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But It Is There

--by Kent Nerburn (Aug 30, 2010)


We are all born with a belief in God. It may not have a name or a face. We may not even see it as God. But it is there.

It is the sense that comes over us as we stare into the starlit sky or watch the last fiery rays of an evening sunset. It is the morning shiver as we wake on a beautiful day and smell a richness in the air that we know and love from somewhere we can’t quite recall. It is the mystery behind the beginning of time and beyond the limits of space. It is a sense of otherness that brings alive something deep in our hearts.

Some people will tell you that there is no God. They will claim that God is a crutch for people who can’t face reality, a fairy tale for people who need myths in their lives. They will argue for rational explanations of the origin of the universe and scientific explanations of the perfect movements of nature. They will point to evil and injustice in the world, and cite examples of religion being used to start wars or to hurt people of different beliefs.

You cannot argue with these people, nor should you. These are the people the Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu spoke about when he said, "A frog in a well cannot be talked to about the sea."

If you have any sense of the mystery of the universe around you, you are hearing the murmur of the sea. Your task is to leave the well, to step out into the sun, and to set out for the sea. Leave the arguing to those who wish to discuss the size and shape of the walls that close them in.

If you hear the call of the distant sea, do not be turned away by the naivetés and contradictions of the beliefs around you. There are many paths, and the sea looks different from each of them. Your task is not to judge the paths of others, but to find a path that will lead you ever closer to the murmurings that you hear in your heart.

Begin by accepting where you are.

--Kent Nerburn


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21 Previous Reflections:

 
On Sep 9, 2010 Pooja Patil wrote:

This small piece of litrature can bring a big change in the mind of people who talk about Atheism.I think god is your care taker,just like your parents,your nature.If we remember him in our good times,show gartitude towards him for this beautiful life then in the time of need when clouds of darkness are on our head, he will protect us under his umbrella of love and care.

Thanks.

 

 



On Sep 7, 2010 Yasi23 wrote:

Jason, to each their own. Some will believe and some will not. And like others have said on this post, it's not something that you can force on people. It's something that one will either discover  on their own and believe some day or not...It is what it is..

I'm an engineer but I have a firm belief in God, or sometimes I call God, Harmony. The harmony of life. I like the word Harmony because it takes in the good with the bad. God to me is the feeling of connectedness with others, with nature and the universe. The feeling that every thought, every action, small or big, has an influence on the world.  



On Sep 6, 2010 PrimevilKneivel wrote:

I find this piece insulting in it's assumption of my beliefs and it's categorization of me because of them. Would a similar article painting all Catholics, Muslims or Jews have been as broadly accepted or would it be called out for the prejudice it is? I may be a "frog in a well", as the author so casually puts it, but we all are in so many ways. You are no wiser than I simply for naming your ignorance and giving it an image that is palatable. I call my ignorance just that, things I do not understand and I seek the answers in my own way. But those ways do not include the propping up of my beliefs through ridicule of those I do not share. I am an atheist with very close friends that are conservative Jews, Muslims, and Buddists to name only a few philosophies. None of our thoughts alone trump the thoughts of others. But we can discuss and explore each others ideas because we respect our differences.     See full.

I find this piece insulting in it's assumption of my beliefs and it's categorization of me because of them. Would a similar article painting all Catholics, Muslims or Jews have been as broadly accepted or would it be called out for the prejudice it is?

I may be a "frog in a well", as the author so casually puts it, but we all are in so many ways. You are no wiser than I simply for naming your ignorance and giving it an image that is palatable. I call my ignorance just that, things I do not understand and I seek the answers in my own way.

But those ways do not include the propping up of my beliefs through ridicule of those I do not share. I am an atheist with very close friends that are conservative Jews, Muslims, and Buddists to name only a few philosophies. None of our thoughts alone trump the thoughts of others. But we can discuss and explore each others ideas because we respect our differences.   

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On Sep 5, 2010 Pancho wrote:

My family calls me Pancho some of you might think that I don't know you but I'd like you to know that I love you all. I was very happy to be back at the Kindness Temple. Not that I ever left but to be physically present means a lot to me for it recharges the soul at so many levels. It has been 3 weeks in a raw since I've been attending magic Wednesdays and this time the co-creation of "aha moments" was a little bit more powerful/controversial than usual: it contained the "G" word! As hermano Rahul later pointed out: "People have altars and giant TVs side by side but the temple is were we put our attention". I have chosen long ago to put my attention on Kind Wednesdays and these were the 3 points I shared: 1. Spiritual Translations to Connect at the SOULlular level. 2. Reality as it is. 3. Sister Varsha: an Evidence of the Universal Love. 1. Spiritual Translations to Connect at the SOULlular level. I notice that the passage was a bit un  See full.

My family calls me Pancho some of you might think that I don't know you but I'd like you to know that I love you all.

I was very happy to be back at the Kindness Temple. Not that I ever left but to be physically present means a lot to me for it recharges the soul at so many levels. It has been 3 weeks in a raw since I've been attending magic Wednesdays and this time the co-creation of "aha moments" was a little bit more powerful/controversial than usual: it contained the "G" word! As hermano Rahul later pointed out: "People have altars and giant TVs side by side but the temple is were we put our attention". I have chosen long ago to put my attention on Kind Wednesdays and these were the 3 points I shared:

1. Spiritual Translations to Connect at the SOULlular level.
2. Reality as it is.
3. Sister Varsha: an Evidence of the Universal Love.


1. Spiritual Translations to Connect at the SOULlular level.
I notice that the passage was a bit unkind on some of the humans who have chosen to have a secular perspective but who have not seen the whole picture yet. I grew in a secular/scientist environment and I can tell how some people could react when they hear the word "God" used in such a strong way. As a secularist, I personally have no problem with the passage, I just think there are better ways to connect with people who might have different perspectives.

Recently, I spend some time in jail in very dehumanizing environments and I personally, as a secularist,  have no problem to spend time in solitary confinement dressed with "sheriff's property" signs. Does it mean that all the inmates (and system kidnapped parents) are prepared to find another opportunity to be calm in receptive silence regardless of the constant psychological, emotional and physical abuses?

I don't think so. In the same way that took me a while to be ok with my spirit regardless of the physical conditions, it took me a while to find spiritual translations to have a productive communication with fellow human beings who have a different perspective than mine.

That said, while we don't need to learn our respective languages because we all speak the language of the heart, I encourage you all to find your own spiritual translations as I did. These are the ones that have been working for me:

When people say “Faith” = I hear “Positive Thinking“

“Prayer””Contemplation“ or “Meditation” -> (the DNA of the Kindness Revolution)

“Spirituality” = “Kindness, Forgiveness, Generosity, Creativity, Happiness, Courage, Respect“

“God or Creator“ = “The Cosmos” “The Unknown“ AND “The True-Self“ (the best human beings we can be).   [Given that from the secular perspective these concepts are not the same, when I talk to religious siblings I found very useful to discern between "The Cosmos + Unknown" and "True-Self". Then suddenly we are talking the same language.]

Now every time I hear the words God, Dios, Krishna, Great Spirit, Feminine Divine & Masculine Divine, Pachamama, Creator, Rama, Yahweh... I made an insternal spiritual translation and think about the Universal Love meaning kindness, generosity, happiness, joy, courage, challenge, compassion, wisdom, the sense of responsibility the sense of harmony that brings happiness not only to me but also to the people around me. Because the wonder of the Cosmos transcends everything that divides us.

2. Reality as it is.

Many people on the Planet have chosen to be secular because of the monstrosities committed in the name of one or another religion. Today we still see how many structures of institutionalized religions keep supporting the exploitation and oppression of human beings.

Even Gandhi (a fervent Hindu) and Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan (a fervent Muslim) were deeply saddened during the "Independence" day for they could not conceive a divided people: Hindus Vs. non-Hindus. Gandhi and Khan dedicated their lives so that we all can understand that we are all the Grand Human Family regardless our conception of the world. The friendship between the two men was an inspiring example of finding spiritual translations between different believes.

3. A Living Evidence of the Universal Love.
Sister Varsha traveled from the East Coast to start finding a job related closely related with environmental justice. She is seriously exploring the possibility to move to the Bay Area. She volunteered the whole day at the Free Farm and at the end of the day, right before we carpooled to Wednesdays, she shared with us a powerful story:

Her dad's family were in the middle of the independence movement back in the 40's in the part of the Planet we call India and Pakistan. They were living in a province that was about to become part of Pakistan and being a non-Muslim family they have to migrate. As a result of an ill conceived division, millions of families had to move from India to Pakistan and from Pakistan to India because of the fear to be killed in a hostile environment. 

Where is the beauty of this story? While Varsha dad's family had to leave their home land, they were hosted by a Muslim family in India. Because this act of unconditional love and courage from both the host and guest families to stay in India with nothing but love, sister Varsha is here with us today. She is a living evidence of the Universal Love.

May all become compassionate, courageous and wise.
your fervent secularist, Pancho

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On Sep 5, 2010 Khalil wrote:

these words should be written by gold .. they are so deep .. I agree with you that those who don't belieeve in God they limit themselves .. they look to the universe and everything around them by half-eye .. they claim that they use facts and scientific explanations .. so can they give explanations for what is happening in the universe??!! their explanations will rely on feelings and sensations .. when we see many people in the streets with long hair and beards .. it's stupid to blame barbers and coiffures



On Sep 4, 2010 Brian wrote:

God is like a goldilocks theory. For some God is to soft,unbelievable,unexplicable and unfathomable.For some God is too much,overdone,overanalyzed and discussed ad nauseum.For others he is just right. The final analysis will be determined when we die. Non-believers have nothing to worried about and your flame will extinguish. Believers will run the myriad of emotions hoping and praying they have done enough to commune with God and live in eternal peace etc. Whether you are a Nihilist,Atheist,Deist,Agnostic,Christian,Muslim or some other faith formation will be irrelevant. The idea is to live in a humane and just manner.Right from wrong means something to most and nothing to few. I am a Christian and choose to believe in what I believe. Whether seen as a crutch by some or an outlet by others my goal is to embrace others with dyametrically opposed views as this adds value to my own thoughts. We can philosophize this until we forget the original question but it won't change that there ar  See full.

God is like a goldilocks theory. For some God is to soft,unbelievable,unexplicable and unfathomable.For some God is too much,overdone,overanalyzed and discussed ad nauseum.For others he is just right. The final analysis will be determined when we die. Non-believers have nothing to worried about and your flame will extinguish. Believers will run the myriad of emotions hoping and praying they have done enough to commune with God and live in eternal peace etc. Whether you are a Nihilist,Atheist,Deist,Agnostic,Christian,Muslim or some other faith formation will be irrelevant. The idea is to live in a humane and just manner.Right from wrong means something to most and nothing to few.

I am a Christian and choose to believe in what I believe. Whether seen as a crutch by some or an outlet by others my goal is to embrace others with dyametrically opposed views as this adds value to my own thoughts. We can philosophize this until we forget the original question but it won't change that there are multiple dynamics at work in our world and it makes it an interesting place to live. Far better than everyone wearing Navy Blue suits and white shirts with black shoes. Diversity of thought and faith can add value to any society and whether we are judged by God at death or not won't deter all sides from believing in something or nothing.

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On Sep 4, 2010 Austin wrote:

When I first read Nerburn's article I was neuro-physiologically shaken.  Yes, I was put off by the metaphor of the frog in the well.. but after some time I felt that what this reading says about the metaphor of the shorelines… i.e. about the ocean appearing different according to the way we approach it being very true! I find much help in Jason’s reflections but not in his mono mania with the metaphor.  Also I feel sad when feelings are reduced to a “private well”.  Like a friend who once told me that tears are the noblest expression of human sentiment.  Here in India Shiv Viswanathan once held forth on Gandhi as a scientist which was not very acceptable to a cosmologist…  Life is not a laborotory where conditions can be controlled “at will”…  Life is mystery…   Blaise Pascal once said that the heart has its reasons which the reason does not know…  Or like someone who said, &ld  See full.

When I first read Nerburn's article I was neuro-physiologically shaken.  Yes, I was put off by the metaphor of the frog in the well.. but after some time I felt that what this reading says about the metaphor of the shorelines… i.e. about the ocean appearing different according to the way we approach it being very true! I find much help in Jason’s reflections but not in his mono mania with the metaphor.  Also I feel sad when feelings are reduced to a “private well”.  Like a friend who once told me that tears are the noblest expression of human sentiment.  Here in India Shiv Viswanathan once held forth on Gandhi as a scientist which was not very acceptable to a cosmologist…  Life is not a laborotory where conditions can be controlled “at will”…  Life is mystery…   Blaise Pascal once said that the heart has its reasons which the reason does not know…  Or like someone who said, “What happens and how it happens we can say… Why it happens takes years to understand…”  Why is genocide wrong?  Is the rightness and wrongess of it just a feeling that we have?  Like the philosopher who said, “Two things fill me with awe and wonder, the starry sky above and the moral law within me.”

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On Sep 3, 2010 Sanjeev Verma wrote:

Hello All, Again thanks for sharing an excellent passage.  I would like to further elaborate on the thoughts that I shared with you all. There is an agreement between physical science and spiritual science: infinite nature of universe and God. Now there are two questions here: 1. If we should make any effort to know something that in infinite. 2. Is it possible to do so since we are physically limited in time and space. The answer to first question is simple: there is no question of "if" here--we WILL because it is a part of human nature or Dharma--we "humans' are inquisitive by nature unlike other species--this has lead to so many scientific discoveries.  According to Vedas, the most important Manav Dharam is "acquisition of knowledge". Now let us come to the second question: How to know something that is infinite? According to Vedas every being consists of four layers: physical, Mind, Intelligence and Soul. Suppose I as a "physical self&  See full.

Hello All,

Again thanks for sharing an excellent passage.  I would like to further elaborate on the thoughts that I shared with you all.

There is an agreement between physical science and spiritual science: infinite nature of universe and God. Now there are two questions here:

1. If we should make any effort to know something that in infinite.

2. Is it possible to do so since we are physically limited in time and space.

The answer to first question is simple: there is no question of "if" here--we WILL because it is a part of human nature or Dharma--we "humans' are inquisitive by nature unlike other species--this has lead to so many scientific discoveries.  According to Vedas, the most important Manav Dharam is "acquisition of knowledge".

Now let us come to the second question: How to know something that is infinite? According to Vedas every being consists of four layers: physical, Mind, Intelligence and Soul.

Suppose I as a "physical self" want to go to India I can do this by buying a ticket and then boarding a plane.

Mind is subtle than physical existence. My mind can go to india in split of a second.

Intelligence is subtler than Mind. Mind has also some limitations since it can go only to familiar places. Human intelligence can go further than that. Human intelligence has lead to lot of scientific discoveries, discoveries of sub-atomic particles etc. 

Soul is subtler than Intelligence. It can go to places where even human intelligence can not go. Here comes the real role of inner or spiritual sciences--and 'Meditation" is the means ( first step) to know that infinite entity or intelligence that we call God. 

This is the main difference between Physical and Inner Sciences. Physical science tries to look for answers in the physical world and internal science tries to look for answers in the inner world.

I would like to share an interesting article by Dr. Harish Chandra: "Could we have direct cognition or inference of soul?" Interestingly, Dr. Harish was chief scientist in Volkswagen before changing his focus from physical sciences to inner sciences. Here is the link:

http://www.aryanlife.com/ebooks/index.php?books=2

Have a great long weekend!

best regards,

 

Sanjeev

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On Sep 3, 2010 Somik Raha wrote:

The circle this Wednesday was special - we had the "G" word this time, as Pavi put it. I noticed an interesting difference in my perspective. When reading the piece, I had similar judgments as Jason. However, when Audrey read it out with her soulful presence, I found it undisturbing. Viral explicitly shared this point. I liked how he brought it down to its essence - this passage is not saying "atheists/scientists be damned." Instead, it is pointing out the futility of reductionism of that which is accessible to all but cannot be really talked about. That is another amazing thing - it is often that so many of the thoughts that come up are shared by others more eloquently than I could in the same space.  And of course, there are those who take our dimension to another level. For instance, Nadia (I think it was) shared about the dimensionality in math. If we think of ourselves as 2-D creatures, on a flat plane, it is impossible for us to perceive a 3-D creat  See full.

The circle this Wednesday was special - we had the "G" word this time, as Pavi put it. I noticed an interesting difference in my perspective. When reading the piece, I had similar judgments as Jason. However, when Audrey read it out with her soulful presence, I found it undisturbing. Viral explicitly shared this point. I liked how he brought it down to its essence - this passage is not saying "atheists/scientists be damned." Instead, it is pointing out the futility of reductionism of that which is accessible to all but cannot be really talked about. That is another amazing thing - it is often that so many of the thoughts that come up are shared by others more eloquently than I could in the same space. 

And of course, there are those who take our dimension to another level. For instance, Nadia (I think it was) shared about the dimensionality in math. If we think of ourselves as 2-D creatures, on a flat plane, it is impossible for us to perceive a 3-D creature. The 3-D creature can only be perceived by us in its 2-D form, and try as it might to tell us about the third dimension, we wouldn't have the apparatus to "get it." In a sense, string theory (which she mentioned) has now brought this dimensionality into physics, where it talks about 11 (or maybe 12 by now) dimensions, all of which are connected by a string, which vibrates. Sounds esoteric, but many physicists swear by this now the same way they swore by their earlier theories.

Sanjeev pointed out how Math, which is used by most sciences, has two fundamental concepts - zero and infinity, both of which are undefinable. Zero turned on its head is infinity - and we all know this equation, but where has our skepticism of the tooth fairy gone when we chose to accept it :). I believe Sanjeev will share his full comments in writing soon.

I loved Rahul's comment on how we have many competing Gods in our time. People place their spiritual altar next to their entertainment altar, and we find God literally competing with the telly. Poignant thought. Reminded me of a rabbi who told me how she interpreted "Thou shalt not bow to false Gods," as referring to power, greed, etc. Makes that commandment very contemporary.

I remembered a film titled "Conversations with God" based on Neale Donald Walsh's book by the same name. In one scene, he was on stage and asked by someone to summarize what God had to say to us in five sentences. Walsh replied, "I can say it in five words. You've got me all wrong."

That had a big impact on me.

Second, I felt that the bickering between the theist and atheist camps is geographically concentrated in the west and stuck where it was 200 years back; and hasn't moved on very much. It seems so as I've been more exposed to eastern philosophy, much of which categorically emphasizes that "I am That" which I am seeking. A monk I know once looked at me with all of his compassion and strength and said, "There is ONLY God. There is nothing else. Everything we do, touch, eat, interact with is God. We are God. Not seeing that places us in great confusion." This monk would find our piece a little too tame. :)

My professor, who has come to the same conclusion, announced in a small group that we were all Gods. Then came a question, "Well, if we are God, then why are we here experiencing life?" And his reply, "Because being God is boring." We all laughed. And then I stopped laughing. He wasn't being funny. In an ancient Indian scripture called the Brihadaranyak Upanishad, the same reason is given to explain what is going on, which I'm sure my professor had not read.

In an interview, Prof. Howard shared more. Think of the board games we like to play. We know for sure that the rules are created by us, but there is no fun in constantly challenging those rules if we want to enjoy the game. We artificially put on restrictions in order to have "fun." So it is with life. We can wake up and see how we're in a game. And we can dive back in with that sense of awakening to truly enjoy our game without forgetting that it is a game. I've found this to be a very empowering way of thinking about life.

And yet, this is not the last word. The monk I was referring to said that the moment we try to speak about that, we fail to do so - we can only communicate in highly partial realities. The Guru Nanak said "Man ki baat to kahi na jaye, jo koi kahe wohi pachtaaye" - one cannot speak of what is truly "in" our mind, the moment we try to, we regret it.

How does all of this non-dualism leave any room for a dualistic God, or a God other than us? India is a land of great stories, and from this land comes another twister. There used to be this renowned master of non-dualism by the name of Totapuri, who was one of the teachers of Sri Ramakrishna, a great mystic. Totapuri tried hard to impress on his disciple that there was no God other than the self, and guided Sri Ramakrishna to come to the end of the mind, as the story goes. Sri Ramakrishna was a great devotee of the Goddess Kali, and he had to cross that barrier in order to move beyond. Then, there came a time when Totapuri had dysentry for many days. He thought to himself, "Since I am self-realized, let me give up this human bondage and free myself from this suffering." And so, the master walked into the Ganga to give up his life. He kept walking and walking and walking, and finally, reached the other end, without drowning. When he turned back to look, the temple of Kali was at the other end, and from it rose the form of Kali, laughing at him, "So, you thought you were going to take your life?" Now, the scientists say that there is a rare event where the water goes down due to the tide for a little while. :)

I remembered a past occasion when everything seemed impossible to me, and I felt completely bogged down. I called my father, having exhausted all other options, and asked for advice. He calmly said, "Don't you see, God is testing you, and until you overcome this obstacle, you cannot progress. This is for your benefit." The moment he said this, something shattered. I saw myself as an ant on a long journey, bogged down by unnecessary load. The load dropped. The energy I was investing in self-pity was unplugged. Whether or not God exists, I've found it mighty helpful to believe in God.

I have given up trying to resolve which ism is the right one for me. There was a time when it was non-dualism, and I asked a learned monk, "What do you advocate? Non-dualism or dualism?" He replied, "All-acceptism" and forever condemned me to my confusion. Or, actually woke me up.

Why should I just be one thing? I might enjoy being a dualist in the morning, an atheist during the day, a non-dualist as the sun goes down and perhaps an agnostic as I'm going to bed. I like all these different games, and I want to play them well.

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On Sep 2, 2010 Kinjal wrote:

What a great circle we had last night. I thank everyone for sharing their reflections...

I came across this article on Yahoo! today where Stephen Hawking talks about his changes in his beliefs in God and his ideas behind God and science.

 

http://news.yahoo.com/s/nm/20100902/lf_nm_life/us_britain_hawking



On Sep 1, 2010 Jason wrote:

Experience is usually a good guide to truth. The paradigmatic experience for discovering the truth is scientific experiment: public, repeatable, consistent, describable and (for those repeating the experiment at least) disinterested. Religious experience has none of these features. It is private, occasional, conflicting, ineffable and greatly cherished by those who experience it. If I were to spend 15 minutes a day meditating, I would have an enormous vested interest in discovering a mystical sensibility. Imagine two people drinking the same bottle of wine. One has paid £500 for it. The other has no idea that it is meant to be anything special. The buyer will discover notes of flavour in it that are quite lost on the friend he is treating. For these reasons, not only is your experience of God not a good reason for me to believe in God, it is not a good reason for you to either. You should apply a sterner test of sceptical distrust to evidence for a proposition you know you want  See full.

Experience is usually a good guide to truth. The paradigmatic experience for discovering the truth is scientific experiment: public, repeatable, consistent, describable and (for those repeating the experiment at least) disinterested.

Religious experience has none of these features. It is private, occasional, conflicting, ineffable and greatly cherished by those who experience it. If I were to spend 15 minutes a day meditating, I would have an enormous vested interest in discovering a mystical sensibility. Imagine two people drinking the same bottle of wine. One has paid £500 for it. The other has no idea that it is meant to be anything special. The buyer will discover notes of flavour in it that are quite lost on the friend he is treating.

For these reasons, not only is your experience of God not a good reason for me to believe in God, it is not a good reason for you to either. You should apply a sterner test of sceptical distrust to evidence for a proposition you know you want to believe than for one you find objectionable, in order to counteract your natural bias. 

The retreat from the intellectual and public sphere to that of private feeling is supposed to put someone beyond the reach of argument: in a "well" of their own which is permanently inaccessible to others, and therefore beyond all criticism. How can anyone else tell you what you feel?  But that is to glide from one meaning of "feel", "experience" to another - from a sensation to a contact with something outside the self that stands behind that sensation: real pins and needles as opposed to figurative ones. Given the infinite, unsolicited power of the imagination in dreams, why should we suppose there are any feelings we cannot create if we put our mind to it?

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On Aug 31, 2010 Sany wrote:

2 years ago, i was an atheist. I really used to be one of those people Kent describes in this article. Regarding the existence of God and the supernatural, I was greatly influenced by "Waiting for Godot", "The Bald Soprano", and other plays that belonged to theatre of the absurd. To me, life was a repetitive cycle full of meaninglessness and absurdity. Nothing made sense, not even my own existence. I reached a point where I eventually doubted my own existence! I was very fortunate to acquaint myself with meditation. i started to meditate everyday for 15min in the morning. Over a period of several months, my awareness increased and I'm very certain that I reached a higher state of consciousness. I began to realize that I am a being, that i exist, and therefore I realized that I am a small part of a bigger thing, a divine energy which i choose to call god. In the end I realized how acknowledging god's existence requires meditation and thus i realize  See full.

2 years ago, i was an atheist. I really used to be one of those people Kent describes in this article. Regarding the existence of God and the supernatural, I was greatly influenced by "Waiting for Godot", "The Bald Soprano", and other plays that belonged to theatre of the absurd. To me, life was a repetitive cycle full of meaninglessness and absurdity. Nothing made sense, not even my own existence. I reached a point where I eventually doubted my own existence! I was very fortunate to acquaint myself with meditation. i started to meditate everyday for 15min in the morning. Over a period of several months, my awareness increased and I'm very certain that I reached a higher state of consciousness. I began to realize that I am a being, that i exist, and therefore I realized that I am a small part of a bigger thing, a divine energy which i choose to call god.

In the end I realized how acknowledging god's existence requires meditation and thus i realized that the concept of god is not as easy as people think it is. It needs work; one must struggle to understand the meaning and the worth of the concept that god exists! More importantly, i realized that i used to deny god's existence because i was only using my head, i was not using my heart in understanding life. (I dont know how to explain it in other words, but i'm referring to what Osho said in his book "emotional wellbeing" wen he compares the mind to the heart.)
 
Due to my experience, I understand people who do not believe in god's existence. this is why, when i open such a discussion with them, i explain that you can only EXPERIENCE this concept, not understand it. and this experience is done thru extensive meditation. this way, i allow them to see and therefore be open to points of view like mine. So, please, Kent and others, do not give up on people who do not believe in god. Some of them are cases like me, people who need  meaning in life but are lost and need guidance. Please tell these people to meditate so that they give their life meaning, if it may need any.

Thank you for reading this long post but I had to share this much.

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On Aug 31, 2010 vishalchougle wrote:

thanks



On Aug 31, 2010 Jojy wrote:

A good friend of mine pointed me to this entry since he found resonance with a spiritual essay of mine. These sensations of awe, wonder and of infinity is the common heritage of humanity as are the emotions of love and compassion. I am beginning to think that these all pervading and perenial attributes of humanity are more real than humanity itself. Individual beings come and go but the thought and emotions that drive their existence are perpetual.

I also shudder at the thought that the not so lovely emotions of anger, hate and revenge also seem to be just as all pervading and perpetual as love...



On Aug 31, 2010 Bruce wrote:

I find this article to be one of contradictions, Kent states those who do not believe or feel the presence of a god should be considered as a, “frog in a well who cannot fathom the sea”. Does Kent feel the same way about someone who is blind; can they not understand the conception and meaning of light without experiencing it? Or a person, who is deaf, is it pointless to describe the beauty and wonder of music, simply because they are unable to hear? Later in the article Kent then states, “There are many paths, and the sea looks different from each of them. Your task is not to judge the paths of others…” Yet isn’t he judging those of us who although we may hear the call of the distant sea, hear not the clanging of church bells or the call of the adhan, but hear instead the constant crash of water on water, water on rock and sand, and the cries of the seagulls, and though we may be atheist or nonbelievers still stand in awe and amazement at this wond  See full.

I find this article to be one of contradictions, Kent states those who do not believe or feel the presence of a god should be considered as a, “frog in a well who cannot fathom the sea”. Does Kent feel the same way about someone who is blind; can they not understand the conception and meaning of light without experiencing it? Or a person, who is deaf, is it pointless to describe the beauty and wonder of music, simply because they are unable to hear?
Later in the article Kent then states, “There are many paths, and the sea looks different from each of them. Your task is not to judge the paths of others…” Yet isn’t he judging those of us who although we may hear the call of the distant sea, hear not the clanging of church bells or the call of the adhan, but hear instead the constant crash of water on water, water on rock and sand, and the cries of the seagulls, and though we may be atheist or nonbelievers still stand in awe and amazement at this wonderful world around us?
As Carl Sagan said, “Atheism is more than just the knowledge that gods do not exist, and that religion is either a mistake or a fraud. Atheism is an attitude, a frame of mind that looks at the world objectively, fearlessly, always trying to understand all things as a part of nature.”

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On Aug 31, 2010 Jason wrote:

"My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are as small as threepenny bits. I don't really believe in astronomy, except as a complicated description of part of human and possibly animal sensation. I apply my perspective not merely to space but to time. In time the world will cool and everything will die; but that is a long time off still, and its present value at compound discount is almost nothing. Nor is the present less valuable because the future will be blank. Humanity, which fills the foreground of my picture, I find interesting and on the whole admirable. I find, just now at least, the world a pleasant and exciting place. You may find it depressing; I am sorry for you, and you despise me. But I have reason and you have none; you would only have a reason for despising me if your feeling corresponded to the fact in a way mine didn't. But neither can correspond to the fact. The fact  See full.

"My picture of the world is drawn in perspective, and not like a model to scale. The foreground is occupied by human beings and the stars are as small as threepenny bits. I don't really believe in astronomy, except as a complicated description of part of human and possibly animal sensation. I apply my perspective not merely to space but to time. In time the world will cool and everything will die; but that is a long time off still, and its present value at compound discount is almost nothing. Nor is the present less valuable because the future will be blank. Humanity, which fills the foreground of my picture, I find interesting and on the whole admirable. I find, just now at least, the world a pleasant and exciting place. You may find it depressing; I am sorry for you, and you despise me. But I have reason and you have none; you would only have a reason for despising me if your feeling corresponded to the fact in a way mine didn't. But neither can correspond to the fact. The fact is not in itself good or bad; it is just that it thrills me and depresses you. On the other hand, I pity you with reason, because it is pleasanter to be thrilled than to be depressed, and not merely pleasanter but better for all one's activities." - Frank Ramsey, Epilogue

I've always found this to be a succinct and elegant "credo" of "optimistic materialism" with which I can largely agree. I think two of the most useful axes along which to categorise belief systems are theist/atheist and optimist/pessimism about human experience in this world. When theists attack atheists, or vice versa, they usually contrast their own optimistic view with a caricature of a pessimistic view from the other side.

So an angry atheist may paint a picture of a Christian terrified of death, regarding experience in this world as an empty rehearsal for the next life, despising physical pleasure, concerned only with staying on the right side of an angry deity; a defensive Christian may paint a picture of atheists as mindless hedonists, living moment to moment in a selfish life of atomic individualism. Whereas, of course, there are positive, optimistic people who appreciate beauty and do their best for their communities in both camps.

What's interesting about this quote from Ramsey (mainly a technical philosopher whose admirers would see this foray into ethics as a lapse of taste!) is that it is addressed from an optimist to a pessimist within a shared framework of atheism. I expect there are similar passages from better-humoured theologians critiquing the bleak outlook of fire and brimstone preachers.

The point I am getting at is that most of the intellectual and other virtues can be displayed by those from a religious or atheistic background, as can the corresponding vices. A willingness to engage with those who think differently to you is something which I consider to be a virtue, hence I see Nerburn's article as an argument for the vices of closed-mindedness and selfishness, just as I would an article by an atheist saying "Just leave the godbotherers to their fantasies. They're too dumb ever to see sense." When you change the language around like that, you can see that this piece is at its heart a mixture of flattery and abuse, not a good diet for anyone's spiritual journey.

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On Aug 31, 2010 Kirshara wrote:

I totally agree with Jason's comments regarding the article as well as regarding Akong's comment.

I consider myself to be a scientifically-minded skeptic yet at the same time philosophical and spiritual. I do not believe in God, and nor do I consider belief in God to be a necessity of any sort. However I am also in awe of life and its wonders.

Let me say that the belief in God or any sort of creator separate to yourself pales in comparison to the realisation that the only thing which affects your level of happiness is your own perspective of the world, i.e. your own thoughts about the world. If you believe in God then you view the world through such a "lens", lets say. If you do not believe in God then you view the world through a different lens.

You can't always control what happens in life. But you can control how you react to what happens and in knowing that lies true happiness. In my opinion :)

 



On Aug 31, 2010 Jason wrote:

I don't wish to hog the board but I can't help asking Akong if he/she sincerely believes that "all of the ills of the world still pale when compared to the elegance of the morning sun exploding through a raindrop on a green leaf." Such rhetorical flourishes may sound OK when comparing an abstract generalisation of suffering with a specific example of natural beauty, but they lose their credibility when you substitute a specific example. The following sounds rather twisted, for example: "The horror of a grenade exploding in a crowded marketplace and tearing through the innards of an innocent child still pales when compared to the elegance of the morning sun exploding through a raindrop on a green leaf." or "The slow progress of the parastic infection river blindness as the miscroscopic worms make their way through the body, causing itching, sometimes elephantiasis of the genitals and eventually, in some cases, blindness, still pales when compared to the elega  See full.

I don't wish to hog the board but I can't help asking Akong if he/she sincerely believes that "all of the ills of the world still pale when compared to the elegance of the morning sun exploding through a raindrop on a green leaf." Such rhetorical flourishes may sound OK when comparing an abstract generalisation of suffering with a specific example of natural beauty, but they lose their credibility when you substitute a specific example. The following sounds rather twisted, for example:

"The horror of a grenade exploding in a crowded marketplace and tearing through the innards of an innocent child still pales when compared to the elegance of the morning sun exploding through a raindrop on a green leaf."

or

"The slow progress of the parastic infection river blindness as the miscroscopic worms make their way through the body, causing itching, sometimes elephantiasis of the genitals and eventually, in some cases, blindness, still pales when compared to the elegance of the morning sun exploding through a raindrop on a green leaf."

I'm all for turning an elegant phrase, but when using an image as part of an argument I think it's a good idea to reflect on whether you really mean what your words say. Saying things you don't really believe on closer consideration shows a lack of respect for your readers and for your own intelligence.

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On Aug 31, 2010 Jason wrote:

This is typical of the strain in religious writing in which thinking is opposed to feeling, and discovering the truth is opposed to rational thought, so that the reader is prepositioned to pity anyone who produces a plausible counterargument. Thinking scientifically about the world is not opposed to feelings of awe, as if the world were a tacky magic trick that ceases to entertain once its secrets are unveiled. A deeper understanding of science deepens one's amazement and sense of the preciousness of the natural world. If the world has been made at God's fiat, he could always make another one if we mess this one up; since it has taken billions of years to reach this level of exquisite complexity, it is rather less replaceable than that. It shows a breathtaking lack of self-awareness that you castigate atheists for being "frogs in a well", whilst advocating that not only should those who agree with you assume that they are not "in a well" themselves, but forestall  See full.

This is typical of the strain in religious writing in which thinking is opposed to feeling, and discovering the truth is opposed to rational thought, so that the reader is prepositioned to pity anyone who produces a plausible counterargument.

Thinking scientifically about the world is not opposed to feelings of awe, as if the world were a tacky magic trick that ceases to entertain once its secrets are unveiled. A deeper understanding of science deepens one's amazement and sense of the preciousness of the natural world. If the world has been made at God's fiat, he could always make another one if we mess this one up; since it has taken billions of years to reach this level of exquisite complexity, it is rather less replaceable than that.

It shows a breathtaking lack of self-awareness that you castigate atheists for being "frogs in a well", whilst advocating that not only should those who agree with you assume that they are not "in a well" themselves, but forestall any possibility of finding out that they are by cutting off all dialogue with those with a different point of view. 

I won't labour the point, as it has never been put more graphically than in in Matthew 7. 

"For with what judgment ye judge, ye shall be judged: and with what measure ye mete, it shall be measured to you again.

And why beholdest thou the mote that is in thy brother's eye, but considerest not the beam that is in thine own eye?   

Or how wilt thou say to thy brother, Let me pull out the mote out of thine eye; and, behold, a beam is in thine own eye?

Thou hypocrite, first cast out the beam out of thine own eye; and then shalt thou see clearly to cast out the mote out of thy brother's eye."

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On Aug 30, 2010 Akong wrote:

This piece echoes a blog post I once wrote (http://perfexcellence.wordpress.com/2008/04/12/do-u-believe-in-god-or-do-u-believe-in-what-man-says-about-god/)

 

Faith, God is one of those things of which it can be said ... "to s/he who understands, no explanation is necessary, to s/he who does not understand, no explanation is possible"

 

I have read lots of books/articles tearing down God/Faith ... I have immersed myself in man's inhumanity to man and rather than weaken my faith, they have made me believe even more in God. I doesn't mean I know have all the answers, or can justify the ills of the world, it means that all of the ills of the world still pale when compared to the elegance of a the morning sun exploding through a raindrop on a green leaf.

 



On Aug 30, 2010 Nikanj wrote:

It is true that it is there, we may not prove it, we may not convince everyone about it, but it can certainly be experienced. And to understand it one has to experience it, it is the only way there is to it. Everyone please don't try to convince anyone, there won't be any use. It is rightly said by Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu that, "A frog in a well cannot be talked to about the sea." "A frog in a well cannot be talked to about the sea."  See full.

It is true that it is there, we may not prove it, we may not convince everyone about it, but it can certainly be experienced. And to understand it one has to experience it, it is the only way there is to it. Everyone please don't try to convince anyone, there won't be any use. It is rightly said by Chinese philosopher Chuang Tzu that, "A frog in a well cannot be talked to about the sea."

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