Tuesday, August 19, 2008

My Daily Encounters With "God"

There is a ubiquitous presence in daily life of something for which we have no proof of its existence. I'm sure there must be some classical philosophical term to describe this phenomenon, but I don't know what it is. Does anyone out there?

Every day we encounter "God" in dozens of ways; and yet, objectively, "God" is a subjective idea. Amazing! We encounter something so often that is really an abstraction, an idea or belief. Is there anything else like this which has a pervasive presence in our lives, yet may or may not exist?

Someone might make an a priori argument that since "God" is everywhere, he/she/it must exist. But all the manifestations of "God" are man-made. Viz.:

* Places/things that mention God, such as money, banks, jewelry, songs, places of worship, etc. are omnipresent.

* Every day I say "Thank God" or "Oh God" at least two or three dozen times. Usually, afterwards, I feel silly. Often, I'll exclaim "Jesus Christ!" or "Holy Christ!" then I think, how can I say these things when I don't believe in them?

* On most days, at least one or two people tell me "God bless you and your family," and this has nothing to do with sneezing. Not sure what to say, I reply, "Thanks, same to you."

* Often, in response to my saying "see you tomorrow" someone will say, "God willing." Sometimes, now, I say it as an anti-jinx measure, which can't hurt.

* Often, I receive emails which tell me how blessed I am, how I should love God, and pass the email on to the people I love, as did the person who sent it to me. Usually, I delete them.

* Religious holidays.

And finally,

* I have daily interactions with people whose lives are dedicated to "the Lord." Most of them are Christians; a few are Jews.

All of the above is very confusing because I waver between being Atheist and Agnostic. Here is a constant presence in my life, and I'm not sure if it exists. So what do I do? What I've been doing since I was born into a secular Jewish family in a Christian society: I pretend a lot and participate a little.

What an odd thing, though, to be pretending about something all the time. But, if I'm saying I'm Agnostic, am I really pretending? Or, do I not know if I'm pretending? What kind of way is this to live?

To be continued...


Windows xp said...

Interesting blog, Denise. I feel intellectually and emotionally I am an agnostic, but I can easily see the atheist position.
I've decided to stop worrying about it. And to spend every minute, even doing loathsome insurance work in my therapy practice, that I am glad to be alive, glad to have the benefits I do, able to cope with the problems I have, and going to ocean and feeling it's just all going to be ok, realizing I'm not afraid of dying (only ceasing to be me, ha), and digging deeper and deeper into the good things in my life and trying to meet political and work challenges even though they are taxing and I resent the time taken away from more pacific moments. Ha. I guess this comment just reflexs the complexity of subject. Glad you raised it. Claire Holcomb

Anonymous said...

Dear Denise - You make some good points about doubts and confusion that most people can relate to unless they've been totally brain-washed and tune out everything but their own belief system. However, I think that not all manifestations of "God" are man-made, for example; the time in Keoka Lake when I stepped into a kayak and the Great Spirit reached up a hand and rolled me like a cannoli. Having been dipped 360, I was completely soaked and had a sudden, humbling revelation that Mother Nature had just baptised her child.
Forward this to 3 people in 3 seconds or a squadron of gnats will swarm your fruit cup.

-Pamela Rainbird

Timothy Mills said...

Excellent question.

"Is there anything else like this which has a pervasive presence in our lives, yet may or may not exist?"

Free will. Belief in its existence (for the moment) completely hangs on a person's definition and desire to believe it exists. It bears on everything we do - every choice we make, every action we take. And yet it may not, in fact, exist as we understand it.

But, just like the theist who decides to live as though a god exists, despite the uncertainty, I choose to live as though free will exists (until the evidence persuades me otherwise).

KEENA said...

Pascal's Paradox aside, a very wise Bahai elder said to me once, as I described myself as an atheist/agnostic, "Your problem is you think of god as some old guy 'up there' with flowing white robes and beard." Indeed, it was true - and why I couldn't relate to the concept of god. He then told me he believed god was the force of CREATIVITY in the Universe. Being an artist, I can live with that! And maybe other creatives out there can, too. ;-)