Now, finally, we have come to the main event: The idea of God. If we agree upon what has been put forth so far, notably that ideas can only become beliefs through experience, does it matter what one’s idea of God is beforehand, whether it be that He exists or does not? Perhaps, the reader is taking issue with thinking of me as an intellectual, scoffing at the ideas presented in The Mind from a Small Room, as I am only two years removed from popping a bottle open in the wee hours of the morning, who now suddenly thinks he has something to offer. This, I understand, so let us substitute Immanuel Kant in place of myself. “Experience without theory is blind, but theory without experience is mere intellectual play.”
All across the globe, people congregate in churches, monasteries, or whatever religious institution, claiming belief, or knowledge rather, in a supreme being of their choosing. Ha- “choosing.” Is it true that they have chosen whom or what they claim belief, or is it more true that they were destined to claim belief in that someone or something due to whatever culture it was that they, arbitrarily, grew up? Choosing a belief is only the choice of which challenge we would like to take on. In any case, who am I to say that they do not know? Maybe they, indeed, have had the necessary experience required to claim belief. While I will readily concede that I have less life experience than the average person, although I have gained more recently than ever, what do they ‘know’ that I do not, or better yet, do I finally know what they claim to know? I understand why they do it, that is, why they claim they know. A belief is hardly a belief if one only half-heartedly believes, for that is no belief at all, but rather a simple notion, and what exactly is at stake with a notion? Ultimately, nothing. You can carry with you any notion you please, as there is barely any risk involved, but a belief- Well, your life is on the line with a true belief! Another soundbite, if you will: “Belief is betting your entire pot based upon your experience.” The people claiming belief are essentially claiming that they have had some type of life-altering experience, for if they have not yet had that, they are simply attempting to convince themselves that they do, in fact, believe. This, of course, will inevitably be challenged, as the people who genuinely believe have already been challenged. I propose that there are two things in play when people discuss the idea of God before experience, 1) I have not yet had an experience that has challenged my disbelief in God, or 2) I have not yet had an experience that has challenged my belief in God.
The question then, I suppose, becomes what happens with belief after experience? If, after experience, one has knowledge, would not the “game” be over, reader? Whoever knows that there is God, or knows there is no God, has thereby discovered what we are all seeking to uncover; still, the game of life continues. Taking God as not an idea, but as an absolute, surely means that the other guy exists, too (a lengthy sidebar: It was recommended that I read The Imp of the Mind, which tackles obsessive-compulsive behavior and intrusive thought. In that book, what it suggests to do in combating a fear, is to write that fear out explicitly. With regard to myself, my biggest fear was, indeed, ‘the other guy,’ and in an effort to demonstrate my now lack of fear, allow me to write out his name: Satan. By the way, reader, this fear remained in me during a time in which I did not “believe.” However, does this fear not mean that I did not wholly disbelieve? Surely, that fear only meant that I was afraid of belief itself. Another way of putting it might be that my disbelief was being challenged, not by Satan, but by God, using him as the challenge. The mastery of God, or if you prefer, of life, you could say.) and would not his (Satan’s) job, so to speak, be to challenge your newfound, alleged, concrete belief? Yes, reader, it does appear that the game never ends – that is, until it does.
Should God not be approached, in the beginning, as an idea, the same way that one would approach the idea of love-at-first-sight? If we agree that we shall approach God as an ideal, how would one concoct an idea of God? What do we think of when we think of God? Do we not think of a perfect being? A value, perhaps? The highest value? The idea of God is something like the highest value which we could possibly conceive. Anyway, I rejected the idea of love-at-first-sight outright, had an experience, and now believe in the possibility. What is interesting about that is, although I believe in the possibility, I understand that it may never manifest itself. Interesting, I think, as I saw only the resemblance of love-at-first-sight, not the reality of it, but the resemblance was enough to believe that it is real. It is because of the approach to love-at-first-sight as an idea first, not as an absolute first, that the possibility of it being absolute is reality. Is this not how it might work, perhaps for some but not all, with the idea of God, even if one’s idea is that He does not exist? If the approach to God is simply an idea that He does not exist, but something extraordinary were to occur, does this not, in turn, because it is only an idea, allow for the possibility to attribute that extraordinary occurrence to the idea of God? What we have left, as far as I can tell, is one who had the idea of God, went through the inevitable challenge of that idea, and used that experience to determine that there is no God. In this case, we must judge the person’s behavior, for if they have not descended into poor behavior, what exactly is happening? We might wonder what it is that is keeping them from acting on every impulse, from not treating people whom they do not like with disrespect, among a plethora of other destructive lines of thinking. They might say, “well, because I beli-” Stop right there, reader. You *believe* in what, exactly? Is the answer to this not the highest value, the highest good, and did we not define that as precisely the idea of God? It does appear, reader, that even the idea of no God leads to God; however, we must discover where this inherent belief in the good comes from, as some will assure you that it is not God.
A common trope from non-believers is “having a problem with organized religion.” While I understand this ‘problem,’ it is not precisely defined. What is meant whenever this trope is trotted out, is that one has a problem with organized religion, strictly in its current conception. Who has “organized” religion? Is it not us? Humans? The trope becomes blatantly obvious: We have a problem with the way human beings interpret things. No shit! Of course, human beings have a problem with human beings! It is a most important distinction to make between religion in its original inception and religion in its modern conception. Nietzsche is quoted as saying, “In truth, there was only one Christian, and he died on the cross.” Christians, obviously, will shriek at a quote like that, but there is something to it, obviously; otherwise, one of the greatest intellectuals the world has ever seen would not have uttered it. What I believe that to mean is, well, we cannot put a whole lot of stock into humans. If we are outsiders looking in, so to speak, judging Christians by their behavior, or worse, if we were inside the mind of Christians, we might conclude that being a “Christian” is no way to be; however, the probability that humans are acting out Christianity’s original message, the message of Jesus Christ himself, is virtually zero. If you must know, personally, I only align myself with Christianity if you need a label for it. Apart from that, I only attempt to concern myself with the original message of Jesus and the Bible itself. Anything other than that is an ill-advised, misinterpreted message, generally speaking. Certainly, there are pastors that do a fantastic job of delivering sermons; and of course, others that do a horrendous job. Such as life. Also, again, as the kids say, the same energy has been applied to my study of “Buddhism,” which is no religion at all. I only tried to concern myself with Gautama Siddhartha and his message. Let us travel back in time, reader. Perhaps, this is all hypothetical, but hop into the DeLorean with me anyway. The inception of ‘Christianity’ starts with one: Jesus. Jesus preaches a perfect message to twelve. It is now the job of the twelve to carry the message to twenty-four. From there, twenty-four take it to forty-eight. Forty-eight take it to ninety-six, and so on and so forth. The likelihood that the original, perfect message is properly translated by humans to the next set of humans is negligible. We made it to ninety-six here, but there are now eight billion people in the world. Who is to believe that eight billion people have properly translated the original message(s)? Religion is not the problem, not the origin of it anyway, but *we* are the problem, are we not?
With that, I have reached the end of the Mind from a Small Room series. What I hope, surprisingly enough, is that I have not convinced you of anything. If I happened to have done so, please do away with whatever it is. Something sort of strange has happened as I’ve made my way through this series. This last part, in particular, was actually quite painful – a real struggle to get through. A couple of theories spring to mind as to why that might be. It appears as though that practically all my deepest thoughts are now on ‘paper,’ if you will, and now that I can see them, a gut-wrenching realization has made itself known – the realization that I haven’t a clue what I think, what my worldview is, or what I truly believe. It also could be that I’ve reached a sort of peak, intellectually and creatively, and lack the capacity to top some of the other pieces I’ve written. That happens, you know? I’m not putting myself over. 50 Cent put out Get Rich or Die Tryin’ and never came up with a better project than that. I hope that analogy plays. If it doesn’t, let’s put it this way: the sequels to movies are rarely better than the first one. The third and final theory is that the moth cannot reach the light for long. If the moth gets too close, for too long, it will burn its wings. Don’t fly too close to the sun, Icarus. That might be what happened, I don’t know, but it feels as though my brain has sort of short-circuited. In the end, what I am saying is that I’ll stick to what I know, which is nothing beyond my personal experience. Alas, that is what wysb.me *is* anyway. Stay the course, trust in God, even if you have to perceive God as an idea, and keep coming back.
The Mind from a Small Room Pt. 4: Belief is Betting the Whole Pot.