Saturday, August 20, 2011

Cropping up


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. In the Bible, 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.

Billions of people see God 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 and of love? Is it all the same God?

Shermer believes that through evolution we are hard-wired to believe in something higher than ourselves. 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 and now we are programmed to believe in something more.

So I went round and round on that.  It seemed so meaningless. But I do believe there is a God. I just don't know that what I thought I knew was really who God is. And so here I am, hoping to 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.

I don't know. And now I'm willing to take away all the preconceptions I've had and listen.

5 comments:

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 http://blog.beliefnet.com/projectconversion 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.