Monthly Archives: February 2017

Let’s Not Forget the Entertainment Value

OK, I get it.  Many of you are understandably dismayed by Humpty-Trumpty’s crazy stuff, and rightfully wonder what rough beast is slouching towards Bethlehem to be born.  I get it, but have you looked on the other side of the coin?  The entertainment value goes up daily.  It’s getting harder and harder for SNL to pull off a good satire when the satire gets so close to home that you can’t tell one from the other.

I mean, just watching Kellyanne and Spicy go through the cringe-worthy gyrations of trying to spin Tiny Hand’s brain farts.  It’s even more fun when the Cheeto-in-Chief tries it, as he did trying not to admit that he didn’t know where the electoral vote data he was spewing came from.  Even better when he cited the recent terrible terrorist events in Sweden then tried with his most elegant foot-in-mouth ramble on how he meant the jump in crime rate, which of course never happened.

It’s bad enough when SNL tries to ‘outrageous’ him, but when Sweden’s officials beat them to it by saying such things as “Just as we stood by the US in support of the

March 16 – So, With All This, Who or What is God? – Part 2

Today’s Post

Last week we began to look at how God can be understood in our ‘secular’ approach, which finds God as the critical agent in the unfolding of the universe.  This week we will address some of the traditional characteristics ascribed to God as Christianity unfolded under the influence of Greek philosophy.

These characteristics, of course, include examples of the ‘dualism’ which was discussed last week.  As Oliver Sacks observes, they don’t exist in Jewish thinking, which doesn’t speculate on the nature of God but rather treats God as present in the affairs of men.  This understanding is one of the clearest threads in the ‘Old Testament’, but represents one of the many dualities (God ‘as he is in himself’ vs ‘God as he is to us’) that arose as Christian theology evolved under the shadow of Greek thinking.  This example of duality was addressed in “The Evolution of Religion, Part 7, The issue of Concepts” (  Sacks sees such ‘other-worldliness’ as a factor in the failure to experience God in the here and now, and hence contributing to an increasing sense of irrelevance of religious teaching.  That said, let’s move on to looking at them in the light of the reinterpretation principles which we have developed.

Immutability and Divinity   

The traditional Christian understanding is that God is “Being itself, timeless, immutable, incorporeal”.   Augustine goes on to interpret the statement ontologically, seeing God as “that which does not and cannot change”.  Aquinas, in his metaphysics, sees God as “true being, that is eternal, immutable, simple, self-sufficient and the cause and principal of every creature”.  These teachings, although not in themselves antithetical to our concept, have nonetheless led to the understanding of God as ‘supernatural’ in contrast to reality being merely ‘natural’.

Sacks see these interpretations as the “God of Aristotle, not Abraham and the prophets”.  The Greek translation of God’s self-identification to Moses is, “I am who am”.

The Jewish translation of God’s identification to Moses is, “I will be where or how I will be”, adding a ‘future tense’ omitted in the Greek translation.

As Sacks points out, the concept of the ‘purely spiritual’ does not exist in Judiasm, which rarely speculates on the nature of God.  This teaching surfaces another dichotomy which crept into Christianity with the Greek perspective: that of form vs matter, and body vs soul.

Our secular point of view goes a little further, and is more in line with the essential thinking of Augustine and Aquinas.  As God can be found in the sum total of forces that, as Dawkins claims, “..eventually raised the world as we know it into its present complex existence”, God is not only not supernatural, as the ‘ground of being’, is supremely natural and therefore so intimately involved in evolving reality as to be virtually inseparable from it.


This traditional teaching asserts that God is ‘all-powerful’, and can do anything that he desires.  It forms the basis for the conundrum:  if God can do anything he desires, and if he is ‘good’, he should be able to correct all the bad things that are so obvious in reality.  This points to all the suffering that can be seen, both human-caused and ‘acts of nature’ such as droughts, sickness and genetic evils.  It asserts that the only conclusion possible is that either God causes evil (in which case he is not ‘good’) or that he is powerless to stop it (in which case he is not ‘all-powerful).

Both Sacks and scriptural scholar Bart Ehrman (‘God’s Problem’) acknowledge that traditional Christianity does not offer a solution to this dichotomy.  In the story of Job, for example, all the traditional treatments of evil are addressed, but in the end none are held up as ‘the answer’.

Sacks goes on to address further the contradiction in the assertion of ‘God’s power’.  If we assume that God does not create evil, then we must assume that it comes from somewhere (or someone) else.  Assuming a second source, of course, moves belief from monotheism to polytheism.  Sacks points out that both threads of thought can be found in scripture, and that a tendency toward seeing an independent source for evil is one of the bases for dualism.  He sees the danger of such a dualism very strong in human history, with our ever-present tendency to demonize our opponents, which so often has led to victimization in the name of moral superiority.  The Nazi “Final Solution” is one of the most striking examples of this thinking, and such trends are troublingly present in contemporary American politics.

Our secular approach, which sees the action of God in the thread of increasing complexity, approaches the issue of power quite differently.  As God is not perceived as a ‘person’, much less an incredibly powerful potentate, God’s ‘power’ lies in the inexorable lifting of the universe to Dawkins’ “present complex existence”.  In order to become what it is possible for us to become, it is necessary for us to recognize and learn to cooperate with this very real universal force that lies at our core.

The Next Post

Next week we will continue our look at traditional descriptions of God, by addressing Omniscience, Chance, Transcendence and Immanence.

February 2 – – Relating to God, Part 7: Loving God, Part 2 

  Today’s Post

Last week we addressed how Teilhard saw love as the latest energy to become effective in the long list of energies that have powered evolution: the strong and weak atomic forces, gravity as a force which changes simple atoms into complex atoms, atoms into molecules (with chemical forces), and natural selection effecting more and more complex aggregations of cells.  He saw evolution as eventually forging an entity, aware of its awareness, which could now unite with other entities to effect its own maturation, and through it the maturation of society.  In summary, an entity emerged which was now susceptible to the energy of love.

The Action of Love

Teilhard addresses how this new energy plays out in human relationships.  (This was addressed in more detail in the May, 2015 Posts,

In a nutshell, he saw that our personal evolution, our personal growth, is the same as our continued ‘complexification’.  Teilhard sees our complexification as occurring in two basic steps, repeated over and over, as we ‘become persons’.

He refers to the first step as ‘ex-centration’, in which we become more aware of our environment, and of other persons, and begin to lose the self-centeredness that framed our infancy.  As we become more adept at this, we become more open to others, and are able to allow our relationships to mature.  (See to see how Carl Rogers articulates our maturation)  As these relationships develop, we become aware of the regard which others hold for us, which prompts us to see ourselves more clearly, less subjectively.  This results in the second step of ‘centeredness’, in which we become more ‘the person that we are’, and less ‘the person that we thought we were’.  And as we saw with the clinical observations of Dr. Rogers, the more authentic and less centered person that we become, in addition to being more capable of self-management, the more we are able to engage in deep, personal relationships.  Thus the cycle continues in a spiral fashion, leading us always towards deeper maturity.

This spiral of ex-centration and centration has another effect as well.  Even as we are changed in a love relationship, this same evolving union changes those who we love even as it is changing us.  Each cycle has the potential of raising the ‘abundance of life’ (articulated by Dr. Rogers) of the two individuals involved.

Thus love is indeed a powerful force for our continued evolution:  As we grow, we become more able to love and thus more complete as persons.  As in the case of every step of evolution from the big bang to the present, we as entities unite to effect an entity which is more capable of uniting and thus becomes more ‘complexified’.

Loving God

So how does this approach to human love and evolution lead to a relationship with this universal force which is active in us?  How can we ‘love’ the ground of being?

In the past few weeks we have been exploring how our recognition of this agent of evolution is only the first step.  In order to flourish and grow, to evolve, we must learn not only to be aware of it but how to cooperate with it.  We must learn to trust it.

If we take Teilhard’s two-step process as basic to the operations of the energy of love, the answer is simple.  As Rogers points out, and nearly all religions teach, all personal growth requires a loss of ego.  It is always necessary for us to understand what beliefs, practices, and fears are part of the scaffolding, the shell, that we have erected on ourselves to protect us.  The act of trusting that we can survive the disassembly of this scaffolding requires our belief that the person who will emerge will not need them.

This inner trust is not something that another person can give us, it can only be accepted, and then only if we can acknowledge that it is innate, granted to us as our birthright, unearned and inextinguishable.  This inner realization is our connection with ourselves.  It can only be described as our love for ourselves, and hence is a love for the source of ourselves.  Such love isn’t necessarily an emotional state, but more the recognition, the confident belief that the energy of the universe flows through us, trustworthy and ever-present.  It is the energy of the universe made manifest in human life.

To love God is to love ourselves, not in the vernacular of western culture as a superficial emotional or sentimental state, but to recognize, value and eventually learn to trust the principle of life as it is allowed to change our lives.

The Next Post

Now that we have seen how God can be understood, and loved, as the sum total of all the forces of the universe including that which effects beings conscious of their consciousness, we can go on to take a look at how such an understanding of God can be used to reinterpret the most basic precepts of Western religion.  Next week we will sum up how we got to such a ‘Secular Side of God’ that would be the basis of this inquiry.