Building A Personal God

I recently voiced my support on Facebook for Question 6 – Maryland’s referendum on same-sex marriage and got into a weird discussion, not necessarily an argument, with a friend on the issue.

This friend is a self-described Calvinist.  He sees the world through a different prism than other Christians.  According to his view, his god is pissed off and ready to smote humanity for its errant ways unless they correct their behavior damn skippy – this would include doing such things as not sanctioning marriage for certain people. (Which is a weird view since there isn’t anything that can be done to appease the god they believe in – you’re either predestined for the club or you’re not).

“Just saying God is real. He is angry. And He will not be mocked. It cannot be put any more simple.”

The tenants of Calvinism are interesting and worth the read – especially if you have a friend that’s a Calvinist; however, it is radically different than mainstream Christianity.  I’ve written previously on Christian branding and the wide variety of Christian sects that exist, but my conversation sparked interest in the mindset that drives these various beliefs.

Among the world’s major religions, none can claim the level of diversity that Christianity can.  While the voluminous sects share the common underpinning in belief in Jesus Christ as a savior, the means, methods and dogmas associated with salvation are constantly up for debate an interpretation with new revelations and/or understandings introduced periodically with regard to the conducts of a relationship with their creator.

The Pew Forum on Religion recently published a new study on the religious views of Americans.  The study found that more Americans – a whopping 20% – are unaffiliated with a religion!  At first glance, these numbers would appear to be a great step forward for atheists, but a closer examination tells a different story.

When you get inside the numbers, you find that a significant majority of the unaffiliated still believe in a god or a universal force.  “Nones” as a group rose by 5% since the previous study conducted 5 years ago; however, atheists and agnostics combined to rise by a single percentage point.

My take away from the Pew study, in conjunction with the dialogue with my Facebook friend, is that Americans are increasingly in favor of dropping whacky religious dogmas while adapting their core beliefs to what makes sense to them and the world they live in.

Here’s the problem with such a notion – and I can speak from experience as one who has tried to previously adapt fundamental Christian beliefs to a worldview – it’s trading an accepted belief system for an individual belief system.

When preachers do this, a church is created, butts fill pews; but when an individual does this, your faith lies on a deserted island.  You can share your worldview with others, but it remains a personal philosophy and nothing more.

My early adaption of a worldview to Christianity went along the lines of this:

The earth is nothing more than one of hundreds of channels on the dial.  “God” may tune in to watch the reality TV show that is human life when commercials come on one of the other channels he/she/it is watching, but watching earth is akin to watching a train wreck on Jerry Springer – he can only stomach it for about 5 minutes before switching channels.

This god is not an interactive god.  He does not hear or answer prayers, he’s not an interventionist.  When his son Jesus was crucified, he checked out.  The message – be excellent to one another and I’ll see you in heaven when you die.

This made attending church a particular chore – since every time the congregation would bow their collective heads to pray, all I could do was look around shaking my head thinking why are you people praying – there is no one on the other end of the phone!  I was an island among my fellow church goers. Isolated, alone, because my worldview had skewed away from the mainstream view.

I held on to this bare bones form of Christianity, stripped from all the dogma and trappings for about 12 years before taking the logical leap to atheism and leaving my self-made religion behind.

Self-made.  Accurate.  Telling.

How do you see god?

Religion, when you get down to it, is self-made.  It explains why people “shop” for a church.  You look for a pastor and a congregation who’s view on god, the bible, everlasting salvation, etc., matches the preconceived notions and outcomes that closest resemble the views you hold.  If a church doesn’t deliver on the goods, there’s another one down the road that might – keep trying until you find the right one.

The Calvinist view, humans are basically scum sucking pigs whose very existence is only by the grace of god and of whom, only a select few are preordained to enjoy the fruits of heaven while the remainder will suffer an eternity of pain in hell may fit the world we live in.  It offers a rationale explanation for the daily pain and suffering of humans on this planet – that’s just god prepping people for what’s to come.

But that view of god is incongruous with how many others choose to see him – that of a loving, caring god that wants all to join him in heaven.

When we shape god to our worldviews, we are essentially, subconsciously, creating god in our image.  There is a large comfort to this god because he is more personal, more knowable, more of a caring friend.

The downside to creating this being is that he doesn’t really exist.  While he may be real to you – just as the fire and brimstone, pissed off god is to my Calvinist friend.  This explains the rising number of Nones.  Millions of Americans are simply rejecting the canned notions of god and salvation put forth by organized religions.  While this is good in the sense that they are no longer subject to the dogmas and trappings associated with Protestantism or Catholicism – possibly including the denial of rights to a minority of citizens based purely on the understanding that by not doing so makes their god pissed off, the downside is that they essentially are forming their own unique god molded specifically for their needs.

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3 Responses to Building A Personal God

  1. Sean says:

    Sean, well done as usual. Mostly accurate regarding Calvanism. Martin Luther and Augustine believed exactly the same thing. Calvan was, as you probably would agree (not going to put words down you did not say) quite cold. At least from the very miniscule reading I have done. The other two men were not. I fall somewhere between them in my heart condition.

    And, btw, it speaks volumes of your impressive capacity to love in that you still respect me and call me friend.

    Sean (The Calvinst)

  2. Sean says:

    Oh, yah, Mee spelled goude. “Calvin” Calvinist”, and so forth.

  3. Pingback: If I Believed… | Brain Droppings

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