September 20, 2023
Who is God; Whose God?
I have been divorced two times. I have said in other letters that some people consider divorces broken promises to God, but which God? To whose God were those promises made? If God is truly an awesome God (please look up the definition of “awesome”; we overuse it), how do we see, define, and illustrate this power?
I often tell the story of the three blind men and the elephant to explain my view of a higher power. Three blind men were led to three different parts of the elephant: one to the trunk, one to the ear, and one to the tail. Which man experienced the elephant? The answer: all of them, just in different ways. So it is with humans and a higher power, whom I will call God for short typing purposes. The elephant’s ear is still the elephant, just not all of him. One religion explores one part of God, just not all of God. One religion, one faith, is not all there is. We mortals are not capable of experiencing the whole of this higher power due to our limited time, limited understanding, and imperfect selves.
The United States, especially the conservative population, is heavy into Christianity. Let’s say Christianity is the tail of the elephant. Some Christians will tell you the tail is the whole of the elephant; that there is no other part of God but Christianity. That is such a limited view of something that is too big for us to comprehend: we are mere mortal beings and not capable of understanding this higher power to claim we know what all is encompassed in the higher power. There are as many paths to God as there are humans that lived. We cannot see the complete elephant, even if we experience several faiths, several walks of religion, several viewpoints of a higher power in our life.
I am a scientist. How do we look at God through a scientific, factual lens?
Humans have created many names for their deities (or a leader with special knowledge), so it is hard to call this higher power with just one name. Some religions have one deity, some have multiple deities that share their powers, and some religions have several deities that reside together in unison (a conundrum that even they can’t explain). Names include God, Great Spirit, Higher Power, Allah, Buddha, Yahweh, Jehovah, Shiva, Akal Murat, Jesus, Holy Spirit, Holy Ghost. Let’s call them body parts of the elephant. How do you choose just one name for this power, when humans have so many, depending on who you are and where you worship, or what you believe?
Humans have many religions that worship these deities. The difference between faith and religion? Faith is more of a feeling, an understanding, a trust in the deity (why you worship). Religion is a set of rules written to follow in order to prove you believe in the deity and must subscribe to in order to belong to their group (how to worship). In each religion, there are stories, rules, myths, and books that have been passed down that include people being said to be specially blessed with powers or skills, or demi-gods who share powers with their deities as well as mortality with the humans. The Bible is one such book of myths and stories.
Churches, mosques, and such buildings are designed to hold worship services and meetings in order to inform and enforce these rules and participate in rituals that demonstrate belief in their deities and bring participants closer together. These churches can be very elite gatherings. For example, Christianity is separated into various denominations, even numerous non-denominational branches. Even Lutheranism is split into ELCA (the liberal Evangelicals), Wisconsin Synod (the most conservative and very close to Roman Catholicism), and the Missouri Synod (somewhere in between). I grew up as an ELCA Lutheran. However, even though I am baptized as a Lutheran, I am not allowed to participate in either of the other Lutherans’ communion because I am not a member of their specific church; they have a rule that is called closed communion; only their people can be forgiven at their church through this ritual; outsiders cannot be included.
That is a cold way of looking at a higher power, and doesn’t even explain the existence of one. Is there even a God? This most recent generation of humans that are becoming adults, (Generation Z that I call iGen) have made some extreme cases in how we see ourselves, and in how we see the world. They have revolutionized gender and sexuality, and are now seeing faith and spirituality through a different lens as well. One way to “see proof” of a higher power is through stories; this is how the Bible works. The newer generation is so far removed from the actual timeline of these stories; they come from so long ago, that the believability is sometimes lost behind them. Current churches seem hateful and scary. The rules of religion have become so stilted, so severe, that the freedom to believe in their own version of God is lost. These young adults aren’t looking for rules, but for inclusivity. This means we will need to rewrite religion.
In AA, we acknowledge a higher power, but insist that it is a higher power of our own understanding. Each member is invited to see their own version of God as they see them. No required rules, no set pronouns, no designated dogmas behind it. This freedom is attractive to even the agnostics, who haven’t devised their own idea of a higher power yet; they can use the spirituality of the group, the power of the faith that comes from being together as their higher power.
How do I see God? I see a higher power as a light, a certain flicker of life that exists in anything that changes (including rocks and soil). This light is a guide that is more accepting and personal than rigid and rule-making. The new gatherings of humans, including a contemplative collective that I am a member of, has less recitation and more conversation. Less talking to, more talking with. Less words of others, more meditation and careful consideration of our own words. I believe this is a good thing.
There is room for faith AND science, because each living thing is rooted in science and life. We study what we are in awe of. That light of the higher power intrigues us; we study what we want to understand; we want to understand the rest of the elephant, or at least the part of the elephant that we open minded can see.
Isn’t the world always changing? Isn’t our curiosity expanding our understanding of the world, of each other? Shouldn’t that expand our view of faith, of life, of a higher power, too? I believe these changes are a good thing.
It isn’t a new God; just another path to the elephant that is already there. Let the blind lead us to their elephants. Let us see more of the awesome life and wonder of our higher power that resides in all that surrounds us, in all the world we see and experience.
With love, and wishes for a blessing in your lighted life,