Monday, November 17, 2008

Talking to God

I think I've mentioned my occasional conversidations with the Almighty once or twice, but I've never really delved completely into the subject. But considering the whole abortion argument is a mix of competing individual rights and interpretations of God's will, I feel an overwhelming need to explain the process, why it's important to me, and the usual melding of the Bible, Star Wars, and dick and fart movies that forms my wacky worldview. Whether I successfully do so....

"Human beings have neither the aural nor the psychological capacity to withstand the awesome power of God's true voice. Were you to hear it, your mind would cave in and your heart would explode within your chest. We went through five Adams before we figured that one out." - Metatron, from the movie Dogma

First of all, for clarification, this is a broad subject that can be interpreted many ways. I frame this from the Christian point of view, as that is my original frame of reference. You may interpret this from whatever faith (or lack thereof) perspective you hold. An example would be (from the Star Wars movies, of course) the concept of the Force. To quote:

Obi-Wan: Remember, a Jedi can feel the Force flowing through him. Luke: You mean it controls your actions? Obi-Wan: Partially, but it also obeys your commands. from Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope (that's the first one for you ubernoobs.)

Whether you chalk it up to a mystical energy field, a collective sense and consciousness, an inconceivable an imperceptible superentity, or an old guy sitting on a throne pronouncing shit, I'm speaking of the same thing. And, because everything needs a damned disclaimer, I'm talking about personal faith, not an attempt to change anyone's mind on their personal faith. So if you want to get into a theological war about this, then you can bite my shiny metal ass.

First, let me in on some other little points of my personal faith. I do believe in God, but with two important points. First, the God of the Bible is merely the best that could be created at the time and we really don't and can't understand the true nature of God. Second, the nature of God does not mean He's actively making every single event happen, rather he's set a general direction for existence and we function with free will to shape and change the world. Given this, I also believe that we can affect our environment and our lives, and that God isn't going to waste time pointing every single person on a daily basis.

"Metatron acts as the voice of God. Any documented occasion when some yahoo has claimed that God has spoken to them they're speaking to me. Or they're talking to themselves." - Metatron, from the movie Dogma (again)

Now, on to the actual conversation. I can remember one particular conversation. Not to go into the particulars, there was a radio show, a bumper sticker, and certain knowledge. I can't describe it better than saying it's certain knowledge, because it's not as though a voice comes out of the sky saying, "What's up, jerky?" I'll address him directly, as I have conversations with myself as well (including the precomposition of this post). And I don't hold back. As my upbringing teaches that God knows what's in my heart, if the F-word is present in my heart, why not use it? Since He has yet to strike me down with a lightning bolt, I figure I've got His measure. I can say that it isn't that often that I have a conversation with Him, but I assume that it's because it's not necessary.

Now why is this important? I honestly can't answer that. But if I were to venture a guess, it's because I have to believe there is more out there than what I see. If this mundane existence is all there really is, then I should be out there eating and fucking and killing until such time that someone kills me. I know this files in the face of the more evangelical atheists out there, but our collective concepts of right and wrong are too common to occur in a vacuum. And without something to govern our free will, we would function like any other animal.

So I hope you can take something from this, apply it to you lives, to your relationships with others, and your relationship with God. If not, I hope you at least check out the movies I quote and try to tie it into the Bible. If you look at things from a different point of view, sometimes you'll find the real answer. I know, because God told me that. Or I was talking to myself again.

35 comments:

Toad734 said...

You were talking to yourself.

Don't you know he only strikes down cities that have gay pride parades?

Toad734 said...

Oh, ya, all those midwest bible belt flood towns who get flattened by tornados, well, even though they don't have liberals or gay pride parades, they must have mocked God in some way as well .

Bullfrog said...

Thanks for sharing. I have a story you might be interested in reading about how I discovered God. In the interest of space, I will link you to it here.

Patrick M said...

Toad: Do you intentionally choose to be a fucking idiot?

Seriously, this is a discussion on the personal, not an ideology battle.

Bullfrog: We all have different paths and come to the same place from different directions. Unless introspection wholly escapes us. Think I'm referring to anyone in particular?

Gayle said...

LOL, Patrick. I believe you have Toad's number! :)

It's a good post and an introspective one, which is why it went above Toad's head. He must have been trying to catch flies instead of reading it.

I don't think you were talking to yourself.

Shaw Kenawe said...

"And without something to govern our free will, we would function like any other animal."--Patrick

A bit of a contradiction here. How does a something "govern" free will?

If something is "governing" free will it, well, isn't free.

And if you read primatology or, say, physical anthropology, you'll see that we do, indeed, act like animals--all the time.

Years of studying the great apes have shown that there is a moral order in their culture. Certain behavious are taboo, and certain behaviors are rewarded.

I like what the character Peter O'Toole played in one of my favorite movies, "The Ruling Class" said about prayer and god.

When one of his relatives asked him why he thought he was god (the character dressed in Franciscan robes, and carried a cross around with him on which he slept every night) he answered, "Because I found that when I prayed to god, I was talking to myself."

Arthurstone said...

Interesting take on the current state of 'nerd' theology based on the works of George Lucas and Kevin Smith.

May the force be with you.

Dude.

Dave Miller said...

Arthur, you continue to surprise. I wonder if Mike is missing your wit?

Jennifer said...

I thought it was a really good post. I think we all have different outlook on things although we share the same basics. Well at least some of us do! I can't say the same about Shaw (but then we always agreed to disagree in the past).

Shaw you ask how can something govern and then give free will. It is just like the government of the United States. He (God) has given us rules or principles (however you choose to look at it) to live by, but he doesn't hold us like puppets on puppet strings. He allows us to make our own mistakes and he leaves us to deal with the consequences.

I'm not even going to go to toad's comment, because I think you said it best!

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Patrick,

There's something really creepy about that statue of Jesus, and that's coming from a Catholic standpoint, not a HK one.

As for all the rest, I think I worked too hard today. I'll check it out at 0430, which seems to be the best time of any given day for me.

Shaw Kenawe said...

It is just like the government of the United States.

Well, I don't think so. The government of the United States was not formed by an entity. It is a government of the people, by the people, and for the people. It was formed by representatives of the people and consented to by the people.

This is not the model you use for analogy, where one entity hands down rules for mankind to follow.

Then you have the problem of the many different gods that humankind has and those many different "rules" those gods have devised.

You are assuming that the Christian god is the only valid rule giver.

Patrick M said...

Gayle, Arthur (I think), Jennifer: Thanks.

Shaw: I thought I was clear on the governing of free will thing. If something didn't create a limit in me (be it God, morality, conscience, something) I would have no compunction whatsoever to ignore laws in pursuit of my own gratification. I will give you that there are people that deviate from that and there are animals who establish a social order (always a dominance order), but I view this both as a biological and as a divinely designed function.

Saty: Considering that it's the Buddy Christ statue from Dogma (which also features a rubber poop monster), what do you expect?

Shaw Kenawe said...

Our brains are hard wired to make us choose behaviors to survive.

If we humans decide that free-for-all killing each other, free-for-all sex with each other, free-for-all stealing from each other will likely cause chaos, mayhem, and deadly diseases and the likely extinction of our species, then we will make up rules to control those destructive impulses.

Exceptions: We DO allow certain kinds of killing, i.e., war (where innocents are slaughtered--we call it collateral damage, and capital punishment, America being the only country in western democracies that still practices it)--then there's the neglect of the poor and helpless, which leads to their avoidable deaths, but that's another story.

We allow certain kinds of free-for-all sex, serial marriages, for example, no laws against that.

And we allow certain kinds of stealing (see Wall Street).

But my point is that we participate in the very complicated dance of our DNA/RNA whose sole purpose seems to be to get a lot of us to reproduce and then die off, but contribute to our culture and have some fun, and, sadly, experience tragedy in between.

Toad734 said...

What the hell is your problem, you were talking about whether or not God controls every event; a lot of people to believe that. I was simply commenting on part of your post. Don't bring it up if you don't want to talk about it.

Gayle:

Speaking of over the head, who do you think he was talking to?

Bullfrog said...

Patrick: "Think I'm referring to anyone in particular?" - Sorry, didn't understand the question.

Speaking of free will, how about this for a concept:

There is no such thing and we are incapable of making purely arbitrary decisions.

Example: You lead a horse to 2 troughs. 1 is filled with oats, and the other is filled with roast beef. The horse will eat the hay every time because that is what it eats, so it's will isn't really free.

Satyavati devi dasi said...

Gee, this is all kinda nebulous for me.

I'm watching, but I think I need kind of a definite direction before I can formulate anything. Right now it's just kinda like algebra.

Patrick M said...

Toad: I didn't. I'm talking the personal, not the the crazy. The fact that you take any mention of God to go on a religion-bashing spree is why you end up getting insulted rather than being engaged rationally.

Bullfrog: The line before that was Unless introspection wholly escapes us.

I was taking a cheap shot at the only other person who had commented (toad) for the reason I explained to him above.

As for the horse thing, I'm not sure how it applies, unless there's an evil man-eating horse involved.

Toad734 said...

Me, not rational? You guys are the ones who "talk to God".

Patrick M said...

Yeah. You're not rational.

Patrick M said...

Actually, Toad, let me expand that a little. I'm fully rational. But I'm also aware that there are many things that have no, and can never have, a rational explanation. If I were to list everything, you'd chuck it down to crazy christian voodoo or something.

But whatever it is, I've tried to follow it and see where it leads me. And if I get an answer, I'll share that immediately. Until then, it falls under the nebulous title of "God".

That you discount anything that can't be empirically observed and then proceed to mock it shows that you are limited. It's in trying to seek beyond what we believe is possible that we find answers to questions we never thought of. It's not necessarily the destination, but the search that matters.

Bullfrog said...

Patrick: Nothing like explaining a joke to kill the humor, my bad...

The horse analogy was lacking a bit, but the point is that when a person make a decision, it is limited by their experience, their understanding of the circumstances, and other factors, so humans are incapable of doing anything purely random but are "buffeted" by these factors.

At the end of the day, when discussing free will and the sovereignty of God, there comes a point where we just cannot resolve where one ends and the other begins. Clearly, God has influence and uses it wisely.

Toad734 said...

Im always open to new things and expanding what I believe is possible. That's almost the exact definition of a liberal. It's the ones who think everything they need to know about the world is written, by bronze age tribesman, in the first 5 books of the bible. Not saying you are a fundamentalist but I am not the one who is closed minded, in fact, I have studied the Bible my entire life. That's how I know it's all bullshit.

Lista said...

When you mentioned Abortion in the first Paragraph, I was so glad that you acknowledged that there are "Competing Individual Rights", not just the rights of the mother, but the Baby as well.

As to the statement that "The God of the Bible is merely the best that could be created at the time", though I agree that "We really don’t and can’t understand the true nature of God", it was not us who created Him, whether He created us. That is the "Christian Point of View", as you have claimed to be your 'Original Frame of Reference'.

I don’t think He is necessarily "making every single event happen" either, but He can and does interact with our world and He does respond to prayers requesting guidance. This is again from a Christian point of view, as you also claim to adhere to. If "It isn’t that often that you have a conversation with Him", than that could be one possible explanation to why you rarely, if ever, sense His direction in your life. Please don’t take offense, just consider this as a possibility and than we’ll move on.

You’ve admitted that there may be "more out there than you want to see" and I want to assure you that that’s true for a lot of us, for the deepest type of contact that can happen with the Almighty is sort of scary and requires the type of surrender that most of us are quite resistant to. Fortunately, God is merciful and meets with us on what ever level we can personally handle.

You are quite right that the Collective Concepts of Right and Wrong did not "occur in a Vaccuum".

To see God as nothing more than a Force is quite different than seeing Him as a person who loves and interacts with His loved Creation. No where in the movie series Star Wars was the Force ever described as something that brings comfort, encouragement and peace to anyone, nor for that matter, even guidance and direction through ones normal course in life.

There is a lot that I could say on this subject, but this is enough for now.

Lista said...

On second thought, maybe I will take the time to read the comments.

As I read, I want to make a few notes to myself, such as when I have time I'd like to tackle the subject of exactly why I feel confident that when we pray, we are not just talking to ourselves.

Shaw Kenawe,
I do not think that our "Free Will" is Governed. I think that we simply know deep down what is right. Whether or not we do it is up to us and when we don't, we sort of act like animals, just as you have said. But we have the power to choose not to and that is where free will comes in.

Our Free Will involves the choice between acting like animals or allowing what we know to be the right way to act to "Govern" our Lives.

Thanks Toad for the comical relief. Your comments just sort of make me laugh.

When we study Archeology, we realize that the Bible is more accurately based on actual real places and history than any other religious book. That makes it both rational and true.

Patrick M said...

Toad: Yeah, sure, everything in there's bullshit. Whatever you say. Yep, uh huh.

When you dismiss a book completely without examining the times it was written in, the purpose of individual parts, and the motivations of the writers (divorced of the Divine inspiration part), you'd notice there are a few things of value in there.

Strangely, the place where I got the most illumination from the Bible was a college class that examined it as a work of literature. The real secret, I found, is to pare away the dogma that gets interpreted in. Then you can learn.

Lista: I don't pretend to understand everything about God (although I claim I do when the mood suits me). However, in my statement about the God of the Bible, I'm talking from the view of the writers. Aside from the Divine inspiration aspect (a matter of faith), it's difficult to explain things that are yet inconceivable to people with far less knowledge of the workings of the world than we have. Consider firearms back when Columbus landed in this hemisphere. The cultures of the time regarded them as gods with the ability to shoot fire. It was as they learned that they discovered otherwise.

So how do you explain God? And try to do it without referencing what we now know as Christianity?

Definitely a challenge, isn't it?

That's why I came up with the Atheist's Definition of God:

God is that being, or entity, that exists beyond human perception, definition, and understanding, and whose existence can only be accepted as an article of faith.

In the lighto fo this definition, everything we do to define God is simply the best that can be managed at the time.

Which leads me to the Star Wars reference.

The Force is an invented thing, of course. But if you look through the saga, you'll find all kinds of things that, interestingly enough, were lifted from the Bible (such as a virgin birth from Ep I) to connect the movies to our existing beliefs and common culture.

If you've ever seen the documentary, Empire of Dreams (they've run it on cable and it came packaged with the original trilogy), the beginning parts talk about how George Lucas borrowed from the Bible and from mythology to craft the tale. Hell, I think they had another show that went over every single connection, but I can't remember it (it was longer and boring than my geekdom would allow.

The parts I'm talking about in the first doc, though, I found the clips for:

Part 1
Part 2

It's about 18 minutes of viewing which illuminates part of my point. FYI, the whole doc is a 3-hour affair.

Now assuming you have all the movies (and if not, WHAT'S WRONG WITH YOU!!!), just go through and find any Jedi talking about the Force (Ep V is the best as Yoda gets much screen time). You'll notice that you could follow the ways of the Force and probably be living a good Christian life.

It's in the commonalities that we can best illuminate God's way....

Toad734 said...

No, it's not all 100% Bullshit. Sure there was a city named Meggido and there were cities named Sodom and Gamorrah. There was some sort of Deluge at some point but you can look to Islamic texts and they will all tell you the same thing.

The part about the Bible that's bullshit is just the stuff about God, how the world was created, how Jesus was the son of this God and that there were 7 headed dragons, Jonah lived in a whale which is apparently a fish, the flood, garden of Eden, Hell, talking snakes, etc.

So yes, I amend my statement. The Bible isn't 100% bullshit.

There are some things of Value in Audacity of Hope, The Kama Sutra, Quran and Pinnochio but you aren't starting a religion out of them are you? Most books have at least some value. It doesn't meant you burn women at the stake over them.

Heres one, my brother believes all the Bible literally except the God part. Sodom and Gamorrah were destroyed by our Alien master race because of their disobedience. Chariots of fire and Angels...all Aliens. Again, best descriptions they could come up with. Anything that is mechanical and gets people from one place to another is a Chariot, space ships didn't exist, no context for that or Aliens. If they came from the sky they were call God.

Lista said...

Patrick,
Ok, aside from the idea of "Divine Inspiration", nothing that anyone ever says or writes is ever any more than the writer or speaker's interpretation of what he or she hears or sees, yet they are obviously hearing, seeing and experiencing something. That can not be denied.

The Bible teachers that I really admire and respect are those who base their interpretation of Scripture not on Christian Tradition, nor on personal opinion, but on the original Greek and Hebrew Language and the Culture in which the Bible was written in. There is a lot more interpretation of that sort going on than people realize.

"A good Christian Life" involves more than just doing the right things morally. Christianity is a relationship with a personal being. The difference between the God of the Bible and "The Force" is really key. To repeat it for you, God is "a person who loves and interacts with His loved Creation. No where in the movie series Star Wars was the Force ever described as something that brings comfort, encouragement and peace to anyone, nor for that matter, even guidance and direction through ones normal course in life.."

There is a verse in the Bible, "6) He has made us competent as ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (1 Corinthians 3:6, NIV). Basically what this means is that it is through relationship with the Spirit of God and Jesus that we find life. Relationship gives life, not "the letter" or some empty set of rules.

Patrick M said...

Lista: Fine, break out the verse, will you? I did explain that I was born and raised Catholic at some point. Breaking out the verse is kind of like bringing a bazooka to a knife fight. :)

If you're talking Christianity, there are specific unique practices and beliefs. But the essence in how we relate to each other is the same. I generally don't worry too much about the relationship with God that other individuals have if they are fair and reasonable with their fellow man (especially considering my personal relationship with Him is as messed up as my blog).

Let me disclaimer that my thoughts and opinions probably don't fall into the tighter definitions of Christianity (or Catholicism either). But that's the challenge of finding a way to relate to a being that is beyond perception, definition, and understanding.

Lista said...

Hi Patrick,
Actually, the Bible is the "Sword of the Spirit". If you don't like me quoting verses, than I won't bother to look up the reference that says that. I just thought that I should let you know that the Bible is a "Sword", not a "Bazooka". You know, sort of like a knife. And anyway, I don't think that they had "Bazookas" back when the Bible was written. :)

Even if the Bible is a "Bazooka", though, it is available for anyone to read, study and use. That's what it's for.

I quote verses a lot. It's sort of my way. I guess I do it because I like to base my thoughts on something more authoritative than just my own puny little opinion.

Patrick M said...

You can continue to quote. I just have to work harder to find the counter quotes, that's all (being all Catholic, you know).

But at least the comments section, as always, has led to more post, with the phrase that drive it being "Dogmatic Prism." More to come.

Lista said...

You know Patrick,
I'll tell you a secret. Things may not be quite as impressive as they seem. It's not like I know the references to certain verses by heart. I have a program on the computer called Quick Verse. Parsons Technology puts it out. It's a concordance. I can type in any word or even phrase and the computer finds all the verses with those words in them and than all I have to do is Copy/Past or Drag and Drop.

Perhaps the "Bazooka" is my Quick Verse Program, but then again, this doesn't have to be a competition.

Speaking of that, I've been thinking about the "Bazooka" comment ever sense I first read it. Blowing someone away with a "Bazooka" sort of reminds me of how people often use the Bible to hit people over the head with and I want you to know, that that's something I would never want to ever do. At least it's not ever my intent. If I ever come across that way, you'll have to let me know so I can stop.

The "Sword" analogy is much better because a Knife can be used in a destructive way, as a weapon, or in a positive way, by a surgeon. May we always use it gently and delicately just a surgeon would do.

Here are a couple of verses relating to the Bible being referred to as a "Sword"; Ephesians 6:17, Hebrews 4:12 and Revelation 1:16 & 2:12. To save space, I won't quote them.

Patrick M said...

Maybe that's my problem. I don't worry about quoting anybody or anything and run solely on memory. Which means I can come back quickly with a response, but I risk inaccuracy. Beyond that I have Google and Wikipedia for facts, and I surpose if I wanted to quote I could locate a site pretty quickly. But I'm not big on quoting the Bible, because if I didn't mention it I'm a really lapsed Catholic. But God hasn't seen fit to nudge me in a particular direction yet, so I stay where I am.

As for the bazooka reference, it works best in my instance. Bringing a sword to a knife fight is the same general class of weapon (edged melee), just bigger. It's derived from the phrase "bring a knife to a gunfight" to note the futility of such an action. But I'll try.

How about this? It's like bringing a sword to a rubber chicken fight.

Lista said...

"Bringing a Sword to a Rubber Chicken Fight." Now, that's cute. I like that.

Once again I am reminded of the Post I did entitled "The Sacrifice/Cost of Efficiency". Here's the link again if you have not yet had the chance to read it. In it, I talked about how sometimes when we focus so much on Speed and Efficiency, we make certain sacrifices and the Quality suffers.

I heard that some Catholic groups are getting better, but many of them do not emphasize the reading of the Scripture like the Protestants do, from which Daily Devotions are encouraged. The Priests are supposed to know the Bible, though, and aside from an added section called the Apocrypha, they use the same book that the rest of us Christians do.

If you ever do want to trade in your "Rubber Chicken" for a "Sword", "Swords" are easier to get than "Bazookas" and I'll try really hard to keep the fight friendly and not pull out the "Bazooka".

Which reminds me, I've been wanting to say that the actual verse I quoted above; "6) He has made us competent as ministers of a New Covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit; for the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life." (1 Corinthians 3:6, NIV) actually relates to the subject of the "Bazooka" verses the Surgeons Knife.

We are not to hit people over the head with the Bible, because "the letter kills". Instead we are supposed to show the love of God's Spirit, because "the Spirit gives life". This verse explains exactly why, we should leave our "Bazookas" at home and use the "Sword" gently.

Patrick M said...

I've got duct tape. Nothing more is required.

Lista said...

You're so cute!