blog post titled, God or Mother Nature? and appears on a very conservative Christian fundamentalist blog called Hatch Creek Bible Blog. The post was written by username bonlou.

This God or Mother Nature? post is apparently still being found and read by a wide variety of people, even after all this time. According to the date on the Hatch Creek blog, the post was originally published in March of 2007.

What follows are quotes from the original blog post, along with my responses which are scattered throughout in the appropriate places.

NOTE: My detailed responses to the original fundamentalist comments must be published on a piecemeal basis; I simply do not have time to document all of my responses at once. Thank you for your patience. This writer will make every effort to be respectful to ‘bonlou’ but without watering down the responses.

First response: May 2012

My initial response — — to the Hatch Creek Bible Blog post, "God or Mother Nature?" was more or less a friendly reply to the blog post as a whole, and did not make any attempt to critique its individual parts. I added these comments by responding to the Hatch Creek Bible Blog blog post itself on or around May 16, 2012.

My initial comments follow:

It might be worth it to invest a bit of your time in deep, personal, honest contemplation regarding WHY the phrase Mother Nature bothers you so much. You are probably at least willing to admit that it shouldn’t bother you, whether you agree with it or not; after all, spiritually mature folks are generally tolerant, compassionate, open-minded, and accepting rather than judgmental and closed-minded. My best guess is that it rests in that often troublesome human ego. I used to be bothered to hear talk like, “God did this,” or “God did that…” but when I was finally willing to be honest about the root cause of my discomfort, it was none other than my ego!

We are human, and we have egos that LOVE to be correct… and even to make others wrong. While most readers here are probably spiritually mature enough to have abandoned childish, immature comments like, “I told you so,” or “See — what’d I tell ya,” or their equivalents, we still might think those thoughts occasionally when we are shown to be correct!

Accordingly, our egos – depending on how deeply we have researched our spiritual or religious beliefs – generally cause us to believe that our OWN spiritual or religious views are correct, and that others are wrong. That is exactly where my ego came in with regard to being bothered hearing “God this” and “God that.” I had long ago abandoned any kind of literal translation of the Bible (e.g., I no longer believed in a literal six-day creation, that animals could have been saved on Noah’s ark, that a global flood could have occurred, and so on), strongly favoring a more realistic, accurate, metaphorical, spiritual interpretation.

Hearing people say “God this” and “God that” reminded me of the literal interpretation of the Bible which I was raised to believe – and I could hardly stand it. I have gradually grown more tolerant and accepting of Christian fundamentalist talk, but it still bothers me just a bit.

(NOTE: My own story of seeking religious/spiritual truth is a long one, having been raised in conservative Christian fundamentalism — and having finally abandoned Christian fundamentalism around age 30. Much of that story is told on a blog called Search for Truth, which is easy to find on Google via a search for thw words, ‘basic universal spiritual principles’.)

Good luck on your spiritual quest.

– samana (Search for Truth)

Stages of spiritual growth, spiritual development

anticrepuscular rays of the sunNOTE: This unfinished post was originally published in my personal blog. The subject matter may be too controversial and off-topic to fit well into the personal blog & is perhaps more fitting for Search for Truth… I have not yet finalized my decision, but this post will not remain in both places for very long.

I have been deeply fascinated with spirituality and truth for about as long as I can remember, but the entire search for religious and/or spiritual truth has taken on new meaning and urgency in the last couple of years. The broad effort began in earnest when I finally became willing to engage in deep, ongoing, objective-as-possible spiritual research — a type of long-term study and examination that cannot possibly be conducted from a typical Protestant Christian fundamentalist church library (most of which are full of books supporting a specific brand — their preferred flavor — of religious misinterpretation).

inner peaceThis willingness, which was followed by consistent, vigorous action, did not occur until my 30s – and only after a real wreck of an era that included such highlights (or lowlights) as:

  1. A lifestyle characterized by addictive behavior
  2. Causing pain in the lives of others (e.g., my family; virtually every serious girlfriend, up to that point)
  3. Emergency room visits in Nashville, Atlanta for reckless behavior, "partying"
  4. Multiple stints in treatment facilities
  5. Numerous twelve-step program starts & stops
  6. Related unmentionables

inner peaceMy only regret – and it really isn’t really regret at all, but more of a wish that I’d implement in a life relived: Making the same mistakes sooner, and the earlier research and practice of varied spirituality, spiritual practice, spiritual truth/seeking, etc.

For now, on a purely temporary basis, I am going to include only the most presently relevant portions of the stages of spiritual growth: the parts containing the most critical points for current teaching applications. This consists primarily of excellent, useful, powerful information that I have been struggling to convey to others in my life.

These articles and posts about the stages of spiritual growth will cover two major, popular, and broadly accepted systems that separately documented the stages of spiritual growth: the systems of:

  1. Scott M. Peck, M.D.
  2. James W. Fowler

inner peaceI will also contrast the above stages of spiritual growth with similar material by Wayne Dyer and Deepak Chopra:

  • Deepak Chopra in How to Know God
  • Wayne Dyer in Manifest Your Destiny

Deepak Chopra’s book How to Know God describes seven (7) stages of what could easily be called spiritual growth, except that he specifically uses more religious terminology, such as knowing God, to mean precisely the same thing.

We’ll also include Wayne Dyer’s similar list of the progression of spiritual development towards the front of his excellent and tight spiritual book, Manifest Your Destiny.

Fowler’s stages of spiritual development

Stage 0

This is what Fowler calls a “pre-stage” that refers to infancy: Undifferentiated Faith.

Stage 1

When language and thought come into play, the child moves on to Stage 1: Intuitive-Projective Faith, typical of children ages 2 through 7. The child is egocentric, and this stage includes the formation of the imagination.

Stage 2: Mythic; Literal interpretation

Children — as well as adults stuck in this phase — begin to separate the wheat (truth) from the chaff. In the literal interpretation stage, stories such as those in the Old Testament of the standard Protestant Bible seem to provide unity and value to life experiences; however, the poetic devices and other symbols that are so crucial in those stories are still viewed as one-dimensional and literal.

Religious beliefs, morals, and attitudes are still viewed and interpreted literally: God is an anthropomorphic being in the sky; heaven and hell are actual places; Satan is a real being — essentially a second god with incredible powers of evil influence; etc. My own upbringing also included literal translations of popular Bible stories like the six-day creation of the universe by Yahweh, the God of Israel; the tower of Babel, with its scattering of humanity and language across the earth; and my all-time favorite Bible story, Noah’s ark and the ensuing global flood! Noah’s ark and the flood have remained my favorite Old Testament Bible stories because they pointed to the truth of non-literalism at such an early age. I could not avoid critically thinking about those things — and still cannot!

The adherent’s thinking might go, "If I follow the rules, God will give me a good life; if I pray, God will grant my wish."

A person may begin to grow out of this phase when he begins to encounters and address the numerous, deep conflicts and contradictions in the religious stories he continues to interpret literally, and finally begins to reflect on their real meanings: the inherent spiritual truths.

Stage 3: Synthetic, conventional stage

Folks typically move into the third stage around puberty; but apparently many adults never move beyond it.

Authority is still external, located outside the self: The pastor and other church leaders, government, in the social group, etc. Thus the name Synthetic: Beliefs are not the result of any type of analytical thought; rather, religious concepts are “tacitly” held, and the person is not fully conscious of having chosen to believe something. Attempts to reason, suggestions to move away from literal interpretations of the Bible or other religious texts – or to demythologize the religious beliefs — are still seen as negative, or a potential threat to what they still regard as “true beliefs.”

When a person finally begins to see numerous contradictions between the authority sources (e.g., fundamentalist church teachings) and truth/reality – and also becomes willing to actually conduct objective research on these old beliefs — then he gets closer to moving to the fourth of James Fowler’s stages.

Stage 3 can be viewed as systematic attempts to rid oneself of bad theology, erroneous literalism, religious fundamentalism, fideistic worldviews about the nature of faith, mythology, cultish beliefs, superstition…

Stage 4: Individual reflective faith

According to Fowler, it is ideal that a person reach this stage in their early to mid-twenties. It certainly did not happen to this writer until almost a decade later; however, it is sadly evident that many religious adults never reach Stage 4.

If this happens in one’s thirties or forties, per Fowler, it can be much harder for the person to adapt.

At Stage 4, one finally realizes that he absolutely must research religion and spirituality for himself (and not to limit the search to books in the church library). The responsibility of such a realization can be frightening, but also freeing; however, fundamentalist religious groups will always discourage such examination.

Religions do their best to prevent this simply because this type of research threatens the viability of the institution if people start asking the standard, difficult, embarrassing questions that ultimately reveal the failure of pure religion alone to meet mature spiritual needs.

(NOTE: Fowler’s Stage 4 is roughly equivalent to the rational or world-centric stage at Exploring Spiritual Development.)

Stage 5: Conjunctive faith

People at this level evolve into inter-faith exploration and support; these individuals seek out dialog with those of other faiths in order to see things from varying perspectives, which just so happens to be one of the greatest wisdom delivery systems of all time. The seeker engages in an ongoing search for spiritual truth, striving to align one’s own beliefs with truth and reality.

One cannot reach Stage 5 until they have successfully demythologized their religious beliefs and traveled through the incredible life-changer known as Stage 4 where the common folly (in the U.S., especially it seems) of literal religious interpretation and literal meaning has been addressed and corrected. (As has been addressed elsewhere in Search for Truth, it is exceedingly difficult for those who have been successfully indoctrinated – essentially brainwashed – in religious fundamentalism for decades, especially when their personality types are not given to critical thought, reasonable skepticism, philosophy, and so on.

Rational inspection and deep contemplation have helped the Stage 5 spiritual seeker to break down religious symbols into a more comprehensive, metaphorical interpretation that more closely aligns with basic universal spiritual principles.

Fowler includes the following quote as an example of Stage 5 faith:

…doesn’t matter what you call it. Whether you call it God or Jesus or Cosmic Flow or Reality or Love, it doesn’t matter what you call it. It is there. And what you learn directly from that source will not tie you up in creeds… that separate you from your fellow man. (p. 192)

The Stage 5 truth-seeker in Fowler’s system is learning how to reengage with some type of faith that is beyond their rational control. This individual recognizes that only partial truths are delivered by religion; however, he may choose to re-engage with religion in spite of the differences, in spite of the fact that he no longer goes to the church for real answers. He can appreciate and recognize symbols as such without remaining attached to their literal meanings. Socially, the Stage 5 seeker is now committed to a form of justice that extends to those outside the confines of tribe, class, religious community, or nation.

With this very inclusive worldview, people at Stage 5 have great potential to make incredible contributions to local or world society, but sometimes give in to a paralyzing passivity out of fear for their own comfort and well-being — or are paralyzed by the yawning chasm that separates actual reality and the view they would like to hold as real.

Stage 6: Universalizing faith

Few ever reach this stage, which seems to be reserved for those rare, amazing personalities that succeed in transcending the self to spend their lives in spiritual service. Examples: Gandhi, Mother Teresa, the Dalai Lama, Thich Nhat Hanh, South Africans Bishop Desmond Tutu and Nelson Mandela, and so on.

Resources: Stages of spiritual growth

This post was started on Monday, April 09, 2012

Bible God: The deity of modern Christian fundamentalism

art of God in Monty Python and the Holy Grail movieThe term Bible God is used occasionally throughout this Search for Truth blog. Bible God is our proper noun for the general version or idea of God resulting from a literal (or near-literal) translation of the Protestant Bible[3] combined with common modern dogmatic characteristics, popular cultural references, and societal constructions of God.

religious art: painting of GodIn our writing, Bible God represents the deity worshiped by the more conservative Protestant Christian churches every Sunday morning. For people who choose to interpret the Bible in literal or near-literal fashion (e.g., huge numbers of Christian fundamentalists, for starters), Bible God may be assumed to have some of the following characteristics. (Some of these are believed by adults while others are admittedly more childish in nature; this will differ according to the reader’s perspective — just like everything else.)

  1. A father-like figure
  2. A mature male in humanoid form (probably w/same racial characteristics as the believer)
  3. A being with human emotions and a human-like ego (e.g., experiences jealousy, anger, judgment, demand for praise, etc.)
  4. Literal creator of universe in six calendar days
  5. Possessing an indescribable, incomprehesible mix of love, wrath, judgment
  6. Being the same entity as his “son”
  7. Residing on a throne in heaven
  8. Surrounded by angels
  9. Sporting a white robe that’s probably luxurious, but certainly comfortable
  10. Generally existing in humanoid form but able to change into anything it/he wants
  11. Possibly living in a pleasant, comfortable, fluffy, soft, somewhat cloud-like environment
  12. Omnipresent
  13. Omniscient
  14. Omnipotent

Particularly in childhood and relative youth, we cannot help but have a mental visualization of God containing at least some of the above features, if due only to popular culture and a rich history of religious art (e.g., Italian Renaissance paintings).

religious art: painting of GodObviously, some of the items listed above are not conducive to visualization. Though they’re standard, broadly accepted constituents of Bible God, the last three features above cannot really be visualized as imagery, per se (by this writer, at least).

Along with spiritual development often comes a more mature idea of Bible God or God in general; however, if one chooses to stick with common Christian fundamentalist church teachings, then one’s idea of God (along with spiritual development in general, IMHO) will probably remain credulous, unrealistic, and seriously constrained by the rigid, inescapable religious teachings which, to them, religionare undeniable as members of their chosen system of faith. Sadly, the intended spiritual message of The Bible will be missed or minimized, overshadowed or even crushed by the myriad supernatural fantasies that result from literal translation of poetic texts — fabrications of real talking animals, eternal torture, seven-headed beasts and other monsters, and so many other fancies of a massive, complex system built upon and caused by the eating of the wrong fruit.

As some religious folks mature (in terms of genuine spiritual development & growth), Bible God might lose some of the features in the previous list and become…

  • An invisible force enveloping the universe
  • A convenient term to use in place of “the unknown realm”
  • Far less anthropomorphic; far more indescribable, unknown, and unknowable
  • Anything but a gender-specific/ male being
  • Decreasingly human-like
  • Less and less likely any type of identifiable “being” at all
  • Mother Nature herself; the very universe itself
  • Synonymous with terms like goodness, life, love, existence

religious art: painting of GodWithin Christianity alone, the different versions or ideas of God[2] are probably uncountable; however, this number would undoubtedly increase exponentially when all religions and spiritual traditions are considered, and much more so when both modern and historical systems are added to the mix. With so many varying ideas about God, references in an article (or a blog post) to an undefined, generic "God" can be unacceptably vague to some readers. Mentioning an undefined, "blanket" God can water down the writer’s intended meaning, or result in the failure to deliver what might otherwise be a cogent, powerful central message. This is the primary reason we have chosen the words Bible God to represent the deity most commonly worshiped in United States Protestantism. An unspecified "God" is simply far too broad and undefined for a general or international audience, IMHO.

Christianity in filmWhen considered honestly, expecting one’s readers to share the writer’s idea of God in the context of popular writing would be presumptuous, egotistical, and perhaps even offensive. Writings (articles, books, blog posts, etc.) with a specified, limited audience consisting of those with deeply shared religious beliefs would be an exception. For instance, it would not necessarily be presumptuous for a Southern Baptist author — in his book with an intended audience of other Southern Baptists — to mention God generically, since the readers’ ideas of God would be similar enough to prevent a breakdown of the message.

NOTE: This writer is rather curious whether others have considered these ideas, or have experienced similar thoughts concerning varied visualization of Bible (or other) God(s). Please comment!

Although we don’t write it every time, when we refer to "God" within this Search for Truth blog in the context of popular fundamentalist Christianity, we are speaking of Bible God.

If the term fundamentalist really is offensive to large numbers of potential readers, we’d consider other term(s) to use in their place. The alternate terms would have to mean the same thing, of course, so more generic characterizations such as Christians would not suffice.

Notes

[2] Many different versions of God

One might ask, How do you know that Christians have so many differing versions of God? Is this documented anywhere? Where are you getting your information?

To begin to imagine this idea, suppose each member of all Christian churches in your state participated in a religious poll. The primary poll question is an exercise to describe in 500 to 1,000 words one’s visualization or idea of God, with an option to include a sketch of one’s personal visualization of God — what this unique, personalized version of God might look like.

This polling exercise should relate specifically and only to the God he or she honestly believes in – the God he or she visualizes (if applicable) when thinking about God (something Christians probably ought to be doing fairly often, one would think).

We believe the result of this exercise would reveal a tremendous variety of ideas about God, thus the root of our idea.

[3] Multiple "Bible Gods"

One subject that’s rather unpopular with fundamentalists is the overwhelming likelihood that the Bible describes not a single God but multiple deities, or conflicting versions of a single deity. This is most strongly and obviously apparent in comparisons of the God of Israel, Yahweh, aka Jehovah, as described in the Pentateuch, and the God of the New Testament. A History of God, a book by Karen Armstrong, is the first reference I came across personally that described the Bible’s multiple Gods in detail.

Resources: Bible God

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Just thinking…

The following questions pertain to those who choose to interpret the Bible literally, or near literally — folks generally referred to here as Christian fundamentalists. We’ve recently learned that some consider the term fundamentalist to be negative, derogatory, or insulting. Please believe us when we say, we’re not intentionally insulting anyone.

[1] Possibly ghost-like

Of course, we are not referring to ideas of ghosts prevalent in modern horror culture (e.g., the terrifying Grudge ghosts). Our idea is more akin to the appearance of old-school or non-threatening ghosts: humanoid in form with varying degrees of translucence or opacity (the “see-through” feature).

Updates

Sep 3, 2012
This post was updated in a very minor way. During today’s review, I noticed many improvements that need to be made in this post. Like so many other posts, this is my stream of thoughts transferred to writing. It must be better organized to broaden its appeal and clarify its messages.

This post was started on Wednesday, June 27, 2012.

Why pick on Hard Right religious fundamentalist and fideistic beliefs?

To discourage irrational, intolerant religious extremism…

messages from Hard Right Christian supremacistsThe usual disclaimer: Traditional, respectful, tolerant, spiritually-principled flavors of Christianity and other religions are not the subject here.

Far-right religious nationalists should keep their religion to themselves if we are to hang on to what makes our country great, preserve the tradition of pluralism, and maintain the wise vision of our Founding Fathers. Rigid fundamentalism should remain in its place if we are to remain a people of tolerance and acceptance and if we truly prize religious freedom.

politicsLast but not least, the far right dominionism that has been infecting conservative politics for years ought to remain within the churches and the communities that desire it; extremism cannot be permitted to spread, take hold, and then — God forbid — send the United States careening down a path of horror.

It would be encouraging if humanity could learn from its mistakes, take lessons from history, and avoid the costly mistakes of book covers: religious fundamentalismreligious extremism — and especially, religious statehood.

A brand-new reader recently commented and asked Search for Truth the following:

At first glance, I assumed you were against religion until I read the About page. Is there a quick, simple acid test to determine whether or not you consider a particular religion (or religious group) to be extremist, fundamentalist, fideistic, or otherwise “less than ideal” so as to meet with your discouragement?

Search for Truth answer

Clever… Good one! We believe the “golden rule” applies here: That all respectful, tolerant religions should be respected and tolerated. IMHO, one of the best litmus tests I can think of at the moment might be the simple list of basic, universal spiritual principles: The practical guidelines, rules, suggestions, and practices agreed upon by virtually all religions. (That’s rather affirming, don’t you think?)

Accordingly, we believe the central role of Christianity — and religions & spiritual paths in general — is the delivery of a positive spiritual message of compassion leading to inner peace and unity, as opposed to any type of religious message designed to induce belief in fanciful, supernatural stories, beings, or events — which, by default, can only lead to division because the supernatural stories inevitably disagree!

Finally, it seems religious fundamentalism and similarly rigid worldviews contain too many inherent conflicts with universal spiritual principles to represent truth.

I have once again digressed… Back to the story:

One fine day on the way to the Nashville flea market, politics was the subject of discussion. After briefly attempting to explain the fanatical quest of a few squeaky “dominionist” wheels on the far, Hard Right (e.g., the radical religious supremacists who have essentially declared war on secular society & wish to banish the separation of church and state) — whose goal is to assert Christian control over the nation’s political and cultural institutions — Dale said:

A Bible-based society for the United States sounds OK to me. Besides, what’s wrong with a country that lives according to basic spiritual principles?

religionNeedless to say, Dale’s extremely uninformed agreement with Christian nationalism and dominionism came as a shock!

The description of Dale’s comment as extremely uninformed was accurate, and was not meant to be derogatory. The fact is, Dale had never given one moment’s careful thought to the idea — to what it would mean for Hard Right dominionism to take hold of U.S. politics. Dale never even considered what it might mean to so many peaceful, hard-working, non-fundamentalist U.S. citizens, for our country to merge one group’s religious ideas into our national politics, scrap the notion of religious tolerance & pluralism, and ultimately allow the new breed of radical Hard Right dominionists to define religion and spirituality for the rest of us… NO THANKS!

WHY HARD RIGHT RELIGIOUS FUNDAMENTALISM IS NOT ACCEPTABLE

inner peaceIt’s quite simple to point out exactly why we wholeheartedly discourage the beliefs (without condemning the believers) of extreme Hard Right religious fundamentalism and religious fideism[1].

There are thousands of distinct, varying flavors of Christianity covering virtually every possible combination of religious and/or spiritual belief. Many Christians are labeled by the more conservative and devout as being liberal or moderate Christians, a large portion of whom cringe right along with Buddhists, New Thought adherents, the spiritual-but-not-religious, Perennial Philosophers, agnostics, and so on when they hear the extremist, divisive teachings of Hard Right Christian fundamentalism.

unity As hard-core supporters of religious freedom and pluralism, we believe it’s perfectly acceptable to hold virtually any religious beliefs one can imaginable –- as long as those religious beliefs and practices do not adversely affect the rest of us, just as I may freely practice and believe as I choose, as long as I do not trample upon the rights or the peace of others.

Unfortunately, that’s where modern, Hard Right Christian fundamentalism consistently crosses the line from peaceful to intrusive — or worse.

Perspective is everything: Revealed religions
There are a handful of “revealed religions”; the most popular are Christianity and Islam.

political debate related posterAccording to one of the fastest growing “revealed religions” in the world, those who believe Jesus was divine — and those who fail to follow the admonishments of the most recent prophet of God, Mohammad — are destined for eternal hellfire. (Of course, the religion is Islam.)

The Koran contains an approximately equal amount of “proof” or evidence that Muhammad is God’s true prophet as the Bible does to support Jesus as God’s literal son.

The following statement probably applies to those who:

  1. Practice and believe the same religion they were raised to believe as they grew from child to tween to teen to adult, AND
  2. Have not deeply contemplated or studied alternate worldviews, religions, or spiritual paths

In all likelihood, the most significant determinants as to which of these two popular “revealed” religions (Christianity & Islam) a given individual believes and follows are:

  1. Where one was born, and
  2. How one was raised

knowledge from reading free books onlineThat’s the bulk of it, for the non-curious types who studied only one religion. (Admittedly, we fail to grasp that mindset.)

If you are a Christian fundamentalist in the United States who has never seriously explored any religion or spiritual path apart from Christianity — the religion of your upbringing — then it’s rather clear that, had you been born in the Middle East, you would be a fundamentalist Muslim.

The reverse holds true for fundamentalist followers of Islam. (If you are a Muslim born and raised in Afghanistan who has never examined any other path, and you had instead been born in the United States to a Christian family, it’s virtually certain you’d be a Christian.)

x-ray of homer simpson's brain - knowledge from reading free books onlineRemaining true to the beliefs one was raised to embrace certainly does not make a person defective or dumb; in fact, it demonstrates some positive qualities — such as loyalty and perseverance.

Simply put, we as individuals have widely varying traits. What is right for one may not be right for another. Circumstances that cause intense curiosity in some of us might not even warrant a second glance — much less, closer investigation — by others. And this is a crucial point when it comes to the HOWs and the WHYs of our religious choices.

If you aren’t naturally prone to exploring underlying causes, applying critical thought, or exercising a reasonable degree of skepticism, then it may be completely natural for you to remain devoted to the beliefs of your culture, your peer group, your family, and your friends. Again, I stress that this is acceptable… for those “built” that way.

For others — this blogger, for instance — the failure to deeply explore world religion and spirituality is almost unthinkable.

Notes

Fideism

Fideists are hose who believe that science, philosophy, reason, and logic are enemies of religious faith, essentially claiming irrationality as a benefit!)

Resources: Why pick on Hard Right fundamentalist and fideist religious beliefs?

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The writer of the heartfelt letter below was merely attempting to explain to Dale why it is not acceptable for the United States to adopt such rigid, divisive, controversial, intolerant views.

My dear fundamentalist friend,

(Objectively speaking, there’s rather little hard evidence on either side).

It should go without saying that these are merely our opinions; there’s no need to get our approval (nor anyone else’s) for any set of religious views.

Book: Away With All Gods!

Unchaining the Mind and Radically Changing the World

Away with All Gods, book coverA frank and challenging book by Bob Avakian

Reminder: The contributors to the Search for Truth blog have varying positions and beliefs. Search is a place where discussion of controversial subjects such as religious fundamentalism from all angles is encouraged in an ongoing effort to locate any nuggets of truth that may lie therein.

Is believing in gods actually harmful? How has Christianity for centuries served as an ideology of conquest and subjugation? Why is the "Bible Belt" in the U.S. also the "lynching belt"? Why is there a rise of religious fundamentalism throughout the world? In the intensifying conflict between U.S. imperialism and Islamic fundamentalism, is the only choice to take one side or the other? Why is patriarchy and the oppression of women foundational to so many religions? Can people be good without god? These are just some of the questions explored in this provocative work by Bob Avakian.

Bringing a unique… voice to the current discourse about god, atheism, and morality, Avakian demystifies religious belief and examines how, even in its most progressive interpretations, religion stands in the way of the emancipation of humanity. A thread deeply woven throughout Away With All Gods! is the need to fully rupture with all forms of superstition, and to take up instead a truly scientific approach to understanding and transforming reality.

Whether you believe in god, or are an agnostic or an atheist, Bob Avakian will challenge you with his powerful critique of long-established traditions and his liberating vision of a radically different world.

Away with All Gods, book promo

Resources: Away With All Gods!

Suggested by Tom K.

Letter from God

Date: Eternity
From: God
To: My Children on Earth
Re: Idiotic religious rivalries

My Dear Children (and believe me, that’s all of you),

I consider myself a pretty patient Guy. I mean, look at the Grand Canyon. It took millions of years to get it right. And how about evolution? Boy, nothing is slower than designing that whole Darwinian thing to take place, cell by cell and gene by gene. I’ve even been patient through your fashions, civilizations, wars and schemes, and the countless ways you take Me for granted until you get yourselves into big trouble again and again.

But… some things… are starting to tick me off.

First of all, your religious rivalries are driving Me up a wall. Enough already! Let’s get one thing straight: These are your religions, not Mine. I’m the Whole Enchilada; I’m beyond them all. Every one of your religions claims there’s only one of Me (which, by the way, is absolutely true). But in the very next breath, each religion claims it’s My favorite one. And each claims its bible was written personally by me, and that all the other bibles are man-made. Oh, Me. How do I even begin to put a stop to such complicated nonsense?

Okay, listen up now: I’m your Father and Mother, and I don’t play favorites among My Children. Also, I hate to break it to you, but I don’t write. My longhand is awful, and I’ve always been more of a “doer” anyway. So all your books, including the bibles, were written by men and women. They were inspired, remarkable people, but they also made mistakes here and there. I made sure of that, so that you would never trust a written word more than your own living Heart.

You see, one Human Being to me — even a Bum on the street — is worth more than all the holy books in the world. That’s just the kind of Guy I Am. My Spirit is not an historical thing, It’s alive right here, right now, as fresh as your next breath.

Holy books and religious rites are sacred and powerful, but not more so than the least of You. They were only meant to steer you in the right direction, not to keep you arguing with each other, and certainly not to keep you from trusting your own personal connection with Me.

Which brings Me to My next point about your nonsense: You act like I need you and your religions to stick up for Me or “win souls” for My Sake. Please, don’t do Me any favors. I can stand quite well on my own, thank you. I don’t need you to defend Me, and I don’t need constant credit. I just want you to be good to each other.

And another thing: I don’t get all worked up over money or politics, so stop dragging My name into your dramas. For example, I swear to Me that I never threatened Oral Roberts. I never rode in any of Rajneesh’s Rolls Royces. I never told Pat Robertson [or George Bush] to run for president, and I’ve never ever had a conversation with Jim Bakker, Jerry Falwell, or Jimmy Swaggart! Of course, come Judgement Day, I certainly intend to…

The thing is, I want you to stop thinking of religion as some sort of loyalty pledge to Me. The true purpose of your religions is so that you can become more aware of Me, not the other way around. Believe Me, I know you already. I know what’s in each of your hearts, and I love you with no strings attached. Lighten up and enjoy Me. That’s what religion is best for.

What you seem to forget is how mysterious I Am. You look at the petty little differences in your scriptures and say, “Well, if this is the Truth, then that can’t be!” But instead of trying to figure out My Paradoxes and Unfathomable Nature — which, by the way, you never willwhy not open your hearts to the simple common threads in every religion?

You know what I’m talking about: Love and respect everyone. Be kind. Even when life is scary or confusing, take courage and be of good cheer, for I Am always with you. Learn how to be quiet, so you can hear My Still, Small Voice (I don’t like to shout). Leave the world a better place by living your life with dignity and gracefulness, for you are My Own Child. Hold back nothing from life, for the parts of you that can die will surely die, and the parts that can’t, won’t. So don’t worry, be happy (I stole that last line from Bobby McFerrin, but he stole it from Meher Baba in the first place.)

Simple stuff. Why do you keep making it so complicated? It’s like you’re always looking for an excuse to be upset. And I’m very tired of being your main excuse. Do you think I care whether you call me Yahweh, Jehovah, Allah, Wakantonka, Brahma, Father, Mother, or even The Void or Nirvana? Do you think I care which of My Special Children you feel closest to — Jesus, Mary, Buddha, Krishna, Mohammed or any of the others? You can call Me and My Special Ones any name you choose, if only you would go about My business of loving one another as I love you. How can you keep neglecting something so simple?

I’m not telling you to abandon your religions. Enjoy your religions, honor them, learn from them, just as you should enjoy, honor, and learn from your parents. But do you walk around telling everyone that your parents are better than theirs? Your religion, like your parents, may always have the most special place in your heart; I don’t mind that at all. And I don’t want you to combine all the Great Traditions into One Big Mess. Each religion is unique for a reason. Each has a unique style so that people can find the best path for themselves.

But My Special Children — the ones your religions revolve around — all live in the same place (My Heart) and they get along perfectly, I assure you. The clergy must stop creating a myth of sibling rivalry where there is none.

My Blessed Children of Earth, the world has grown too small for your pervasive religious bigotry and confusion. The whole planet is connected by air travel, satellite dishes, telephones, fax machines, rock concerts, diseases, and mutual needs and concerns. Get with the program! If you really want to help… then commit yourselves to figuring out how to feed your hungry, clothe your naked, protect your abused, and shelter your poor. And just as importantly, make your own everyday life a shining example of kindness and good humor. I’ve given you all the resources you need, if only you abandon your fear of each other and begin living, loving, and laughing together.

… I just want you to be happy, and I’ll sit in The Dark. I really Am, indeed, I swear, with you always. Always. Trust In Me.

Your One and Only,
GOD

Origin of the letter from God

I ran across this “letter from God” on a site with a nice collection of “silly and wise” quotes about religion. According to rudyh.org, the article was written for the Human Kindness Foundation newsletter around Christmas of 1989. It was then included in Bo Lozoff’s 1990 book, Just Another Spiritual Book.

I liked the letter from God, and since this letter has been included (while usually remaining uncredited) on so many websites, I thought I would include it here. I emphasized certain lines by making them bold.

I hope you enjoyed it – and as always, I wish you the very best in your search for inner peace and harmony. Remember the only two things we really have: the present moment and our relationships.

- your fellow seeker

Why anthropomorphize God (and other deities)?

One of the most interesting and curious aspects of man’s obsession with and development of general religion is the associated anthropomorphism — or more specifically, the anthropotheism (the application of human characteristics to deities) — that seems to go hand-in-hand with fundamentalist religious belief systems.

There’s nothing wrong with metaphor.

religious art - paintings of GodThere is absolutely nothing wrong with using anthropomorphic metaphors: after all, mankind has always applied human characteristics to so various natural phenomena in an attempt to better understand them, explain them, communicate about them, and so on:

The wind "whispers" and "moans," our pets are our "children," and violent thunderstorms are "angry."

There has always been a strong temptation for man to anthropomorphize God and so many other deities throughout history — perhaps because man can’t even begin to understand the true source of all things — i.e., whatever truly rests behind the curtain of reality — as such forces surely operate on a plane far higher than and indiscernible from our own natural lives. It appears that the Bible God has likewise been anthropomorphized religious art: paintings of God– just like all the previous ones — in order to make the concept of the Bible God easier to understand. It is simpler to describe the Bible God by assigning human qualities to it.

In truth, man cannot know whether a deity actually has anything resembling what we would call "feelings"; however, we can and do surmise and posit on such subjects quite often. So, rather than spend hours in creative attempts to suppose what a true deity might be like, we use metaphors to describe it. It makes Bible God more like us. When we anthropomorphize a Universal Intelligence by writing and speaking of the possible Creative Force in human terms, we feel closer to the Source or the Tao or God than we otherwise would. It brings a seemingly limitless universal force down to our level.

The sole caveat is: Such metaphoric anthropomorphization should not be taken or interpreted as literal truth.

IMHO, mankind is insulting, denigrating, and minimizing any real intelligent or universally creative force by ascribing such fallible human characteristics to it (whatever ‘it’ is, if ‘it’ exists — NO ONE REALLY KNOWS).

Metaphors are not reality.

religious art - paintings of GodWhen man begins to accept anthropomorphic metaphors as being literal truth or representing reality, it can lead to serious problems. For instance, some religious groups expect everyone else to adopt their interpretation and thus encourage others to fall victim to radical misinterpretation.

Folks who begin to accept those metaphors as being representative of literal truth, for whatever reason, begin to lose all sight of the original intentions of the teaching in the first place. The true message of spiritual living is lost in a soupy mess of dogmatism and fundamentalist constructions.

We gave Bible God hands, eyes, ears, feet, a heart, and so on. The idea of Bible God was molded into something that serves us. The Bible God is given desires for the things people want, like praise, children, gold, and jewels. Even heaven is described in the Bible as having streets of gold, despite the fact it could not be used for such a purpose; gold is a soft, malleable metal.

If you are beyond taking “streets of gold” literally, that’s certainly a step in the right direction. But how do you interpret all the other metaphors and anthropomorphization present throughout the Bible? Where do you draw the line?

Bible God as sexual being (male)?

religious art - paintings of GodWould a true universal creative force really be a "he"? What does it mean to be a male?

Being male means to possess male genes and sexual reproductive organs. When people choose to literalize their beliefs in anthropomorphic metaphors, then a supreme force is reduced to a superman-type character – complete with a DNA genotype and penis (which would be required, of course, for a deity to produce a literal physical child). Humanized deities are therefore subject to negative human emotions such as fear, jealousy, egotism, and the deep need to feel appreciated or be praised.

Gradually, from Old Testament times to New, the view of Bible God changed from a god of war, jealousy, fear, thunder, and lighting to a deity of love. Why hasn’t popular thinking about the Bible God changed accordingly?

Why do so many churches and other influential religious groups continue to place so much more importance on the divisive, supernatural aspects — the religious message — of the revealed religions rather than stressing the deeper, more practical, unifying spiritual message (to convey basic universal spiritual principles such as compassion, acceptance, tolerance, patience, etc.)? It’s rather amazing that so many people continue to think of the Bible God — e.g., the Source, the creative force, the Tao — as if it were a literal, testosterone-laden being?

IMHO, as the beliefs and traditions of mankind continue to evolve with the march of time, greater numbers/ percentages of people around the world will gradually adopt perspectives that are increasingly rational. There’s something to be said about the desire to align one’s deepest, most cherished beliefs with truth and reality — to the best of our ability, that is.

May we all move ever closer to unity and oneness, strive to practice & encourage respect, acceptance, and tolerance; actively engage in interfaith socialization and interspiritual contemplation; and deepen our friendships with a growing, eventually boundless variety of people from disparate cultures and divergent faiths.

Resources: Anthropomorphosis of God

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It is truly bizarre and unfortunate.