Belief in God

If this is a blog about the big religious questions, which it is, then I guess I’d better address the matter of God. And while I’m at it, why not the afterlife, too?

First, though, not all religions worship an all-knowing, all-powerful God who is separate from us and oversees us. If we grew up in a culture that was predominantly Christian, Muslim or Jewish, we expect religion to be all about worshiping God. But some religions don’t give a hoot about a god or gods. Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism are three examples. Hinduism and Shintoism have a more nuanced and complex relationship with a god or gods.

In an often-told story, a young monk kept bugging the Buddha with metaphysical questions. Finally, the Buddha had enough. I’m trying to end suffering, said the Buddha. If you are hit by a poisoned arrow, you want to remove the arrow. You don’t waste time by pondering who made the arrow, who launched it, what kind of bow was used, how the wind speed affected it, and so on. My teacher Thich Nhat Hanh put it this way: “Life is so short. It must not be spent in endless metaphysical speculation that does not bring us any closer to the truth.”

Kneeling in PrayerIt doesn’t matter to me whether you believe in a God or not, or whether you believe in the God described in the Old Testament, or the New Testament, or the Koran, or whether you worship Native American spirits, Wiccan gods, or Shinto ancestors. What matters to me is your internal belief structure and how you act in this world. To draw on Thich Nhat Hanh again, Heaven is anywhere where there is compassion, and hell is anywhere where there is no compassion.

Nevertheless, if I’m going to write about religion, you’re entitled to know my beliefs about God and an afterlife. I believe that God is a name we give to a force we don’t understand and perhaps never will. I don’t believe that force is separate from us with its own consciousness and created us, but rather it’s something within all living things – an Inner Light, a Buddha Nature, an island of peace, a soul – that has the ability to resonate with the corresponding inner cores, or souls, of other living things.

So I believe that prayer sometimes works and miracles happen – not because a supreme being intercedes, but because our prayers come from our soul and resonate with others to make something happen, something we couldn’t do on our own. We humans, being what we are, needed to create an intentional being called God who controls that force, but I find it easier to believe that it comes from something within all of us

After all, as the Buddha seemed to understand, everything in our universe is made of the same cosmic dust particles that are ever-moving, ever-changing, ever-dancing, and always connecting and reconnecting. My Buddhist faith teaches me that thinking of myself as a discreet entity is an illusion anyway. I’m just a collection of cosmic dust that does a dance with your collection of cosmic dust that does a dance with everything else in our universe. I hesitate to tread into physics that I don’t truly understand, but I’ll suggest here that just maybe something like the principle of quantum entanglement means we are connected and communicate in ways we don’t understand.

One bit of Buddhism that I have difficulty with is the idea of reincarnation. But if we are all made of the same cosmic dust and it resonates and communicates in a world with no beginning and no end, then everything we are may indeed come together again. Whether that’s true or not, I have no doubt that something of us remains in the resonating mass of cosmic dust after death. That’s why so many of us have experienced a connection with a lost loved one that’s hard to explain away as wishful thinking.

*****

This morning, just after I decided to tackle this subject, I read a post called Letting Go…To the Heart in an excellent blog called We Are Starlings, written by a woman names Amie. Although her subject wasn’t God,it seemed to fit my mood. If you like my blog, check out hers. She also posted a link to the video below, a TED Talk that once again (to my thinking) shows how on-track the Buddha was 600 years before the birth of Christ.

Copyright 2015 © Mel Harkrader Pine

11 Comments Add yours

  1. amiezor says:

    Mel, this is a wonderful piece, thank you so much for sharing, and for the link! I wholeheartedly agree with all you’ve written here. You mention ‘cosmic dust,’ and I have always thought of it as the ‘cosmic soup.’ The inner light – the inner force – makes so much sense when considered with quantum entanglement.

    You have inspired me to write a post about my own definition on the belief of God; something that I elude to, but never really state outright like you have here beautifully. Post to come in the next week or two; I will need to chew on this subject for a while!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. melhpine says:

      Great! That makes me happy. I haven’t gone into it yet, but when we hear or read someone referring to “God,” we make assumptions about what that person means by it. Assumptions that may be way off the mark.

      Liked by 2 people

  2. I’ve had trouble with this question ever since I can remember. I like your definition of God, it’s something that I could live with and investigate further in a religious or spiritual context. It’s also a beautiful, poetic idea. It’s something I wish were true. But it doesn’t really fit my experience. I don’t have any experience with “miracles” other than metaphorical ones, or with the term used as a figure of speech. I mean, I guess one can say the fact that we are alive on this beautiful planet right now is a miracle, but that’s about as far as it goes for me. I don’t believe in the literal truth of the loaves and fishes story, or Daniel and the Lion’s Den, or similar things from other mythologies. I also have never experienced a connection with a lost loved one, or anything similar. So I haven’t felt the need to build a worldview to explain such experiences. It’s probably the biggest reason that I am an atheist.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. melhpine says:

      I’m close to your beliefs, Karen. I also don’t believe the biblical miracles, at least not literally. But occasionally something miraculous happens. I hope we meet one day, and I’ll tell you about a couple of experiences I’ve had that would be a stretch to explain via everyday logic. But I’m not trying to persuade anyone. It’s more than enough that people are finding something worth reading in my words, and even better if my words give them any comfort or contribute to their own spiritual development.

      Liked by 1 person

      1. I’ve heard about miraculous experiences from others as well. I’m not saying I disbelieve you. Back when I was a Christian (20+ years ago) I felt pretty defensive when I heard other people say they had met Jesus or seen miracles or had spiritual experiences that they attributed to the Christian God, or whatever. I got pretty mad at that God for not giving me any experiences like that, and instead making me put my trust in other people rather than in my own direct experience. Around when I became a UU, I decided to trust my own direct experience anyway–not to build a religious worldview that had to work for everyone, just to build a religious worldview that would work for me. I realized that was what I had been doing all along, even when other people told me things, or when I read things in the Bible. I still had to make the decision what to believe, whom to trust. I couldn’t get out of that even if I wanted to. I think my current attitude towards other people’s experiences of miracles can be best described as “agnostic.” I don’t know, and I don’t think I can know, what the truth of them is. And I acknowledge that someone else may have a better grasp on the truth than I do. But the thing is, even if true, there’s nothing I can do about it except wait for the truth (or God, or the Cosmic Dust, or whatever) to make itself known to me. If I just said, “oh yeah, me too” and pretended to believe something based on someone else’s subjective experiences, I’d just be faking it, and I don’t think any spiritual good comes of faking.

        Liked by 2 people

  3. joeythebuddhist says:

    Thanks for sharing 🙂 One thing is to make sure you delve in a bit into the difference between atman/reincarnation views of Hinduism and Not-Self or No Self of Buddhism.

    Little bit different ways of thinking of things 😉 Though at some deeper levels I think it kinda just becomes the problems with words and propositions. These differences stop meaning the same things at certain places in practice. Least in my experience. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  4. lplobinske says:

    Beautiful post, and fascinating TED talk. Thank you.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lplobinske says:

    I used to be big into reincarnation. Now my brain doesn’t know what to do with that data: supposed past life memories of another life shared with my husband, for instance. I’ve had connections with lost loved ones, as you call it (I call it “seeing ghosts”), which I guess doesn’t make sense if we all reincarnate (wouldn’t those souls be busy in their new lives? so what exactly am I seeing and communicating with?). Some people think that reincarnation fits with my current faith, Kemeticism, but it really doesn’t. The ancient Egyptians were resurrectionists; that’s why they tried to take it all with them, including body parts. So there are a few inconsistencies in my beliefs that I still need to work out. What the heck, it keeps life from being boring. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    1. melhpine says:

      To paraphrase Walt Whitman: I contradict myself, of course.

      Liked by 1 person

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