A letter to Jenny, who experiments with religion: SHARED


I know what book I want to send you next. It’s a novel – called Mister God, This is Anna by Fynn
It was given the book when I was 17 and my younger sister and I spent the summer working at a hotel on the highway just outside of Banff, Alberta.
I have bought many copies of this book over the years to give to people.
The story is about a young man in his 20’s who finds a young orphan girl – it’s set in England between the 2 world wars or just after WWII – I forget for the moment.
Fynn takes Anna under his wing and shows her how to understand the world by playing in it – and Anna understands the world – sort of like how Dakota Fanning was 8 but had the emotional presence of a 35 year old actress – Anna is wise beyond her years, but innocent.
Most people think that this book is a Christian story – but Mister God is about Anna’s relationship with God – and her god is not the god that lives in churches, but is waiting to be discovered everywhere in the world.
To my mind, the book is the essence of naturalism – because, if there is a god or supernatural agency at work in the universe (and I mean if in the sense of considering the possibility is true) then it makes sense that to understand such a being, we need to study what we understand is the truest creation – which is the universe and earth, as a whole – not limiting ourselves to what some men wrote about how they codified their relationship with their creator – because seriously, any texts are limited to the understanding of the world at the time they were written.
We know a lot about the world and the universe – more today than 50 years ago, more than 1000 years ago – so why put an artificial limit on your relationship with god and try to shoe horn it into what ancient people understood about and wanted from their god.
Take the texts as examples of the types of interactions – let’s even say for the sake of argument, that every story in the bible is true or has enough truth in it for the message and meaning to be true, even if the details are fuzzy or lost in translation.
God is eternal and smarter than humans – so God has to limit it’s interactions to occur within the scope of what humans at any given time can understand.
Thus, more stricter rules in the beginning and fewer rules towards the end.
The people who believed that what they wrote was the inspired word of God – was God talking to them to the limit of their ability to understand and then apply what was revealed to them into the context of their society at the time.
So the question is now – if god talks to people and inspired them to write those texts – perhaps there’s a reason why god stopped interacting with people in as obvious ways – and god now talks to people in different ways – and that’s why people compose symphonies and literature and make science discoveries – because humans have become smarter and more able to understand the way of god – who is revealing a new level of communication – because frankly, organized religion has gone off message – they’ve done crusades, genocides, systemic molesting of children, consolidating wealth and power into the hands of people who embezzle and commit adultery and generally try to hold back both social and scientific progress.
I think that if you want to understand God, then you won’t find him in imperfectly written, translated, edited texts that have been written down and managed the document – and what I know from working in offices is that if a document is central to understanding that it has to be what’s called a living document – it has to be able to absorb changes and new information, and be adaptive to new technology.
If you want to understand your God, I think need to look to his creation not the texts managed by men – earth and people and the Universe – and the study of creation or rather of nature is what science is – observing, experimenting, peer review and a built up body of work that we understand how we’ve learned what we know and we have a proven method for gathering and evaluating data and we put the patterns of the data into ideas and combine them into theories that provide a working definition of a huge mass of information – and as new information is gathered, it reinforces what the theory is (and a scientific theory is not a best guess – it’s a best answer based on what we know and probability mathematics) theories explain the patterns that we see as a way to do quality assurance that the theory is robust enough to incorporate new data or the theory is down graded when new data changes the entire understanding.
As for me, I want to tell you that I actually love you with all my heart because you have opened up a whole new understanding and possibility for me.
I never experienced religion as an adult – so I understood the concepts, but not the emotional resonance, the emotional satisfaction that belonging to a church community or the emotional satisfaction and comfort that belief brings to people.
But I have that emotional satisfaction and comfort of belief (meaning acceptance based in understanding and experience) in my life but I also have intellectual satisfaction – something that I don’t think people who think inside a religion have.
Because your experience of the world in this age of humanity, in your lifetime – the world you live in is very different from the bible world – although, the nations of the Bible haven’t seemed to change very much since those times – your understanding and experience of the world does not come from the bible – it comes from you living your life.
And you already know that the world we share is more complex and nuanced than the bible writers could have imagined – and this being the case, a lot of what’s in the bible is not relevant to moderan life. Most Christians ignore the old testament while that’s the part that Jews stick with and Islam is a rewrite of the same texts and put in a different social context.
These three religions – Judiasm, Christianity and Islam are called the Abrahamic Religions – a sort of trilogy covering the same material.
The other religions of the world – which more people of the world follow than those three combined – are based in very different traditions and very different understanding of the world.
But they all come down to the same basic lessons – be good, compassionate and honour creation.
So why get hung up and argue over the differences of ritual and ceremony and modes of worship if as the inter-faith committees claim, it’s all going back to the same god?
If that’s really the case, then the only conclusion is that the form or format of worship is less important to God than how you are in the world.
If that’s true, then keep what works for you personally and don’t get involved with the bits that you can consign to – that was an earlier and less enlightened time – slavery and inequality isn’t okay.
Now, I don’t mean to get political on you – but – I’ve spent the last five years on line, trying to figure out how to get to talk to a Christian in more than the Yes/No A/Theist debate and you are the first one in all that time and out of hundreds of Christians that I could really talk to and you have amazed me – because you are what people keep telling me what Christians are – but you’re the first one that I could believe all the good things about.
Because you shared not Christianity with me – because I already got that concept – you shared with me what it means to be Christian to you and that I didn’t understand before.
And more important you want to understand why people resist or refuse Christianity when it’s such a force of goodness in your life that you want to share it.
But you are taking the time to understand why people resist or refuse – and that’s what learning how other people have experienced Christianity does – it allows you to understand what it’s like for non-Christians to experience Christianity and when you learn that why – you will understand why we can very happily live without it – but that doesn’t mean that you have to you – it just means that you get to live with it in your life – but, be capable of interacting with people who don’t as being legally and socially equal to yourself without judgment of their lives – because as we recognize that you have the right to what you believe and think about the universe – so too are you recognizing that right and entitlement to believe and think what we want
And then the conversation is no longer who’s right and who’s wrong (aka Zero Sum) – but rather what you think and what I think, what’s in common and what’s different – and that’s an interest based conversation where right and wrong do not enter into it and the rules of our engagement are the rules of our society – secular civil democratic basis of interacting with each other – the way it’s supposed to be in society,
Not one group imposing their ideas over top of the law of the land or worse, instead of the law of the land.

No Interest in Zero Sum

I am very interested in this idea that I have been seeing on Christian Bloggers that a person’s religion is a separate thing than their personal relationship with Jesus/God.

I would like to understand how a Christian or rather a believer within a religion sees that “religion” as separate from the central figure of said religion.

If I am understanding correctly – they are saying that God and you are the real one thing and organized religion is how people in olden days to current day have collectively expressed their personal relationship through an social structure

Which, over time, has become flawed, being operated by imperfect and often self serving people. That god is about you and him – not humans as a collective whole – but god to each individual.

Sort of like the Futurama movie, Beast with a Billion Backs.

if that is right – then why belong to churches when you can access god directly?

because religion is the frontier that sits between god and people – and the religious hierarchy from shamans to nuns – are the proxies through which god and the people interact

organized religion, in a way, is the middleman –

so if that’s the case – why bother going to or belonging to a church at all?

why not live your life fully and express your relationship through your daily interactions with other people and what community service interests you?

if what you have to be concerned about is your particular relationship

then why does it matter to you what other people’s relationship to the same or other gods or none at all, matter?

it’s not like old days when you traveled, people hadn’t heard the word – the word is heard around the world everyday people are killing each other over religious differences

and I think that if people really took the attitude that I am seeing – but I don’t know if I am overstating them – if what matters is you and your relationship with god

then you don’t have any business being concerned with other people’s relationships with god or anyone they chose to love – we have to accept that each of us are the expert of our experiences and we know what’s best and works for ourselves.

I can’t say this enough – in America freedom is the ability to take liberties with whatever makes you happy. Freedom of choice, to chose for your life, for everyone.

That means gays and lesbians get to chose partners who will make them happy – being married and a couple is hard enough without adding the unnecessary layer that one is homosexual and trying to be heterosexual.

Maybe instead of Christians condemning and demanding conformity at any cost, it’s time that Christians took a hard look at the world and what they are bringing about in it – and see yourselves as we see you – because to be honest, we’re a little tired of the picture that you keep painting of us as immoral perpetual teenagers.

I’m 43 and well beyond my grassroots activist days of kiss-ins to upset the status quo – I’m middle aged and tired of the constant fighting over who’s right.

Can’t we just say that each of us knows what’s right for ourselves and everyone else gets to know what’s right for them? Then we can talk about what works for each of us and totally shift the conversation – and you’d be surprised how much baggage falls away or roadblocks to conversation evaporates, because we open up new avenues of dialog.

It’s not my place to change what you believe or vice versa. It’s just not.

So wouldn’t it be more interesting instead of a zero sum you’re right or wrong – we instead got to talk about why it works for you and how you express it – so I could get to know you

and I talked about what works for me and why and how

and we both get to be not doubted about our life experience and understanding and instead, we get to exchange information and share what’s good and valuable.

Because quite frankly, I am tired of the unresolvable historic debates

I think we should toss that whole conversation and start over – not zero sum but interest driven – and we both have an interest to participate in the world and better understand each other and we can’t do that when we are undermining and de-stablizing the other’s sense of worth and security in a zero-sum going in circles contest.

Because we have serious problems that are global to solve and we can’t solve anything when we are arguing over what shape table and who gets to bring what and who’s right and who’s wrong.

We can’t work that way anymore – we have to deal with what are the facts on the ground that we all agree on and build more consensus and understanding. But we have to proceed from a shared understanding of facts and reality.

We can’t solve environmental problems through religious belief – because that means waiting for a deity to reset the earth to original factory eden settings. And even if we waited, most of us won’t get in anyway.

So we need to focus on identifying the problems, what the human portion of the problem causing factor is – and what can we do to mitigate and prevent?

The same basis of why we get insurance, city planning and the normal coordination of the infrastructure of life. What is the natural reality of the situation and proceed from there.

Because if there a Creator of the universe, then shouldn’t we trust what we learn by studying that creation instead of what people have written down and claimed as the word of god?

Once Adam and Eve left the garden, god didn’t abandon them – he sent them forth to multiply – and we have – we have dominion over the planet.

Look what we’ve done to it –  stressed habitats to the point of species extinction, populated all liveable land and basically poo’ed on everything.

Seriously, I’da kicked us out of the garden too. Campfire rule people – leave things in as good or better condition than when you encounter them.