Monday, 22 February 2021

How should we see God? Lent 2021, Day Six

For those who do not believe in a divine, supernatural power, there is no God - it's as easy as that. Life's an accident, live it as best you can, for when you die - it's all over, Player One.

For those that do believe in a divine, supernatural power, there are as many Gods as there are believers. Even if you take a devout follower of any organised religion, you'll find under examination that there are differences between the religion's stated doctrines and what that individual follower really believes.

Believers in a divine supernatural power can be generally grouped into those prepared to accept a given truth, revealed through holy texts, and those who seek their own truth, one that squares with their deepest and most honest thoughts on the matter.

Brutal honesty, constant winnowing of one's thinking to weed out cognitive bias, is crucial in this process. If you seek power, wealth or fame, you will be used to bending the truth to obtain your goals. But if you are seeking truth, you must not be swayed by wishful thinking, intellectual shortcuts or pre-digested, one-size-fits-all answers.

Over the next 40 days, I will be expanding on my beliefs, and how they have gained shape and clarity over the years. It is a deeply personal journey - hence I believe that the way to understand God is not with a crowd but alone. Alone, though aided by people who are likely to challenge your thinking, rather than by people who merely go along with what you are going along with.

Familiarity and comfort are offered by organised religions; peace of mind at the cost of acceptance. 

My main gripe with organised religion is how easy it is to turn a deeply spiritual purpose into a form of social control, be it to do with controlling our behaviour or defining 'us' vs 'the others'. Strip away the history and the trappings, a religion has its own continued existence to worry about. Any ecumenical movement that strays too far in terms of building bridges with other religions tends to get sidetracked.

And yet in our Universe of a couple of hundred billion galaxies, each of a couple of hundred billion stars, if there is a God - there is but one God, undivided by dogmas or histories. The same God for every one of those stars, and for everything in between, for everything conscious that ever existed and is ever to exist. A Universal God, certainly not human in form (such conceit! Such geocentrism!), certainly not for our human minds to grasp. And the notion that God is male (or indeed female) is again a sure sign of limited imagination. Given that we have so many unanswered questions regarding the nature of the Universe, we can only hope to see God as a Mystery, something that we are unlikely to unravel during the course of a lifetime. All we can aspire to, in our 80 or 90 years, is to get closer to God, to rise a bit further from the primordial, towards the angelic.

The earliest known religious rituals uncovered by archeologists related to funerals. The death of a member of a tribe would indeed hasten questions regarding the purpose of life and an afterlife, genuine questions that - if answered plausibly with a strong story - could hasten one's ascent within the tribe's hierarchy. Respect and veneration to them that could explain the world in supernatural terms which would fit most closely with the tribe's observations and hopes.

In the times of the early hunter-gatherer tribes, building a religion would be a sensible activity. It would bind the tribe with a set of shared rituals and experiences, and bring comfort to those mourning the loss of loved ones. But those who built those proto-religions could also use them for personal gain. By linking their power within the group to a higher power, they could impose their will on the others, and so a proto-priesthood would form...

Rejecting God is today seen as analogous with rejecting those who seek to control the individual. I would argue against believing in any God that has been devised by humans for that purpose. Instead, I'd seek to refine what I mean by God, a concept far harder to grasp than one devised by committee to function as an ultimate authority.

God should not be seen as an instrument of social control. God should be seen primarily in terms of a purpose, a will, a force, a goal, a journey, a destination, a destiny - of which we are all a part.

This time last year:
Live fast or live slow? Preparing for Lent

This time two years ago
Warsaw growing in the sun

This time three years ago:
Of Consciousness and Will across the universe

This time five years ago:
The Devil is indeed Doubt

This time six years ago:
Are you aware of your consciousness?

This time seven years ago:
"Why are all the good historians British?"

This time nine years ago:
Central Warsaw, evening rush-hour

This time ten years ago:
Cold and getting colder

This time 12 years ago:
Uwaga! Sople!

This time 13 years ago:
Ul. Poloneza at its worst

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