Wednesday, 10 January 2007

On Knowing God

I sympathise with all you atheists. I too don't believe in the God you don't believe in. He's a tyrant and a teddy bear. He's stuffy and too desperate to remain fashionable. He's wishy-washy and bigoted. He's self-centred and falls in love with anybody. He's one thing on paper and wholly different in action. It seems like everyone's looking for him, and the only people who are finding him are the ones who have turned off their brains in favour of "faith" - more or less an excuse not to think, not to be all that we know ourselves to be.
Quite simply, I must agree with you wholeheartedly - to the extent that such a God exists, he is no God at all. We have proven it over and over again with the best of humanity's tools of understanding - science, logic, philosophy. We have wrapped up that ugly, inconsistent God in the stiff brown paper of reason, tied him into a tight, four-cornered package with the strings of conscience and consciousness, and tossed him bitterly into the wastebasket of thought. There he sits, covered over with crumpled bits of well-researched and defended resentment - resentment because he has failed to fulfill, and thereby stolen from us the dearest hope of the human heart. Deep down, don't we all long achingly for something? Something that might have been called "God"?
So some of you have sadly, bravely, or angrily chosen no answer rather than a cheap one that denies first what you know yourself to be. And yet there he sits still, the God who is no God, even in the term "atheist" calling out to you - mocking you for defining your thought in relation to him, and for having dared to hope for something more.
Could I offer you back your hope one more time? You've been disappointed so often - no, don't open your mental door and take it back just yet. Just let that faithful dog, Reason, outside to sniff carefully about one more time.
I am not going to give you any scientific or existential arguments for the existence of God. Let me just tell you a little, now and then, about who the God is who does exist. He'll never be proven through reason, but he never goes against it, either, so reason will protect you from what is not God. There are reasons for everything he does. He answers question asked sincerely. Everyone who searches for him finds him, even those who don't know that his name is "God". (Not everyone who searches for their idea of "God", but everyone who searches for HIM.) Indeed, no one ever knows him without searching. Let me just tell you who he is, so you'll know what to look for.
He is energy and force, but he is personal. He is as harsh and demanding and uncontrollable and beautiful as a snowstorm. He is as kind as a mother should be. He is as deep and strong and inexorable as the sea, as vast as a starry night, and warm and light and comforting as a curled-up cat. He is great and fine and dear. He is love. Not he loves, but he IS love, personified. It is he who created reason and understanding and a billion intricately interconnected natural laws. He is the one who thought up animals, with all their innocent ferocity. He dreamed up the rugged delicacy of the tree, the burning splendour of the sun. He, like the nature that reveals him, is both infinitely incomprehensible and undeniably reasonable. Look deep inside your heart. What is it, underneath the flotsam and jetsam of life, that you truly long for? This is God. This is the God who is.
I haven't always known him. Even after we met, after I knew that he was, I didn't know much about who he was. I spent a long time confusing Him with other things named "God". As a child, I was aware of God in nature and in my grandfather. I felt certain God was present in thunder and lightning storms, which I loved even while they terrified me. I also knew him as my grandfather's friend. If I couldn't see him, I was completely aware that my grandfather knew him even better than he knew me. As I grew older and realised the need and the responsibility of an adult to reconcile experience and thought, God seemed more and more distant. Analysis and measured understanding are the privelege and the duty of mature humanity. I couldn't always reconcile my understanding of "God" and my consciousness of the rest of the world. I almost gave up hope. Then I remembered my grandfather. I was sure he knew someone, whether or not that person's name was God.
I went in search of the God my grandfather knew. In case he could hear me, I asked him all the questions that sprang out of my philosophy classes and my rather imperfect knowledge of science, and the conundrums of humanity- the problem of pain, injustice, tragedy. I was groping desperately in the darkness, only given hope because I was convinced my grandfather had talked to someone real, someone who talked back. While I couldn't accept his experience, it gave me enough hope to keep looking. I started walking outside everyday alone, looking up into the sky and asking God, if he were there, to speak to me.
I met him. I found him in the Bible, as it turned out. I had read the Bible once before, but had failed to see him there. My mind was too busy trying to make what I read fit into the view I had already established about who God was and what the Bible was going to say. What a letdown, huh? You hoped I was going to give you some new information about a mystical experience with a fresh new deity, perfect for our modern world. Instead, just the same old dusty Bible and its dusty version of God. Not quite. Same Bible, different me. Turns out the dusty version of God was only in my head, because the one in the Bible is deep, dynamic, responsive, and absolutely trustworthy.
It was an incredibly painful experience, being forced to let go of my own "beliefs" about God and about myself, but it set me free in a way I never was before. I have never seen him with my eyes, just as I have never seen the wind. But I did become as lucidly aware of his evidence as I am of the wind. I have been in his presence. He has spoken to me as he did my grandfather. And he has answered every question I have dared ask him. I am not resting on some belief, some warm feeling of faith inside that allows me to believe in something without having to use my brain. I learned who he was by reading about him and engaging in linear thought. He has fully engaged both my reason and my experience. I didn't have to lower my expectations. I didn't "get religion".
I am convinced that the God who is meets people in their own way. After all, if he created so many varieties of personalities, cultures, and personalities, wouldn't it be inconsistent in him to insist on a "one size fits all" meeting? What is it that draws out your deep longing, your sense of something more? Science? Seek him in science. History? Seek him in history. Art? Seek him in art. A genuine search for truth will always lead a person to a God who is truth. He is more amazing than you ever imagined. He is knowable, on every level. He is.


DM said...


I believed in God for many years and had a deep relationship with him. Praying to him and sharing my faith with others were key parts of my existence. But at some point I came to question my beliefs; it wasn't a sudden step but a sequence of steps. I asked, might I be like the emperor who believed he had on the finest clothes when actually he wasn't wearing anything? How could I determine if what I believed was true or false? I wanted to believe in the truth; if Christianity is true then I'll believe in it, but if it is not, then I must be willing to give it up even though that had been my focus for my whole life.

So I set about to seek for the truth. It was a long process lasting almost 10 years and filled with many struggles. But finally I have come to conclude that the atheist is right. I no longer have a choice to believe in the Christian God as all the reasons I found for belief turned out to be empty in the end.

Well, that's been my path. All the best on yours.


jennypo said...


I understand that you believed you had a relationship with God-a belief that was patently unfounded, as it turns out, since you now conclude that the atheist is right. I think part of your thesis is that there is a vital difference between belief and knowledge - in this I wholeheartedly agree! Knowledge is something that imposes itself on us in our experience of reality, but we can choose to "believe" anything that we really wish to believe.
I respect the conclusions that you have come to. I am certainly not criticizing someone who rejects conclusions that don't match the rest of their experience. My conclusions are based on the same criteria as yours - what makes us different is a different experience. I'm not trying to convince anybody to believe in God. (as if I could!) I realise that this is a journey we, sooner or later, have to make alone. I'm just calling back to those of you who are still seeking a unified understanding of truth - "I've found it! I've found something here that satisfies my understanding as well as my heart. You're not wrong to hold out for a unified truth - keep on looking!" What you are searching for is right, not wrong. I just want to say, take heart, keep going, and don't allow disappointment to close your mind.

Sav said...

I believed in God earlier; I believe in God now. The difference between then and now is that the turmoils of life has taken on a new dimension which has change me once and forever. I have come to a new and a totally different understanding of God in that He is who he is. Regardless of me sensing His presence or not, He is still 'I am'

jennypo said...

I may have put too much stock in the "sense of God's presence" - not that it isn't the second most lovely thing in life - but I have come to realize that it's not the most important thing: the knowledge of God. When I am swallowed up in desperation and an inability to feel anything at all with any surety, it is a worth everything to be able to lay my gasping self in the dust and KNOW who God is. It's not comfortable, but I wouldn't trade it for comfort.

Thanks for clarifying this, Sav.