someone like that.
lawgiver who controls everything.
major religions refer to God as a great spirit that fills everything.
When God spoke to Moses he specifically commanded Moses not to make
graven images. He gave his name - YHWH or "I am" - the self existent
one. Christianity defines God as omnipresent. The Islamic faith still
forbids images of spiritual things. So we are looking for a great
spirit that fills everything and governs everything? God sounds like
the laws of nature.
personal and the social are opposites, by definition.
If you want to feel personally empty then get a million "friends" on
Facebook, and live in the middle of a big city. You'll be on Prozac in
no time. But if you want to really know yourself, climb a hill and gaze
at the stars. Get a pet dog - preferably two or more. Dig the earth and
No matter how lucky you are with other people, your deepest, most
personal relationship will always be with nature, the universe.
in her image
We share the same DNA (with very minor variations) with all other
living things. The carbon that makes your body was forged in the heart
of a long dead star, using the exact same laws of nature that make you
what you are today. If an alien in a different dimension, with
different physical laws, were to discover a single human being, they
could deduce what our entire universe looks like, more or less, because
we are made in her image.
creator and parent
universe created everything. What more needs to be said?
has a purpose for life
you are alive then you have purpose: to survive. That is how evolution
works: we adapt in order to survive. Any other purpose, and we would
not be here. And survival leads to happiness. By definition, because
happiness is our brain's recognition that things are going right. We
survive best if we expand our horizons. So survival means onwards and
upwards, and always something new! The purpose of life is exciting!
laws, rewards and punishments
moral laws are based on survival. Individuals have a better chance of
survival if we work in groups. Cooperation is the basis for all moral
laws: do not steal, do not kill, do not lie, do unto others as they
would do to you, etc. So the laws of nature are the final authority on
cooperation, and thus on morality. Break these moral laws and your
society is less likely to survive. Keep them and your society will
part of the universe interacts with every other part, through numerous
forces and particles that continuously spread out at light speed. So by
definition the universe is aware.
The universe is aware of some events more than others. Some things are
so far away that light cannot yet reach you. Others are so close that
every tiny interaction has almost instant results. So from your point
of view, the universe's awareness is concentrated on you. Concentrated
awareness is the definition of consciousness.
wants us to believe
is easy to argue that the universe is just a thing, a soulless
collection of atoms, a machine. But it is just as easy to argue the
same about humans. The more we study biology the less room we find for
"the ghost in the machine."
The difference between humans and machines is who controls who?
Ultimately, the universe controls everything. So whatever it is that
makes us "not machines," it counts even more for the universe.
universe will answer our questions through science. We only have to
ask, and listen (by recording the results of experiments), and the
in times of crisis
your needs and questions are urgent, the universe has provided us with
brains and with friends. No matter what the problem, if we use these
tools we are more likely to survive and prosper.
miracle - or magic - is any event that is too complex for us to
understand. The natural world is full of miracles. Technology is full
of miracles. If you do understand something, you merely push back the
boundaries, until you find something you do not understand.
As for urgent miracles, the universe has given us an infinite store of
the unknown, plus brains that are very bad at statistics. So
coincidences and unexpected events happen more often than we expect. So
if everything seems hopeless, try again and trust in the universe for
help. Miracles do happen!
is a way to:
* think about moral laws,
* talk about our problems,
* take time to meditate, blocking out external noise.
* declare our allegiance to others,
* and promise to act.
All of those things makes a positive outcome more likely.
So prayer works.
are summaries of multiple past thoughts and experience. Sometimes they
are hard wired through DNA - we feel something is dangerous because
over thousands of generations only those who feared it have survived!
However, feeling are an average of many past experiences, so the
judgment may not not apply to every experience. And they refer to our
own experience, so may not apply to others.
So the universe communicates truth through feelings (if the problem is
complex or urgent) as well as through science (if the problem is simple
or we can afford the time).
universe loves us.
universe has created us and provides all we need, and is open to give
us anything else we could possibly want. It's always there for us and
will never condemn us. If that isn't a definition of love then what is?
sum of all truth
is truth? Logic. It can be expressed mathematically.
Physicists have shown that the particles that make up the universe can
only be explained in terms of math. (As Pythagoras pointed out
thousands of years ago.) Ultimately the universe could be explained as
one vast equation. In other words, the universe is literally the sum of
does not flow. How could it? Things only flow with respect to something
else. How could it begin? Nothing can make it happen, as change implies
that time already exists.
What is time? A way to organize connected realities. The universe - the
sum of those connected realities - is thus eternal and unchanging.
Theoretical physicists know this, and treat time as one more factor in
their equations, albeit a very interesting one.
gives us life after
death - see link.
say 'God' - why not just say 'universe'?
It is frequently claimed that the universe is uncaring: I want to
challenge that view. It is frequently claimed that there is no evidence
for God: I want to challenge that view. It is frequently claimed that
science and religion are fundamentally opposed: I want to challenge
you worship the universe?
comes from the Old English 'worth-ship.' It simply means something is
worthy of respect. It is good to respect the laws of the universe -
such as gravity, statistics, or the benefits of cooperation.
and nonbelievers should not argue when we all believe basically the
Above: "Pale Blue Dot" - planet Earth as seen from four
billion miles away, by Voyager 1. It may be a pale blue dot, but it's
(Photo via Wikipedia.)
Above: we are literally children of the universe.
'En el aire' by 'OliverAlex' - via Flickr, Creative Commons license)
The symbol of pantheism is the spiral, showing the link
between the vast (hundreds of light years) and the tiny.
the Whirlpool Galaxy, NASA/Hubble; 'Spiral, Whorl, Loop, Arch, Crease'
by 'Randy Son Of Robert,' Flickr, Creative Commons)
Above: Atheists, Agnostics, Christians, Hindus, New
Agers.... we're not so different really.
'great wall of cultures' by 'millicent_bystander' - Flickr, Creative
Commons. A photo of a mural in Shreveport, Louisiana, paid for by
taxpayers, so I guess it's OK to use.)
Above: how can anyone say the universe doesn't love us?
Plants just naturally grow in the ground, they create fruit that they
want you to eat, and when you throw the apple core away a whole new
tree grows up! Amazing.
"Apple Trees" by WxMom, via Flickr (Creative Commons)
||God is a
lawgiver who controls everything
||God is personal
||We are created
in God's image
||God is the
creator and parent
||God has a
purpose for us
||God is the moral
||God is a
||God wants us to
||God will answer
||God will help in
times of crisis
||God can speak
through human representatives
||God loves us
||God is the sum
of all truth
||God is eternal
||God offers life
Everything that can be said about God can be said about the universe.
We use the word "God" when we speak of the universe's personality,
love, and purpose.
We use the word "universe" when we speak of God's atoms.
I was raised as a believer in Christ, so this section is about him.
Many of the principles probably apply to other religious leaders.
do we learn about the universe and about moral laws? Through people.
Therefore those people represent the universe. For some it's Jesus, for
some it's Carl Sagan. For some it's Nelson Mandela.
work better as groups. Groups need leaders. The best leaders inspire,
they do not need force.
Jesus is God?
of the "Jesus is God" claims come from the letters of Paul. Paul did
not know Jesus personally. I am not a follower of Paul.
you follow Jesus and also someone else?
can be a Christian and also something else, as long as that something
else does not contradict.
* Jesus said "he that is not against us is for us" (Mark 9:40)
* Jesus said "render unto Caesar what is Caesar's" (remember that
Caesar was considered divine)
* Jesus remained a practicing Jew until his death. The first generation
of believers remained as Jews as well.
he said "follow me"
Jesus says "follow me" it is in the context of him leaving (Mark 9:31
etc.), so it simply means "follow these teachings." Dozens of times he
said he was sent from God. So he simply meant follow God: he was only
the messenger (Mark 9:37 etc.)
does he save you from?
leader saves us from the disadvantages of being alone. Jesus provides
entrance to the biggest group in the world, the Christians. Of course,
some people like being alone, but most things work better when we work
Jesus your personal savior"?
I benefit from him personally, just as I personally benefit from many
Jesus greater than other great teachers?
according to his own words. Jesus' followers are always obsessed with
"who is greatest" but Jesus condemned that question (Matthew 23:12,
Mark 9:31-40, Luke 22:24-27, etc). To emphasize the point, just a few
lines after John 14:6, Jesus said that others would do greater things
than he did (John 14:12).
way, the truth and the life
said, I am the way, the truth, and the life, no man comes to the father
except by me." (John 14:6)
Read the whole chapter, and the one before and after. Peter is
worried that Jesus will go away and the people won't know how to get to
heaven. So Jesus said, "Getting to heaven, finding truth and life, is
simple - just follow my teachings. And it works the other way around
too: anyone who finds heaven finds my teachings."
Jesus spoke about his leaving in John chapters 14 through 17. He
explains how one person lives after death through another person:
"I am in my Father, and ye in me, and I in you."
Jesus had to leave in body so he could return in spirit, he gave his
life so he could be with them always.
We all regenerate
forever, but the idea of same-body ascension comes from the last
verses in the book of Mark. By comparing the gospels, and seeing who
misses out what, you can see that Mark came first and the others are
largely based on him. Those last verses of Mark are not in the oldest
copies, they were added later.
It seems like that Jesus survived a short time after the crucifixion,
as the gnostic gospels teach: he still had the same damaged body, not a
perfect resurrected body - he showed the wounds to his disciples.
Nobody saw him after a few days, except in dreams and visions, but he
lives on through his disciples exactly as he said he would.
there only one true way?
may be shades of gray, but everything involves choices. In most
choices, one choice is better than another. In that case the best
choice is the "right" or "true" choice. It is the only right or only
true way for you at that time.
there only one true way for the world?
one leader or other will claim that his way is the only right way for
everyone. Usually that leader has only limited authority. For example,
if you follow Jesus then you do not have to believe every church
leader, only Jesus.
local religion is (probably) true
if the universe has chosen to place you in a certain culture and time,
then your ideas and relationships will be formed by that culture and
time, so you will usually function best there. So nine times out of ten
the local religion is right for you.
if your local religion has problems (or you have unusual talents)?
churches have problems of some kind, but if the problems are
insurmountable then you must decide: come to some agreement (e.g,. "I
will do X but not Y, agreed?") or leave.
Churches often require a covenant to obey (e.g. by baptism). But the
church's involvement is based on the church representing God. if a
church ceases to represent God then it breaks its part of the covenant
and is no longer part of the equation.
appeal to authority is a sign of apostasy. Jesus said "by their fruits
ye shall know them." And when he sent forth his apostles he promised
miracles. Later he promised the Holy Spirit. So the good works,
miracles, and the feeling you get when listening to them is your proof.
If a person needs to state his authority then he doesn't have any.
Proof of the existence of God
is just alternative politics
the Bible, or any other foundational religious text: a religion is
simply an alternative political state. If you don't like the kingdom of
man, try the kingdom of God.
Whenever people feel they cannot rely on the state, religions
provide alternative schools, welfare, etc. E.g. in the developing
world, or America's deep south. If the state is reliable then religion
declines - e.g. in Scandinavia.
Religion is a way for societies to bond, and can thus aid survival. But
critics suggest weaknesses - e.g. distrust of outsiders.
Critics point out contradictions in doctrines, but there are always
different ways to interpret them, as this page shows
the criticisms of religion (it's based on faith, causes wars, is
decided by accident of birth, etc.) also apply to politics. yet no
society can survive without politics. Logically, these criticisms alone
are not a reason to reject something.
Peer review in religion
like nations, churches evolve through competitive pressures: E.g.
Catholicism had the counter reformation, reform after scandals, the
Vatican Councils, etc. Competitive pressure is a form of peer review.
The proof: the ten thousand year experiment
human history thousands of different religions have been tried, with
varying results. This is the world's largest experiment.
Sometimes a state is tried that has no religion, but none has survived
for more than a few generations. Some look at Scandinavia and say that
the world is finally changing: religions are no longer needed. Time