Sunday 16 September 2007

The God Conclusion - Was It a Stupid Question?

This post is dedicated to you, Tiska, for always, always asking the right questions.

From Fact to Conclusion
All knowledge that is accepted as fact and not opinion invites you to draw a conclusion. Every time you read a fact in a newspaper or in a book, or watch a documentary on TV, or get your news from the Internet, every time you hear something you accept to be true, you are being invited to draw a conclusion, have an opinion, and take a stand. Even if you had a book about everything we as human beings know to be true, and you understood and believed every last word of it, you would still feel not just invited but compelled to draw a conclusion based on that information. A non-factual conclusion.

Which are You?
Have you drawn a conclusion about God? For some, opening a bible, praying at a mosque, or just looking up God on Wikipedia may well produce enough information about God to draw a conclusion. For others, experiences like these are not nearly enough. God would only be a product of a rational argument, whose existence must be proven by logic beyond any shadow of a doubt.

God's Invitation
My view is that, wherever your beliefs lie, if your antennae are set to the right frequency, you will be able to discern an unmistakable signal, coming clear through the static of all the information you've ever received, as the broadcast of a simple invitation. And what, you may reasonably ask, is the nature of this invitation, especially if I don't even believe there is a God? Well, just like with any stream of information, you are being invited to draw a conclusion.

If You Believe...
If you have drawn a conclusion in favour of God, whether through others' interpretations or your own, you likely know, or think you know, that communication from God is possible. You know that God exists, and you may even know God quite well.

If You Don't...
If God does not communicate to you, you have no logical reason to believe in God or to believe that God exists. You know that, in spite of all the arguments made for and against the existence of God, there is and will never be a universally-accepted way to prove beyond a doubt that God does or does not exist. So, if God does not communicate to you, then for you, there is no God. That is your conclusion.

Communications Protocol
With that in mind, I want to tell you about how I think God communicates to all of us, in the hope that, if you do not know God and you might someday wish to, you will recognize something in that communication protocol that might someday apply to you, and you may be able to use that protocol, if you don't already, to receive similar communications. If you already know God, or even if you just think you do but aren't sure, it may interest you to know whether there is any overlap in the method of these communications. If you do not know God and do not wish to ever again entertain the prospect of doing so, you may now choose to leave this page and assume that, in so doing, you will be subject to my condemnation of your soul-less, amoral, empty, existence. Either that, or you may read on and discover why I think any such condemnation is completely ridiculous.

The God Signal
Depending who you are, I may be no more acquainted with God than you are. In fact, I may very well be less acquainted with God than you are. But it is both my blessing and my curse that I do seem to have been built with or molded into a very finely attuned receiver for certain types of signals. You can debate, as I certainly have for a very long time, whether or not these signals should actually be interpreted as "God signals", but I can now say with some level of confidence, along with a healthy fear of rebuke, that God communicates with me more or less directly, not altogether without an intermediary, but more with a single signal beamed through a multitude of intermediaries. The message I get from that signal, is that whether God also communicates to you on a very high level, or on a very basic level, God does speak to all of us.

Spirit Exercise
Whoever you are, and whatever you believe, and whether you even care or not, what that signal essentially says is that you really should care; that you really should make a commitment to exploring and exercising your spirit the way you know that you are supposed to do with your body and your mind. There is a need to feed the spirit the way we feed our bodies, to express our spirituality the way we express our emotions, and exercise our "God muscles" the way we exercise each of the important muscles in our bodies. Only in this way can the spirit be allowed to perform at peak efficiency and give us the best lives that we can achieve.

Why Did I Win the Jackpot?
This can sometimes be a little tricky, because, for the most part, God does not communicate in answers. God primarily communicates in questions, which makes charting out an exercise regimen a little more work. One of the first questions generally asked about God when deciding whether or not to establish such a regimen is whether or not God exists. It is an important question, to be sure, but this is a question about God, not from God. Wondering about whether God exists, rather than wondering about the nature of God, is a little like winning the jackpot from a slot machine and wondering whether you deserved it or not. Maybe you deserved it, maybe you didn't, you have the money now and you must decide now what to do with it. In other words, it is more instructive and beneficial to contemplate the true nature of God not as a source of the universe, but as a property of it.

God The Phenomenon
If you must look deeply into the question of existence, you will likely agree that, at the very least, God is a definition of a phenomenon. In this sense, God exists in the same way that Love or Fairness, or even Evil, exists. Ask ten people to define any of these things, or to describe their experience of them, and you will of course get ten different answers. There will be little agreement and a whole series of factors that influence how they are experienced. That these are things that we feel deeply when presented with in a particular set of circumstances, however, there can be no doubt. If we can feel them and speak about them, then they do exist in some measure.

Does True Love Exist?
Anyone who has ever been in love knows that an attempt to deconstruct the whole concept is inevitably doomed to failure. Why do I love this person, and why does this person love me? Depending on who you ask, true love may or not exist; it may merely be about acceptance, coincidence, common background, or even the elusively defined chemistry. Whatever it comes down to on a molecular level, love is a phenomenon that, it is generally acknowledged, is better to have in your life than absent from it. This may not prove the existence of the concept of true love, it may indeed just be about two mammals that share common traits, but it certainly seems that it would be a concept you'd want to embrace if it were going to make your life better.

Intuition is Not Science
A reasonable response to this might be that knowing something by intuition is not knowing that thing at all, that only that which can be quantifiably measured, precisely defined, independently verified, and scientifically proven can be said to exist, and only things that we know to exist are worthy of contemplation. According to this argument, what separates science from conjecture is that a scientific fact that began as someone's intuition (think of gravity) then underwent this process until enough evidence was gathered and arguments made that a consensus was reached to consider it true. This is indeed a worthy standard for knowledge, but I believe it also serves as a double standard when turned against the argument for God. For a very long time, a basic argument pertaining to God has been advanced through myths and religions all over the world, and, consistently throughout the ages, the amount of adherents, intelligent adherents, to the basic principle of God, stripped of all interpretive manifestations, would seem to satisfy all but the most exacting standards of scientific confirmation. Above the fray of the most basic scientific facts, I know of no all-encompassing theories in science that enjoy this level of independent verification.

Can't Fool Me
A reason for the existence of this double standard may be that there is, among the competitively intelligent in this time of keen scientific insight, a deep aversion to being duped, and the aversion becomes even deeper when the argument that they are being asked to accept is coming from a source whose intelligence level is sometimes perceived to be inferior, and often actually is. It is my suspicion that some of this tendency enters the discussion of God. Faith in God has nothing to do with intelligence, and therefore, to a person of intelligence who inherently questions the validity of faith or the existence of God and recognizes the complexity in such considerations, there may be a tendency to reason that, because faith is sometimes practiced by people whom the competitively intelligent person perceives as less intelligent, it must therefore be the case that the argument for faith is an inferior one. If this describes you, you just haven't met enough of us heretics.

Do Unto Others
Of course, that sword cuts both ways. If, in the certainty of your faith, you believe that all sceptics and perhaps even all scepticism is an inevitable path to cyncism and eternal hoplessness, you need to get a grip. Being cautious about something so fundamental to human life as faith is not only smart, but pretty wise, too. It may be true that, if you don't stand for something, you'll fall for anything, but it is equally true that, by standing for something, you may have already fallen for it. I personally don't believe that there is anyone who cannot be converted to at least some type of faith, but if someone does not share your faith and cannot comprehend the joy with which you deliver your gospel, that does not mean that that person cannot comprehend or experience similar joy.

God The Delusion
As part of this question of existence, God is often portrayed, in this time of the great flowering of human knowledge, as a delusion, a hazily considered and popularly accepted end point, at which the answers stop and the questions become unanswered or unanswerable, and beyond which the individual intellectual powers of one person, or even groups of people, cannot venture. Consider this for a moment. What is a delusion but a dream applied to the world of the logically awake, an inability to understand the boundary between the world of the dream and the world through which our physical bodies move? There are many ideas on why our bodies insist on dreaming, but whether a dream is a way of organizing our thoughts, or is the product of antennae picking up signals that we can't access while awake, can we really claim that there is no value in listening to what our dreams tell us? Have you never awoken from a dream with a crystal clear solution to a problem you needed to solve in reality? Can we stop dreaming? Is the way to understand our dreams to force ourselves to stop? Certainly we can try to figure out why we dream, and how, but, seeing that we do dream and aren't likely to stop doing so any time soon, shouldn't we look also at the benefits of dreaming, and how we can apply those benefits, even as we continue to try to unravel the mysteries of the dream?

God The Dream
What if we chose to see that lucid dream clearly structured in the same way that we hear music beautifully realized, existing in some space both within and apart from the physical instrument on which it was produced? Would we find the greatest value in standing with arms crossed in the shadows descontructing the notes, or would we want to start dancing, singing, or playing along? It is the music produced, the image of the dream, that resonates most deeply with most of us, but there is, for those whose compulsion it is to understand what creates what we see and hear, a beauty, complexity and depth in the notes themselves; their frequency, their pitch, the vibrations that enable us to hear them. But even at the core of their essence, resides an unidentifiable noise, a hum, elemental and close to basic principles perhaps, but really just another kind of music, radiating nonetheless behind all the words, numbers, and ideas we use to label all its components. We have to call it something, so the sounds we call music, and the dream, the delusion, we call God.

Stupid Question
The whole thing was summed up rather neatly for me the other day when I was having a conversation with a very good friend of mine about a previous post. She made one of those comments people make sometimes that resonate because they put words to something you have yourself thought many times, but have never converted to language. "I hate when you're talking about this type of thing and people ask if I believe that God exists", she said, "That's such a stupid question."

A Better Question
Stupid question, indeed. If we can all agree that there is no way to logically prove or disprove the existence of God, isn't the better question "Is my life better with a God or without a God?". This is a question that all of us can at least answer with some degree of personal certainty.

Who Is This Guy?
It's worth mentioning that I speak not here of God the parent, God the designer, or God the granter of wishes. The God whose signal I hear does not have a gender, or kids, or a chosen person or people, except insofar as stories told about God, or stories told about anything, must have characters, concepts and settings that we recognize and identify with in order for us to be able to consider them. The God whose footprints I see does not require devotion or sacrifice of life, or any particular course of action on your part or mine to show our understanding and appreciation. This God does not personally reward or punish behaviour by sending good luck or bad luck our way. Any reward comes intrinsically from knowing God, and the only punishment, if it can even be called that, is the absence of that relationship. Either way, neither this relationship nor its absence makes it any more or less likely that any of us is going to get struck by lightning or hit by a bus.

Us And Them
Whatever has been done in the name of God by people and groups of people throughout our history, this God's nature is truly worthy of consideration and wonder. The point is not that any particular set of stories, myths or religions have gotten it right or got it wrong; this is not about the believers versus the infidels, or armies of the faithful vanquishing once and for all the legions of the doubtful. The lives of the people in these stories and the ideas these people pursued are indeed worthy of contemplation, our contemplation. In every way, however old or new these myths are, wherever they come from, they are all merely reflections in pool of our own shared lives, sometimes vivid and clear, sometimes pale and murky, but always and unmistakably in our own image.

Many Messengers, One Message
The point, rather, is that no one messenger is any more valuable than any other; s/he just speaks a different language, uses a different set of symbols, or broadcasts on a different frequency. That some may frame their ideas in a way that is easier to hear and easier to understand for a certain audience, shows only that people with different backgrounds and different realities respond to different signals. God communicates with us all the time, through everyone and everything around us. The more of these languages we learn, and the more channels into which we are tuned, the more we open ourselves to communication from God. From the most gigantic of stars and the furthest reaches of space, through us, and all the way down through the most elemental particles and the unimaginably minute systems they themselves seem to contain, anywhere that thought is made into something that can be measured, God communicates.

Manic Street Preacher?
I can imagine what you might be thinking; this guy who claims to get messages from God, this all sounds a bit off to me. How much bad stuff has happened when a person thinks he is God's Chosen One and manages to persuade a whole bunch of people that's true?

Or Regular Guy?
Well, don't worry, if you are one of those who knows me, you know that I'm not one of those guys. And if you don't know me, let me help to put your doubts at rest. I am not God's Chosen One any more than you are, or any less than you are. I'm a son, a father, a brother, a husband, a friend, a colleague, a coach, and a poor singer, among rather many other things, most of which would be considered even by a normal person as being completely normal. I am a guy with a family that I love and cherish, many very close friends whom I adore and appreciate, and a bunch of stuff I can't really afford. I don't have any special powers, I can't heal with my hands, I can't walk on water, and I won't ascend to heaven carried by a heavenly host of angels, at least not in any literal sense. I am fallible, impatient, sometimes vain, and often ruled by desire. I have no interest in hanging on a cross, poisoning all my followers, or going down in a hail of bullets as they storm my compound. I wouldn't mind getting on Oprah, though.

Take Me To The River
The one thing I cannot change, is that I am absolutely compelled to bring you this message. If I close my mouth, my hands find paper or a keyboard; if my hands cannot find paper or keyboard, my actions find a way to communicate on my behalf. When the river of thought comes, it must somehow manifest itself in something tangible. I don't know why this is true and I often wish it weren't, but it is. But I'm no guru, in fact I reject the whole concept of gurus, and I have no interest in leading you to the Promised Land. For that you need either God or a really good travel agent.

Adjust Your Antennae
And, though it may seem like it sometimes, God is not hiding. Go to church, go to your temple, or mosque, or wherever else it is where you think you'll have the best chance at bumping into God, but don't take that to mean that involvement in religion automatically reveals God. Go to your encyclopedia, your science books, your novels, your music collection, your workplace, set up your antennae anywhere within the panoply of thoughts and tasks and actions that make up everyday life for everyone, and listen for the signal. But don't take this to mean that the signal will be easy to find, or that everyone everywhere is always in tune with God.

The God Channel
For we know in our hearts, as we run from appointment to appointment, flip from channel to channel, and surf from site to site, that we have, in many ways, trained ourselves away from picking up the God Channel on our wireless antennae. The entire history of the heavens and the earth rushes through every protein in every cell within us and every atom we bump up against and contain, and yet even as we evolve toward what we are convinced is deeper understanding, we evolve away from our essential selves. This deeply personal, secret, spiritual, intellectual, emotional life within each one of us, most of which is hidden from the world and part of which we keep hidden even from ourselves, is the manifestation of the essence of being into living thought. This inner life is the channel through which God communicates, and this is the life that should be given every opportunity to manifest itself in our lives at large.

The Noise That Jams The Signal
But, in drawing our conclusions that will affect this inner life, we must be wary, recognizing that all of the other channels, the scientific, the religious, the artistic, the commercial, already contain some interpretations; the interpretations of certain facts made by their own creator or creators. We must adjust our antennae so that we can discern where knowledge ends and interpretation begins, for, in the same way that all knowledge of fact invites us to draw a conclusion, so all interpretations of fact made by others discourage us from reaching interpretations and drawing conclusions that are truly our own. We must resist the temptation to let others draw our conclusions. Our real souls are not influenced or affected by the interpretations, opinions and theories of others. Our real souls, the eternal ones, are on God's frequency. Cut through all the noise, and the signals are everywhere.

All that is left for us is to learn to tune in.

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