Letting Go of Outmoded Views
Growing when my parents were upset or aggravated with me they would say: “Do you think God is happy with you?” At that age I didn’t really understand who or what God was. My first exposure to God was through sermons at Church. God was presented as an angry judge who was ever ready to punish people. It was God who destroyed the violent world with a flood, it was God who rained fire and sulfur down on Sodom and Gomorrah, it was God who had killed the firstborn Egyptians, and it was God who was going to come punish everyone for each of their sins, flaws, and mistakes.
Any time my parents didn’t approve of a song I was listening to, the way I cut my hair, the clothing choices I made, or eventually my spiritual beliefs – they would pull the old “Do you think God is happy with you?” card. I realize now it was a veiled threat. It was a call to fear. It was a question designed to make me second guess myself, and then to fear punishment at either Armageddon, Judgement Day, or in a fiery hell.
After years of my parents attempting to use God as a fear-based control mechanism I eventually became angry at the concept of God, and began to profess atheism. During this period in my early adulthood I hated religion and God. I agreed with Karl Marx’s statement that ‘religion is the opiate of the people’, that God was at a best a wishful delusion and at worst a destructive control mechanism, and that religion needed to be eradicated for the betterment of humanity. I read Richard Dawkins‘ God Delusion. I watched Religulous with Bill Maher. I listened to atheist videos and podcasts with Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris.
I learned a lot from all these men. I learned to think critically and not to blindly accept what others present as truth. I learned to question everything. I learned that blind faith in dogmas and institutions can lead to humans committing evil acts in the name of good. I learned about the violent history of organized religion, and the absurdity of many of its of teachings.
I learned many valuable things while exploring atheism, but learning that many of the ideas I had been taught were false was not enough for me. I needed something more. Atheistic nihilism did not satisfying my spiritual needs, it did not fill my hunger for mysticism. I needed something practical. Some of ideas felt just as rigid as the fundamentalism I was seeking to escape. I eventually found myself seeking a deeper understanding. I seemed to be missing something, another side of the story perhaps.
Discovering Another Way
In my seeking I found myself exploring the ideas of secular humanism – a philosophy or life stance that embraces human reason, ethics, social justice, and philosophical naturalism while specifically rejecting religious dogma, super-naturalism, pseudoscience, and superstition as the bases of morality and decision making.
Secular humanism eventually led me to Unitarian Universalism, a religion which was originally founded on the idea of universal salvation, the idea that a truly loving God would and could not damn anyone to eternal punishment. Unitarian Universalism in modern times has become a fellowship open to all, not based upon dogmas or creeds, but instead is based on 7 principles. One of those principles is a free and responsible search for truth and meaning.
While exploring secular humanism within Unitarian Universalism I was exposed to new ideas about God. One talk in particular changed the way I would eventually come to view God, “God Revised” by Rev. Galen Guengerich.
‘The traditional view of God is simply wrong… Traditional views of God must be revised. The presence of god as a patriarchal puppet-master…is wreaking havoc everywhere, especially on women, gays, and the environment; and the absence of god in the lives of those who rightly reject such a God is depriving many of the benefits of religious community precisely when they are needed most…I believe that today’s atheists are 100 % half right. I do not believe in the god they don’t believe in either, but the traditional religionists are also 100 % half right. Just because God isn’t supernatural doesn’t mean that God is a fantasy and that religion is a farce.’ – Rev. Galen Guengerich
Alternative Ideas About God
After being exposed to new concepts of God, and exploring God as a principle not a person, my searching then led me to a 19th century philosophy known as New Thought. New Thought holds that Infinite Intelligence or God is omnipotent and omnipresent, Spirit is the ultimate reality, true human self-hood is divine, divinely attuned thought is a positive force for good, all disease is mental in origin, and right thinking has a healing effect.
New Thought is neither monolithic or dogmatic. It is a loosely allied group of religious denominations, authors, philosophers, and individuals who share a set of beliefs concerning metaphysics, positive thinking, the law of attraction, healing, life force, creative visualization, and personal power.
The largest religious affiliations to come out of the New Thought movement are Unity, Religious Science, Centers for Spiritual Living, and Christian Science.
Influential Quotes about God:
Here are some quotes that have influenced my views and beliefs about God.
GOD IS SPIRIT
God is sheer being itself — Spirit. Those who worship him must do it out of their very being, their spirits, their true selves, in adoration. – Jesus Christ
IN GOD WE LIVE, MOVE, AND HAVE OUR BEING
‘In [God] we live and move and have our being’; as even some of your own poets have said, ‘For we are indeed his progeny.’ – The Apostle Paul
GOD IS LOVE
The person who refuses to love doesn’t know the first thing about God, because God IS love — so you can’t know him if you don’t love. – The Apostle John
GOD IS NOT A PERSON
God is not a person who has set creation in motion and gone away and left it to run down like a clock. God is Spirit, infinite Mind, the immanent force and intelligence everywhere manifest in nature. God is the silent voice that speaks into visibility all the life there is. – Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity
GOD AS PRINCIPLE
We are studying [New Thought] to get a broader conception of God, rather than holding to the view that he is a personal being with parts like man, a being subject to change and capable of varying moods. Though personal to each one of us, God is an it; neither male nor female, but Principle. God is not a cold, senseless principle like that of mathematics, but the Principle of life, love, and Intelligence. God is All-Intelligence; there is but the one Mind and in reality there are no separate [individuals].
Sometimes we pray to a God outside of ourselves. It is the God in the midst of us that frees and heals. – Myrtle Page Fillmore, co-founder of Unity
GOD IS LIGHT, LIFE, LOVE, INTELLIGENCE, SUBSTANCE, OMNISCIENCE, OMNIPRESENCE, OMNIPOTENCE
Jesus and the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s Well
[When Jesus was talking with the Samaritan woman at the well, he said to her, “God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” …
Webster in his definition of spirit says: “An animating or vital principle held to give life to physical organisms. A supernatural being or essence; the Holy Spirit.”
God, then, is NOT, as many of us have been taught to believe, a big personage or man residing somewhere in a beautiful region in the sky, called “heaven,” where good people go when they die, and see Him clothed in ineffable glory; nor is He a stern, angry judge only awaiting opportunity somewhere to punish bad people who have failed to live a perfect life here.
God is Spirit, or the creative energy that is the cause of all visible things. God as Spirit is the invisible life and intelligence underlying all physical things. There could be no body, or visible part, to anything unless there were first Spirit as creative cause. God is not a being or person having life, intelligence, love, power. God is that invisible, intangible, but very real, something we call life. God is perfect love and infinite power. God is the total of these; the total of all good, whether manifested or unexpressed: There is but one God in the universe, but one source of all the different forms of life or intelligence that we see, whether they be men, animals, trees, or rocks.
God is Spirit. We cannot see Spirit with these fleshly eyes; but when Spirit clothes itself with a body, when Spirit makes itself visible or manifest through a material form, then we recognize it. You do not see the living, thinking “me” when you look at my body. You see only the form that I am manifesting.
God is love. We cannot see love, nor grasp any comprehension of what love is, except as love is clothed with a form. All the love in the universe is God. The love between husband and wife, between parents and children, is just the least little bit of God, as pushed forth through visible form into manifestation. A mother’s love, so infinitely tender, so unfailing, is God’s love, only manifested in greater degree by the mother.
God is wisdom and intelligence. All the wisdom and intelligence that we see in the universe is God — is wisdom projected through a visible form.
To educate (from the Latin educare: to lead forth) never means to force into from the outside but always means to draw out from within something already existing there. God as infinite wisdom lies within every human being, only waiting to be led forth into manifestation. This is true education.
Heretofore we have sought knowledge and help from outside sources, not knowing that the source of all knowledge, the very Spirit of Truth, is lying latent within each one of us, waiting to be called on to teach us the truth about all things — most marvelous of teachers, and everywhere present, without money or price!
God is power. Not simply God has power, but God is power. In other words, all the power there is to do anything is God. God, the source of our existence every moment, is not simply omnipotent (all-powerful); God is omnipotence (all power). God is not alone omniscient (all-knowing); God is omniscience (all knowledge). God is not only omnipresent, but more —omnipresence. God is not a being having qualities, but God is the good itself. Everything you can think of that is good, when in its absolute perfection, goes to make up that invisible being we call God.
God is the substance (from the Latin sub: under, and stare: to stand), or the real thing standing under every visible form of life, love, intelligence, or power. Each rock, tree, animal, every visible thing, is a manifestation of the one Spirit — god — differing only in degree of manifestation; and each of the numberless modes of manifestation or individualities, however insignificant, contains the whole.
One drop of water taken from the ocean is just as perfect ocean water as the whole great body. The constituent elements of water are exactly the same, and they are combined in precisely the same ratio or perfect relation to each other, whether we consider one drop…a barrel, or the entire ocean out of which the lesser quantities are taken; each is complete in itself; they differ only in quantity or degree. Each contains the whole, and yet no one would make the mistake of supposing from this statement that each drop is the entire ocean…
Broader and more learned minds are always cramped by the thought of God as a person, for personality limits to place and time.
God is the name we give to that unchangeable, inexorable principle at the source of all existence. To the individual consciousness, God takes on personality, but as the creative underlying cause of all things, God is principle, impersonal. As expressed in each individual, God becomes personal to that one — a personal, loving, all-giving Father-Mother.] – Harriet Emilie Cady wrote in Lessons In Truth
SEVEN SYNONYMS FOR GOD
God is incorporeal, Divine, Supreme, infinite Mind, Spirit, Soul, Principle, Life, Truth, Love. – Mary Baker-Eddy, the founder of Christian Science, wrote in her book Science and Health
NEVER BE FORMAL WITH GOD
Never be formal with God. He cares no more for forms and ceremonies than do the principles of mathematics for fine figures or elaborate blackboards.
You can not use God too often. He loves to be used, and the more you use Him the more easily you use Him and the more pleasant His help becomes. – Charles Fillmore, co-founder of Unity
I believe in God, the Living Spirit Almighty; one, indestructible, absolute and self-existent Cause. This One manifests itself in and through all creation, but is not absorbed by its creation. The manifest universe is the body of God; it is the logical and necessary outcome of the infinite self-knowingness of God.
I believe in the incarnation of the Spirit in all, and that we are all incarnations of the One Spirit.
I believe in my own soul, my own spirit, and my own destiny; for I understand that the life I live is God. – Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science and Science of Mind magazine