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Lifelong Learning

Notes From a Life-Long Learner: God — To Be(lieve) or Not To Be(lieve)

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I spent a recent weekend pondering the existence of God. It’s something I do from time to time because I was a religious person once, in the Judeo/Christian tradition, but am not so now. After many years, I’m still getting used to living without that label. I have to admit, my non-religious years have been very good years.

One interesting documentary that makes a case against the Judeo/Christian God is called The God Who Wasn’t There. It presents the story of Jesus Christ — his birth, ministry, death, and resurrection — and discusses how it resembles many of the myths invented hundreds to thousands of years before Christ’s birth. 

This edgy film contains man-on-the-street chats with rank and file believers and interviews with professors, well-known atheists, and the headmaster of a fundamentalist christian school the filmmaker attended as a child. That interview doesn’t go so well; the filmmaker spent many of his formative years terrified by the teachings of that school. In fact, although the documentary is interesting and makes compelling arguments against the existence of God, it’s clear that the filmmaker is unpacking some baggage on screen.

Another documentary I watched is God in America (also available to watch online), a PBS mini-series that traces the history of God in America from before its official founding until now. Narrated by Campbell Scott and dramatized by fine actors depicting historical figures and their very own words, this film doesn’t tackle the question of the existence of God. Rather, it shows the influence the belief in God had (has) on America, and, more interestingly, the influence America — its ideals of liberty for all and the pursuit of happiness — influenced belief in God. 

In the Old World, central authority and conformity were all important. In the New World, the individual became paramount. New churches and denominations developed, old beliefs were reformed.  

I suppose while watching this mini-series an atheist would note the continual morphing of religious beliefs and conclude what he has always believed: God is a human construct. On the other had, a believer in God may see God behind the scenes directing the evolution (pardon the term) of humans’ understanding of Him.

God or no God — it's a puzzle. Thankfully, great minds have grappled and are still grappling with this question. Along with the films mentioned above, there are several interesting books making the case for and against the existence of God listed below.  

For God: 

Against God: 

Although I’m not religious and lean against the existence of a central character that controls the universe, I do have a spiritual streak and I’m not ready to jump on the atheist bandwagon, or into the atheist hand basket, if you will. I suppose I’m an agnostic, which means I am not taking a position about the existence of God, because I do not know. 

In the meantime, I’ll keep pondering. How about you?

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Thanks for the God in America

Thanks for the God in America link. I'm looking forward to watching it.

In Defense of God...

June 27, 2011 The opposite path that you took from Judeo/Christian to agnostic was taken by me. When I was young I dropped religion for many years. My life became one long avalanche of misery. I was invited by a friend to attend Church one Sunday. From that day forward I never missed going to church. I do not believe that the quality of ones life is determined by religion or the lack thereof. However, I believe that having faith is like having a lifeboat. When life becomes very miserable, you have something to cling to until the sun rises again. I chose religion, not for what I hoped for in the way of the material world, but what I hoped for in believing that life is worth living and that eventually I would find 'peace of soul.' Best of luck. Blessings to you and yours.

To be(lieve) or not To Be(lieve)

I find a similar spirit in Jyna to mine at the present time. (The spirit does change, after all.) My position presently says that I should spend more time and energy intentionally trying to be/become the ethical/good person that most religions advocate. It is not particularly effective to try to prove that my creedal/doctrinal beliefs are the RIGHT ones. I simply consciously try to grow my spirit. Lisa

Growing Spiritually

I agree with Lisa's comments about growing spiritually. People have many different approaches to doing that. In the Protestant, Jewish and Catholic religions prayer and sacrifice seem to be the road to salvation. Buddhists do much chanting and meditation. I believe that growing spiritually can definitely be helped by these methods. However, since growing spiritually evolves from one's soul it is not too easily manipulated. The Hindu's believe the the soul or spirit is part of a Universal Mind, a place akin to Heaven which has always existed and every knowledge that ever was is contained therein. It is the way people achieve extra sensory perception,as insight is a great gift from God. I believe that living by a strict moral code such as doing good for humanity and avoiding evil brings with it great blessings. People should refrain from aggression, vengance, dishonesty, unkindness, lying, slandaring, fraud and all those quirks of human nature which cast shadows upon the souls of people,and diminish their self esteem. It is a concept of most religions that what people put out into the universe is what they'll get back. Some religions call it the "Judgment of God,", other religions call it karma. True success in this world comes from peace of mind, not from material things. Some saint said, (it may have been St. Thomas Aquinas) "What good is it if a man gains the whole world, and loses his soul?"

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