Thursday, February 08, 2007

Should we throw the baby out with the bathwater?

Does opening our mind to questions necessarily lead away from God? Here is an email dealing with that issue:

I have just found your site while researching the question of God without Jesus and The Bible. To be brief, I have been in a questioning mode for the last 5 years after being in church for 55 years. But, God has been too good to me and to interactive in my life, still today, that I can't throw the baby out with the bathwater. Why do so many who begin to question their faith, either go purely agnostic, or atheistic?

I can not deny God. But yes there are many things I have learned and believed over the past 50 years that I now question big time--but as I say--God is far too real in my life. Do you think that one MUST throw the baby out with the bathwater? That one must disbelieve in God altogether if he begins to doubt certain criteria? And like you, after half a century as a student AND teacher of the Bible, I have been strongly startled by this change--but no matter what I question, I just can not delete my personal relationship with God himself --He has been and is far too involved in my life for me to do that. Do you not feel that a man can keep his relationship with God, yet still question and ponder all the other trappings? I'd really love to hear from you, as this really is a strange and heartfelt journey for me.

I know of a Christian turned atheist who was glad to denounce God, but cried because in doing so, he had to leave his best friend ( JESUS ) whom he missed very much. I am questioning the exact opposite..... the total, certain belief in God himself, even if He is not, ultimately, the GOD of The Bible. please respond if you will.

One of the hurdles to questioning the faith is the thought that God is inside of you. Many of us have believed for years that God is literally residing inside our own minds; that he is thoroughly aware of every thought as it occurs; that an open link exists to the very throne of the universe; that communication with the ruler of the universe is only a prayer away; and that God is actively inserting thoughts into our mind to guide and comfort us. Some find it acceptable to question assertions about the Bible, but it becomes very hard to question this inner voice. After all, God supposedly hears every thought, and can supposedly bring trouble to the mind that is not thinking the right thoughts. Is a thought that questions God an allowable thought? If not, then one cannot even ask those questions, for there is no private place where one can retreat to think things through in privacy. A God that is "hearing" every thought eliminates any moment of complete inner privacy.

The idea of this loss of privacy can be enslaving, but many also find it comforting. They like the idea of a constant companion inside the mind, keeping thoughts from going too far astray, and providing peace to the troubled mind when needed.

We find that the writer above does not want to question this relationship with God, for he does not want to think of leaving his best friend behind.

Sidestepping the question of whether a creator God exists--a question I don't usually address--the issue here is whether God is intimately involved in a relationship with people, and whether this relationship should be cultivated.

Being scientifically minded, my natural response is to ask for the evidence that God really is inside your mind communicating with you. Yes, you may find the concept comforting, but others find it comforting to imagine that Abraham Lincoln or some other person is inside communicating with them. That is a technique that helps some people clarify their thought flow when nobody is around to talk to. They simply summon their imaginary friend, and imagine speaking to him, thus helping them to organize their thoughts and to think of other perspectives to the problem. It is not real, but some people find it a helpful technique. Could the same thing be happening in prayer? The fact that you find it comforting does not mean it is based on reality.
What exactly does God say to you? For any real relationship requires two-way communication. Does he provide you with information you would not otherwise know? Does he give you advice that you could not think of yourself? If so, do you claim that people who communicate with God in this way intuitively know things they would not otherwise know, or have a better judgement in moral decisions? Both claims could easily be tested by scientific experiments, but I think we already know what we would find. It is very doubtful that either claim would yield statistically significant results in a controlled study. And if the claims do not stand to scientific scrutiny, can you be sure they are true?

During the years of my "personal relationship with Jesus", I readily whispered a quiet prayer to God many times a day. Many times I thought I heard God directing me. Sometimes I dogmatically followed that inner direction. After all, who was I to question a thought that had been inserted into my mind by God himself? But I no longer whisper prayers, and no longer assume that a thought in my mind must be the direct revelation of God. And I find that my mind is now much more at peace. Perhaps the same will work for you. Or perhaps you will continue to find more peace in life if you assume this direct communication.

You certainly do not need to throw away your belief that a God was somehow behind creation, or even your belief that there is a God inside of you. You do not need to throw out the baby with the bathwater. But I do think you need to ask if there is a baby in the bathwater. If you search and find no baby in the bathwater, then you can throw out the bathwater without fear.


LorMar said...

I think the writer is making some good points. He/she sounds somewhat similar to where I am. It is ok to question because not everything is clear and acceptable. At the same time, I think it is a big stretch to throw the baby out with the bathwater. Atheists or agnostics tend to incorrectly assume that holding on to the baby is the result of fear and wanting comfort. Sometimes that is true but other times, fear or wanting to be comforted has nothing to do with it. I still question many of the teachings of christianity and do wonder if the bible (although I think it is a wonderful book) we have today is really what many christians claim it is. However, I see nothing to suggest that there is "nothing to this God" that billions of people believe in.

Noogatiger said...

I used to be as much a Christian as anyone. I was one of the so called born again. I was a Christian for 39 years.

When I began to actually study the Bible for myself, (instead of just accepting what I was taught about it), I found hundereds of things which I could no longer defend. I found even more things that were contradictory or just simply in error. If found that the Bible is not such an amazing book, but a conglomeration of fairy tales, and misogynistc views of women.

Finally just because you "feel" something does not make what you feel to then be absolute truth. Just because you think you get one answer to prayer does not make what you believe the final word. Feelings are different for each and every person. Experiences are different for each and every person. Feelings prove nothing, except that you have feelings.

Consider the statement: "God has been good to me, and interactive in my life." Sounds great, but evey religious person of any persuasion can and does say this, so does this prove that the God they believe in is the one true God?

You know what, ever since I have stopped believing in God, I have had some good things happen to me. My family has had some good things happen to us, and my relationship with my wife has gotten better. I could say that my non believe in God has been good to me and interactive in my life. Maybe I have found the one true way.

LorMar said...

Since I stopped tithing, good things have happened to me, he he.

Noogatiger said...

Oh my, don't get me started on the tithing thing.
How many times I had heard that God would get you for not tithing. Somehow God would get his money. If you didn't give it freely he would send some calamity in your life and take away your blessings. Also on the other side if you simply gave your 10% and more, God would send it back to you in blessings ten fold. For 39 years I tithed and gave and never got it back ten fold or even 1 fold. Now that I no longer tithe or even go to Church, or even believe in the Bible, I have the best job I have ever had, making more money than ever, and we have a larger home than we have ever had. I guess God is still working in my life, even though I don't believe in any of that stuff anymore?

I am fully totally agnostic, meaning I do not have any clue, or proof of a God who created us or not. I simply do not know. I do know that the Bible did not come from some perfect holy God, it was a work of very flawed men, just like the Quran, or the book of Morman, or anything else.

So, if the blessings I have now in this life, and the peace of mind I now have, came from some great cosmic creator, let me say Thanks Creator, whomever or whatever or even if you are.

The great creator told me to tell you guys this.

LorMar said...

And it sickens me that church leaders are beating people over the head because of one misused verse. All because they want money. I don't mind giving to worthy causes and when I choose. Funny thing is, I am more generous now than I was as a tither. Never again.