Where with Jesus I feel like being careful not to tarnish his image or put words in his mouth, with religion I'm ready to drop 2000+ years of doctrine like a plate on the kitchen floor so that it breaks into a thousand pieces which I then play with like Lego blocks. This post is about religion, not Jesus.
"What do you mean by saying that God is the universe?" Greg asks. Greg has a Masters of Divinity, so when he asks this question, it's a gentle prod to nuance this better, to be prepared to defend such a statement. The problem is that the way I think about religion is also the way I think about a poem, or a piece of music. I say, write, or play things that feel or sound right to me. The Logos of my assertions comes later, when I'm forced to defend them like I'm playing a game of chess. Greg, Nick, whoever else is reading this; will you play with me? I'm moving out my first pawn. The dialogue below is from an imaginary Socratic questioning partner. I'm not trying to put words in anybody's mouth.
God is the I AM. He is the fount of existence. Anything that exists is Him. The blade of grass bent low by the sole of my shoe is God. The sole of my shoe is God. My foot, my leg, my out-of-shape body, the brain floating around in my head like a booger in a bowl of mucus is God.
Like Buddhism?Yes. A lot like Buddhism. But different.
How so?Buddhism is a great system to look at for helping to imagine what I have in mind in terms of things being "one." In Buddhism, however, the goal seems to be the emptying of the self and the attainment of a transcendent state of being; to break the cycle of suffering and rebirth. This goal appears to be achieved mostly through refraining. Refraining from asserting yourself as an individual. Refraining from perceiving reality as real. Refraining from behavior destructive to yourself or others. Refraining, I think, is only half of the equation. If God is the universe, and we are His agents, what happens when God refrains? I realize that I'm a Westerner, and evolution is a virtue to me, but what about all the beaten women, the starving children, the broken relationships? Refraining doesn't solve these problems. When we are all one, when we are fragments of the evolving consciousness of God, a beaten woman is at once God and ourselves. We have an urgent responsibility to act.
If we are fragments of the evolving consciousness of God, then the total emptying of self is counterproductive. Our goal is somewhat Nietzschean; we are to reach as high as possible, to be the most we can be as human beings suffused with love, beauty, and intelligence. We are to become Ubermensch, not so that we can be above all laws, but that so we can butt up against our cultural milieu like a fish against its net, pulling ourselves and everyone caught in the same net toward something higher.
Are you saying that God evolves?Yeah. I think so. This opens up worm-cans and causes huge problems. Maybe you can help iterate some of these?
So, er, what about sin?Sin is that which destroys: relationships, living things, beauty, consciousness.
The afterlife?Your actions resonate down throughout all of human history; good or bad. And who knows? Energy cannot be created or destroyed...
So, if collectively speaking the universe is God, how does God intervene in the universe?Have you ever had inner conflict? Have you ever spoken with yourself? Cognitive dissonance, etc?
I just don't understand what this buys you.Well, for one, it makes for a pretty awesome theodicy. It also has huge implications for things like free will, tolerance, social action, and makes for a neat eschatological trajectory.
This sounds embarrassingly naive.Be more specific. Maybe you can educate me.