Taking back God from the atheists (featured content on Dr. Jeff Eisen’s new, upcoming book, The God Book)
A few years ago there was a lot of talk about the new atheists, writers and public speakers (Like Richard Dawkins) who argued vociferously against the existence of God. They argue against the Old and New Testament depictions of God as a paternalistic personage who is the Creator of the universe, also omnipotent, beyond reproach and fulfilling a plan which is ultimately both all-inclusive and completely benevolent. Their arguments were actually attacks on true believers and the Judeo-Christian religions, attacks which dwelled on the internal inconsistencies, the claimed miracles and the scientific fallacies with which the Bible contains, and upon which true believers based their claims for the existence of God.
These new atheists fancied themselves the vanguard of progressive thinking, but the truth is that they were just erecting (or more accurately accepting) a strawman, and then knocking him down. In doing so, despite their arrogance and intellectual pretensions, they exhibited no more thoughtfulness than the religionists they oppose. Not only were both in error, they were both in the same error, just on different sides of it.
Of course God does not exist as the bible portals him: an omnipotent puppeteer, creating both the set (Universe) and the puppets and then pulling the strings. As a matter of fact God does not exist as any-thing at all. But this does not mean that God does not exist! God does exist, but not as a thing, and not necessarily under that name. God exists as the substrate of consciousness beneath all forms, the force animating all life, the Oneness common to all the separate things. Just as the material world of form does not exist except as a perceptual experience of quantum level reality, so God does not exist except as an experience of the selfsame perception. The point is not to invalidate these biblical myths of God; any rationalistic idiot can do that. The point is to go beyond the thingness attributed to God, to the universal experience, the universal longing, the universal premonition of something more, something basic, something sacred, something mysterious, and ask “what is being experienced in this longing “?
But before both the devout and the atheists can do that, they have to face the psychological roots both in their belief in God and their rejection of God, their need to believe and their need not to believe!
The need to believe in God has many roots. One of these is humanity’s desire for a good, loving, parent, someone to take care of them and to keep them safe through all the hardships of life: famine, floods, disease and war. To do this that parent has to be all-powerful. In other words that parent has to be Godlike. Another root is the fear of death. Everyone dies, yet if you believe in the biblical God and you play your cards right your soul will go to heaven – where it will live forever.
Yet another root is the need to make sense out of a senseless existence in a senseless world. A mature mind can find sense in the unfolding of natural processes… the Tao, evolution, entropy, randomness etc., and can accept chance and meaninglessness as well. But the childish mind, the mind that has not yet accepted the limitations of the parents, while rejecting both the protection and their authority, and thus always looks to them for guidance, sense, meaning, coherence, can only be found in a plan. Any plan must be preconceived in a mind, and the biggest plan of all, the plan for the universe, must preexist in the mind of God. It must be part of God’s plan.
For these childish minds, these true believers and unbelievers, these needy ones (and that category includes most of the human race) there are no end of people waiting to exploit their weaknesses. The majority of these are true believers themselves, sharing the same weakness, the same need for self-delusion. But some are spiritual predators, deceiving others for money, power and prestige. These people are lost souls, true monsters, and the belief systems, the deceptions, both religious and atheistic that they insinuate into our institutions, be they churches, governments, schools or helping professions are the real work of the devil.
The atheists, the scoffers, the people who fervently deny God are on the other pole of the same dimension. Their problem is really hidden despair. So deep is their discouragement, so limitless is their alienation that they reject their own souls. They are one-dimensional men and women, rationalists, materialists. They treat themselves, their children and the world as things, and things can be qualified, compared and consumed. That the biblical God should exist is unthinkable, but that there should be a dimension of being, a soul dimension beyond the material, yet experienceable, is very probable.
The point is not to tear down this catchall and paternalistic concept of God, this pathetic misconception, this belief born of desperation and matured by misdirection. The point is to replace arrogance with compassion, to understand the biblical God’s roots in human misery and human need, and to address the real, underlying problems without attacking the popular solutions, because only then will the majority of humanity mature enough to turn away from primitive beliefs and find their Selves; only when the underlying disease is cured will the symptoms abate.
The first step in this endeavor is to replace the biblical God with the real deal, to go back to the early Gnostic conceptions of God, the sacred philosophies and psychologies of Buddhism, Advaita Vedanta, contemporary non-duality and the esoteric teachings of the other great religions. These, properly understood, will give people a real source of comfort and security, a real resting place for their souls, a real intimation of immortality.
For the need and the experience of God, call it whatever name you will, has been arising in the human heart since the dawn of humanity. The time has come to break free of the spell of religion, with its urging to take the biblical Gods seriously, and with its equally preposterous assigning to the category of godlessness all those who resist. The time has also come to deeply explore and understand the roots of this experience, rather than just mocking the absurdities of the various scriptures.
Jeffrey, I agree with all of this. Thanks for stating it so well.