I wanted to start a discussion to listen to adherents and hear what they have to tell us based on some questions I'd like to pose to them. In other words, I want to sincerely play the role of a seeker and ask them how I would know that their god is The One, True God. The purpose is not to deconvert or convert, I just want to walk through a seeker conversation where I'm allowed to ask questions of adherents and see what they have to say ... to listen. I am willing to expand on what I mean by "The One, True God" if a reader asks for that, to the extent that I think the definition is sufficient for the discussion.
This is the adherent's golden opportunity to proselytize; to convert me.
In order to do this effectively I need to ask the adherent for their imprimatur on a rule by which I can do this without bogging it down so that I can never get my questions asked. So, here it is. I'll ask a question as a hypothetical. It may be that there are more assumptions to the hypothetical that one could add, but I'll ask for the sake of discussion that we allow only the assumptions of the hypothetical I offer. This way, I can at least get through a few questions. If someone thinks the assumptions are insufficient just state that with your answer and we'll accept that as your answer informed by the assumptions of the question.
So, here's my question. I'll ask it and see if I can get a useful answer, recalling that I am a lifelong atheist who has never believed and who is sincerely trying to sort out all the gods out there and figure out which one to follow:
How do I know that your god is The One, True God?
"The purpose is not to deconvert or convert" should probably say "my purpose is not to deconvert". ;-)
That is indeed a clever riddle. I had no idea. Now, if I take that as an answer to this question though, I have to ask, but how would I know that your god is The One, True God? I mean, that works well for you no doubt, but how would I know?
I understand what you're saying about where you are right now. No worries.
The answer is you have to want Him.
Okay, that makes sense. But what happens if I really do, sincerely and in my deepest fiber of being "want Him" just like you say, and I still can't tell which one is The One, True God?
Now, that of course, assumes I can do that - want him/her/it - before I've actually identified which god is The One, True God. But I'll accept that assumption for now.
You’ve already stated that the psychology of religion states that we believe what we want to believe, (something to that effect,) which brings us into a matter of personal will and want. There’s an old saying, “Those convinced against their will are of the same opinion still…” So nobody can change anybody’s mind if their mind does not want to be changed, no matter what the belief system is.
Righteo. That's a good point and it all could be just an illusion of sorts. It certainly won't come by the intellect.
Let me repeat that.
It certainly won't come by the intellect, for if we rely on that tool then we fall for the trap you just mentioned.
It must come by being seen, clearly, unambiguously, imo.
Love suffers long and is kind. If the Author of All Things loves you, and lets assume for the sake of discussion he/she/it does, then they can wait for you to inquire using the gift of mind granted you by his/her/its grace, right?
So, its okay to take a vacation and think outside the rubric of religiosity for a limited time; to give yourself that time, to sort things out. When you return the door will never be closed.
Its merely a thought experiment, really. I do not say this to trick you, I mean that sincerely. It really is. You will not be denied because you used your gifts to strengthen your faith, right?
Hey - I cannot - but I can show you Truth in way that is crystal clear.
The only way to do that is for both of us together to try to answer this question:
How do I know that your god is the One, True God?
this is what I worship:
The healing principle.
The guiding light.
The biological and spiritual drive towards survival, health and wholeness.
When I cut my finger, my body re-grows and repairs itself until the cut is healed. If a mad dog is chasing me, I automatically run away as fast as I can. In 2001 when I deliberately took an overdose and went into a coma, 12 hours later I must have heard the people arrive in the next room because apparently I hauled myself off the bed onto the floor and began pounding slowly on the door for help.
From the molecular level upwards, all living things have evolved to stay alive; to flee from danger, to heal, stay healthy and to flourish. This greatly increases their chances of surviving long enough to reproduce. In the first years after life began on Earth, before this principle became universal, species that did not do it would have been replaced very quickly by those that did.
DNA is a molecule which reproduces itself. Therefore, as the healing and self-preservation properties of living things are based on maximizing the chance of replicating, they take their value of goodness from the arbitrary "goodness" of the replicating property of DNA.
Healing can apply to any area of your life, any situation. Even if everything else seems to be going wrong, even if you are gravely ill, there is always the potential for healing in the other parts of your life.
If we combine this fundamental biological instinct towards individual healing and survival with the instinct for empathy and mutual aid, which exists in humans and many other animals: then we have compassion, altruism, Universal Love.
This is the basis for a sound human morality.
This is how I apply it:
Heal the situation.
Winners and winners.
If you personally have to take a moral decision, then that decision involves you and one or more other people. This is called the moral situation. The definition of goodness is to ensure that each person in the situation receives the maximum amount of healing available to them, and the minimum amount of harm. The result is a better environment for everyone. Sacrifices and compromises may be required in order to bring this about.
This formula is justified by The Golden Rule, which states:
The Golden Rule has been hard-wired into the human brain by evolution. Diagram
As a human being, I need the help of other human beings in order to survive. If I decide to help others, there is more chance that I will be helped. This is felt by all people. A contract evolved and is now hard-wired into the human brain: "I will help others in the hope that I will receive help when I need it."
He is not a believer who eats his fill while his neighbour remains hungry by his side.
– The Prophet Mohammed
Evil is defined as causing unnecessary harm. Sometimes it is necessary to cause harm in the service of healing, such as when a surgeon cuts you open in order to perform an operation which will heal you overall. This decision can only be taken on a case-by-case basis.
Take responsibility for your actions.
Fulfil your promise. If you find that you can't deliver, then tell the person well enough in advance that they can make alternative arrangements.
Do what should be done. Don't do what should not be done.
When you realize you’ve made a mistake, take immediate steps to correct it.
This is why:
Why should we do good?
If I behave well, then I will make a better life for myself and the people around me.
The Healing Principle is a fundamental principle of life that sustains and nourishes us. Sometimes it's tough to uphold, but we always feel it's worth it in the long run, because life breeds life, and evil breeds death.
To join with this principle is positive, fertile and productive, and makes us feel optimistic.
To work against it is nihilistic and destructive and makes us feel pessimistic.
He that does good becomes good. He that does evil becomes evil.
By pure actions he becomes pure, by evil actions he becomes evil.
What we do becomes a part of us and our lives.
Healing that becomes part of my life will continue to heal. Evil that becomes part of my life will continue to cause destruction until it is neutralised or rectified.
It is preferable and honourable to spend our short, fragile existences doing things we can be proud of. To do evil is a waste of our precious gift of life.
What do you think?
Giving elevation to yourself means having self esteem. Do I need to tell you that self esteem is a good thing? Sadly, that is not a rhetorical question.
Clergy and the other dishonest salesmen will try to coax you into thinking in terms of black and white. That if you don't drop on your knees and give yourself over to their authority, which they claim was given to them by god himself, but instead chose to have even a modicum of self-respect, self-worth and love for yourself, you are a selfish, evil person. Don't fall for it Sarah.
“Owners of dogs will have noticed that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they will think you are god. Whereas owners of cats are compelled to realize that, if you provide them with food and water and shelter and affection, they draw the conclusion that they are gods.”
You don't have to be a dog. And you're not a cat either. You're human, so embrace it, don't be ashamed of it. Don't allow any lowly parasite to implant shame into you. Shame and fear are the currency of religion.
I find that the dynamics of acting for myself, and acting on behalf of someone or something else, are very different.
In other words, it's good to be able to be humble and to serve. It can achieve more than if we are proud and self-serving.
Sarah - I'm fascinated by this question. My answer to you would be, it's not a better way. I see it in terms of the ego versus God (in your terms). Basically, the ego is selfish and God is selfless. The ego only cares about itself, whereas to do one's duty, to Heal the Situation, is a positive thing to do regarding the world. Since we live in the world, and we need the world as much as the world needs us, this is a sensible thing to do. The ego is warped and distorted; the world is reality. However, this doesn't mean that to act for one's own benefit is always wrong, or that to discount what the world needs is always wrong. It's only wrong if what we do has a bearing on the world.