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Claiming God

Someone in a FB conversation about the Catholic church recently expressed the wish that the left and right would "quit trying to claim God," since "Jesus said things that were easy and hard for both sides to accept."

I am 100% wholeheartedly and completely agreed with this sentiment, as far as it goes.

That said, I also wish Christians would quit trying to claim God. Whatever God may or may not be, be it Concept or Creator or both or neither, It is bigger than Jesus.

More generally, I wish religious adherents would quit trying to limit God to the confines of their religion's doctrines. Even if we were all to agree (which of course we never will) that The One True God both exists and lies at the heart of Christianity, or Judaism, or Islam, or Buddhism, or any of the billions of nameless idiosyncratic faiths so many of us follow while claiming (and often sincerely believing ourselves) to adhere to one of the popular faiths, it doesn't follow that The One True God does not also lie at the heart of Judaism, and Islam, and Buddhism, and Christianity, and all those other nameless idiosyncratic faiths.

And at the heart of skeptical inquiry into the physical world, for that matter.

And at the heart of the secular desire to improve the human condition.

And of the love any person feels for another. Or for animals, or plants, or the Earth itself.

And of, well, everything else.

Including, incidentally, the stuff we don't endorse, like death and disease and hatred and war and pain and getting the wrong answer on math problems, and grievous bodily harm and embarrassing personal problems and cruelty to animals and ansaphones and Things Not Working Properly Even After You've Thumped Them.

Because that's the thing about being universal and fundamental: lots of things have you at their heart. Including things that oppose one another.

More broadly, I wish people would quit telling God what to do. (Incidentally, #mortalsplaining has only one hit. How is that possible?)

The only God I know is step after halting step, and brick upon brick.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Jul. 31st, 2014 05:31 pm (UTC)
I love that you listed all those other Horsemen of the Apocalypse. I was People Covered in Fish for halloween once.
Jul. 31st, 2014 05:41 pm (UTC)
I am totally cracking up here at the phrase "mortalsplaining". It's so perfect.
Jul. 31st, 2014 07:27 pm (UTC)
Seconded. It captures the arrogance involved gorgeously.
Aug. 1st, 2014 11:57 pm (UTC)
Jul. 31st, 2014 08:40 pm (UTC)
'Claiming God...'
The title gives me this marvelous visual of the Old Guy With The Beard sitting in an Amtrak lost-and-found, with a shipping tag dangling from his ear...
Aug. 1st, 2014 12:45 am (UTC)
Even though I'm not UCC anymore, I really loved their "Still Speaking" campaign, after the Gracie Allen quotation "Never place a period where God has placed a comma."

Aug. 1st, 2014 05:37 pm (UTC)
.....okay, this is only vaguely related, but hey. god.

I've been listening to this philosophy podcast. I'm up to about 1200, but I'm in the Islamic world; we left the Christian world a few centuries earlier. We also recently moved to the western side of the Islamic world, to get into the Jewish philosophical tradition.

All these guys (almost all guys) have been religious in one form or another, although the philosophy in the Islamic world (of several religions) seems to be more intent on comparing theology and philosophy -- although the guys we're talking about in the history of philosophy podcast are using philosophical tools to reject philosophy as a method to know God.

Also, almost everyone, all the way back to Aristotle (who lots of people rely on, although lots of them are instead neoplatonic, but they have similar problems) have a fundamental problem with the nature of god, creation, causality, and how god might interact with the universe. The current guy the podcast is talking about is Jewish and is all "Rabbinical Judaism is the best religion, because it's got the best miracles. Philosophy is cool as far as it goes, but rationalism is inadequate, because it can't tell you everything, even if you're doing a close reading of revealed texts. You need to follow tradition."

One of the philosophical versions of God is that he's true and perfect and pure and beautiful. The world is defined as what is not-god, and is an accidental creation (where accidental is I think a technical term going back to aristotle), but anyway the beauty is that everything in the universe kind of wakes up to the realization that it is not-god, and begins to strive towards the perfection of god, that it might rejoin in the perfect unity again.

Not much of a personal god there, and also no room for god to select prophets or make miracles, so...

I don't know yet how more modern philosophers resolve all this stuff, because again, I'm in like 1200. But when I hear people talking about the nature of god, or the nature of jesus (How is he divine and human at the same time? "it's a miracle" was not enough for early church fathers) or any of that, I think of these conflicts and how important they were, and I wonder who's arguing about it now and how on earth anyone can possibly consider it a settled question.

So, yeah, when someone claims god, I remember that people have been arguing about that for millenia, and I doubt it's been resolved today. I wonder whether their tradition has a path back to some smart thinkers or if it goes back to a jerk who proclaimed My Way TM or if it's a reflection of their cultural values.

I don't know how much it really matters in a godfight, but I think it changes how I respond to someone. If they're, ferinstance, jesuit, you can get into some theological argumentation and maybe find a path to "okay, jesus would not turn away children at the border"; if it's a cult of personality, there's nothing to talk about; if it's cultural mores, you talk about anything but god because the interpretation of god will follow.

anyway, that god is truth beauty love, and the universe wakes up to knowing it is not-god and strives toward god because yay truthbeautylove, it's a beautiful version of goditude. That's my favorite so far.
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )

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