We don't agree about everything and that's OK. What we do agree on is the need to carry on the discussion in a civil way.

Before you contribute to a discussion, familiarize yourself with logical fallacies. Ad hominem attacks will not be tolerated.

The goal here is for civil conversation so be nice; no profanity. Anyone who calls another person an idiot will be banned.

Lastly remember, when someone disagrees with your views it does not mean they like you less as a person. If you can't handle being disagreed with then go away.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

I'm a panentheist

Paul Tillich said that we should retire the word “God,” because it had become virtually meaningless. Meaningless because there is no consensus about what the word means. Wars have been fought, people have been slaughtered of the "right" and "wrong" definition of God. (It always makes me laugh when people say God is so transcendent that we can't know his mind, but then they DO know his mind about what he wants, what he expects, where he will send me when I die ...)

Tillich used expressions such as “Ultimate Concern,” “Ground of Being,” which pointed toward a concept of God as not a supernatural person somewhere “out there,” but as the ultimately unknowable direction in which all things point.

As Marcus Borg has articulated better than I could hope to, the God I reject is the god of supernatural theism, a “supernatural being somewhere out there.” The God that has become a selfish transaction for the unknowable afterlife. Christianity is not simply believing the right things so you can avoid eternal Hell Fire, it's about knowing and loving God, loving your fellow man, and as Jesus said in John's gospel that we "might have life, and have it more abundantly" (John 10:10).  Borg's book, "Speaking Christian" has challenged me to rethink my opinion of God and of Christianity.

Unlike pantheism, which says the universe is God, God is the universe and that is all, I realized I'm a panentheist. Panentheist means all in God and God transcends everything. God is "the ground in which I live and move and have my being" (Acts 17:28). An imperfect analogy is of fish in a river. Fish (that would be us) live in a river, rely on the river for breathing, moving ... and yet the river is more than just the fish and flora and fauna, it flows into the Ocean, it nourishes life.

Life itself is a sacrament - simply by living our lives as genuine and authentic human beings we can meet God, not just know God, but meet him and know him completely.

This is also becoming the foundation of Progressive Christianity and the Emergent Church. I would be happily involved with these denominations because they allow for the intellectual honesty of searching, discovery, questioning and rejecting. And yet they acknowledge the traditions of Christianity and the beauty of the Bible - as a human creation. They acknowledge the beauty in and borrow ideas from other religions. They follow the truth, and still have an encounter with God.

I won't claim the title of Christian. The traditional, cultural understanding of that word means someone who believes things which for the sole purpose of going to heaven, of avoiding hell. I'm not that person, I don't just believe anything.

Watch this video from my favorite church (unfortunately it's in Springfield, IL or I would go every week) for a fuller understanding of my faith journey, which will continue until the day I die.

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Pascal's Wager

Several people have said to me "I'd rather believe and be wrong then not believe and be wrong, because if you're wrong you're going to hell." What you may not realize is that this is actually called Pascal's Wager, created by the seventeenth-century philosopher, Blaise Pascal. In a nutshell, Pascal's Wager says that since we can never really know if God exists, there is so much more to gain by simply believing God does exist. Essentially if you wager that God exists you gain everything (eternal life) and if you lose (and God doesn't exist) you've lost nothing.

It seems like a compelling proposition, right? Just believe the right things and you'll go to heaven! But what are the right things to believe? Why should anyone wager the Christian God is the right God to gamble your eternal soul on? He is not the only option. Maybe the Hindu God is the right one. Maybe Zeus is the right one.

Secondly, I've given up my previously held beliefs because of reason and thinking. I simply can't force myself to un-know all the things I've learned during the last five years. Surely God would know I was faking it. Believe me, there are plenty of times I think to myself "why oh why didn't I take the blue pill?" but I can't take the blue pill and forget everything.

And finally, is faith really just a matter of mentally assenting to a checklist of established beliefs? That seems so hollow, so pointless. I think any God (who every religion says is utterly transcendent and ineffable) wouldn't endow us with an intellect and ability to reason and then require we throw those abilities out the window and just blindly believe what we're told. I genuinely believe any God would much prefer those who honestly seek the truth, wherever that may lead.

So please stop lobbing this argument at me. Like everything else, I've given it a good deal of thought before rejecting it, but I find it lacking and frankly disrespectful of God.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

This I love and believe with my whole heart.

I've mentioned before my fondness for authors like Bishop John Shelby Spong and Karen Armstrong. I did not realize until recently that there is a church that also loves these authors. THIS is a church I would love to attend. THIS is a faith I whole heartedly embrace. Here is a church that loves the Bible as I do, the wants to follow the teachings of Jesus, as I do, and is not afraid to call a spade a spade; to recognize myths, metaphors and the historical setting. Here is a church that believes Jesus taught us how to LIVE our lives, not just a list of things we need to mentally ascent to!

This is a spiritual approach I wholeheartedly embrace. It focuses on how to live our lives, how we can make the lives of others better without concern for some magical after life we can't possibly know anything about.