For the context of the following comments please click on the hyperlinks above them.
(Continuing from previous post … The following conversations are from the Patheos hosted blog – “Rational Doubt” – Guest blogger is an Mary Johnson. She is a ex-nun who lost her faith and now considers herself an atheist.)
[note: There were a couple other conversational threads that have not been included. (They were with Eoin O’Brien and Anita if you feel the need for more.) For now, I want to resolve the tension with a record of a brief interaction with Mary Johnson.]
Mary Johnson – “Brmckay, I appreciate your questions. ‘But what about God?’ or, ‘What about the cultivation of authenticity?’ or, ‘What about the discovery of True Self?’ or, ‘Awe, reverence and wonder?’
I’m all for awe, reverence, and wonder. I think they are part of the glory of life. I identified these experiences, often self-transcendent experiences, as experiences of God for most of my life. For the last decade or so, I’ve experienced awe, reverence, and wonder without a belief in God.
Like some others in this discussion, I’ve come to understand God as a human invention. God is a way to explain things, something that gives us meaning, something to hope for. I believe God is conceited of our human fears and desires, as well as our awe and wonder.
For me, cultivating authenticity means, among other things, setting the bar of evidence very high. Before, I was willing to believe based on tradition and what others told me. Especially when my experiences of awe and wonder corresponded with what I was told about God. But I saw up close how religious leaders often use the concept of God to control others. I also learned a lot about the human propensity to tell stories.
I’m all for authenticity and awe, but the human tradition of God no longer makes much sense to me.
If there is some sort of supreme something or other, it seems to me that it wouldn’t correspond with anything I’ve heard humans talk about when they talk about God. Even the early fathers of the church used to say that anything we humans say about God will be more unlike God that like God. (that is not to be construed as a concession to God-belief, but as a recognition that humility in the face of things that very well may be beyond us might be a good idea.
This seems more intellectually honest to me.“
Thank you so very much for your response and especially for the even tenor of it. Which, is the quality in your original post that attracted me to respond. (Risking an all too familiar scuffle with the guardians at the gate.)
If you have not read Vivekananda there is an excellent compilation of his talks and writing called “Pathways to Joy” – edited by Dave Deluca. I just came upon it recently and was (seriously!) delighted by it’s confirmation of my fumbling intuitions.
I have the same gripe with the general trend of atheism, as I do with the general trend of Christianity. Both reinforce habits of thought that keep us in orbit around the personal and microscopic self. The “abstracted” sense of “otherness” that imprisons us in a mistaken identity with the finite, relative world of senses and form.
I feel compelled to voice my concerns, because the children’s children’s children need to know, that humans have for millennia instinctively sought out and mastered the fundamental Truth that we are One and not different from the All. i.e. God.
Yes there are many blind alleys to go down. But the simple virtues of honesty, integrity, authenticity, love of Truth will always sort us out. This is built in. The very nature of the process. The more these qualities resound in our being, the more proof we provide to our fellows.
Don’t use the word God if it blocks *your* understanding, but burning the bridge for others (even just in your own attitude) is “something extra” that does not serve. It sustains a genre of “blind alleys” that will only confuse those who you may influence.
I hope to inspire you to be more like this:
“Even the early fathers of the church used to say that anything we humans say about God will be more unlike God that like God.”
With out the need for this:
“(that is not to be construed as a concession to God-belief, but as a recognition that humility in the face of things that very well may be beyond us might be a good idea.”
For one thing; many, many, many have found the way home. Leaving a record of their journeys. This is at least as vital a legacy as all the miraculous parsings of scientific discovery.
Our energies should be directed to avoiding “real” mistakes. These we can be easily determine by their outward effects. War, cruelty, self aggrandizement, greed, murder, rape, enslavement, pollution, discrimination, inequality, etc. etc.
At the root of all these outward manifestations, is the fatal flaw, our fundamental ignorance. A confusion of identity.
Mary Johnson – “Like you, I value honesty, integrity, authenticity, and love of truth. I also believe that we are all far more connected than we usually acknowledge. I think I’ll still refrain from use of the word God, even as a shortcut for mystery or energy or love or transcendence or any of the many other ways the term is used. When I want to talk about mystery, I’ll use the word mystery. When I want to talk about love, I’ll use the word love. Things just seem clearer that way. I do appreciate your search for honesty and for love, and your repeated, patient attempts at a real discussion. I sense a great heart behind your words. Thanks for being here.
Thank you. [heaves a great sigh of relief]