Settle for Mere Belief in God or a Greater Reality?
When I talk to people about my wife, I never say, "I believe
my wife exists!". Instead, I talk to them very concretely
her qualities, what she did this week
about our relationship
much her love and support means in my life, for instance.
worth examining, then, when we find one of the things we say most
commonly in reference to the Divine is: "I believe
in God." Let's really consider what that means!
I don't say,
"I believe my wife exists." I don't say, "I believe
the sky is blue." I don't profess belief in things that are
tacitly obvious to me. But I might
say, "I believe in freedom for all people." Or "I
believe we'll all make it through that hurricane that will hit
the coast tomorrow." Or "I believe Russell Crowe will
win the Oscar for Best Actor." Or "I believe the economy
will rebound in the next quarter."
become clear from these examples is that "belief" is
a word used to refer either to something that is uncertain,
or something that is so intangible
that it is difficult to describe in concrete terms ("freedom
for all people").
Now this is
to discover that when we say, "I believe in God", we
actually mean, "I'm not certain of the reality of God!"
or "God is not very tangible to me!". Not least because
this is probably the single phrase most commonly used by people
to describe their own relationship to the Divine. And "religion"
is generally equated with "belief system".
this, we can see the real cause of "holy wars": if you
have a different belief than I, and are actively promoting it,
then I must wipe you out, so as to reduce your influence, and
not increase doubt (either
my own or that of others) in my own belief.
If what we
believed in were truly obvious and tangible to us, we wouldn't
need to eliminate the unbelievers. If someone says, "No,
the sky is green", when it is obviously blue to us, we just
laugh and consider them a little daft. We only go the further
step of declaring a holy war when we ourselves are already (though
generally unconsciously) in doubt about our own belief. If one
blind person in a world of blind people says "I believe the
sky is green" to someone who believes the sky is blue, they
might very well get into a fight over it, because neither
has ever seen the sky themselves.
Now if you
are a "believer in God", perhaps what I've written may
bother you. But how certain are
you of the reality of God? Our certainty can be measured concretely
by what we do in response. Some of the most impressive people
who claimed the direct experience of (and love for) God demonstrated
it through their actions. These men and women —
stories can be found in every religious tradition
entire lives to God: to the love of God, to the glory of God,
and to the service of God. Some of them were able even to die
and still proclaim their tangible experience of God and love for
God while they were being subjected to every imaginable mortal
horror: being burnt at the stake, hung on the cross, boiled in
oil, etc. All of us who have loved deeply
intimates, our children, our parents, dear friends
a taste for what we do, if push comes to shove, for those we love.
But is God
on our list of loved ones? Is God that real to us? Is God first
on that list? If not, what kind of "God" is it that
we believe in and love?
I am by no
means advocating that we intensify our belief
in God. What I am advocating is that we find
God for real. And I am advocating that we find God
now, not after we die. If
we have a belief that we will find God after we die, even though
we have never found God while alive, we should seriously consider
whether that belief is justified. All the great saints, yogis,
and Spiritual Masters who spoke of God did so on the basis of
a direct Revelation of the Greater Reality, which they received
(some even continually) while they were
alive. Many have declared to questioners that God is
as real to them, even more so, than the people to whom they were
talking. Like love for our children, love for God is only real
when God is as present to us as our children. To say we love God
otherwise is much like all the ridiculous things we say when we
are fans of a Hollywood movie star. We're intrigued with the man
or woman, but in reality, we've never met him or her. What we
have is an imaginary relationship.
write any of this if finding God for real were not my own direct
experience. All the saints, yogis, and Spiritual Realizers from
the world's spiritual traditions are further evidence that finding
God while alive (to different
degrees, depending on one's Spiritual Realization) is
possible. It is to the people who in past centuries have found
who are finding God in the present
that we should be paying very close attention, and not merely
to those who would admonish us to "deepen our faith or belief",
as though that were our best or only option.
God (or not) have practical implications for the quality of our
lives? You bet! As has been said in all the wisdom traditions
of humankind, God is love. God is perfect happiness. To find God
for real is to share in that perfect happiness which grants us
the capability for real and unconditional love of others.
"What do the saints know about finding God that I don't?"
This should be the burning
question for every one of us who is not already perfectly and
eternally happy, and who would like to have the most profoundly
positive impact on this world.