Thursday, December 22, 2011

Sorry, No Magic Genie

“I do believe in God. I do believe in God. I think God has given so much power to people, and intelligence, and said ‘Well, you are on your own. Maybe I’m tired. I need a nap. You are mature. Why don’t you look after yourselves?’…and I think he’s been sleeping too much.”
- From Strength in What Remains by Tracy Kidder (page 186)

There are parts of the God I used to believe in that I wish were actually true. Having a God that is external from humanity and unaffected by free will and human desires means God has the potential to actually be all powerful. It means miracles really can happen. And that means I have a wishing well - a real life genie - on whom to cast all my desires. And maybe, if I pray hard enough and long enough and if I'm good enough and believe enough, God will actually throw me a bone. I never realized how much solace I found in that - not until I finally came to understand it as a lie.

The affect of this belief can be devastating. Faced with a difficult situation, people often turn to prayer as a means to rid themselves of the circumstances.  On a similar note, one of the most despicable outcomes I've seen from religion is using God as an excuse to absolve personal responsibility.  I know people who voted a particular way during the last presidential election because the church told them to.  Imagine how many days and weeks they saved by not having to educate themselves and make their own decision based on their personal values!  In the same way, I am personally guilty of praying for financial freedom while continuing to rack up credit card debt because "God will provide".

The truth is, when the going gets rough, hope can be a powerful tool.  Our culture uses prayer to manifest hope, because our logic requires that it come from somewhere.  Remove God and hope dissipates.  This is what I used to believe anyway.  I used to think of my atheist friends and wonder why they even bothered to get out of bed in the morning.

But, cut out the magic genie and what are you left with?  Well, as it turns out, the hope is still there. The difference is I have a greater sense of my own contributions and responsibilities around the problem, which may sound like a burden but is actually quite liberating.  I means I'm not at the mercy of waiting on some giant untouchable guy in the clouds to cast down his predestined end game.  It means I actually have a choice in the matter.  It means my decisions have consequences, good and bad.  And it means I have the opportunity to learn from those choices...that I will always have the opportunity to try again and learn more.  Which brings me back to my earlier post, that each experience is a step in the never-ending evolution of humanity - the epitome of divinity.

And the hope?  The faith?  In the light of this being an infinite process towards a perfection that is constantly being redefined...it's stronger than ever.

Friday, December 2, 2011

Thoughts on God

“…I feel it’s time to start exploring beyond the boundaries of my current faith place. If I feel so stuck by the bible – so much resentment, disbelief, guilt and shame – then what’s preventing me from exploring past it? Oh, right – resentment, guilt and
shame!”
- Excerpt from my journal, February 20, 2010

I was raised to imagine God as this omniscient, omnipresent force external to mankind; like a giant human figure that holds the world in his hands. This giant, intangible being holds also the rulebook to ethics - the truth and absolution between right and wrong. He dangles it before us as individuals, so that if we believe and obey and do everything just right we will be awarded his favor. And, if we fuck up, it's because we gave into temptation. It's because we are weak and imperfect and will never be good enough to earn his full favor - at least not until death. Becase, in death, we are separated from our humanity. Only in separation from humanity can we be truly holy. Because, as we all know, humanity is inherently evil.

I believed in the concept of calling. I believed that God had a road paved for me to individual righteousness - a more fulfuilled and meaningful existence. Love. Pray. Take risks. Have faith. Trust. Believe. I did these things. I did these things and met a sadness and suffering I had never experienced before. But, they said, keep praying. Accept the consequences of your sinful behavior. Focus on authenticity but it must be holy. If it includes desires and choices that are inherently "bad", it must not be authentic. Pray for transformation. Pray for healing. Pray for purpose, to rid yourself of sinful desire, for freedom from patterns. Pray for love.

Two years ago, I thought I was just leaving a relationship in search of something more compatible. But I feel like I've lost everything. My prayers, if they worked at all, were answered opposite from what I had expected. Most surprisingly, my prayer to connect more deeply with God has driven me farther and farther from the God I was raised to believe in. It has driven me to reject Christianity altogether. Moreover, I am disgusted by Christianity.

I'm coming to understand God - if there even is one or if that's even the right word - as the culmination of all creation rather than the creator. It is not a separate entity that continues to exist even if all life fades. Rather, it is an energy. A force that moves towards a benevolence via the beautifully imperfect process of evolution. There is a driving, striving force for what is right - I do believe this. But it is not separate from humanity, rather it lives within each of us. Each thought, feeling, experience and intuition is like an atom and each one of us like a blood cell that floats alongside the whoe of creation to form one, cohesive network that is divinity. Divinity is the culmination of all existence as it is today, and it is different today than it was yesterday and will be something changed again tomorrow. It is not absolute. It is growing. Our individualism matters only in that we are each a part of the whole.

The beauty - the perfection - is in the process. It is not a test or a goal to be achieved, but available to each of us today...right now.

There's immense freedom and grace in this. But the crumbling of 34 years of ideaology and values has been devastating. I've lost so much on my way to discovering my own truth, including (and most painfully) the connection I felt with family.

I'm happy for my life and grateful for my process. It's just that, just as I begin to understand community and connectivity as a key component of divinity, I have never felt so alone.