C.S. Lewis, (or someone!) said something to the effect that if God/no God were an even proposition, then, choosing God cost nothing and garnered a great reward if God is real, but not choosing God would cost eternity if you were wrong. You get the point. My friend suggested that he had not found this argument compelling.
I share that conclusion, perhaps mostly because I “back read” my belief that there is not all or nothing, salvation or damnation dualism when it comes to God in the first place. But even if that is not true, I think my friend is right. Fear should not be the motivator to “becoming” a believer.
Surely, non believers care about their community and humanity. Surely they volunteer, and give money to good causes. But just as surely the believer engages in other behaviors based on faith. Attending services regularly is but one of them. An active prayer life, or spiritual practices constitute more “time” devoted to faith. These cost in time what can be spent elsewhere. And I think everyone agrees that a one time “I believe” is not evidence of a living faith. So, the non-believer must expend something beyond a mere assent to faith. Therefore, he/she is entitled to a better proof.
Unfortunately no proof is forthcoming. Only the believer sees proof, because proof is not of a tangible sort, it is a special way of seeing and knowing that is more akin to wisdom than intellectual fact finding. That of course sounds fishy to the unbeliever, and I also understand that.
But it remains true, nonetheless. It is a paradox. Richard Rohr in his books describes this as the losing of oneself to find oneself. Jesus of course said this first. It is precisely the act of being counter intuitive that aligns us with the divine. Like Justice Black, we know it when we see it.
A few days ago, I was driving to town for groceries. On the way back, I found myself in a tangle of intellectual musings. I cannot recall the topic now, but I “awoke” to find myself going down the road, a bit unsure of exactly where I was. Within a minute or so, I recognized a barn or house, and realized that I had executed at least two turns and was within a couple miles of home.
We have all had that experience. But think of what really is entailed. My mind (the one I am aware of) was busily engaged in working out a details of some thought on some subject. All the while, another “me” was lifting foot from gas, applying brake, turning wheel, and so forth, more than once. Some part of “me” was “seeing” the road, observing potential danger, reacting. Two of me were working in tandem, each apparently unaware of the other.
So what you say? Well, it seems to me that it suggests something of value. We are not who we think we are. Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am,” and many of us take that to be a fine statement of existence. Yet, this shadow person, and there may be more, quietly seems to work along side, taking over as needed, to preserve me when my mind veers to daydreaming. It keeps me from walking off cliffs, and driving off bridges.
Is it so hard then to realize that within me is a God spark–that “feeling” of unity with something so much bigger than myself? I think not. All those who meditate know this feeling. I am aware that I tread dangerously close to the argument that “god is in the gaps”. In other words, what I cannot explain, I assign to God. As science explains more, God continues to shrink.
I do not mean this. I mean, that it is increasingly clear that the mind is more complicated, more multifaceted than we might have thought. I am an ego, that is the part of me that I talk to, but I am talking to something aren’t I? I must in some way recognize that there is more to me than this ego personality, developed from birth, the result of all experience and learning that are peculiar to me.
This “other” me, the one that calls me to do right rather than wrong, the one that calls me to hope rather than despair, the one that soars in creative dreaming, rather than logical rational mundane reality, this is the Spirit that offers. It offers union. It is the Divine being patient, gentle, never forcing, never demanding, waiting, offering, loving. Blessedly, I’ve had this experience, and at least for small moments in time, I have fallen into that offering. I have released my fears and need to control. I have experienced freedom, and unconditional love.
As I said, I cannot prove it. It cannot be proven. It must be experienced. It cannot be willed, nor demanded, nor intellectually mandated. The best way developed so far to take this journey is by meditative practice. It is getting outside of dualism. If I were to offer to my non-believing friends one thing, it would not be a bible, nor a theological proof, nor inspirational stories galore. It would be to read a good book on mediation, and then try it.
Even if you never experience this transcendent moment, you will find it serves good purposes. It will lower your blood pressure, reduce stress, and actually, I’m told, make you a clearer thinker. Answers to sticky problems come forth. That is good enough reason. The fact that you may encounter for the first time, God, and thus learn the joy and peace of the Holy, is bonus.