Tuesday, April 10, 2007

Is God Real?

In a recent Newsweek (4-9-07), avowed atheist and best-selling author Sam Harris squares off with Rick Warren, pastor of the Saddleback Church in Orange County, CA and author of the world-wide best-seller The Purpose-Driven Life, in a piece titled "Religion: Is God Real?"
I found it to be interesting reading, as far as it went, but wholly missing a crucial point. While I share Harris's certainty that there is no "Biblical God," I do not share his conclusion that there is no God whatsoever. I believe that God/Goddess is Consciousness itself, and that this Conscious Awareness permeates the entire universe and beyond with non-dual, unconditional love. The most spectacular, unending gift of this Awareness is life itself. To me, this core belief is what Spirituality is all about.

Harris and Warren argue from an either/or perspective; "Either a Christian God exists, or "he" does not." My passionate rejoinder is that God is not so small, and certainly cannot be contained or understood in such an anthropocentric story.

Warren goes on to talk about the evidence of God in the "tens of thousands of times" he has personally witnessed miracles. He mentions a specific time when his prayer was answered, and another instance when it was not. Personally, I see miracles every day, so I'm cool with the concept. However, I think Warren is using the first of the two meanings of "miracle", the gist of which is, "An extraordinary occurrence that surpasses all human powers and is ascribed to God." I prefer the second meaning, "A superb or surprising example of something; wonder; marvel."

Using the second definition of miracle, I see life itself as a surpassing wonder. When I am present and paying attention, I feel God's unconditional love with every breath I take, every note of music, every ray of sunshine, and every hug I give or get. Miracles are everywhere, if we have eyes to see, hearts to feel and the presence to be grateful for each moment of life.

To continue this discussion between Harris and Warren, the question arose, "Why would God give a little girl cancer, or if she had it why would earnest prayer not take it away?" The answer, something to the effect that God works in mysterious ways, seems utterly specious to me. Here's how I unpack this whole notion of how an infinitely loving God could "allow" bad things to happen to anyone.

Life is the ultimate gift of God's unceasing, infinite, unconditional love. Life has limits. We have bodies that are born, grow, decay and die. One could make a case that God condemned us all to death by giving us life in the first place. Some of us wind up sticking around longer than others. Making that God's fault or responsibility is like making winter the fault of summer. To claim that there is something unfair about a life "cut short" is to miss the miracle of every breath, every smile, every tender gaze that was available while alive. Life is not "fair," it just is. We can see life as a miracle or a tragedy, and we will find abundant evidence for either position depending on our perspective.

Of course, losing a child under any circumstances is heart-breaking. It's just that losing a little girl to cancer is no more sad than losing a child to malaria, starvation, war or an accident. When people we love leave the world, our feelings of grief and sadness can, if we let them, turn us into constricted, shut-down shadows of who we really are. The very same losses can break our hearts open, allowing us to experience the miracle of life from an infinitely more precious, tender and vulnerable place.

We, all of us, are God-in-form. Every single moment of our lives we have choices to make. We can choose to see ourselves as victims of a capricious, unknowable, judgemental and vengeful god, or literally as God experiencing the fleeting yet miraculous gifts of life. I choose to hold every breath as an act of worship, every hug as holy, every kind and generous word as sacred. In the end, it all comes down to a simple yet profound choice; love, or fear?


romancing the crone said...

This is an awesome post! Beautifully written! I could not agree more with your definition of God, miracles, life, death, and the constant ebb and flow of all that is.

I added your links to my webspace and I will most likely quote you (with a link to you of course :) in a future post.

I'm very happy to have found your words of illumination, or perhaps they found me.

Ben said...

I feel very much aligned with popular athiest such as Richard Dawkins whenever I hear him speak, and yet, I'm not wholly comfortable wearing the athiest moniker.

It's not that I even leave a tinge of hope or belief in any monotheistic God, but that I feel that...there's some sort of spiritual depth to life, attained through passion and experience and simply consciousness itself.
And if I came to uphold the athiest tag, would I then leave this feeling behind?

Maybe not. I feel this is what many popular athiests like Sagan or Dawkins mean when they use words like "spiritual" to describe themselves in regards to their passion for knowledge and the natural world. I too, despite being an athiest in that I do not believe in God, feel that my passion for understanding and my awe at the universe itself is a spiritual experience.

Bryce said...

Thank you for this.