For a guy who writes a great deal about atheism and Buddhism, it might be strange to hear me write about theism but I was once a Catholic, took religious education for most of my young life and even today, I take an active role in learning about world religions… I think I can carry a conversation about theism.
I was reading a part of “Buddhist Boot Camp”(Timber Hawkeye) and a chapter resonated with me. In it, he writes:
Religion is what happens when someone takes the concept of God … and orchestrates a story about why we’re here and for what purpose.
For the sake of honesty, I took that quote a bit out of context as I took out the following: “…as described in scripture (as a creator)”. Interestingly Hawkeye has a quote at the end of the same chapter by Anne Lamott:
You can safely assume that you’ve created God in your own image if it turns out that your God hates the same people you do.
and as I went through my first draft of this blog, I wanted to point out this is not being written as a slam against theism, per se, it’s more of a message that you really don’t need to follow religion to be a good person, you can do that by developing your own worldview or belief; hopefully those beliefs are wholesome and good; and at the same time, don’t tread on other beliefs. I always say, acceptance is key.
As I’m reading these quotes, I recall having crossed paths with many people throughout my life and the different concepts of “God” they offered me. Even among the same sect of Christians, the concept of god, what was good, bad, right and wrong differed. If you think for a moment how beliefs differed in this one “sect”, consider how they can differ from different sects (Catholics, Protestant, Lutheran, Baptist..etc). Some people call the god of Islam different from the Christian god but the god of Christianity is the Abrahamic god, that is the god of the major world religions (Christianity, Judaism and Islam). How can so many different people, sects and world religions have differing beliefs?
As man, we really have no idea who god is. We have various books, written by man, said to be inspired by god but what does the theist really know? Just stories handed down from someone else. I’m not saying this to put down the theist. The truth of the matter is we learn our beliefs in part from our surroundings, what our parents teach us, what a pastor may preach, perhaps from reading the Bible, Quran, Torah (which coincidentally, has many of the same texts). Certain stories stick with us, certain lessons do not. I’m sure you don’t believe every single thing you are told (that would be quite a feat!), but throughout life, your worldview starts coming together, you have a set of beliefs. While your beliefs may be similar to others, they are never the same. What you believe when you are young, changes over time.
While influenced by others, you begin to create your own concept of god and you create your own image of him.
When I was young and started to examine these religious beliefs, they never sat right with me. It was everyone else’s concepts. God started sounding like a bottle of “Cure All” and there just was no evidence of this phenomena. Even when I needed that extra push of inspiration, I tested out placing it all in gods hands versus setting my mind to it. I found that setting my mind to it was all I needed. I wrote this in the first draft and not sure I need it any more but figured I would leave it in:
My feeling is this. As a non-theist, I have my mind, lets call it “Mind(god)”, my mind(god) guides me, If there is trouble in my life, I can use my mind(god) to help me focus on being more positive or to give me strength to work on the problem I am having. If I hurt someone, my mind(god) can remind me not to do that again.
This “belief” is testable and I can confirm it works for me. As it related to what I wrote above, “While influenced by others, you begin to create your own concept of god and you create your own image of him.” I have created my own concept, not necessarily of a god but a belief or worldview. During the course of my life, I have learned many valuable lessons. I have a core Catholic/Christian background, years of being in the trenches with my fellow atheists, have been studying world religions, especially Buddhism for the past 3 years. I can take principles of any religion or philosophy I want and build my own worldview and I can do so without having to believe in a god.
“were I to be the founder of a new sect. I would call them Apiarians, and, after the example of the bee, advise them to extract the honey of every sect. ”
(Letter From Thomas Jefferson to Thomas B. Parker, 15 May 1819)
That’s just the thing. You don’t need to go to church or believe in a god to follow the teachings of Jesus. You don’t need to meditate or go to a temple to follow Buddhist teachings. Sure there are people who will disagree with this statement but.. that is their belief! Be the person you wish to be!
One obstacle I run across is people who cannot accept my “belief”. Those people tend to hold strong religious convictions. It is so disheartening to hear someone, who supposedly has had the goodness of religion instilled in them, tell me I will go to hell if I don’t believe what they believe. Yeah, I know, it is part of their belief and they think they are only looking out for me but honestly… Sometimes people really need to think before they speak. That is so nasty to say to someone who you know has a different belief that they love and cherish.
The problem most people have is acceptance of others! The world would be a much better place if we accept others. We need not agree on everything but we should really learn to accept our differences. We really need to focus on similarities and not focus on the differences.
That’s my story4today!