Posted by: dacalu | 17 January 2012

Why God?

A friend recently asked me:

“Why faith? Why god? Why goddess, for that matter? There’s no proof on either side of the spectrum… believer or non-believer. Why?”

Here was my response.  Best I could do on short notice.  I’d be happy to hear whether it works for you.

For me, it begins with a relationship; God is a person in my life, we talk, we laugh at each other’s jokes (God only laughs at mine when they’re funny – God’s are always funny, but often odd from my perspective).  Anyway, that’s the way the whole God thing works for me.  If one doesn’t have this experience, the why has a great deal to do with figuring out life.  It’s extremely important to me that religion is our response to ignorance, not our response to knowledge. Life is complicated and difficult, so I turn to wise, caring people now (a community of faith) and in the past (scripture and tradition).  Turns out there is a long history of wrestling with these questions.

Why am I alive?  What am I meant to do?  Can I change things?  Should I change things?  How should I change things?  Who’s in control?

Anglicans (including Episcopalians) admit these are tremendously challenging questions.  We think they need to be explored in groups with study.  Now we commit as a group to some common propositions – not because we think they are the only answers, but because a community requires a common language.  These are our answers.

We believe there is a God who is in charge.  (That solves some basic metaphysical questions about why something instead of nothing and makes a handy label for all sorts of transpersonal experiences, nearly universal values, and the personal experience of people like me.)   [Remember, though, we know that our answers are qualifying our ignorance rather than declaring Truth.]

We believe God created the world and loves creation.  (This puts us in a place where we can say existence is fundamentally good.  It justifies our use of reason as well.)

We believe people mess up.  (Does anyone doubt this?)

We believe God needed to do something to counteract the bad effects of people messing up.  (This insures that the world is fundamentally good, in spite of our issues.)  It also accounts for many people’s personal experience of Jesus Christ, God and human.

We believe God exists in and amongst us, that we’re not fully separate, but being alive has something profound to do with being Godly in some sense.  (It allows us to empower people by recognizing the power they already have, but also acts against individualism and holds people accountable.)  It also accounts for many people’s personal experience of the Holy Spirit.

Those aren’t just fact statements, they are principles and practices for how we deal with the world around us.  They play themselves out in particular activities that help us have healthy relationships with one another and with the God we perceive.  So we eat together, both regular and symbolic meals.  We pray using common prayers, not just on our own.  We create communities of common language and worship so that we can talk to each other about our experiences without having to explain every detail every time.  We celebrate people who seem to have managed well in the past (saints) and recognize how hard it is to do well in the present.  We have plans for when we mess up (confession/reconciliation) and for committing ourselves to messing up as little as possible.  We have plans for staying mindful of God and one another.

What amazes me most is that this works a surprising amount of the time.  Not always, by any means, but sometimes.  People seem to really communicate about these confusing issues of fundamental reality, meaning, and purpose.  People have a language to reason about how they deal with the questions.  People change for the better.

Why God?  It’s different for everyone.  For me, it makes sense of the person I talk to on a daily basis.  It provides an elegant unifying theory for my very pragmatic desire for order, meaning, and real values.

Why faith?  Because almost all good in life comes from trusting people and trusting in people.  No, not trusting all people in all things all the time, but trusting the right people about the right things at the right time.  “No man is an island.”  (That was written by an Anglican, BTW.)  Faith in God is a more complicated question, that really only comes up once you’re already talking to one another.

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