Picked up Clark Strand's book in the library the other day. Though a Buddhist his major work...perhaps I am overstating it here....is How to believe in God...whether you believe in religion or not.
This seems a difficult idea for many Christians to grasp, since most of us are so caught up with 'religion' that we forget that Jesus himself was profoundly criticial of religion and the religious at times. "You whited sepulchres!" was one of his famous throwaay lines against the religious do gooders.
Strand begins his book..."Tell me about the God you don't believe in!"
It's an interesting opening gambit.
Would be easy to trivialise this as "anything supernatural" (see this for example), but Mr Strand is really asking people to challenge views that they have received often with good intention but which is exposed (often by horror) to just not be satisfactory. "the one who tells a twenty four year old man with a wife and three children to blow himself up in a crowded public square"..."the one who puts a beautiful tree within the reach of his children, forbids them on pain of death to eat from it, then promptly disappears and spies on them."
And he asks "Where did these Gods come from?" Where indeed?
So I have been thinking about this.
Part of the issue is that many people don't think much about God at all, and just absorb stuff from...their parents, from society....and then when challenged often just drop the bundle without necessarily realising that they may be jettisoning more than they think.
Take the notion of SIN for example. Most of us have absorbed very curious ideas ...ranging from facile notions of right and wrong, to blaming ourselves for how we feel.
One of the grossest examples of this is of course is the area of sexuality, how many people blame themselves for sexual attraction....when the issue is not the fact that we are sexually attracted but what we make of that, and how we act on it.
Most of us find this so difficult to deal with that we just throw out the whole lot and end up acting on impulse.
What all this process forgets is that there is some sense in which there is a right way and wrong way to act. Treating people as though they are objects, for example, just seems to me to be wrong. That would speak loudly into the questions of pornography and prostitution.
What sort of God do we believe in? It is good to both challenge the propaganda of our childhood, but we should do better than just not think about the issue at all.