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I was brought up a catholic. I’ve been “soul searching”, and I’ve been hit with some unstoppable thinking streak about my beliefs and this is what it comes down to. It’s a rather long post, but I need to get this off my chest and I’d appreciate some serious opinions, maybe suggested readings. I have to admit that right now I’m leaning towards atheism... First off, I’ll “put my money on it”, that theists and atheists will see totally different sides of the same coin in some of these arguments.

Brief History of Religion as I see it:

“Don’t know where that shadow came from, the dead must be around”

“Don’t know where that lightning came from, the Gods must be mad”

“So much misfortune, hasn’t rained in months, the Gods must be hungry, let’s feed them”

Every time these and others were proven wrong by a mixture of culture, science, enlightenment and common sense we just kept refining them with some very twisted logic and killing gods until it all came down to monotheism and the big question:

“What happens after we die? We honestly just don’t know, only God knows, we must do as He says”

What if… Perhaps you’ve thought about this before, but consider this for only another second, what if nothingness is all there is after death, just nothingness.

-This seems like an unbearable thought, perhaps a heresy. Some people never give it the benefit of the doubt, others just don’t give a …., IMHO it’s even easier to believe in God, obey him and HOPE for a reward and live in DENIAL… but maybe the previous unbearable and pessimistic thought is just the plain truth and we just have to deal with it, “suck it up”, and maybe accepting it we could live more in tune with reality, well at least my reality as some of you might say, I’d have to accept that.

Besides ignorance of what happens after death, I think it comes down to feelings and a little bit of twisted logic that “makes sense” only before you start questioning the “common truth” of the existence of God. These are some stereotypical comments I’ve found:

“Doubt has never crossed my mind”

“God gives me love, I feel love, and therefore God must exist”

“God gives me hope, I feel hope, so therefore God must exist”

“I went through hard times in my life, I prayed to God and felt better, something “unexplainable” happened, I felt hope and happiness, therefore God must exist”

“Whenever I see a newborn baby, I can contemplate the beauty of life, Oh, God is great”

-To me these are just feelings, like the fear you’d feel if you where naked and being chased by a pit-bull.

“God Is the creator, I’m overwhelmed by the beauty and complexity of everything that exists, therefore God must exist”

-Billions of years are a pretty long time for some amazing things to happen. Am I really supposed to believe that God put fossils and other scientific evidence that indicates billions of years of evolution just to confuse the unbelievers? I know the whole theory of evolution is incomplete and not perfect either, but history, as the Bible puts it, is only about 10000 years old (please correct me if I'm wrong on this). 10000 / 1 billion = 0.001%, a LOT could've happened in the other 99.999% of the time.

“People that believe in God and follow His teachings are “the most righteous, moral and peaceful people in the world”, I feel good around them and I also believe in high morals and righteousness, therefore I will also follow Him, he must exist and be good and righteous”

“People that don’t believe In God are misguided, they have left their “reasoning cloud their reason”, they have lost their faith, they value reason as much or even more than I value God and faith, there’s no point in arguing with them as long as I believe In God and the eternal salvation that awaits me, because I’m a very special person, we all are. I opened my heart to God and he showed me the way, when God wants to, He will show others the way also”

“I’ve been brought up in a holy lifestyle, I’m very happy and have a good life. I’ve never felt the need to second-guess his existence and this surely must be nothing but a present from God, because I’m very special to him, I hope he gives you all the blessings he has given me and fills you with the happiness he has revealed to me, I will pray for you”

“Believe in God is sometimes even used as a cheap excuse for losing and disappointments; “it must be His Will”. Am I not free to act? Which means that it’s for Him to JUDGE, NOT CONTROL me, or my actions, situations or the outcomes of them (good OR bad) Leaving things to His will and being free at the same time is kind of confusing. (on the other hand, even if he does perform His will, when it comes to the fact that He didn’t leave VERY solid proof for His existence, some say he didn’t intervene because if there were solid proof then you wouldn’t need faith (talking about Christianity anyway, my background), …Sometimes I wonder what in the world would motivate Him to play this mind game and testing on us? Perhaps an ego problem? Some people would say our intellect is too small to comprehend His plan, which sounds like B.S. to me, He gave me the intellect I have) – Although this may be a totally different subject in itself, I’ve found that Christianity has the common habit of only applying and taking the Bible literally and even out of context when it’s convenient for their argument and then do the opposite otherwise, when it’s not convenient. IMO, inerrant words (like the Bible is supposed to be) are not for me to interpret freely. But If I interpret them literally, then I’m allowed to beat up and even kill other people. This of course is not a popular preaching, by convenience only the positive message is emphasized. I agree that the message of “Jesus” was VERY positive, but “Jesus” Himself said he DIDN’T come to ABOLISH the Law and invent a NEW doctrine (I’ve come to the conclusion that fundamentalists are perhaps the only real and strongly faithful, everything else is just “watering down” for convenience). (also, IMO the message is a little submissive, personally I’m not offensive but wouldn’t turn the other cheek either, I’d much rather let God be the judge if someone wrongs me, why shouldn’t I defend myself if someone purposely wants to hurt me… if it wasn’t in my nature to defend myself, then I wouldn’t feel hurt in the first place)”

“Life without God seems so pessimistic and unbearable that He must exist, therefore I believe in Him, otherwise there is no real justice in the World and “bad” people and “good” people will all face the same destiny, that’s a crazy thought” – You’re probably in denial, life is not fair, suck it up, that’s just the way it is…

“Whenever I use reason, I may come to doubt the existence of God, therefore I must stop reasoning and have faith or I will be led astray” – IMO this is kind of like covering your ears and shouting when you don’t like what you hear or acting as an ostrich and hiding your head in the sand at the first sign of danger (“whenever reason comes I will hide my head and reality won’t see me”).

P.D. – This was a common truth at some times in most of our lives:

“I believe and pray to Santa Claus so that he will put presents under the tree; I receive presents every Christmas; and therefore Santa must be real” – Yes I know this is an extreme, and perhaps out of context example, but… is it really?

This was also a common thought and an undeniable truth at a certain time in history:

“I swear to God that the Earth is flat and it’s the center of the Universe”

Both ways of thinking are fueled by ignorance, such as maybe other “undeniable truths”.

IMO religion is sort of like a science of the unknown, but it uses the faith method instead of the scientific method. It’s what people clinch to for “answers” of what we don’t know yet and may never know.

What’s my point on all this? Only that I still don’t know what to believe in. I’m sure leaning towards agnosticism, maybe a little bit more into atheism. On discussions, atheists do seem to have the most reasonable and convincing arguments, and I agree that the hypocrisy of believing “just in case” is not an option. I have a catholic background, so to me it’s damn hard to do some serious “free” thinking and doubting on this subject, but “The truth shall make you free!” (Although the search for it can surely haunt you and drive you insane!)

Another thing… IMO, an atheist that firmly denies based on speculations because of lack of proof, is in no better position to judge and holds no more truth than a theist that believes because of lack of disproof. They’re both certain kind of faiths, kind of like a bet against uncertainty. It all comes down to “half empty, half full”. VERY confusing…

I just wanted to hear some opinions. In this whole subject, I’m probably more confused than Michael Jackson.
Hello, Joserafael--welcome to CR.

I am a writer, up in the middle of the night, fighting deadlines and procrastinating all at the same time. This is my favorite place to come to when I am seriously procrastinating. Wow--who knew I would find you here with a very tall order like this one?

Well, I am sure that there are people here who are way more equipped to help, and will probably answer you in great depth, with all kinds of links and reading material. I have found some great things to read through people here. I hope you do, too.

But I just could not log out without at least trying to briefly address your request.

You probably expect and hate that people like to answer questions with questions. Alas, however, that is what I am about to do.:) My question is this: How do you think of "spirit"? Do you separate it from reality?

To me, spirit is just as real--perhaps more so--than the physical world. It is substance. Inside me, all around me. It is very real, and extremely logical. I do understand your frustration when people totally exclude reason when they speak of faith or spirit, because to me, it just makes all kinds of sense. It isn't fluffy and empty--it is serious.

I can't find the quote word-for-word right now, but I think it was Gandhi who once said that the problem with Christianity is Christians. I think you could probably insert Hindus, Muslims, Jews, etc. in that statement and find it to be just as true. He also said that if you can't see God in the next person you meet, you will never see God. So maybe it is the way people behave that makes you feel that there is no God. (Feelings are not exclusive to believers--unbelievers have them as well.) Or maybe it is the way you see them. Maybe both.

And I will ask you another question--do you care for or love anyone or anything? A person, a pet, even music or art? If you do, where does this love or caring come from?

I know I have not really done all that well here, probably, but I just wanted to say something--I hope you will hang around for some other folks to jump in here who are a lot better at answering these kinds of questions. And you are correct--you will probably get all kinds of different answers. Maybe I will jump back in later on, as well. Right now--<sigh>--I have a deadline to meet.

Crikey! So many topics in one post!

Seems like you're in a bought of uncertainy of what you actually believe in - perhaps if you narrowed it down to just a couple of specifics they would be easier to address more properly??
Hi, thanks for the responses. Well, to answer your question “I Brian”, I guess my main question could be summarized about the existence of a God. Spirituality is a whole other issue. I’m talking about God as a BEING, a judge, a creator, an entity. The God from the Bible, Torah, Quran, I was brought up to believe in. To put it simply, right now I’m inclined to believe that He, THE monotheistic God, just doesn’t exist. I’m looking for opinions of believers and non-believers as well, and perhaps some reading sources. I’m aware that some may argue that this is something to be found from within, looking outside is searching in the wrong places. The most common answer is around the line of: “I opened up my heart to Him, and He showed me the way”. I honestly don’t feel like hearing that anymore. The fact that one can feel that sort of “spiritual ecstasy” (I’ve felt it) doesn’t mean that there’s a judging, creator God. When I think about it, it really seems to me that God was created by us, people, by way of trying to reason our feelings and our existence, trying to explain things that perhaps just can’t be explained.

“InLove”, addressing your comment, well, spirituality is a complex subject. I’ve been on the extreme end of the scale on this, although perhaps it’s not what you had in mind when you mentioned spirituality (and I think I do understand your concept of an indescribable essence that’s all around us). I’ve tried Santeria (if you’ve heard of it, the image you’ve probably seen on mass media is a big distortion and an insult to what this religion is all about). My point on bringing this up is my open-mindedness on this spiritual quest. I’ve witnessed first hand, very concrete, very real and perhaps primitive events of “spirituality”. A lot of you are probably very skeptical on this, but I’ve been there. I’ve witnessed “divination”, “spirits”, the whole thing. I don’t believe in “spirits” anymore though, although it isn’t as easy as it seems to label them as pure myth or imagination, especially after you actually see some people on “real trances” for the first time, it’ll probably scare the …. out of you. I didn’t think it would actually scare me, but I have to admit that it did. But I also think the human mind is very powerful and there are many things yet to be discovered. I think that if you FORCE yourself to believe, you most definitely will. Subjective thinking is very powerful. Think about, for instance, how a person under hypnosis can be controlled like a puppet. Looking back, I can see that when you’re looking for “spiritual” answers, you will probably believe almost anything if you really want to and you’re opened to it, no matter how illogical it may be (and I do understand that spirit and logic may be just like water and oil).

What I do believe in are feelings and emotions, to me they are VERY real, but they’re part of the evolution of human nature. We people get “smarter” and more “knowledgeable” as time passes, but only because of layer upon layer of knowledge. I think reason and emotions evolve in sort of a parallel fashion. I think you can “learn” feelings, just like you learn theories and facts, perhaps as part of an evolution towards a higher level of consciousness or something like that. I love my family and would feel jealous in protecting them. “InLove”, I do LOVE music as you asked. I LOVE nature. I had a dog that died and I did love it. But IMO it’s a whole different thing to believe in the spiritual as a substance, an essence or something like that and make a whole theory out of it. Where do these feelings come from? That’s a whole other subject. But remember that reality hasn’t always been what we see today. One could argue that a lot of what we feel today is nothing but layer upon layer of imposed ways of thinking. I hate seeing animals killed. I’d have a hard time killing one myself even if my life depended on it, I’d feel kind of guilty. Thousands of years ago, that thought probably wouldn’t have crossed my mind. Even morality as we know it I think is subjective, it’s imposed. I don’t believe in a thing as a “moral law”. Of course, once in your mind it’s hard to get rid of it, it’s like you’re wired on it. But be open-minded. Think about our essence, on a primitive basis, everything there was can be summarized as survival instinct, survival of the fittest. Even the fact that we organized in groups was part of that. Bigger, fitter, smarter families, beat smaller, less fit, dumber families when fighting for resources. What other feeling was probably cultivated here. Loyalty, perhaps also ambition (and this is obviously pure speculation on my part). It would’ve been in my interest to be loyal and expect loyalty if I wanted to survive. Also, the more resources I could get, the more I'd want to secure for myself to insure my survival. It doesn’t mean I don’t have any feelings. I do, and they’re very strong. Emotions cannot be explained by logic, and they shouldn’t be denied when you experience them, but I do think that the nature of them can actually be questioned. There’s a lot of psychological issues involved here I think. I’d say the most original feeling would be the love for our breeds, especially mother – children, just because they’re a part of her, everything else just stems from that. And I agree that there’s a lot of speculation on my part on this, maybe some distorted thinking. And that’s exactly why I’m here, to hear other points of views, perhaps be enlightened. I’m pretty sure there are some people around here that have thought about these things and can give me some opinions. Please do.
So - ultimately, you cannot understand why people believe in God, because you cannot rationalise belief??

Certainly that's bound to be a conundrum - God is essentially a personal experience that religion attempts to translate into a social one.

Without ever having felt to have transcended the bounds of normal reality in some way, resulting in some direct contact with the Divine, then it is going to be difficult to form an emotive belief in transcendent concepts - especially if you question that social precepts that otherwise try to define that personal relationship for you.

Perhaps the question worth asking is whether you actually need an absolute answer to the question of belief at this time?
joserafael said:
I’m talking about God as a BEING, a judge, a creator, an entity. The God from the Bible, Torah, Quran, I was brought up to believe in. To put it simply, right now I’m inclined to believe that He, THE monotheistic God, just doesn’t exist. I’m looking for opinions of believers and non-believers as well, and perhaps some reading sources. I’m aware that some may argue that this is something to be found from within, looking outside is searching in the wrong places. The most common answer is around the line of: “I opened up my heart to Him, and He showed me the way”. I honestly don’t feel like hearing that anymore. The fact that one can feel that sort of “spiritual ecstasy” (I’ve felt it) doesn’t mean that there’s a judging, creator God. When I think about it, it really seems to me that God was created by us, people, by way of trying to reason our feelings and our existence, trying to explain things that perhaps just can’t be explained.

This is a bit difficult to explain, because although I find religious dialogue interesting intellectually, my spirituality can pretty much be summed up as experiential. I'm not overly concerned with the characteristics of God- the "spiritual ecstasy" you describe is enough for me. I have my ideas about God based on experiencing Him/Her/It (God is genderless in my belief system and experience), but I am very aware that those are ideas built on mere glimpses of the greatness of that Being.

The God of the Bible/Quran/Torah is not the same God for everyone. For some, that God is a personal savior, a friend, a Father figure- very person-like if not human-like. For some, that God is a quiet inner voice, a whisper, a spirit, an immanent force deep within oneself. For some, that God is a transcendent Process or Force- beyond time and space, beyond comprehension. For some, God is all this and more. I think God reveals Him/Her/Itself to people in ways they need for their spiritual growth, if they are open to it. It is through experiences of spiritual ecstasy and vision that I became more and more open to the possibility that God was simply way too big for any of us, including me, to really get a handle on. My experience has been, however, that it is in positive action and the ecstasy of unconditional love that we catch glimmers of the Kingdom/Heaven, the Divine Reality beyond and yet immanent in our own. Rather than dismiss spiritual ecstasy as a mere emotion, I embrace it as a teacher. Rather than try to define God, to set boundaries on my beliefs, I seek to experience God as fully as I can and to rejoice in the gift of being alive.

Personally, I believe that one aspect of God is personal- that God manifests as a personal deity when we need that. But I do not believe that sums up God. You are correct, in my opinion, that spiritual ecstasy does not necessarily prove a monotheistic, personal God. For me, it points to a Big Something that I'm connecting with, which has in my life taken various aspects and manifestations depending on my needs and spiritual openness at that time. THE monotheistic God, in my belief system, is an attempt by people to express an experience with that Big Something- a something they cannot adequately express because It transcends our finite, physical existence. In that, I differ from most monotheists. I do indeed believe there is but One Divine, but I do not believe any of us have a monopoly on the "real" or "true" expression of It. My experience has been that while some religions express more about the personal aspect of this One Divine (such as the Abrahamic traditions), other express more about the processual or transcendent aspect, while others express more about the immanent aspect. Rather than say one is right and the others are wrong, or that they're all wrong, I say they're all incomplete and yet beautiful, and they must be. That's just what happens when the finite seeks to describe and express the infinite.

Peace to you in your search,
Hi. "I, Brian", perhaps you're right in saying that what I'm looking for seems like sort of an absolute answer. I agree that's actually impossible on this subject, and it comes down to a thing of personal matter. But I think every individual believes in his own personal and unquestionable truth. That's part of what makes these debates possible, different beliefs, different absolute truths. I'm looking for perspectives though. Just different opinions. Maybe my mistake was stereotyping on my negativity towards answers based only on emotions and pretending to be open-minded at the same time on a subject that cannot be logically explained. My mistake.

I can tell you that I've felt what I'd label as contact with the Divine. I used to pray very faithfully to God and held a strong belief of my personal connection to Him (he never answered back though). To tell you the truth I despised atheists as a child. God was very real to me. To me, atheists were nothing but blind skeptics that didn't believe in anything. I wouldn't consider myself as a strong atheist, but I do see them differently now.

... I'm a little bit in the line of thinking of "path_of_one". Easiest way for me to describe what I do consider to be "trascendental" experiences is by example; I can tell you that if I'm in a quiet place on nature, say the beach, or in a river near falling water, or in top of a mountain looking at the horizon feeling how small I am, birds chirping around, and I try hard enough and stop reasoning and thinking for a while, I can feel this overwhelming feeling of peace, a connection with something "outside" this world. Yes, I do feel that. But to me that's just another feeling, a good one though, but another feeling, a state of mind, like fear for example. But what I don't seem to understand, is why make an entity out of the whole thing and try to define it instead of just letting it be. Why should this feeling have a connection whatsoever to what happens after we die, or our creation or why is there "right" and "wrong" in the world. I don't think it's even related to something "outside this world". I think God and other "beliefs" come out of speculating and trying to rationalise these kinds of overwhelming emotions and the nature of our existence. My question is then, if we're talking about the "same feeling", how do you jump from this trascendental feeling -> to the believe in God, say if you haven't been taught about the existance of a God or any "spiritual" essence whatsoever? To me it seems that we've been taught to associate one thing to the other. Is like, what we can FEEL and know to be true by personal experience is associated with a bunch of speculation.
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The basic nature of (God, the Creator, positive energy, That Which is Greater Than You) is trust in that which is Greater Than You. Analyzing is fact reference. Rationalizing is deduction.

Faith is building.

If you don't believe in anything that is Greater Than You, then what happens when you can't achieve something?
Do you realize that it wasn't for you? If you do, then whatever you couldn't achieve is That which is Greater Than You. Or do you spend all the time necessary in order to achieve it? If you do, then you have acknowledged that what you set out to achieve (due to repeated failure or dissatisfaction) is That which is Greater Than You.

The thing is, how you view and place your challenges make a difference. It makes a difference when you decide how to live your life. When there is an overwhelming peace, it is easier to identify with That which is Greater Than You (God, the Creator, positive energy). When there is chaos, it can often be difficult to see past that. Over thinking certain things can create a chaos, because in any situation everything can make sense. To have a common ground with other forms of understanding is okay. What is not okay is losing the essence of what makes you who you are by losing your own path among the common ground.
Well said, Truthseeker--Such interesting answers from everyone. I knew you would get lots of sincere and serious responses, joseraphael. I am finding them helpful, as well.

Dear joserafael,

I have been reading, over and again, this thread you started. I think that you just said so very much to start with that it will take a while for you to receive in full all of the responses. And it takes a while for others to read and understand what you are asking.

Your comments actually inspired me to start a thread on the board, "Belief and Spirituality". It is entitled, "Logic and Faith: Oil and Water? Do you recognize your own words? I had never heard the "oil and water" analogy before. I found it interesting--but, then, this comes from one who thinks that it is incredibly helpful to others to explain how The Trinity serves in different capacities like H2O (please forgive me, I don't have time to write it down properly right now.)

Well, I could keep talking all day and night. My cup runneth over. I don't think my mouth should.:)

InLove said:
Dear joserafael,

Well, I could keep talking all day and night. My cup runneth over. :)

my cup runneth over too...with bubbling joy & peace & love in the Holy Ghost.

We can have as much as we want to. Half full, Half empty. Full or Knocked over & Empty..sometimes broken & empty.
But the blessings when it over flows...like springs in the desert & fire shut up in my bones. We have to learn to seek Him in Spirit & in Truth, touch His throne & never let go of it!
I love the Lord with all my heart:) .

A few lyrics from Whitney & the Preachers Wife.

I love the the Lord, he heard my cry
And pitied every groan, long as I, I live
And troubles rise, I hasten to his throne

Oh, I love the Lord
I sure do, surely do love the Lord
He heard, he heard my cry
And pitied every groan, yes he did
Every groan
Long as I live, long as I, I live
And troubles rise, troubles rise
I hasten to to to to to
I'll hasten, I'll hasten to his throne
I'll hasten to his throne hold on hold on
Tears are streaming down my eyes
I'll hasten, I'll hasten to his throne

It is a struggle every day.

A struggle to let go of my own need to accomplish everything and bow to That which is Greater than Me. Because I can't do everything. I will not know everything that I should know in this lifetime - so I have to pick up and hold dear to me the most important things; which I don't understand is most important until I die that Daily Death. And each time I do, somehow my heart is immediately lifted in love. When I hold on to that love, my cup runneth over to those around me.

What a difference God makes!!! ;)