Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Secret 21: What I believe

"Our deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure. It is our light, not our darkness, that most frightens us. We ask ourselves, Who am I to be brilliant, gorgeous, talented, fabulous? Actually, who are you not to be? You are a child of God. Your playing small does not serve the world. There is nothing enlightened about shrinking so that other people won’t feel insecure around you. We are all meant to shine, as children do. We were born to make manifest the glory of God that is within us. It’s not just in some of us; it’s in everyone. And as we let our own light shine, we unconsciously give other people permission to do the same. As we are liberated from our own fear, our presence automatically liberates others."

This is from a book by Marianne Williamson and was used in Nelson Mandela's inauguration speech. I have not read the book but this quote makes me curious.

I apologize in advance that this post is a little heavy. :) This secret is still a bit of a secret even to me. I'm still sorting this out.

I'm not a religious person. Normally I classify myself as an atheist with agnostic leanings but that's not really acurate either. Perhaps pantheist is closer. According to wikipedia it's philosophically indistinguishable from atheist but I see a difference. To me atheist means that everything happened on its own and there is no greater meaning. There isn't really anything bigger than exactly what you can see. Pantheist implies that there is something to the natural order of the world. It's not a god, exactly, at least not a God (capital G). Everything we see is a part of "god", including us, and there's more meaning in everything than perhaps we are capable of understanding.

Specifically I believe in a greater power, but not one that fiddles with all of the details. I don't believe that if something could create this world that it would be created messy and done wrong. I don't believe that any one people would be valued over another as we are all a part of it. I believe that it is within us.

One of the things that tells me that my beliefs are right for me is standing on the edge of an ocean. Standing there, looking out at the might and beauty, always made me sad. It's so vast and so beautiful and I was not a part of it. Even were I to jump in to the ocean and let the water cover my head, while I would be in it, I would not be a part of it. But lately (in the last 10 years or so) that has changed. Now I stand at the ocean and look out and I am filled with joy. I am a part of what's out there. I believe we all are. This world that surrounds us is absolutely amazing and while I call it nature myself, I understand calling it all god.

Am I a pantheist? I'm not sure just yet. Does this mean I will try to "convert" you or try to say that my belief is correct for everyone? No, most certainly not. My beliefs are for me. What beliefs are right for you is a decision that you yourself have to make and I'm certainly not going to hold myself out to be an expert on anything. I am curious, though, where religion takes you. You don't have to answer, obviously, but if you feel comfortable I would like to know what you believe.


  1. I am spiritual and not so much for really organized religion. There are things just too perfect and beautiful to me to be haphazardly put together. Maybe that's me wanting to establish order over chaos or not. But I live like Einstein and others before him said, I live on the belief there is something bigger than us all. So in the end, I've lost nothing finding out there isn't anything rather being very surprised there is something and I've really screwed my life up.

  2. Does it ever bother you that the whole, "It's true for you but not for me," philosophy is incoherent and self-contradictory?

  3. Makarios ~ It's not that I believe "it's true for you and not me". What I believe is true as far as I am concerned. But, and this is a big but, I refuse to tell someone else how to believe in their life. Someone else's life is not mine to live and I cannot control what they have faith in (or don't). If we are having a conversation and they want to know how I feel I will certainly tell them, I just won't force it on them. And, just as I refuse to believe that someone else's differing opinion is correct, I cannot then compel them to believe what I do any more effectively. We all hold what we believe to be true and, rather than thinking that both beliefs are true, I hold that in this world we should "live and let live". I'll do it my way, and they will do it theirs and neither of us has the right to force the other. You can't force faith of any kind.

  4. Okay, that's a little funny. Makarios (or Rod) actually spends the day looking up atheist in blogsearch to go attack people's beliefs (or at least that's what led him to me anyway). This is EXACTLY what I'm talking about by saying live and let live. I don't understand what a random stranger, whom I have never met or spoken with before, hopes to achieve exactly? "Oh, my FSM, you're right and I've seen the error! Of course you were correct all along." Heehee.

  5. My favorite prayer comes from a book I once read, and it's only the first few lines of the prayer that I truly love. It's from India, but I have no idea whether it's Hindu, Muslim, Sikh, Pathan . . . it just is. And I say it every time I crest a hill & see a big lake in front of me, I say it when standing under a rain of autumn leaves, I say when laying below a sky of stars.

    "Thou art everywhere, but I worship thee here." It's all I need. It is everywhere.

    Great post!
    :) Debi

  6. char ~ Einstein definately had a point. Though even his views were pretty non-standard. I've always found him pretty fascinating.

    smith ~ That's beautiful! Do you happen to remember what book it's from?

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  8. Sorry - had to edit the comment. :) And yes, this comment is basically a blog post in its own right...

    First, I am a Deist. Yes, the whole Thomas Paine "Age of Reason" thing. It seems to fit my belief structure well.

    Second, I can't let Makarios' comment stand here defiant. We were all given the gift of free will, so we all have equal rights to choose our own beliefs regardless of whether they are actually correct or not. If he had come here offering a message of love, inspiration, and teaching (as Jesus would have) then I would applaud his virtue. But he had to come here on the attack, sounding arrogant and superior. What an ass. People like him are the reason I can't stand Evangelical Christians.

    So, here we go. I propose that I can kill the evangelicals' Bible in one paragraph. For full disclosure, I was an evangelical Christian for over a decade until I decided to actually *read* the Bible. :) According to the typical evangelical creed (at least generally defined by the EFCA), the Bible is the inspired, inerrant word of God, perfect and error-free in its original form. While there are minor translation mistakes here and there, there exist no theological uncertainties and no ambiguities in the parts of the text necessary for us to understand the love and nature of God or His Son.

    If we can agree on that, then let us pursue my claim.

    Read the story of Judas according to Mark, and then go read it in the first book of Acts. Did Judas hang himself from grief and regret, or was he supernaturally killed by God for his unrepentant sin? This is a rather large difference. Why was the Potter's Field called the Field of Blood? Did the Jewish priests purchase it, or did Judas purchase it? There are several obvious (and rather important) contradictions in the two stories. They cannot be reconciled with one-another without some very creative storytelling. If this book was authored by the Holy Spirit and translated by people indwelled by the Holy Spirit, then how could such a contradiction exist? Why would God purposefully put contradictions and other errors in His own book?

    For extra credit, another thing to look into is the differences between Sheol and Gehenna. The Old Testament has no concept of Hell as Christians understand it from the New Testament. Go look up where the word "Gehenna" came from and what the Jews did to the followers of Baal. Go read what happened to the bodies of criminals who were executed in Jerusalem. See any parallels?

    For me, the most plausible answer to all the problems is that the Bible is a book of men, not of God. It has all the errors one would expect of such a large volume written by so many different authors.

    Personally I believe each religion has, at its core, a limited understanding of the true nature of God. Unfortunately for the Western mind, God cannot be described or quantified; any attempt to do so is foolish, since only small pieces of God can be compartmentalized via language. The totality of God can only be experienced, not analyzed, reduced, and written about objectively.


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