Skip to content

Faith of the Faithless

“Tell me all your thoughts on God . . . ’cause I’m on my way to meet her”

Dishwalla :: Counting Blue Cars

throughtreesA Fool’s Journey

What a long, strange trip it’s been.

I have seen a lot of things in this life: some good – some not so good – some downright terrifying;

and at this point the only thing I am certain of is that certainty leads to disillusionment and uncertainty.

We stand on our little anthill of a planet and play at defining God as if we could have any hope of really knowing. A daunting task to be sure.

But that’s not gonna stop me from trying.

I mean, hey, what’s a little futility between friends?

My spiritual journey is a kind of ongoing experiment, sporadically marked by eye-opening epiphanies and forehead thumping stupidity, a fickle ebb and flow of mind expanding understanding and soul crushing frustration.

So, if at any point on this page I seem to sound certain of my convictions, please know it is only because, at the moment, I am.

Tomorrow will surely bring its own understanding just as yesterday fled with all I once thought I knew. In the end, I really don’t know anything. Who does? But then, that’s what faith is all about, isn’t it?

Natural Christianity

The core of what I believe revolves around a theosophy I call Natural Christianity. In a nutshell, Natural Christianity is an expression meant to connote living the faith. Not just soaking up bits and pieces of holy wit from sermons or even delving into the scriptures, particle accelerator in hand, ready to crack the bible code on the sub-atomic level. Natural Christianity is about getting to know God by experiencing God.

But how does one do that? I mean, God is notoriously invisible these days, yes?

Well, as a first step, a wee bit of faith is required – but just a wee bit, I promise – and that wee bit of faith is just this: accept that there may be a God – that such a being might exist.

That’s all the suspension of disbelief you need to play my little game.

Now, I’ll confess, at this point I firmly believe that not only is there a God but that God is paying attention (a bloody intimidating thought if there ever was one). But I’ve come to that conclusion through years of really paying attention to my life and the universe I live in – well, the microscopic bit of universe I am actually able to experience in any case.

Of course, in some circles, experience is a four letter word. The purists will insist that we rely on scripture as the final authority on who and what God is and not on our own experiences.

And I guess my first question to that would be whose scripture? Granted, using the label “Christian” in naming my theosophy seems to imply that some version of the Holy Bible is probably my go-to source, but honestly, why should it be?

See, the fact is, unless you’re waiting on the return of the mothership, every holy book on the planet was penned by human hands. Were these texts inspired by God? Or are they merely the vain ramblings of feeble human minds?

Is one such text really superior to another?

Who decides?

Well . . . erm . . . I do, actually. Who else is going to decide for me?

I cannot begin to tell you how many countless hours I engaged in and listened to debates over who wrote X book of the bible and when and why that is critical in understanding Z and . . . are you weeping yet?

Yeah.

U – S – E – L – E – S – S

In the end, the truth of scripture – any scripture – is in living that scripture. Or put another way: if you do (yes, actually go out and DO) what scripture says to do, do you get the results scripture says you will get?

Many of the great men and women of the bible didn’t have “bibles” [or any written sourcebook for their faith]. They had experiences. They spoke those experiences [or made such a grand impression that others spoke for them] and that collection of stories, of others’ life experience, is what we tend to rely on today.

What does it matter who wrote what if it forever remains a secondhand experience for us?

I’ve said some pretty profound things in my life. I’ve heard things even more profound. We are spiritual beings capable of great spiritual insight, so in the end I don’t care if the words of scripture were inspired by God or dreamed up in the souls of men.

What I want to know is if they work in my life, right now, today.

Natural Christianity is the necessary experiment in finding that out.

Faith of the Faithless

One bit of scripture I have tested and found true is Jesus’ constant assertion that “Your faith has made you whole . . .” or “Your faith has done X . . .”

Interesting that he doesn’t say, “Your faith in God . . .” or “Your faith in me . . .” or “My power has done X . . .” No, it was always just “Your faith . . .”

See, human faith has power.

Because faith is the substance of things hoped for . . . and I like that concept. Of faith as a substance. A raw material with which we can build and work. And I don’t think any religion on the planet has a corner on that market. It is built into the human animal, just as our consciousness and conscience, a tool to be used and utilized.

I’ve tried to explain that on any number of occasions and been shouted down, usually to some variation of the tune: But that means we don’t need God!

Erm . . . well that’s a slippery slope, and a panic reaction to boot. It’s akin to saying because I can breathe on my own I don’t need God to breathe or because my eyesight is fine I don’t need God to see.

Just because God gave us the tools to live our lives and do what we were designed to do doesn’t mean we don’t need God.

Is Jesus the Only Way?

If you have ever actually thumped your bible or “amen-ed” a vigorous bible thumping, you should probably stop reading here – or at the very least pop a blood pressure pill before diving in. Come to think of it, my Pagan friends might not be too thrilled with my answer on this question either.

I’ll not worry myself over what the atheists might be thinking as I’m sure they all think I’m nutters at this point anyway.

I guess my problem lies in reconciling the diversity I see around me with the rigidity of modern christian thought. I mean, is God really a God of absolutes?

Well, you could certainly argue that that is the case.

There seem to be, after all, certain universal absolutes, and if you accept God as creator, then it’s not such a crazy notion. Life, for instance, generally requires some form of hydration and respiration to exist.

But at the same time every living thing goes about the pursuit of life in it’s own unique manner. I mean, I could stand out in my back yard and try to munch on sunlight and draw water through my toes while absorbing the necessary gasses for breath through my skin, but it bloody well wouldn’t sustain my life.

Because I’m not a tree.

So, while I don’t have trouble believing that the God I know created a single means of salvation, I do have trouble believing that the God I know would create a single means of delivering that salvation to the diversity of creation.

So, is Jesus the only means by which one might know God?

In the bible, Jesus is identified as the Word of God, the Word of God made flesh, and I think therein lies the key. The Word of God is the Way to God.

And I don’t mean that statement to take away from the sacrificial nature of the Christ. I only mean to say that we come to understand that sacrifice in vastly different ways.

See, I don’t think that God’s Word is as narrow as Christianity has made it out to be. I think God can speak to anyone anywhere in any way God chooses to do so. But hey, that’s just me thinking – a passtime that has gotten me into trouble on more than one occasion.

Nevertheless. I think “one-true-wayism” is a fallacy of human vanity. We all want to be “right” – we want to have the right answer, the ultimate authority on which to hang our rightness – and above all else we want that to never, ever evolve or change. Because then we’d have to work at it. We’d have to keep up.

And we get so caught up looking for that one Absolute Truth to hold up as our Authority, but if God is the only absolute truth there is, then what is this universe and everything in it – including you and I –  but the expression of that truth?

[1≠3≠1] Basic Math vs the Trinity

Okay, here’s a subject I hate to tackle, but the question comes up too often to just ignore, so if I could please direct everyone’s attention to the 500 lb gorilla in the room and lets just be out with it and talk about him a bit.

Christians can make quite a fuss over the trinity. In fact, if you want to have some big fun, lock a group of pentecostals and baptists in the same room and have them debate the Oneness of God vs the Trinity.

Watch on closed-circuit TV. It really isn’t safe to be in the same room.

To my way of thinking, it’s a silly point of theology. One side will argue the oneness of God, citing scripture, yet at the same time tell you that Jesus was God and that the Holy Spirit is God. The other side will start talking about pies sliced into three equal pieces with the crust divided but the filling all running together (I secretly suspect this is how church bake sales get started).

For my money, I have no problem believing that Jesus and the Holy Spirit are both somehow God. But at the same time my faith does not hinge on my believing this. It really doesn’t matter to me one way or the other.

I certainly do not believe in the Separate-But-Equal triumvirate described by most trinitarian theologians.  For one thing, if the stories told about him are true, Jesus, while he appeared to have a choice in the matter, was plainly down here following orders. And the Holy Spirit doesn’t even seem to have much of a choice at all. It is sent out to do a task and it does it like a good servant – immediately, thoroughly, and without question.

My thought on the matter is this: God is God. The Word is the Expression of God. The Holy Spirit is the Power of God. Now all three might be part of the same whole (or they might not) but it is plain that there is a hierarchy.

I won’t deny my right hand is useful to me. But without my brain it is nothing. My brain, on the other hand, is quite capable of functioning in the absence of my right hand.

So, in conclusion, when clarity is inaccessible, poke in a stick and give it a good stir to muddy the waters.

Past and Present Paradigms

So at this point, some of you are probably in WTF? mode, and I don’t really blame you.

Do I consider myself Christian or not? I do. I just refuse to accept the paradigm most of Christianity is currently following.

Paradigm shifts are not new to my faith or any other. The first century church, by all accounts, believed that Jesus would be right back. That they would see his promises fulfilled in their lifetime.

But yeah, not so much as it turns out.

In the middle ages, commoners didn’t own copies of the bible that they could peruse at their leisure. They got it all from word of mouth. Usually in latin. Which many of them didn’t speak.

Then came the reformation and the advent of the printing press and state leaders breaking away from the church and taking Jesus with them.

And don’t even get me started about the colonial era in America that led to all the bickering splinter groups and demoninations [not a typo] that we have today.

It still comes back to that search for the ultimate authority. And we are still searching for it by looking backwards, looking to the past, looking to traditions.

I guess I’m done looking to the past.

The past is gone. Go far enough into the past and you will shoot right past Christianity into Judaism and Paganism and a host of other isms that we can’t even guess at.

Faith, by definition, looks forward. Looks to the future. Looks to the good it can do today to benefit tomorrow.

And any religion that doesn’t incorporate that kind of outlook has nothing to offer but the wisdom of its years and the warning of its mistakes. It is dying. There are few experiences left to be had there. Only memories.

Which can be useful.

So long as you don’t sit there with them until you’re old and dying yourself. It would be a mistake not to learn from the past. But a bigger mistake to remain in the past and be of no use for today.

Gender & Sexuality

So you may have noticed a distinct lack of pronoun use in my references to God in this post.

I’ve labeled Jesus as a “he” and the Holy Spirit as an “it” but I haven’t tacked a pronoun onto God.

Mostly because I think gender definition in regard to deity is a bit silly. I seriously doubt our notions of gender apply to God. I know the Hebrews had names for God that were masculine in nature and names that were feminine in nature.

And God’s own reaction when asked to show his ID? I AM. Existence was the most God chose to define himself with.

But what about us humans down here on the big blue ball?

We do have gender, most of us, but how important is that? Well, it’s very important to us of course, but to God? Meh. Somehow I doubt it.

Gender defines us physiologically and even psychologically, but beyond that, what does it matter? Some of us are born male, some female, some hermaphrodite, and some neuter. That makes four possible genders as I count it, where most folks are only willing to acknowledge two.

I bring this up only because the issue of homosexuality, gay marriage, gay pastors, etc has become such a buzz today. Which only goes to show that we are a species that loves its trivialities.

Does that sound harsh? After all, homosexuality is hardly a triviality to a homosexual, is it?

Well, it bloody well would be if we could leave them the f*ck alone and let them live their lives!

Honestly, I don’t have to think about my sexuality. I don’t have to justify it to anyone, I don’t have to make excuses, and all the laws are weighted in my favor (though what @sshat decided he had the right to legislate human sexuality, I’ll never understand).

Is it choice? Is it birth? I don’t know and I don’t care. I never had to make a choice on my own sexuality any more than I had to make a choice on what kind of foods I like. Some appeal to me, some don’t. It’s natural.

But more to the point – choice or genetics – it’s none of my bloody business what another person wants to do sexually until they want to do it with me.

At that point I would request a polite heads-up [no pun intended].

But doesn’t God hate homosexuals? Doesn’t the bible say God considers homosexuality an abomination?

Hrm. Well, again, setting aside the fact that the bible was written by men, is predominantly patriarchal, chock full of ancient customs and cultural control tactics (Governments and religions controlling people through sex inhibition? Never happen. Oh wait. I got that backwards. Pretty much has historically ALWAYS happened).

Set all that aside and riddle me this: Even if God does hate homosexuals (or as the kinder-hearted among you would have it, hates homosexuality, though for the life of me I can’t say what the difference would be to the folks on the recieving end of that hatred) what does that have to do with me?

If I’m a Christian, I have my marching orders. I have to love my neighbors. I even have to love my enemies. So even if God does have a big hate on for homosexuality, I – as a Christian – am not allowed to. I am called to love.

And for the record, I don’t think God does hate homosexuality and I certainly don’t think God hates homosexuals. We are all sexual beings capable of intelligent thought and wild emotion.

I just don’t buy that God is glowering down and cracking the whip at us for using the gifts that we’ve been given. That would be right up there with me kicking my son in the pants for having blue eyes and daring to keep them open where people can see them.

Creation & Evolution

Note, I don’t say creation vs evolution. I don’t find them incompatible. For the most part, the theory of evolution doesn’t usually try to explain creation or even origins per se. It explains advancements and adaptations.

The fact is, the fossil record only goes back so far. But the other fact is, there still is a fossil record; there is an abundance of evidence supporting evolution, both in the fossil record and in the natural world today.

As I see it, God made the creatures of this world (for the most part) amazingly adaptable. We survive because we are able to change. And we are able to change on a cellular level from one generation to the next.

And why wouldn’t a loving creator take necessary steps to ensure survival; to make creatures that are able to adapt to the changing conditions of their world over time?

I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but the universe is largely self-regulating. The reproductive cycle, the water cycle, weather, planetary orbits, atomic orbits, etc. Patterns repeat. The veins in your arm look like the veins of a leaf. The pattern of moons, planets, stars and galaxies mimics the patterns of the very atoms they are made of. From the macrocosmic to the microcosmic patterns emerge and repeat.

And to me that speaks of creation.

But at the same time it is plain that creation has been changing over time.

So, while I don’t believe in the idea of creative evolution, I absolutely believe in adaptive evolution.

One of my favorite pulpit put-downs is the one where the pastor tries to explain why the people of the world are as horrible as they are because of their belief in evolution. (I actually know some rather nice people out in the world, but perhaps my experience differs from the teller of this story).

If you believe you are descended from monkeys (the story goes) then you will hoot and howl and break things and generally act like a monkey.

(Yes, this story fails to grasp the fact that evolutionists believe they have evolved beyond the poo flinging phase).

But what if we apply the same logic to Christians?

We basically believe we are the children of a sovereign king, an all powerful God who is unassailable, undefeatable, and untouchable. Doesn’t that mean that we are all bound to act like insufferable spoiled brats whose collective daddy is one day going to come kick the @ss of anyone who has ever disparaged or picked on us or . . . oh, wait. Hrm.

I’d rather be flinging poo. At least there’s some personal responsibility attached to that kind of behavior.

Sin: Not as Original as Advertised

Hrm. How to tackle this one?

Maybe I’d best just be blunt (I know, big stretch for me).

Sin is not an inherited condition. Sin (such as it is) is a choice. And it is always a choice. Get rid of the notion of “Original” sin – sin inherited through our origins – and you can get rid of the silliest of theological backflippery. Gone is the need for an immaculate conception (that refers to Mary’s birth, btw, for all you non-Catholics out there, not Jesus’). Gone is the debate over what happens to aborted babies or young children who die without a “saving knowledge of Jesus Chris”.

By Adam sin entered into the world.

This is one time when patriarchal disparity favors the woman. Because in the story it’s Eve who stumbles first, right? Look closer, trivia buffs – Adam was standing right there with her for the whole conversation.

By Adam sin entered into the world. He opened the door and let sin in. That’s how the story goes. Why have we taken it a step farther to include the idea that, from that point on, each man was born a sinner. Born into sin, into a sinful world – yes – but born a sinner?

You really don’t need it to make the biblical point.

“But if we’re not born sinners then technically a person could go their whole life without sinning!”

Right. You go ahead and hold your breath on that one. Adam and Eve were both sinless til they decided to be otherwise, too.

Cain chose to kill his brother for petty jealousy.

Even the righteous folks in the Bible are often cited for their sins as much as for their righteousness.

Sin is a choice.

“But if we’re not born sinners then sin is actually our own fault!”

Would judgment be fair otherwise?

Not that it seems terribly fair now, seeing as how God purportedly made us this way, but I digress.

Sin as a concept is a slippery one. Most of us understand the idea of sin as it pertains to wronging others. It gets a little more vague when it comes to sin as it pertains to wronging God.

And the final judgment of sin, as it is currently and historically taught amongst Christians, seems a bit out of character for God as he is otherwise portrayed. I mean, if one of my kids wrongs me, no matter how pissed I get, I’ve already forgiven them long before they ask . . . and my forgiveness is not contingent on them coming to beg me for it.

Which then begs the question – am I a better father than God?

I’ve messed up far too many times to believe that one.

The Evolution of Deity

One of the things that really troubled me for many years is the apparent evolution of the God of the bible. I mean, first in Genesis with the creating of the world, laying out the ground rules, walking and talking with man in the garden, etc.

Mellow, no? God doesn’t even get too ticked off with the first sin.

And the world’s first murder? Handled with admirable aplomb.

But then God starts to get cranky.

There’s the whole flood thing. Then the scattering of the people at the Tower of Babel.

But after that there is a bit of calm. Well, until the whole leveling of Sodom and Gomorrah thing.

The real change, however, comes with the advent of human Law in Exodus, and from then on it’s a pretty savage affair.

Until we get to the New Testament, where God is once again shown as the fatherly patriarchal figure of early Genesis.

I guess what I wonder is which of these schizophrenic faces is the “real” God. But when I really look at scripture the disparity is not as harsh as it appears at first glance.

On a personal level, one on one, God is generally pretty cool.

But when nations and government get involved things get out of whack. More to the point, when population control becomes an issue, I really think the men that wrote the “laws” and requirements of God took a fairly liberal hand in slanting things the way they wanted them to go.

*shrUg*

I could be wrong.

I know I’m not popular among my fellow Christians when I suggest that chunks of the bible might be wholesale fabrications.

But I don’t need the Authority of scripture for what I believe. I find scripture useful. But my authority rests in my experience and how God has been revealed to me in my life and in the world around me.

That is Natural Christianity.

That is what I believe.

That is my Faith.

::

If you have a religious or faith based topic you’d like to see discussed on this blog, drop me a comment or an email, or shoot me a message on my Contact page.

emailside

6 Comments leave one →
  1. Rayna9 permalink
    December 19, 2009 22:25

    I am just curious, do you believe that Jesus was real and by real I mean in the sense that he was born to or from Mary and was God’s son sent to earth by God to deliver His word?

    Isnt it possible that he very well could have been a real person and not the son of God but was portrayed to be the son of God by those who wrote the Bible? Like you suggested, I think that there are fabrications. The great flood could have been a tsunami caused by an earthquake, but we had not yet developed the technology to understand and so on. I mean, isnt it more than possible the entire Bible is a fabrication written by a bunch of guys trying to show the people how live their lives in a more civilized, uniformed or even controlled way? Parts of it were written thousands of years apart right? Who can really say what truly happened? Because someone said God said so? Say that these days and you’ll be committed. Is this where that Faith word comes in?

  2. December 20, 2009 00:17

    Well, in all honesty I don’t much trouble myself over questions like that. What *really happened* is of virtually no import to me.

    I am more concerned with *will it work* in my life today. And to that end I experiment with the promises of scripture, and if the experiment proves out then I consider the promises to be true.

    I never cease to be amazed at how much proves out to be truth for me.

    Of course, knowing what I know of faith, I probably shouldn’t be surprised – but I think as a species mankind delights in credulity to the point that it’s all but a knee-jerk reaction for us.

  3. December 20, 2009 15:22

    I have missed your writing, Brahnamin, especially about all things Faithly.

    I find myself nodding my head a lot, and have only one somewhat productive piece of information to add:

    The most commonly used word for sin was the word “harmatia.” Translated, it means “missing the mark.” Interesting concept of sin, I think, and it applies both to God and to fellow man.

    Merry Christmas to You and Yours.

  4. December 20, 2009 23:47

    Merry Christmas indeed. I’m limping along, but I am trying to write more frequently than I’ve been of late.

  5. December 24, 2009 11:11

    Looking back on mine, ewww. Yeah, it’s been a bit.

  6. December 24, 2009 15:58

    Yeah. I’ve taken to checking up on you round about once a month.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: