Ask Uncle Seeker
Uncle Seeker, could you help me understand something?
Maybe, Little One. What is it you don’t understand?
Well, it’s about religion and God and stuff.
Wow, that’s a pretty big subject. Is there something special that’s bothering you?
Yeah. Sometimes it doesn’t make any sense. The pastor at the church we go to says the one true God is the Christian God and people who refuse to believe in God and Jesus Christ, His Son, are all damned and going to Hell. And this Muslim kid in school says the Muslim God’s the real God and only the good Muslims will go to Paradise. And a Jewish kid talks about how Jews are God’s chosen people and how God wants them to follow a bunch of rules & learn a bunch of scripture and stuff. He says that Jews have the real truth and worship the real God.
So you have all these people claiming to be right, and they can’t all be right when they all claim to have the only true religion and say that you have to go their way or be damned. And the people with these different religions fight each other a lot and kill each other and are mean to each other.
And my Sunday School teacher says that God wants us to love each other and be kind and forgiving and help each other. And then I see stuff on the news about religious people blowing themselves and other people up, and shooting each other and bombing each other, and I don’t see how this could have anything to do with us loving each other.
Then I think maybe they mean that God wants them to be loving and nice, but only to people who belong to their own church or their religion. And that seems stupid, ’cause Christ was kind & understanding to pretty much everyone except some people who tried to make money off religion, and He didn’t seem to care if other people belonged to some church or the other, He loved them anyway. But the people in my church sometimes say mean things about other people outside our church or say even worse things about people who quit our church.
OK, Little One. I think I hear what you’re saying.
You want to know how so many different religions with different stories about who God is and what God wants can all claim to have the one and only truth about God.
Also, you want to know why religious people who supposedly believe God is Love and that we are supposed to love each other can be so quick to judge, fight, and kill each other.
Did I get that right?
Yeah, that’s right. I mean, these are grownups that are supposed to be smart and are supposed to show us how to live. But what are we supposed to do when they argue and fight and talk bad about each other.
Good question. I had the same things bothering me when I was your age. I used to wonder how it was that I just happened to be born into a family that had the one true religion in the whole world. I used to wonder what it would have been like to have been born in a Muslim country or some other country with a different religion instead of having born in a Baptist family.
If I’d been born somewhere else with a different religion, would they have told me the same thing that our church did, that their religion was the one true religion? If they did, how could I decide which one was the real true religion when everyone in a bunch of different religions all said theirs was?
And if God wanted us to love each other, why weren’t my parents and the other people in our church more loving to everybody? That was something else that didn’t make sense to me.
So is this what you’d like to explore?
Sure. What do we do next?
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Well, if there actually is a God, is God real?
If God exists, is God real? That’s a dumb question. He’d have to be real if He exists.
Hmmm … have you ever met God, in person, got a good look, maybe said hi?
Then how do you know God’s a He?
Because our church and the Bible and pretty much everybody call God “He.”
This is the same church that claims that whatever it is they believe is the one and only true religion and that anyone who doesn’t agree with them and believe what they believe is wrong and in big trouble? If you’re not sure you believe them about being the one true church, why do you believe them when they say God’s a He?
I don’t know. What else would God be?
That’s what I’m trying to say. I don’t know what God looks like or acts like or thinks or believes or wants. I’m not talking about God as described by Christians or Muslims or Jews or whoever, I’m talking about the real world, where the real God has to be if there’s a real God.
Why should the creator and soul and intelligence of the stars and galaxies and all of space and time or whoever or whatever God is look or think anything like a human being, or like any kind of living thing we know?
I don’t know, but the pictures I’ve seen show God as this big strong old man with a beard, like someone’s father or grandfather.
Well, it’s probably comforting for some people to think God’s like someone’s father, only with eternal life and super-powers, and maybe that’s why they call God “He” and picture God as this wise-looking old man, but there isn’t any evidence I know of, one way or another, as to whether God is male, female, something else, or even exists at all.
If that’s the way it is, then how am I supposed to think about or talk to or believe in God?
A lot of people would be very happy to answer that question for you, to tell you who God really is and what God wants you to do and believe. The problem is that you’d hear a bunch of different answers and wouldn’t have any way to know who or what to believe.
This is one of the reasons it’s so hard to really believe what any religion says. There are lots of people trying to get you to believe this story or that story about who God is and what God wants, but the only thing to back those stories up is more stories written by other people and a lot of arguments thought up by people who are trying to prove whatever they believe is true.
This is really confusing. So is this religious stuff all a bunch of made-up stories about someone who isn’t real, like the stories about Santa Claus that little kids believe? The people who tell me about God and religion and stuff are grownups and seem like they are smart and know stuff, so why would they say this if it isn’t true.
They tell you this because they have decided to believe it and they want you to believe it too. None of them can really prove anything, though they’d try to tell you that certain words written in certain books prove what they believe. But different books have different words, and words don’t really prove anything except that someone wrote them somewhere, sometime.
So are you saying that none of the stories and the religions that tell them are true, or that one of them is true but we can’t tell which one, or what? If they can’t prove anything about God, how can you? Isn’t what we’re saying here just another story?
In my experience, no one can prove to another person that there is a God, or Gods, and no one can prove to another person that there isn’t. None of us can prove anything at all about whatever it is we call God, though I like saying “The Mystery” better, because whatever it is we call God is really a Mystery to us.
Without any real proof one way or another, each one of us has to rely on our own personal awareness and pay attention to what is real if we want to find the truth; we have to open ourselves to the truth of what is, what exists in the real world, and see what shows up.
So what we’re saying here, now, isn’t just another story, it’s us exploring the idea that you can’t find the real world in words, in stories. You can’t find it in what we’re saying here, either, though we might find some places to avoid so as not to waste our time if we’re only exploring what is real.
You won’t find reality in a book or in what other people say. What you find in books and hear from other people are stories, ideas, creations of our minds. They are not reality. The reality of books is paper, ink, and squiggles that we call words, symbols we humans create to try to share what’s in our head with other people.
Deciding that this or that story or book of stories about God is true because your parents or girlfriend or some speaker told you so, and then hiding out from or denying the contradictions and meanness and shaky points in the story or the book, and believing in the book instead of what your own eyes and own heart tell you – this is not the way to truth. This is the way to living in illusion, fantasy, a dream world, or maybe a nightmare.
So if I don’t believe any of the stories from any of the religions that tell about God, then what do I believe in?
Do you believe in sunshine?
I wouldn’t say I believe in it. I see it, I feel it on my skin, and sometimes I get sunburned by it. When it’s there, it’s there, and when it’s not, it’s not.
I think I see where you’re going here, but there’s one difference between sunshine and God. I can show sunshine to anyone, and they can’t say it isn’t there. Even blind people can feel it.
Ok, I see that. Do you believe in sadness?
What’s to believe in? When I’m sad, I’m sad, and when I’m not sad, I’m not.
What if you met someone who didn’t know what being sad was? How would you let them know what it meant? What would you say if you were feeling sad and tried to tell them what it was like?
I guess I’d ask them to think about times when they lost something really important, or someone they loved was mean to them, or something like that, and say that’s the way I feel now.
What if they couldn’t think of some time something like that had happened to them?
Then I guess I couldn’t let them know how I feel. The word “sad” doesn’t mean anything to you if you’ve never felt sad.
This is back to God again, isn’t it? If I’m aware in some way of God, the presence of God or of something sacred or holy, I can’t tell anyone else about it in a way where they’ll know what I mean unless they’ve had some awareness like that, too. To understand me, first they have to become aware of God and the sacred by themselves, right?
Well, I wasn’t going to say that, exactly, but I agree with what you said. Another way to say it is that I can’t lead you or anyone else to the direct awareness of God, of truth, of the sacred, the holy, no matter what I say or what I’m personally aware of.
The best I can do with words is to tell you about some dead-ends and traps of illusion to avoid in your own exploration of reality, of the real world. It’s pretty hard to be open to the real, actual sacred, whatever it is, when you’re caught up in some story that you’re trying to prove is real.
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Ok, I know you said you can’t show me God or direct awareness of truth or the sacred, but you also said you can use words to help me avoid traps of illusion. Does that mean you can tell me a story that will help me avoid getting lost in some of these traps?
Yeah, I think I can do that. Promise me, though, that you won’t start believing in this story, that you’ll just use it as a way to look at things from another point of view.
Oh, yeah. I think I can do that. But before we go on, I’m not sure I ever got an answer to my question about what I should or could believe in.
What makes you think you need to believe in anything? I know people have probably told you that you should believe in this, or that, in something, but think about it. How does picking some religion or philosophy or political system to believe in get you any closer to whatever’s real?
Ok, I guess it doesn’t. It just gets in your way, makes you pay a lot of attention to some things and ignore others, makes you try to prove that things you believe in are true and that things you don’t believe in are false, and blocks you from seeing and feeling things as they really are. Right?
Yep. At the top of my blog, I say “You don’t have to believe in reality.” What do you think I mean by saying that?
Maybe that you can believe in anything you want to, and you can decide to not believe in something, even if it’s real?
I can see how you could get that meaning from the words, but what I was really trying to say was something like “You don’t have to believe in reality, because reality’s there whether or not you believe in it.”
A writer I like, Philip K. Dick, once said “Reality is that which, when you stop believing in it, doesn’t go away.”
So if God is real, do you have to believe in God?
I get it. No, I don’t, because if God’s real, then God will be there whether or not I believe in God. If I become aware of God, then God will be part of my awareness at least part of the time, like sadness or sunshine.
So I don’t have to believe in sadness or sunshine if I‘m personally aware of them in the world, and any awareness I have of God or the sacred works the same way. Without that awareness, I can decide to believe in God if I want to, but that believing doesn’t mean I know anything about God. It might even cause me to miss out on my actual awareness of God, of the sacred, if that awareness doesn’t fit in with whatever story about God I’ve decided to believe.
So if I want to ever find spiritual truth, the holy, the sacred, I need to keep my eyes open and free of the veils of belief. I need to keep it real … not believe in keeping it real, but actually keep it real, actually stay aware of what really is real, and not just focus on what I want to be real.
Thanks, Uncle. That helps. Now what was that story you were going to tell me that will help me avoid traps in my mind?
Well, I was going to tell you a story about people and how they love to worship idols that they dream up and some of the problems that causes, but it’s getting pretty late and I have some other things I need to do. But I’d love to talk about this more tomorrow. Would that be ok?
Sure. That would be cool, Unk. See you tomorrow.
Ok. Good night, Little One.