Thursday, April 05, 2012

Dave uncovers the secret behind belief in God.

Photobucket

My Friend Dave comes back with more challenges. I think he's taking the cynical view. Actually my title was a tease becasue he is not exposing belief in God per se, just belief in the sort of God fundamentalist and I talk about.

Dave:
Ironically, my whole point was that only the personified image of God was an amplified notion of humanity, but in any case, based on what you've written over the years, I can't help but see this as part of a larger pattern. It's as if you really just want to believe in a loving old man in the sky who personally hears you and takes care of you, God as an individual, a person.
The thing that's so unfair about this observation, and perhaps most unfair becuase it has truth to it, is that it's natural for humans to want to find reflections of their parents in the divine. The association between God and father, mother, grand parents, is as old as belief in God and it's probably no coincidence. How natural to associate the center of the center of love, care, concern, protection, acceptance, with these loving giants who held you close to themw hen you were small. There's the deep dark secret behind beilef in God: It's based upon the need for a father and love of parents. Of course I had parents. The fact that I loved and needed them didn't make the myths, they were real. It doesn't make God a myth, not even a conscious self God, just becuase we need him. If that sense of need get's mixed up with other bases for belief, such as rational conjecture and possible answers, that's just a hazard of being human. It doesn't make God be unreal just because we might confuse our love and need of parents with God. Nor does it mean that God is not conscious or self aware.

What bothers me is that Dave, usually one of my most intelligent friends whom I have always respected for him intellect, seems not to understand something very basic. He seems to be overlooking the full range of what I have espoused for years just becuase he spots one pattern.I had really wonderful parents and really wonderful grandmother. I loved them very much and they loved me and they were the closet thing to the Cleavers not on television in the early 60s. It just makes sense, especially after caring for them as they died for three years (which basically destroyed my life) that I would want to continue some slight connection between God and parental love. Even that doesn't disprove God's personal nature. I have ratioanl reasons for holding in addition psychological ones. Now if Dave wants to psychological everyone who opposses him I hope he's prepared to demonstrate that his desire to deny God self awareness isn't based upon his own psychological needs. It's a variant of the genetic fallacy to think that we have disproved an idea merely becuase we expose a psychological nerve in someone's motive for holding. In thinking of the full range of my God concept the self aware aspect is only a small but, I'll get that latter.


Yet you realize that this image is culturally and psychologically constructed and too simplistic to be the grand and mysterious higher power worthy of the idea of God. Thus the appeal of a God that is beyond words and concepts, a God that is immune from simply being labeled as a human projection and all of the criticism that invites.
I don't have an appeal for a mystical God. I had an experience of the thing, whatever it is, beyond understanding. I had an experience of God that fits the description of the mystics. I never said "I think I'll support this mystical God because it suits my fancy," I experienced the erality of such a God, or object of ultimat concern or whatever you wish to call it. Again, he's making the same genetic fallacy. This is where the idea comes form (some psychological thing that goes along with the idea) so that must disprove the idea. It doesn't disprove it,it only means that why we like it. He's not even dealing with my real concept of God. In fact it might just be his own allure for the mystical that he's talking about.


It's like the philosophical material is a cover, a way to convince others or perhaps yourself that it's OK to believe in the God you really want to believe in, if only you can just juggle enough concepts and arguments at once and make it all fit together. Any criticism is deflected by switching back to the argument that the personified individual God you talk about is really just a convenient shorthand. When that is called into question, you become very upset and abandon logic or philosophy for claims that your faith is being attacked.
I don't actually believe in God because I sat down one day and said "what kind of God do I want to believe in?" I experienced stuff I said "wow God is neat." The woman who led me to the Lord, Judy, used to say that was one of God's major attributes right after Omnipotent, omniscient, and
omnipresent, he's "neat." It was a few years before I read Evelyn Underhill and said "wow, that really what I experienced that time and what I feel when I pray." If Dave wants to be cynical and believe he's uncovered some deep dark sense I have of a need for a certain aspect, God so what? I probalby do have desire to see God in that way. That doesn't mean there's no some reality there to things I experienced. Dave is doing a reductions tactic of losing phenomena and re-labeling. He's trying to impose his own suppositions and pass them off as mine. I don't think anyone could feel real love for an impersonal force. God is clearly about love. I felt this all pervasive deep penetrating love from God, and thinknig about that I feel a sense of love for God.I can't really comment on the "kind" of love I feel for God. It' snot really like the love I felt for my father but of cousre that wrapped up with concrete experiences of my father and knowing he was man and seeing his limitations.

Dave:
I am not attacking your faith, I am questioning your assumptions and arguments. If that disturbs you, just ignore my comments or ask me to stop posting them.

No you are wrestling with your own!

The term I've used to denote my concept of God is "trans-personal." That means God includes the personal but is beyond it as well. God is more than personal. When I say "Personal" that is grating becuase God can't have a personality because personalty is shaped psychologically and has hang ups. God is the source of consciousness and thus has self awareness. That doesn't mean he fits personality theory.Of cousre it means he's more than a grandfather or a father, he's not a big man in the sky, I shouldn't even say "He" except it's impossible to find a metaphor that allows for the love and excludes the gender. That is the primary thing I think about God, above all else, God blows away our neatly conceived categories.

One thing I do know is that when I went through through the period after losing my house where I was angery at God I went through period of transition where I was recovering from shock where I wanted to feel good about God but I couldn't believe that God could be personal because if he was personal surely he wouldn't let anyone go through the things I have been through. I began to think of God as an impersonal set of energies sort of like bandwidth. Part of that scale of bandwidth was a type of energy that mirrors our psychological states. so we getting our own love back at us like looking in a mirror. We think it's God's love and it's our love for ourselves. I actually had some sense of peace from that. The problem is it just didn't fit. God seemed to answer prayers when I related to him as a self aware thing with a sense of its own agenda. It didn't work to think of him as an impersonal force. I developed the basic idea that any time I decide to my will ahread of God's will it wont work. Whatever else is true, however transcendent or beyond our understanding God may be, God has a will of his own and he expect me to fit that.

I think God is beyond anything we could understand. We develop of sense of knowing God through prayer and feeling his presence, especially through those experiences which can't be communicated except in the most basic terms. In this sense of knowing God personally, as it were, we have a sense of the familiar like God is an old friend. It's hard to think of an old friend as not personal. The fact of knowing that words are only metaphors and that all we can say of God will always be analogical (all religious language is analogy and all language itself has a metaphorical aspect) this means that we are trapped in the words and we never really get at the thing itself unmediated except in so far as we have a transcendent experience that we can't put into words. For this reason I don't get upset with people like Dave who offer "altneratives' of impersonal nature of thinknig of God. They are right too because thir altenatives are also metahors and analogies. they are not wrong. All analogies have like and not-like. God is like a father in many ways, and also not like a father in many ways.

People of the future could think of God in radically different ways, even Christan. We do not think of god at all the same as did our great great grand parents, much less the first Chrsitians. That doesn't matter because no one will ever get it right. About the only universally true things we can pin down about God is that he is love, he is something we can't pin down, he blows away our neat little categories, he's necessary, eternal and infinite, and he deals in redemption. Anything else is metaphor. I know the loving father is a metaphor but I approach it as a reality becuase aspects of it are reality. It's a tight rope act.


Even Dave in his expose of belief is impossing his own limition of thinking in terms of gender and mind. We don't have a concept for mind that is not male or female, but God is not a human mind. We have no idea what God would be like up close and personal but the only thing we can do is relate it to what we know and Dave is doing that even in his desire to debunk it. Being a mind doesn't make God a jumped up man. We have no cocnept of mind that is not jumped up humanity of one gender or the other. God blows away our neat little categories.

We must live in the metaphor and treat the metaphor as reality without internalizing it.

11 comments:

Dave said...

Actually, I have not tried to “expose” people’s reasons for belief. I spotted a pattern in your discussion and debate about God. It wasn’t an attempt to psychoanalyze anyone.

If I wanted to do that, I would have written much more. You are reading, as always, far more into what I wrote than what was there or what was intended, and revealing your own assumptions in the process.

For example:

I have never suggested that wanting something to be true is an argument that the particular something is not true, any more than wanting something to be true is an argument that it is.

I have not “overlooked” other things you have written. The pattern I detected subsumes and incorporates them. You seem to want to believe in a personal deity as Father but also want to go for a mystic/Eastern style ineffable Being. A very large part of your efforts are aimed at reconciling these two desires. It is related your question for a rational warrant, as if you have to find permission to believe in God as a supreme person, an omnipotent individual who loves you.

Now, if I wanted to actually psychoanalyze you, I would ask why you would feel the need to get such permission, whose permission it is you might feel you need, and how that ties together with a strong desire to have skeptics and atheists see your positions on these matters as credible and legitimate. But exploring such issues is not my desire or intent.

I have no desire to deny God self-awareness. I also have no reason to presume the existence of God as self-aware or otherwise. The effort to try to draw an equivalence here (I want to deny it as much as you want to believe it) is baseless. My arguments have generally questioned God as an *individual* with self-awareness, i.e. God as a person with a distinct mind, and I have previously stated that this is because it seems to be an unnecessary view of God that A) looks like a case of making God in our own image and B) invites the problems of theodicy. Those ought to be legitimate concerns of any serious theology.

I do not think I have discovered some deep dark secret. I think it is a fairly apparent pattern.

(continued below)

Dave said...

I am not trying any reductionist tricks. That, along with claims that I want to deny God or some aspect of God or take away your faith, is the kind of knee-jerk response you have developed when someone challenges an aspect of your theology. I have written at least twice in comments over the past month that I was proposing God as beyond personal/impersonal, but that each person would experience the divine based on their own nature. Just because you experience God as love doesn’t mean God is love. Love is the reaction, the way your mind filters or translated the experience. But the nature of what is being responded to is still open.

If you want to respond with love, then you will want God to be a person. Makes sense. But that doesn’t make God a person. Many explanations of what you experienced are possible. Some involve God as a person. Some involve God as impersonal. Some involve God as transpersonal. Some involve God as beyond any dichotomy (even a dualistic inclusion) of personal/impersonal. Some involve no God at all. I am not aware how this can be considered a reductionist approach.

I am not attempting to debunk or discredit your beliefs. As I have written on multiple occasions, I may disagree, dislike, or challenge your ideas, but I am not playing the role of spoiler.

As you can see, there are many motives and assumptions attributed to my comments that have no relation to what I wrote or intended. This is not a complaint. We are all biased by our own expectations and experiences. I simply strive for increased clarity in communication. I like your bandwidth idea, even if you don’t think it fits. You should revisit it and see what you can make of it.

We all base our views on our own experiences. I have tried to take several views of God, or the divine, or some hidden depth to reality, or what not seriously, including over a year practicing with a Buddhist Sangha, tons of reading books on religion, spirituality, and contemplation in my free time, nearly two years doing going to weekly Eucharistic services and performing the Daily Office, and more besides. I am hardly someone who is predisposed to despising religion or spirituality.

However, as my experience is different I can see things you can’t, just as you can see things I miss. Take my critiques and concerns as you will, but I don’t see God as a person as sensible, necessary, or desirable. It may have limited use and in fact may turn out to be an initially expedient or required fallacy, but overall it seems problematic.

Metacrock said...

I am not trying any reductionist tricks. That, along with claims that I want to deny God or some aspect of God or take away your faith, is the kind of knee-jerk response you have developed when someone challenges an aspect of your theology.


It' a habit from being on CARM I guess. I guess the old days when you were an atheist sort of come back for a minute. Old habits, conditioning, Pablov's dogs. Whenever a bell rings I argue with Dave.


I have written at least twice in comments over the past month that I was proposing God as beyond personal/impersonal, but that each person would experience the divine based on their own nature. Just because you experience God as love doesn’t mean God is love. Love is the reaction, the way your mind filters or translated the experience. But the nature of what is being responded to is still open.


I didn't disagree with that. I guess I've developed the habit of sounding like arguing.

If you want to respond with love, then you will want God to be a person. Makes sense. But that doesn’t make God a person. Many explanations of what you experienced are possible.

I agree. my final comment waws that I know these are metaphors but we have to respond to the metaphor without literalizing it but without treating it as though ti's not important. Sort of go with the flow of the metaphor.



Some involve God as a person. Some involve God as impersonal. Some involve God as transpersonal. Some involve God as beyond any dichotomy (even a dualistic inclusion) of personal/impersonal. Some involve no God at all. I am not aware how this can be considered a reductionist approach.

I would like to see you spelling out in more detail. I'll post them here as a guest spot.


I am not attempting to debunk or discredit your beliefs. As I have written on multiple occasions, I may disagree, dislike, or challenge your ideas, but I am not playing the role of spoiler.

I understand

As you can see, there are many motives and assumptions attributed to my comments that have no relation to what I wrote or intended. This is not a complaint. We are all biased by our own expectations and experiences. I simply strive for increased clarity in communication. I like your bandwidth idea, even if you don’t think it fits. You should revisit it and see what you can make of it.

I don't think I did attribute that much to your views.Some things you said were kind of cynical and couple of times you sounded like you were sayign "ah ha!" But I understood that's just the momentary tent on the expression that doesn't convey a ture motive. I don't think I said anything "Dave's true motives are bad, he's a bad man."

We all base our views on our own experiences. I have tried to take several views of God, or the divine, or some hidden depth to reality, or what not seriously, including over a year practicing with a Buddhist Sangha, tons of reading books on religion, spirituality, and contemplation in my free time, nearly two years doing going to weekly Eucharistic services and performing the Daily Office, and more besides. I am hardly someone who is predisposed to despising religion or spirituality.

However, as my experience is different I can see things you can’t, just as you can see things I miss. Take my critiques and concerns as you will, but I don’t see God as a person as sensible, necessary, or desirable. It may have limited use and in fact may turn out to be an initially expedient or required fallacy, but overall it seems problematic.
5:28 PM

It's all cool.

Metacrock said...

DAVE says:

"Actually, I have not tried to “expose” people’s reasons for belief. I spotted a pattern in your discussion and debate about God. It wasn’t an attempt to psychoanalyze anyone."

I understand that. It's all coll. I was just putting it into an interesting sounding format for argument. Maybe part of the hold habit of being too advaserial I've developed form CARM.

I probably need therapy round the close from a team of specialist in Vienna after going on CARM so long.

Dave said...

I just wanted to spell things out in case I needed to apologize for miscommunication or in case there was still some lingering confusion.

On a different track, have you done anything for Holy Week? I attended the Eucharistic services for Maundy Thursday and Good Friday, but I did not participate (i.e. no Communion, etc). It feels really hypocritical and disrespectful to participate when I know I have no sense of or faith in Tillichian depth of even the most general kind, let alone when I don't share the beliefs upon which the rituals are based. In that sense my Baptism was completely invalid, unless one assumes it is a magic ritual where only the special words and enchanted objects, rather than the interior state of the individual, are what matters.

I considered going to the Easter Vigil tonight, but I would have to go to the Episcopal cathedral in the larger city thirty miles away late in the evening, and it seems like a waste of time and gas when it is just a show I am attending and not anything meaningful. I went last year and it was very massive and had some grandeur, but I'll probably just stay in and read this time.

Metacrock said...

you are not wrong to follow your conscience. If you feel that you don't share the faith then that's where you are at the moment. I am curious about what actually happened. It seemed like you did then came back from Africa and everything was different.

I will pray and medicate on Christ and the resurrection in the morning as a celebration.

Dave said...

Naw, never did. I was just following the appeal of intellectual curiosity and social activism.

How will you be medicating in the morning? ;-)

Kristen said...

I have been thinking along these same lines more and more lately. That the ways we think about God are not wrong, just limited. But limited is all we've got. In that sense we must expect God to be paradoxical to us, because two ways of thinking about God that seem diametrically opposed may both be grasping part of the truth.

I am posting a selection from Peter Marshall's sermon "The Grave in the Garden" on my blog for Easter tomorrow. In the morning, as I always do, I will get up before the rest of the family, put on some sweats, and go out in the back yard to sing hymns and give thanks. Then we will go to Sunday service, and come home for baked ham with pineapple rings.

Whatever you do for Easter, Dave and Joe, I pray it will be meaningful for you. Happy Easter!

Metacrock said...

interesting Kristen. I'll check out your blog. Peter Marshall, I have never read him but years ago used to hear how go he was.

Metacrock said...

Naw, never did. I was just following the appeal of intellectual curiosity and social activism.

How will you be medicating in the morning? ;-)

Did I say Medicating? I meant Meditating. I don't do eastern syle Medication I say the Jesus prayer and try ot time it with breathing and do Madame Guyon style "silent prayer." wordless reflection no Jesus.

Metacrock said...

I also watched 1xt Methodist on TV. they did their eastern thing.