"I believe that just about all of the world's religions are full of myths and superstitions, but behind them all lies a vital truth. I don't believe that the religions themselves know what this truth is, but the truth is there nevertheless. By contrast, I would say that atheism, though free from the falsehoods, myths, and superstitions of the religions, has no insight into the important truths that the religions dimly but incorrectly perceive. Thus I think of atheism as blind and the religions as having vision; but the vision is distorted. Atheism is static and is not getting anywhere; the religions with all their faults (and the faults are many!) are at least dynamic, and are slowly but surely overcoming their errors and converging to the truth...

"More specifically, my religious views come close to the idea of William James -- that our unconscious is contiuous with a greater spiritual reality... (whether it is personal or impersonal, conscious or unconscious or superconscious... is not for me to say.)"

[Raymond Smullyan, Who Knows? ]

-------

I happen to believe that I, and Raymond Smullyan, are slowly but surely overcoming our errors and converging to the truth -- which I personally find to be, if not 'superconscious', a t least far ahead of _me_ when I catch an occasional glimpse. Anyway, I really like this passage!

Lately I find myself far more willing to bear with a great deal of the prevalent Quaker incoherence (as well as those plausible-yet-dubious traditional notions people love to apply so dogmatically, so cut-and-driedly) due to basically the same idea -- that crazy religious ideas (even atheism) are gifts of God towards each human being's progress, representing a slightly-closer approximation which at least somebody has found to make his way forward a little clearer (at least to him.)

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I find the terms "religion" and "atheism" both on the mushy side in that we may never know what we mean by these terms exactly.

When we don't like or respect a belief system, we might call it a "cult", even if the cult members refer to a deity in their own shared thinking.  "That's not a religion, that's just a cult" is an easy dismissal we might imagine someone saying. 

I don't dispute that some cults are damaging, especially when outward weapons are involved.  Those arming themselves attract the attention of others who've armed themselves.  Gang lands with warlords ensue.  Waco. Jonestown... the Matsumoto incident.

Welcome to Planet Earth.  Be forewarned:  it's pretty hellish here, a true ghetto.  Easy for me to believe we were sent here because we're the damned.  Humbling.

Quakerism's "that of God in everyone" mantra suggests to me that our Quaker view is human awareness cannot help but piggy-back on "higher" or "deeper" levels. 

We may associate this "transhuman" (or "suprahuman") consciousness with an "unconscious" or "Self" with a capital "S" or with "God" with a capital "G". The awareness of an "atheist" is not, in principle, any different, from a Quaker point of view.  It's "that of God in everyone" not "that of God in believers like me".

I'm happy to fall back on this Quaker generalization, while at the same time accepting that a religion such as Zen may have little to no use for a "God" in the way many more Biblically-oriented might conceive of. No need for male pronouns in particular, which can be a relief.

A zen monk might have Tao or the Void to meditate upon.  Is that "prayer"?  Are Zen monks "atheists" or not?

Does it matter?  Must we care?

English (and not just English) is so slippery and devilish in how it gets us clashing and arguing, engaging in apologetics for this or that viewpoint. 

The Silence of "expectant waiting" has a welcome dampening effect on such altercations, which seem to contribute to #Endlesswar. 

Arguing about the existence of God seems another wide road to Hell, a waste of time in other words.  Instead of building God's Kingdom, we strive to coerce commonality in ideation, "convert the heathen" or make people "accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior". 

I find such crusading / missionary behavior often quite far from godly myself.  Religions attract control freaks.  Quakerism is better at managing control freaks than some religions, but I'd say no religion really has them under control. :-D

Kirby, you wrote:

"The awareness of an "atheist" is not, in principle, any different, from a Quaker point of view."

Would you expand a bit further on the notion that the awareness of an atheist is the same as a Quaker point of view in principle? Are you meaning to say that an atheist's principle of awareness is the same as a Quaker's principle of awareness? Or is your meaning that atheist's experience of awareness is the same awareness as a Quaker? Or Maybe I am just not understanding what you mean to say?

I'm saying that given the mantra "we recognize that of God in everyone", having an atheist tell me "there is no God" is pretty much the same experience, in the Quaker namespace, as having a theist say to me "there is one". 

We're in the presence of God and Creation either way, regardless of what the best words for it are.

So what if not everyone thinks the same way about God, as to whether He exists or not?  Why is that hugely critical?  Do we as Quakers think God cares?  In what way?  Are commandments for "believing in" or for following? 

I think we Quakers are pragmatists because more focused on practice than on "head beliefs".  We're more interested in doing business, getting work done, than in reciting some credo.

Keith Saylor said:

Kirby, you wrote:

"The awareness of an "atheist" is not, in principle, any different, from a Quaker point of view."

Would you expand a bit further on the notion that the awareness of an atheist is the same as a Quaker point of view in principle? Are you meaning to say that an atheist's principle of awareness is the same as a Quaker's principle of awareness? Or is your meaning that atheist's experience of awareness is the same awareness as a Quaker? Or Maybe I am just not understanding what you mean to say?

Probably a typical yogic view of this would be that one practices a yoga (for however long) in order to recognize our actual unity with God for what it is.

What an atheist experiences and what a person who knows God experiences are presumably close enough for government work; the meaning they find in that experience should however naturally differ.

What I get from this passage is that even your odd belief that people who like to talk about God are working to institute a Quaker Inquisition -- not merely to force you to think at all, but to make you believe fifty impossible things each day before breakfast -- even that is presumably one of many stages in your spiritual progress. Enjoy!

Whose odd belief was that, I lost track?  Maybe that was some generic "your average joe" belief someone had.

I don't find the 'Good Without God' movement all that stale.  Are zen monks "true believers"?

As I've mentioned, the Pastafarians (Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster) are welcome in my Meeting, even with that bumper sticker 'Abducted by Quakers'.

Forrest Curo said:


What I get from this passage is that even your odd belief that people who like to talk about God are working to institute a Quaker Inquisition -- not merely to force you to think at all, but to make you believe fifty impossible things each day before breakfast -- even that is presumably one of many stages in your spiritual progress. Enjoy!

Thinking a little further... If a person believes there's a guiding intelligence at work operating the universe, does he experience different things than someone insistent that there can't (and _mustn't_!!!) be such an intelligence?

Offhand, I would say that this belief is intrinsically a better heuristic for navigating through the kinds of situation people continually bump up against -- particularly given that it happens to be an accurate belief.

Inaccurate depictions of God can indeed be a potent cause of unnecessary suffering... and atheism has helped take away much of the force of such depictions. But once atheism has cleared away the ground, it doesn't leave behind a very user-friendly place to live -- just a place where something closer to the truth of ItAll might be built.

If writing a children's book, I might say: 

God is highly amused by the many human religions about Him and loves how innovative this little creature is "in His image" (on his TV), with whom He promised with a rainbow not to lose his temper again. 

They're trying beasts, these humans, for all their merits, and some -- fallen -- Angels (ETs) hope he'll forget his promise and just wipe 'em out. "The world's getting hotter, and that's a good sign" chuckle the Luciferians.

He's especially fond of His atheists, is in fact a connoisseur of belief systems in which He plays no role (like fine wines to God's nose). In Genesis, He creates the world and sees that everything is fine, and his restfulness is now deserved. Creating humanity was a part of all that, and yes there was some trauma about having to leave Eden, read all about it in a Holy Book somewhere.

The atheists are coming close to just letting God rest, enjoying His privilege as proud Creator. They're into just letting Him be, dead or alive -- what could it matter, if you're God, right?

---
Forrest wrote:

"Thinking a little further... If a person believes there's a guiding intelligence at work operating the universe, does he experience different things than someone insistent that there can't (and _mustn't_!!!) be such an intelligence?"

No, they both participate in a process wherein their meaning and purpose happenthrough identity with outward belief systems or intellectual constructs. The beliefs or reflections are mirrors through they experience things and themselves. There is, in essence, no difference between the two. However, there is a process of participation wherein people's meaning, purpose, and identity happens without reference to outward belief systems. Being or conscious exists in itself inherently and is not reflected through the mirrors of outward beliefs. This way of participating is essentially difference from those who participate in and identify with outward forms of atheism, deism, or theist, etc. While the theist, for example, affirms a conscious being that exists in itself, they do not participate in or experience in themselves being or conscious itself in itself. They affirm and identify with the intellectual construct (reflected form) of self existent Being but not the direct experience of self existent being or conscious in itself. This participation in the process of identity with the outward intellectual construct of self existent Being is not fundamentally different from the atheist who participates in and identifies with the outward intellectual construct that there is no self existent Being. They both participate in and identity with outward constructs.

Again, there is another way of participation or being in this world. It is the way wherein people experience and identify with inherent self-existent being shining directly into their conscious and conscience so immanent self-existent being itself in itself anchors and informs our conscious and conscience without regard to outward intellectual constructs. It is true that the message of another way is an outward form, yet there is a singular difference. The testimony does not affirm identity with outward forms. It affirms our witness of another way. It is all we can do when sharing that which we witness with those whose identity, by their own admission, is anchored in outward forms.

In this other way, we experience things differently than those whose identity is anchored in and informed by outward forms.

Are these outward forms "gifts from God toward each human beings progress?" I have no doubt that immanent Presence itself in itself breaks through these outward forms freeing people from participating in the process of meaning, purpose, and identity through outward constructs. However, It is recorded in Hebrews 8:7 that the old way (the first covenant with immanent Presence) of following and adhering to the outward commands and prescriptions of God (immanent being) was flawed. The gift, for example, if the outward Ten Commandments, was flawed. A new gift was introduced wherein people no longer participated in or identified with outward forms and constructs. Immanent Presence itself in itself became the gift itself inshining into the conscience and conscious of people directly and without the mediation of priests, ministers, theologies, philosophies, temples, etc. These old gifts may still carry a glimpse of immanent Presence, however, this flawed process or way of paricipating has been replaced; so that people know immanent Presence itself in itself in their conscious and conscience directly, and in all things, circumstances, and activities in this world. Because of the gift of the second covenant we live and experience immanent Presence all day and every day; in each moment there is Presence. No longer mere glimpses, Life itself in itself has become our temple and our being.

I observe statements of a fervent outward belief that what the believer-in-it experiences is in fact unmediated by any outwardly-given ideas (such as the belief that what they experience is in fact....)

but I have yet to be convinced that anything which anyone whatsoever experiences can be entirely uninfluenced by their own beliefs about the nature of what they're experiencing.

As for the divine origin of that particular belief, and its utility in freeing oneself from _other_ outwardly-given beliefs in the need for one outward aid or another, what I've said about all the various other belief-systems people think they look good in -- presumably applies to that one as well.

-----------------

The Bible is not a children's book, is probably unsuitable for children [There's all sorts of ucky sex & violence in it, kids!!!] but so far as it has a theme, that theme seems to be a persistent tendency for God's kids to run away from home.

Evidently humans find it a very disquieting thought -- that our lives are governed by a power and intelligence greater than our own, whose ideas as to what is good for us -- need bear no necessary relationship whatsoever to what we personally want (except for a divine willingness to concede to our wishes when that's compatible with larger purposes.)

There also seems to be a recurring human tendency to try to micromanage God's operations, to reduce them to one human system or another -- or to eliminate them from any acknowledgement whatsoever. This tendency, as any rocket scientist could probably figure with enough effort, has a way of leading to trouble.

Human ideas about God do sometimes get silly, scary, or both. I don't believe the remedy is to stop having ideas -- but to try making the ideas we do have more amenable to correction, confirmation-or-disproof -- and (as Marcus Borg translates the concept behind our word 'repent'): to go beyond the mind that you have.

---
"I have yet to be convinced that anything which anyone whatsoever experiences can be entirely uninfluenced by their own beliefs about the nature of what they're experiencing."

It was never my intent to convince you. It is not mine to bring about convincement. It is only mine to testify to the inward witness that people can know meaning, purpose, identity, conscious, and awareness without being influenced by or in regard to outward beliefs, systems, and institutions. I am thankful that you understand the testimony to that which many of us witness; even though you do not, by your own admission, share the witness itself and deny its possibility.

For God all things are possible; but some are more likely than others; the fact that I'm "not convinced" of something's actual occurence does not mean that I deny the possibility, any more than I deny the possibility that God may have made a virgin give birth to a male, in saying that I see no reason not to have Jesus conceived the way God normally does it.

Similarly, I can not testify concerning how much ideation and prior conceptions do or do not modulate your experiences of God's presence.

In my own case I'd say that God is content, so far, to interact with me via influencing my thinking, feelings, physical circumstances and intuitions -- which has not by any means prevented me from having the experience of being mistaken from time to time. Neither have I said that anybody is required to have, or not to have, ideas about what they're experiencing or how -- merely that the absence of any such ideas continues to seem unlikely and not particularly desireable.

---
Forrest you say explicitly:

"I have yet to be convinced that anything which anyone whatsoever experiences can be entirely uninfluenced by their own beliefs."

Then you write:

"... the absence of any such ideas continues to seem unlikely and not particularly desireable."

First you write that no one can be entirely uninfluenced by their own beliefs. You specifically wrote that no one can experience being that is uninfluenced by their beliefs. Then you change things up and moderate it a bit by saying it seems unlikely. So now it is possible but not very likely. Then you go a step further and say the witness of a conscious anchored in and a conscience informed by immanent Presence itself in itself without regard to outward forms continues to seem not particularly desirable.

I appreciate your honesty in admitting that such a witness does currently seem desirable to you. Again, it is not for me whether you find it desirable. I am just thankful you understand the testimony to the witness enough to come to the judgement that you find it unlikely and undesirable.

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