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Faithbook Steve-O

It is not the courage of my convictions I seek but the courage to cross-examine my own convictions. --a variation of a saying by Neitzsche

How Do You Imagine God?
God in America and USA WEEKEND Magazine are partnering to explore Americans' images of God.

How do you imagine God? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I try not to. Seems to me that what/who we call "God" is beyond imagining. Not sure he/she/it is a being. The notion of Brahman comes closer for me than any biblical one. When I was four I imagined us as cows dreaming they were human beings. If we can be that, then what can God really be besides how we might imagine him? We can't help but imagine but let's not fool ourselves into thinking that we're not doing idolatry when we do--not that I imagine God cares if we're idolatrous.

My Beliefs

I believe ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I believe in believing as little as possible about the divine and, instead, spend my time and energy trying to be a good person. Belief is highly over-rated, even to the point at which some biblical writers and people today think it is a sin to not believe certain things. I believe that people's God-beliefs say more about them than about God. Their acceptance of a God capable of "Hard Love" only reveals their own values. I believe in nurturing our sense of humor so that we can see what a joke it is for us to take our beliefs about the divine so seriously that we think we'll be punished if we or others don't believe them, that we are easily offended by someone contradicting them, that we riot in the streets or even murder if others show a lack of respect for them or the book in which they are written. I believe all that is ego and fear. I believe that people identify themselves too much with what they believe and therefore feel threatened in their core when the truth of their beliefs is challenged. Instead of entering dialogue people are aghast that others disagree with them. People claim to believe in God's Truth, not man's, but they are blind to how much they attribute to God is really what man believes--for example, that the Bible is the Word of God. 1 person liked this
My most powerful moment of belief was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator It was in reflecting on all the people who have prayed that they or their children would not die of starvation or be killed by the flood or volcano or be ravaged by the war or raped or abused but whose prayers were not answered. It brought into sharp focus that, if I did believe in a god, it would not include the belief that God is always compassionate and would include the belief that God is capricious.
My greatest moment of doubt was ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator When my mother died of cancer at 40 and when I learned about the Holocaust and that my great uncles and their families were some of its victims.
My spiritual life means... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator That I seem to be something more than and other than my body. It means that it's not that I resist the idea that consciousness is merely brain activity but that it makes no sense to me and seems an unsupportable leap from the "evidence." It means not just that I think and dream but am aware that I think and dream. Spirituality, for me, is neutral in regard to morality. There seems to be a spiritual dimension of human life. That's a metaphysical observation, not a moral one.
The biggest misconception about my faith/belief system is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator It is that I'd make a good Christian because I talk about things spiritual. But I do not believe the problem exists that the Gospel is supposed to overcome--that we are fallen.
My spiritual role model is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator It is not my father but two things he gave me. One was on the eve of my leaving home for college. He brought in a volume of Shakespeare with a passage marked, asked me to read it before I left, and left the room. It was, "To thine own self be true and then it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man." The other was his response to my asking him if he believed in God. He said he believed there is a divine being and that, if we follow the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule the best we can and are sincere about it, God will understand and we'll go to Heaven." It's not that his words inspired me to believe in the biblical God or that the commandments came from "Him" or that Heaven exists. It was that I took him to be saying one doesn't have to be perfect but only do the best one can and be sincere, that being good is more important than having beliefs, that God is compassionate, and that the clearest measure of how to behave is to ask if what I'm considering doing is something I'd not want someone to do to me. 2 people liked this
The tenet/practice/teaching I appreciate most about my faith is ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Not that Judaism is my faith but my Jewish roots are undeniable and I do not deny the wiser formulation of the Golden Rule: Do not do to others what you would not have them do to you. This is central to my life. 1 person liked this

My Faith History

As a child I believed ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I believed the universe was infinite and beyond our understanding because, as a child, I kept trying to picture what was outside what we can see and what was beyond that and what was beyond that, etc. I couldn't do it. And I came to think the same about God.
My spiritual journey has been ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator It has been, in a way, a journey away from caring what is spiritual and what is not. Some say spirituality is a moral dimension of life; others say it has to do with theism or past lives or whatever. But as Bob Dylan wrote, "I don't call it anything." More to the point is something an old man in Bali said in the documentary "Ring of Fire." To paraphrase him, "The point is not to be clever nor is it to be spiritual. The point is to be complete."
I was raised as ... your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I was raised to the left of Reform Judaism. My mother died at 40 and I haven't a clue what her religious or spiritual beliefs were. She did tell me once that she and dad didn't attend the synagogue for religious but social reasons. Dad was a theist but what I wrote above about what he said to me was the only "religious" teaching he ever gave. 1 person liked this
If you have children, did becoming a parent change your relationship to faith? If so, how? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator It changed any lingering notions I might have still entertained about how much a role rational thought could have in a person coming to be a person of religious faith. I wanted my children to be religiously and spiritually independent, meaning independent of any established or dogmatic expression of religion. My daughter joined the Mormon church and it became clearer to me how much emotional needs and fear determined the direction people go in religiously.

How I Practice My Faith

Where and when do you practice your faith? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I am not a person of faith in the sense that most people use the word. I try to be a person of integrity and compassion in the present. 2 people liked this

Religion & the Public Square

What should be the role of religion in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Individuals in policy-making positions in government may refer to their religious beliefs any time they want to in arguing for a policy. But, when it comes to establishing law, neither God nor the Bible or any any scripture or religion may used used as part of the justification for the law. Nor shall such references be cited as justifications in court rulings. Municipal or state or federal governmental body should never insist that that prayer to God be included in any public meeting or that the Pledge of Allegiance with the phrase "under God" should be read or said aloud. It is not just a matter of law but of mutual respect for citizens with different or no religious beliefs. Marriage is a civil institution that some people consider holy or religious. But such people have no right to use their religious beliefs to exclude from marriage people who do not share their religious beliefs. No religion owns marriage; it is a civil right and institution. Some religionists argue that the Constitution nowhere has the words, "separation of church and state." Well, neither does it contain the words God or divine or Bible or scripture or Jesus or Christ or Christian. Such people often try to transfer the Declaration of Independence's phrase "the Creator" to the Constitution. The Declaration is not law and is external to the law. We might say that it has something to say about the spirit of the law. But so do Jefferson's words, "a wall of separation between church and state." He wrote that in his letter to the Danbury, Conn. congregation in which he is clearly stating what he considers to be the meaning of the First Amendment.
Should courses about religion be taught in public schools? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Yes, if they are ABOUT religion and not teaching the religion as if it was the TRUTH. The only extra importance Christianity should have over other religions should be the role it played in people's motivation for coming to the New World and what they tried to do here and what they believed. The religion should not be endorsed explicitly or otherwise by any teacher or representative of the school or any government official. The role of religion in humankind's history should be taught. Its shadow-sides as well as its good sides. Children should be taught the basic beliefs of Hindu, Buddhist, Shinto, Native American, and other religions. What different religions share and how they differ should be taught. And, without judgment, they should be taught about people who are not religious or spiritual. Finally, at the appropriate age levels, children should be taught how to think critically--that is, how to DO philosophy--and that should include some philosophy of religion. They should, in time, not only be taught the great books, but the big questions and we should help them think about them.
Should the Bible, Torah, Quran or other religious texts be taught as works of literature in public schools? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator Yes, but not just as works of literature. Surely, they should be taught what these mean to those who treasure them. That can be taught without endorsing anything their followers might believe about them.
Is interfaith dialogue important? Why or why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I think interfaith dialogue is less important than it is often made out to be. What such dialogue is after is something that is needed in so many quarters of life--compassion and understanding. I think that meetings held in the name of interfaith dialogue should be held under a broader name--for example, compassion. The larger theme and context should include people outside any faith traditions.
Do you feel comfortable discussing your faith with others? Why/why not? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I am perfectly comfortable talking about what I believe and don't believe except insofar as I'm uncomfortable because the people I might be trying to speak with are uncomfortable. It is sad and childish to not talk religion or politics. People are too defensive. If you express why you disagree with people's beliefs, they all-too-often react as though you'd just raped their pet turtle or something (who said that, George Carlin?). 1 person liked this
Are religious beliefs compromised by engaging in politics? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator If they are, that's good. The point is not to hold on to one's beliefs but to exercise them, test them, see how they measure up against the rest of reality, and find out how other people respond to them, which can help one see oneself as others see one. One might learn something un-learnable in the cloistered confines of one's faith..
Has 9/11 had any impact on your thoughts about religion? Are you more/less interested in learning about other religions? Do you feel more/less comfortable expressing your religious beliefs? your photo/ link/ video has been held for approval by a moderator I think it has become more important than ever for everyone to do a better job at calling things and people and groups by their real name, to embrace people not by whether they are Christian or Muslim but by their character. The point isn't whether someone is really a Christian or really a Muslim but only if they are sensitive people who live with compassion toward others, or not. Fundamentalist Christians and Tea Party radicals might not blow up people but they do dehumanize others. Sarah Palin and Glenn Beck, for example, bear false witness against others, almost every day it seems, with their snide and sarcastic remarks, false characterizations, and lies.

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Published October 11, 2010

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