The god thing

From the continuing conversation in an online group about life philosphies/religion/spiritual paths — one person there says stuff about religion, especially the organized varieties thereof, that could almost have come from my mouth, with one interesting difference: she is an atheist; I am not.

Or at least I use the word “god” — what’s that all about? This is what I wrote there.

Though I believe in god, I think the way I believe in it is pretty much on par with what many self-defined atheists & agnostics say. god (lower case g) isn’t to me some transcendent Boss of Bosses: my definition is, god = the universe & everything in it, whether we understand it or not. god is one with all that is, has been, will be, not separate or “superior” to us. We’re all just part of it. Is there an afterlife? Beats me. Will we be judged? I doubt it — except in the moment-to-moment of life when we’re judged by ourselves & each other. If justice comes from god, it comes not from some Big Guy in the Sky, but from ourselves & how we treat ourselves & one another.

I’ve got the same issues with organized religion that many atheists & agnostics do. Maybe the only difference between their fundamental perspective & mine is that they see the wonder & incredibleness of the universe & world & all that’s in it & don’t feel need to call that anything in particular, whereas I apply the name “god” to it. But with a lower-case g because god is as common as rock, as common as a molecule of oxygen, as common as anything.

Why is it that I want to use that word? What does it do for me? I guess because in part it points toward the mystery. god is common, just really the fabric of the universe, but it’s also mystery… we don’t know whether we call ourselves atheists or agnostics or Christians or Jews or Muslims or Buddhists or any of the other “ist” & “ism” names how all this works. Any time science learns how to “explain,” answers a question, it gives rise to umpteen further question: there is no end to them because we, just tiny motes of what-god-is, can’t fit any more into our understanding than what we can fit into our thoughts, our speech, our books. As my calculus tutor used to explain, no system can contain a metasystem. No matter how much we understand, there will always be Mystery beyond that. Which is why, I think, people who are wise are also people with humility: however much they know, they are aware how very little that really is.

Somehow, for me, using that word god keeps me mindful about all that. But I don’t think one must use that word to be conscious of it.

I believe that there are as many paths as there are people to follow them — whether “religious” or not. But I often find people who say being so “accepting” of other people’s different paths that they let them get away with all manner of evil. “They were only following their path.” “All perspectives are equally valid.” Bullshit.

The fundamental judgment I make of people, including myself, is not whether they follow a particular religion, or any religion at all, but whether the things they do & say cause harm. The most simple, most profound, & most succint statement of ethics & spirit that I’ve ever heard came from the neopagan movement: Harming none, do as you will. But if doing your will causes harm, then damn right I’m gonna judge you for it. And feel that your path sucks the big one. And maybe hate you for it too.

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2 Responses to The god thing

  1. stargazer says:

    I believe in “god” and “angels or spiritual guides” – some type of an inner guidance system…. I don’t believe in any religion on the planet. (Jim Jones and his mass murder/suicide of men, women and children Guyana in 1975 was my wake-up call.) As far as I’m concerned, if the leader has a human body/mind that person can be wrong, wrong wrong…about anything. No flipping way I’m going to follow them. I do like the pagan directive, “Harm none, do as you will.” The most spiritual persons that I’ve come across in my life are women, but the women are usually not the spiritual leads of groups. That position is often taken or assumed by men. In all cases of my experience, all heterosexual spiritual men take advantage of their position. Heterosexual women are so starved for a spiritual man they’ll do anything for him….which ends making “him” a little tyrant which includes the priests that I’ve known. (Wherein, I feel like barfing at those dynamics!)

    On top of all this, I believe that a man, Jesus, stoled or was put in a place to substitute for the spirituality and love that I know many women possess. As a result, women are not the world’s spiritual leaders. God is a Man. Women are not men, therefore women are not like God. Because men are like God and women are something other than like God, men have the “right” to rule or possess women…. I’m not joining your religion!

    • Mel says:

      Wow, a blog comment! First one since I moved the blog to this site! Now I gotta see if I can figure out how to turn off comment moderation for trusted contributors, which I certainly count you amongst. Too sleepy yet though, but I’ll at least comment to say….:

      By interesting coincidence (or perhaps the intervention of Dice the spirit of luck, or so I call her in my eternally forthcoming novel Mistress of Woodland), I ran across a book yesterday on the new books shelf at the Consortium Library called The Religious Case Against Belief by James P. Carse. He’s a professor emeritus of religion at New York U. (30 years directed the religious studies program there). I checked it out & spent a good part of my morning waiting for my tire changeover at Johnson Tires this morning reading it. Tremendous stuff that really touches lots on your points, though using terminology in a way that is somewhat unfamiliar: e.g., he distinguished between “religion” & “belief system” in such a way that I would more likely use the terms “spirituality” & “organized religion” — I’m still kinda working that out in my head. (My sleepy head, which needs sleep.) By his light, “belief system” is the kinda crapola we’re used to having to put up with the hardcore “true believer” types who’d like to kill people for differing with them, & who are so hardwire-tied to their belief systems that they’d die for them.

      It’s this kind of ideological attachment to “belief systems” — which are incorrectly portrayed by believers as “religion” (or sometimes pseudo-religious political ideologies like, say, Nazism) — that are responsible for most of the wars in the world. And those belief systems are not, by his light, truly “religion,” which doesn’t presume to hold all the answers, which recognizes the unknowable. Belief systems, on the other hand, claim to have all the answers — the blueprints of the heavens, as it were. He’s basically calling for “religion” to toss out the “belief systems” that are the true destructive forces — which, now that I’m getting accustomed to how he uses the terminology, I am in full agreement with. Belief systems = “organized religion.”

      Anyway — rereading my post here, I see all kinds of correspondences between what he’s saying, & how I see things; & I can see that his stuff can also help provide me with a vocabulary to understand better how this works more. I was sitting there at Johnson Tires doing some introspective thinking (as well as my sleep-deprived mind could) about what of my own ways of thinking might be deemed to be “belief system”.

      I’ll be blogging about this book. Maybe several blogs about it. I’ll probably need to buy the book too. Hmmm… I’ll have to see if it’s available on Kindle.

      – Mel

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