Posts Tagged ‘God’

The promo for Thursday night’s Nightline on ABC caught my attention: “Does Satan Exist?” Face-Off. The debate line up featured Mark Driscoll of Mars Hill Church in Seattle, Deepak Chopra, Bishop Carlton Pearson, and some girl who founded Hookers for Jesus (no, seriously). I’ve been an admirer of Carlton Pearson and have blogged about his departure from evangelicalismbefore. I’ve also made no secret my support of Deepak Chopra in many blog posts. It was sure to be a dust up, so I watched.

The problem is there were only teaser clips from the most heated parts of the debate and neither view was given any length of time to be properly explored. I thought Deepak came across as angry most of the time, but I guess that comes with the territory when you’re on defense in a church full of people who think you are the anti-Christ. The Hookers for Jesuschick really needs some therapy, in my opinion. I thought Carlton Pearson was graceful as always. Mark Driscoll came across as a guy trying to get PR for himself and his church, who happened to host the event and pass out fliers to the attendees as they were leaving.

I think the unedited full length debate is far more informative than the 30 minute commericial-filled show, but overall I think it was a desperate ratings ploy for the dying Late Night news variety show. Just put Jimmy Kimmel on at 11:30pm est already!!!

Oh, as to the question of whether “Does Satan Exist?”, my answer is emphatically, “No!” I gave up on that a few years ago, along with sin, hell, and neurotic religion-induced guilt. I’m free!  I suppose most people would want a little more substantive explanation, but I really don’t have the intellectual energy to spend on the subject at the moment. Here’s my short take on it:

  • “Satan” is a means of avoiding personal responsibility for your own issues
  • “Satan” is a strained attempt to come to grips with the problem of human suffering
  • “Satan” is another means of religion using fear to manipulate people

The oft used excuse was used in the show a couple times that “The best thing Satan could do is to convince people he doesn’t exist” or some equivalent thereof. That’s a fairly weak argument. Deepak said that a belief in Satan was “primitive,” which got a rouse out of Mark Driscoll who accused Chopra of belittling believers. The point is that believing in Satan is literally one of the most “primitive” beliefs in human history, and its equivalent can be found in the oldest of all religions in ancient history. It’s akin to animal sacrifice, superstitions, etc.

The other argument made in the show was that you cannot believe Satan does not exist and believe that God DOES exist, that you cannot have one without the other. Therein is a slippery slope upon which few will dare to tread. It is my belief that the fundamentalist dogmatic view of God is dead as well as Satan, but that’s a whole other blog post or two or three or a hundred.

I recently finished reading Why is God Laughing? by Deepak Chopra with a foreward from Mike Myers. The book peaked my interest because I saw an episode of Iconoclast featuring both of them together some time ago. The book is also ficiton.  A comic comes to grips with the death of his father and all of the big questions that haunt us with the help of a spiritual mentor of sorts. Both characters seem like alter egos of both Chopra and Myers interestingly enough. I recommend the book as an easy, entertaining, and enlightening book. At the end of the book there is a section called “The Path to Joy: Ten Principles of Spiritual Optimism,” which I enjoyed as much if not more than the whole book. One section made me think more than usual:

Can a loving God  really supply us with life’s good things one day and pain the next? Most people who feel grateful to God tend to deny that he is also responsible for disease, calamity, and death. yet an all-knowing, all-powerful diety can’t be responsible for only part of what goes on. Either he sustains everything or nothing.

The way to escape from living under a God who brings pleasure one day and pain the next is to realize that God isn’t a person. We only call God “he” because our minds resist thinking of God as a total abstraction. In truth, being total, God has to be abstract. you can’t wrap your mind around the All. Instead, we wrap our minds around the things we notice, and choose to believe in.

I’m not really sure what to do with God anymore, as I’m sure he doesn’t know what to do with me either, assuming either of us are really real. This thought provoking excerpt challenges the assumptions that I grew up with. I have never read or heard Deepak say anything that would disavow the existence or presence of God in our lives, but he regularly challenges our preconceived ideas in order to stretch our imaginations. To think of God as a person like us completely baffles my mind. If he is a person like us, he is either powerless, ignorant, or a bigger prick than anyone can fathom. The problem of human suffering is one of the biggest hurdles to the argument of an all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-loving God. K + P + L ≠ G in any conceivable way to me. Evangelicals reconcile the problem by blaming us for our own misery, i.e. sin. I don’t have the time nor the stomach to go down the road refuting apologetics at the moment. Suffice it to say that most of the classical theological positions don’t measure up to science, common sense, or even common decency that one would expect from an all-loving God. It seems that many of the problems I have and maybe others is that we think of God as a person and try to force our expectations and assumptions upon that image. 

In both this book and others Deepak talks about God as the All, the unifying force creating and sustaining everything we know as reality (my words not his). That helps me to think about God in a different way, albeit more distanced. I’m still not sure if I believe in a unifying force in the world that we tap into, ignore, or abuse at our peril, anymore than I do the Judeo-Christian view that many of us were raised with. The jury’s still out on the subject for me, but I appreciate being challenged to think about God in a different way before giving up on the idea altogether.

I’ve been thinking a lot about sin lately. No, I don’t have a guilty conscience. Quite the opposite. My conscience has never been clearer, although I think my fundy friends would say that it’s been “seared with a hot iron.” I consider it liberated from guilt theology. The big question of the day: is it even possible to sin? My short answer: no.

At a recent Interfaith Dialogue I was struck by how Judaism, Islam, and Christianity are so dominated by sin consciousness. The primary thrust of each religion appeared to be an attempt to find atonement for sin and be reconciled to God. My favorite college professor delievered the guest sermon at church yesterday. His teaching, along with Brennan Manning’s books, helped me to overcome the narcissistic guilt I inherited in the church growing up. True to form he preached about God’s forgiveness and willful forgetfulness of our sins. That is a very necessary message to help people come out of the trap that is fundamentalism. It’s like opening the prison doors and setting people free. I don’t want to play off the Matrix too much, but at this stage of the journey I’ve come to realize that there is no prison to begin with. We are imprisoned only by the smallness of our minds.

To tell guilt-ridden believers that there is no sin would probably do more harm than good. If they didn’t write you off as blasphemous but actually considered the possibility, it might well throw them into a theological tailspin. I read yesterday in Deepak Chopra’s book Quantum Healing that researchers proved that if newborn kittens are blindfolded within the first few days before their eyes are opened that they will be blind for life. Although they have perfectly healthy eyes, something gets crosswired in their brains permanently blinding them. Conditioning, especially in our formative years, is so powerful that it can cripple a person for life.

One of the statements that resonated with me so strongly months ago regarding the reality of sinfulness was made by Micael Ledwith in What the Bleep Do We Know!?:

The single greatest obstacle to our evolution is the way our culture often views God – as a God sitting up somewhere “registering the scores on his laptop as to whether we perform according to his designs or whether we’re offending him, as it’s put, an absolutely outrageous idea. How could we offend God? How could it matter so much to him? How could it, above all, matter that he would find it so serious a situation that he could conform us to an eternity of suffering? These are bizarre ideas.And they are bizarre ideas: that in this vast universe, where there are more galaxies than grains of sand in all the oceans, that in that vastness, a group of people – well, men actually – on a small planet got the exclusive franchise for the pearly gate arches of heaven. And every other being in the universe will spend an eternity of suffering in hell. It’s hard to imagine a more bizarre idea. And if that’s the sort of God you believe in, you just have to wonder: How does that affect your view of the world?

The more you think about it sin appears to be nothing more than a means of control. We’ve seen repeatedly in history how the dangers of hellfire can be a useful tool for the church to keep even Kings in line. It was just such a mockery that prompted Martin Luther to nail the 95 Thesis to the Wittenburg door, “As the coin in the coffer rings, another soul from pergatory springs.”

Is sin real? Is it possible to sin? Does our sinfulness really offend God? You couldn’t tell by looking around. If God is offended by our sinfulness or brokenhearted over our suffering, He doesn’t seem to do a hell of a lot about it. Does He? You cannot convince me that God or the Supreme Being or the Unified Field or the Force is offended by you lusting after a girl, failing to pay your tithes, or skipping out on church. So what is sin?

I think the word “sin” is damaged goods and loaded with baggage. I don’t think you can sin against God, but you can “sin” against your neighbor. As humans we have enormous potential for cruelty, as well as for good. Our pain and anger over the imbalance of justice in the world feeds the need for religions of atonement and damnation. We have this innate need to have our consciences cleared and believe that those who do evil will be punished in the next life to make the scales balance out again. When injury is done to another, the real consequence is that the whole of life is somehow diminished and robbed of joy, not that someone will burn in hellfire for all time.

It is a cold hard fact to grasp that the rich and poor, the kind and the cruel alike, will all die and turn to dust. There is evil and suffering in the world, and much of it has never been made right. I’ve learned that it is a common misconception that many people believe that one of the basic tenets of Buddhism is that “life is suffering.” That is not true. Apparently the appropriate translation reads that “life contains suffering.” No amount of labeling and fear-mongering is going to change that. It’s been tried for the last few thousand years and look where it’s gotten us. Why not try a radically different approach? Instead of telling people how worthless, how no good, and how sinful they are, why don’t we try showing people the incredible potential they have as persons and as a collective whole? Now there’s a novel idea.

Maybe enlightenment is as elusive as chasing after the wind, but if we spent our energies pursuing nobler ideals, we would not waste so much time hurting each other and seeking to have control over anyone or anything else. Just my opinion.

Note to self: Watch encore presentation of “God’s Warriors” on CNN Saturday night

I forgot this was coming on this week and only caught the third part tonight, which focused on the struggle between fundamentalists and moderates within Christianity. Wow! Very well done. This is the kind of thing you need to watch with a small group of people and have a great discussion when it’s over.

A couple of quick observations:

  1. Ron Luce of Teen Mania is a lunatic.
  2. I think Greg Boyd‘s been inside my head or at least reading my blog. Good stuff, Greg.
  3. Richard Cizik is a class act all the way on why it is “Christian” to protect the environment.

Mostly, as of late, I am embarassed of some of the things I have believed and said in the past (even from the pulpit no less), but mostly I am glad for having my eyes as well as my mind opened to see things differently. Whether or not you agree with this documentary or someone’s opinion, for that matter, listen and be respectful. I think it’s what Jesus would do.

I just started reading a new book. I couldn’t get into The Lord of the Rings as easily as I did The Hobbit. My second attempt to read Eugene Peterson’s Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places failed too. It’s not an easy read like his other books have been. I honestly tried though. I just wasn’t buying it nor enjoying it.

I picked up Searching for God knows what by Donald Miller at the library today. I just can’t put it down. I really enjoyed Blue Like Jazz. His conversational writing style is enjoyable and hysterical. I’ll blog more about the book a little later, but I thought I’d share the first couple quotes that jumped out at me:

“I realized the gospel of Jesus, I mean the essence of God’s message to mankind, wasn’t a bunch of hoops we needed to jump through to get saved, and it wasn’t a series of ideas we had to agree with either; rather, it was an invitation, an invitation to know God.

“If you happened to be a person who thought they knew everything about God, Jesus would have been completely annoying.”