What I Believe

This is a very personal post, a product of working the first three steps of Al-Anon again with a friend.   I wanted to capture my spiritual beliefs at this moment in time.   Over the years, I have learned that talking about God in public often leads to being evangelized, both by true believers and non-believers.   Hence, I have elected not to allow comments on this post.

park sunriseI believe in God. Since I spent a substantial portion of my adult life as an agnostic, searching for a God I had trouble believing in, that is remarkable. I believe that without God, nothing else exists. One of my favorite spiritual authors, Rabbi David Rubin, says that God is unknowable. Everything we think we know about God is a metaphor.  So, I choose this one: Reality exists in the mind of God. That notion could, I suppose, reduce God to being the clockwork of the universe or even the master clock-smith tending that clockwork. But I also believe man is linked to God because each of us has a soul, a spark of the divine, that places God in us and us, collectively, in God. We are not God, either individually or collectively, but we have a direct connection and divinity within us. That gives us a purpose. I believe that purpose is to continue the act of creation. In the Kabbalah, it says that God has already experienced being perfect but it is through us, imperfect beings with his divine spark, canyon5that God can experience becoming perfect. When we make the world a better place, we are acting in accordance with God’s purpose, but we have free will do do otherwise and, just as importantly, to serve God’s purpose in our own unique way. I believe that our unique creativity as a species is evidence of our role in creation. I believe that God works in the world primarily through our actions, but I don’t discount the possibility of miracles directly from God, though I’m fairly certain I’ve never seen one, unless you want to count the Grand Canyon at dusk or a Maui sunset.

A stumbling block for my faith has always been the presence of tragedy and evil in the world. I am inclined to believe in a beneficent God, which gives natural rise to the question, Why would a beneficent God allow such things to exist? I believe that the evil in the world is a product of man’s free will, a necessary component of the divine experience of becoming perfect. God has given us free will as part of our purpose, and does not interfere directly when we do harm to each other or his Universe. I like to think of it as a covenant with mankind. But what about disease and natural disasters? Why would God allow us to suffer at the whims of a harsh world? Or to die in fear or agony instead of passing peacefully? I don’t know. At my best, I just say that understanding of such things is above my pay grade, in that domain things not understandable to humans. I am inclined to believe that there is a bigger picture, that the pains of life are like the physical trials of a marathon. At the time, they are excruciating to the point of making us ask the question, Why go on?  But in the context of our existence as a spark of God, they don’t matter.

I suppose that brings me to the question of life after death. After all, if we die and that’s the end of our story, what’s the point wondering about some divine purpose? Here my belief becomes fuzzier because my scientific, rational side makes it hard for me to believe in a Family Room in the Sky where we all sit around talking about old times. And the possibility that we are parsed out to Heaven, Hell and Purgatory … forever … based upon a set of rules that seem open to opinion and arbitrary seems contrary to my belief in a beneficent God. Here, my beliefs depend my sense of things unknown. I do believe we … or some part of us, our soul … goes on, something I can’t picture at all and that’s fine. I am inclined to believe in reincarnation, but I’m not sure why. Perhaps it’s because it’s a metaphor that I can wrap my mind around, which keeps my rational side at bay. It also fits with my Life as a Marathon metaphor, and my rational side loves a tight hypothesis. Ideas that both my rational and spiritual sides can accept are good for my faith. Even reincarnation challenges me rationally. After all, if we return as some other being with no recollection of our former selves, isn’t that former self gone?

So what I end up with is, to modify the words of AA’s third step, a God not of my understanding. But it is God that cares. A God that gives me purpose. A God that gives me the gift of Acceptance of a life about which the prophet, Jimmy Buffett, says, Some of it’s magic and some of it’s tragic**.  There are many out these that believe so much more and, to some degree, I’m envious. But I’ve tried for many years and the mind God gave me can’t go there.  I’m sure many of those people believe if I don’t believe as they do, I’m doomed for eternity. I think they are wrong.   I certainly hope so.

** He Went to Paris by Jimmy Buffet.  The next line is, “But I had a good life all the way.”

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