Thanks to Butterflies and Wheels for bringing this Huffington Post article to my attention. It’s in their section on religion and science, written by “nondenominational ordained Rabbi” Alan Lurie. What is it with that website and and its inability to grasp science?
You know, it’s much easier to take on fundamentalists because while they’re wildly dogmatic, they’re actually more coherent about their definition of God. Plus I really, really disagree with them. But when it comes to liberal theologians I hesitate a lot. I usually agree with them politically. They’re on our side when it comes to issues of women, gays and racism. They believe in science. Yet it’s hard to pass up an article like this, so here goes. First quote from Rabbi Alan’s attempt to help us find the hidden God:
The notion that God can “appear” as a visible entity demonstrates a belief in the nature of God as a being, separate from ourselves, and living somewhere “out there”: a person, perhaps like ourselves, only much, much bigger, smarter, etc. If this is our vision of God, then we will certainly be frustrated at “his” hiding. This image of God, though, is frankly a childish one that we must all agree does not exist.
Wrong! This image of God exists everywhere. Maybe you think it shouldn’t exist, but don’t deny that it does. Many, many, many fundamentalists the world over have this image of God. I suppose they are the childish ones. Let’s move on:
God is not found in the doctrine of religion. Rather, religion is an institution that seeks to find God. This is not a whitewash of religion, and does not ignore the obvious fact that many do look to religion to answer scientific questions and see science as a threat. This, instead, is a declaration that the true purpose of religion is to help us recognize that we are more than our momentary desires, our fleeting thoughts, and our painful sense of separation from each other and nature.
Oooo…second foul! Most religions are heavy on the doctrine and the dogma. And most religions are pretty sure they have found God and are very much telling you what the big guy wants of you. I don’t need a god to tell me that I’m more than my desires, thoughts and blah, blah, blah. I can certainly appreciate the wonders of my life and the world without an unseen, unheard presence in my life. On to round three:
[Bertrand] Russell’s statement assumes that evidence for God should be immediately obvious to anyone. Is this a reasonable assumption, though?
…We only grow when we take the first step and commit to the effort. The experience of God requires deliberate and sustained effort, as well….
There are some fortunate people who seem to be more open to experiencing God than others, just as there are some people who are naturally empathetic, more sensitive to art, music, or poetry….
[For]or these people God is not hidden but is the most real experience of their lives. …[O]ur ego…tends to resist experiencing God’s presence because this requires that we acknowledge that there is a higher power than ourselves and our minds. This realization can feel like a death, and the ego’s main function is to fight death.
No! Religion’s main function is to fight death. That’s why the ego latches onto religion. “I’m loved by some great big higher power. Aren’t I special? He’ll love me FOREVER.” What takes real effort is to learn science and to comprehend that we are animals and that our soul is our mind is our brain. It takes effort to really appreciate life when you accept that it is finite and that the universe doesn’t exist for our benefit. It doesn’t take any effort at all to do what religion teaches; it just takes imagination gone wrong. Okay, move along. Nothing to see there. So let’s try this one on for size:
The theologians who postulated these proofs [of the existence of God]…have generally been individuals who have intensely felt God’s presence, and then have attempted to create a reasoned roadmap for others. Unfortunately, this is like trying to get someone to feel the ecstatic emotion of a Beethoven symphony through an analysis of its structure, or to recreate the bliss of sexual union through an anatomical diagram.
LOUD BUZZ. The people who postulate proofs for the existence of God in this day and age are usually fundamentalists like William Lane Craig. They are not analyzing classical music for us, they are displaying their dim-witted reasoning for having an imaginary friend. Where is he getting these ideas? Finally, we’ll close with this:
As I said at the beginning, what we believe matters much less than what we do.
YES!!! Finally a correct answer!
So why all the esoteric casuistry? Why don’t the liberally religious just give up this confusing un-helpful terminology and start relating to actual reality? Well, over at Butterflies & Wheels she said it was so clerics could keep their jobs. I’m not sure about that. Rabbi Lurie has a job as an architect, so that’s not it for him, at least. Plus I obviously think there’s a future in professional spiritual leadership for secular humanists, so I can’t really go there.
Honestly I have no idea.