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Status Update on God

November 30, 2012

Theist? Nope. I don’t think so. Still in the “don’t believe” category.

But I wanted to reflect on something that I think has been the case for a while. It’s about phrasing and language.

Sometimes, a commenter (like Bonnie, who is quoted below) will make a comment like this:

…you and [God] will have much to talk about together, if you decide that he exists.

The first thing about language that I would point out is that it either a) doesn’t seem to me that one can just “decide” that God exists or b) maybe “deciding” isn’t something that is a conscious process? Either way, it’s not a choice thing. And I would like to point it out every time, but I’ve been working on not doing that as much (although this post is an exception), because it apparently is obnoxious.

But that’s not really what I was going for here. Instead, I’m going to describe a fact pattern, and you can determine what this should be called, or what I should label myself:

1) If someone speaks of God as a real entity, then I’ll speak back when them as if God is a real entity.

When someone like Bonnie says, “You and God will have much to talk about together, if you decide that he exists,” I take a bit of time to get past the “decide” shibboleth…but once I’m past that, I think, “OK, sure, that will be a quaint conversation.”

What does that mean, that I think such a conversation is a possibility? Is that like saying that I accept that God exists?

So, my disbelief these days sounds more like, “It’s possible that a being such as God exists, in the same way that it’s possible a person named Quangyang Yu exists.” In the billions of billions of people on this earth, it could be possible. But whether such a person exists is of little to no concern to me, because I don’t know Mr. Yu (or would that be Mr. Quangyang?) But even more, it’s not just that I don’t know Mr. QYY…it’s that I don’t know of Mr. QYY. After all, even if I don’t know a celebrity figure like Barack Obama, I know of Barack Obama. He is in my perceptual vantage of People Who Are Actually People. Mr. QYY is purely hypothetical. But I mean, not purely hypothetical. Though I don’t know Mr. QYY or know of Mr. QYY, I think that if I did a VLOOKUP of the billions and billions, at least one person would match up.

Maybe the same is true with God?

That raises the question: what does it mean to say one believes in God? Is it just the most minimal sense that if one did a VLOOKUP across the entire universe, one would find a match? Is it in the slightly more intermediate sense that one knows “of” someone, like I know “of” Barack Obama (though I have never met him)? Or is it only in actually knowing someone, like I “know” Bonnie? (Ignoring that on the internet, no one knows you’re a dog.)

But that gets me to the next thing…

2) I take more people’s statements (somewhat) at face value.

I’m pegging this all on the “somewhat” (I’m definitely not a person inclined to believe anything…), but I’m going to say that if certain people I know are speaking of God as being a real entity, then I’ll take them somewhat at face value. In this sense, God is like a mutual acquaintance of ours — except I have never been introduced. I guess this is what it means in Mormonism to “believe on the words of others.”

I still wrap a lot of subjectivity in this…it’s one thing to take a theist’s statement at face value by assuming that because they speak of God, that means God exists…and it’s another thing to take the statement as a statement simply that they believe that God exists (where that belief, and whatever experience is behind it, is certainly a powerful thing.)

With subjectivity comes room for unreliable narrators…a game of telephone where at the end, the message always gets mangled. I know that there are a lot of people who raise the diversity of mutually exclusive deity concepts as evidence against God…and I also know there are people who raise the analogy of blind people feeling different parts of an elephant, describing (with their limited awareness) what they believe to be very different things.

Are all theists talking about the same thing, but just taking away different conclusions? How much of it is them bring themselves to the equation?

I dunno. Is Obama a radical black separatist Christian/anti-theist atheist/radical Muslim born in Kenya?

So, I don’t know where I’m at as far as that…but my disbelief these days sounds more like, “OK, so I haven’t met with God, and he doesn’t seem to answer his phone, but he can call me if he wants.”


From → Uncategorized

  1. Certainly we get in the way of our own perceiving of God. I don’t think it is just blind people feeling out a different elephant. There is also a matter of interpretting non-Divine things as divine. That blind person may find a fense near the elephant and decide it is a part of the elephant. The same is true the other way around. There may be another blind person listening to the other blind people claiming the elephant exists. And that person’s prospective is so much that the elephant doesn’t exist, that even when the elephant touches the person, he interprets it as something else. He may in fact decide its not the elephant because it doesn’t match what he’d expect the experience of the elephant to be like.

    When it comes to spiritual experiences, I take it with a grain of salt. I’m sure I overinterpret sometimes and other times I may under interpret. I also realize that there is no way, except perhaps in death, for me to verify my belief. I have found, for instance, that what I perceive to be the voice of God (private revelation, as defined by my religion), is something I experience in silence. I do not always experience it, and it is not an experience through my ears. It is rather that in spending a half hour an or hour in meditative prayer, I will find the urge to sit and pause. If I’m in the Eucharistic chapel, I will just look at the Eucharist and its like looking into the eyes of someone you love and feeling overwhelmed by their love. Other times it’s not there, but when it is there, occassionally I feel as if I am being spoken to though no words are exchanged. I usually will leave a bible beside me, and typically I find passages that seem to reach a personal level more quickly than I usually do. Other times I’ve interpretted things like a constant question. One was “What do you really want?” and so I kept seeking the answer till I came to realize what was the simpliest desire of my heart: which was to be loved. Then then immediately the recognition came that God loved me more than any human person was capable of loving another person for “God is love.” I still wasn’t satisifed, so I protested and said “but I want someone to love.” and before I finished the thought, I got a sense of the words: “Let Me be your Beloved.”

    How much of that was me? Perhaps all of it? Perhaps humanity has a coping mechanism that benefits from spiritual practices like mediatitive silences. Meanwhile, I have friends who are a part of the charismatic renewal. They’ll get “visions” and be inspired at loud musical events. They’ll claim to be speaking in tongues when they’re speaking gibberish. I tend to find myself more skeptical of such loud experiences. I’ve been in rooms where one person was given the “gift of tongues” (speaking gibberish) and another person claimed to have been given the gift of interpretation of tongues. Apparently it was taken that God was speaking some gibberish language to us all that another person had to interpret. It wasn’t that the message was bad, but I found I could not abandon my skepticism of it.

    We both had our bible versus to defend our opinions, but in the end, there is the humility in allowing yourself to be wrong.

  2. Sorry you don’t feel like he picks up the phone. It’s like calling into a radio show I guess, you get the busy signal 40 times, but when you finally do get through, you hit the jackpot!

  3. Honestly Catholic,

    Thanks for sharing that…interesting.


    I guess I haven’t looked at it like a radio show, haha.

  4. Radio show host sounds like a terrible way for the Ultimate Power and Reality of the Created Universe to have a personal relationship with His child.

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