Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cropping up

Slate has a great little clipping of crop circle art I thought worth mentioning. You can view 'em here

Something else that's been on my mind is who is this God character? Yes, really. I used to think I knew. I also realize that by writing this it is unrelatable to a lot of you who read my blog. But this is in my head.

I used to think I knew. I'd been told all about God. I knew God. I had this idea of him. I prayed to God. God answered. God was a He and God had a wife (but we weren't allowed to talk about her). God was God. I even admit to believing I'd had an actual vision of God when I was 17. Now I sound crazy. I'm not kidding.

Anyway, I'm to a point where the walls have been stripped and I am really, truly examining everything I've ever been told. Everything I've been told simply relies on faith instead of physical evidence. There is no way to actually prove what one faith or another says about God, the God (if there is just one or many, male or female even).

I'm reading Michael Shermer's book "The Believing Brain" right now. It's all about why we believe the things we do about everything from ghosts to God to politics even. He's a total cynic (he does put out Skeptic magazine, afterall). It's made me question my own experiences. I wonder if I've hallucinated. I've seen some really weird stuff. Stuff other people don't see. I mean it. I could tell you, but it might confirm I'm crazy. Maybe I'll tell you someday.

However, there are many stories out there of actual encounters with God. Moses saw God face to face. I was raised in a faith that purportedly started with not just a vision, but an actual visitation. God spoke to the founding prophet Joseph Smith at 14. But something I've realized is that not just prophets see God. People, ordinary people, have seen the Almighty, have had encounters with Jesus and the prophets and angels and all sorts of things they swear really happened. And some of these reports conflict.

And some of what I've been told about God is also conflicting for me. Billions of people see God (Gods, the Universe, whatever you want to call the force of all creation) in many, many, many divergent ways. Why???

No really, think about it? Why are there so many different versions of God? And why has this God somehow formed from gods to God, from violent and exacting to loving and forgiving? To okaying the destruction of neighboring tribes and peoples (genocide) to becoming the God of the whole Universe? Is it all the same God?

Shermer believes that through evolution we are hard-wired to believe in something higher than ourselves. Basically, because it formed bonds and helped us make sense of our surroundings, find meaning in patterns and gave us a set of rules to help us survive, we are programmed to believe in something more. Further, because we need this higher power idea to survive, it feels good to believe in God.

So I went round and round on that. How did I explain my world without God? It seemed so meaningless. And then concluded some things have no meaning. But for the unexplainable I have to believe still, there is a God. I just don't know what I thought I knew was really who God is. And so here I am, hoping to sit back and actually observe how God operates.

Who is God is not a question easily answered. Religions try but really that's just one fraction, one idea from whoever put it together and based it on previous notions about God.

One of Smith's wives, Eliza R. Snow, was a poetess who attempted to address the Mormon version of God:

In the heavens are parents single? No, the thought makes reason stare!
Truth is reason, truth eternal Tells me I've a mother there.

Sikhs believe the whole Universe and everything in it is God. You are God, I am God, all the stars, all the air we breath, all the heavens and even the tiniest molecules and the stuff that makes up stardust, all God. This is God. We are a part of a whole. We are gods as a part of God. A collective consciousness.

It's a beautiful idea and something in it resonates with me as a truth. That could just be an emotion. This might take some time.

Perhaps there is a God, the God and the stuff we are made of literally came from this God (I'm careful not to assign a gender here) and it is all around us and through us and in us and since we are made of this God's material, we are God's "children". And perhaps there is one God but there are many of us and perhaps it is something our brains can barely even strain to grasp. Or perhaps God really is that Zeus guy, looking down on us from above and having relationships with our women, much to the chagrin of his wife. Or perhaps God is the moon, or the really fat idol dolls found in pre-historic Europe. Or God is the silent watchmaker, creating us and letting us go our own way. Or even an alien being from Kolob...

What I'm getting at is I don't know and I didn't actually know before I just didn't know I didn't know. And now I'm willing to take away all the preconceptions I've had and actually listen. I just hope God speaks to me (and that it is not an hallucination).


abby said...

This is slightly off topic, but you might want to look at this blog about one man's try at 12 different religions in one year What I found interesting is how much he found in common between all the different religions he is exploring.

SJ said...

That is interesting. I read all the ones about the his Mormon experience. It was funny he had to keep telling the missionaries he wasn't interested in converting for real. Of course.

I've often wondered if I were brought up in a different faith that seemed equally strange from the outside if I would see the deeper nuances and recognize that as the truth as well. The LDS faith seems really weird if you explain it to people but having been raised in it I see why people believe in it, too.

Steve said...

Abby, via that blog, makes a good point. Also, related to that book, do we all, no matter the religion, tend to believe more or less the same thing for a reason or because it is easier or nicer to do that?

As for being raised outside Mormon culture and then exposed neck deep into it like I was, yes, it is VERY hard to understand and make sense of. In fact, all FACTS seem to make it less plausible than other established religions. Although, is that simply due to the others being around longer, thus harder to dispute "facts" or the fact we are used to them being around.

Bottom line, no matter what someone believes, it is almost impossible to persuade them one way or another with facts because faith is almost 100% established on anything BUT facts, no matter the religion.

SJ said...

And according to Shermer we first believe and then look for that which supports our belief, ignoring anything to the contrary. We do this with everything, not just religion.

Steve said...

SJ - Plenty of studies have shown this to be true, especially with politics. In fact, it is the primary reason Fox News is so successful, and I'm not being sarcastic or making a joke here. These are the facts! It has to do with the difference on how conservatives and liberals think.