Real God. Real souls. No dogmas. No kidding.
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Mark F. Sharlow
|Mon, 27 Apr 2009
One of the most basic teachings of religion is the idea that there is a supreme spiritual reality of some sort. Some religions depict this supreme reality as a person and call it God. Others think of it in impersonal ways, using concepts like Tao, Brahman or the Void. Either way, religions usually portray the supreme reality as spiritual instead of as merely physical. This can mean that the supreme reality is purely spiritual, or that it is physical but also spiritual, or that it is the common ground of matter and spirit.
These religious ideas of the supreme reality are different from the nonreligious view of matter as the ultimate reality. Even a committed atheist can believe there is an ultimate reality if this reality is just matter itself. The supreme being or reality known to religious thought is not like this. It is not merely matter, but has mental or spiritual aspects. Some religions depict it as impersonal, but even if it is not a person it is more like a "someone" than a mere "something." What is more, the supreme being is thought to play an important role in our spiritual and moral lives. In most religions with a personal God, the supreme being creates the laws that govern human morality. In most religions without a personal God, the quest to understand the supreme reality brings enlightenment and wisdom. According to some religious teachings, the effort to create a better world brings us closer, in some sense, to the supreme being.
Is there a supreme being? The question is not simple. Despite what some atheists have claimed, the existence of a supreme being is not a question that science alone can settle. Some ideas of the supreme being may be scientifically testable, but others are not. Two random examples that come to mind are the God concepts of the philosophers G. H. Howison and Charles Hartshorne. Both views of God are scientifically untestable, but both depict a real God who is not just matter. Philosophy, and not science, is the right subject for studying these other ideas of God.
Do you have to abandon reason to think there is a supreme being? No. Philosophers have developed several alternative ideas of God based on reason instead of faith. (Again, Howison and Hartshorne come to mind as examples, but there are many others: Hegel, Aristotle, Leibniz, and so forth.) These ideas of God may be right or wrong, but at least they are attempts to think rationally about God. You can think rationally about God - and if you do, you don't have to stop believing in God, though your ideas about what God is like may change.
As a starting point for studying God rationally, I'm going to introduce you to an idea of God that is both rational and poetic. According to this idea, God is more than just matter, and God lies at the root of all goodness and beauty in the universe. However, this idea of God contains absolutely nothing that disagrees with science! This idea can be true even if everything in the universe came about through purely natural causes. This idea of the supreme being cannot disagree with evolution, with scientific theories of the origin of the universe, or with anything else that science may discover.
posted at: 20:43 | path: /God | persistent link to this entry
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