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.