Do You Have a Soul?

If you believe you have a soul, what do you believe?  Discover your

thoughts and beliefs by just writing one or two paragraphs

about how you would define your soul. I did a survey with my graduate

students in counseling as well as with participants in workshops

that I was conducting, and that the responses were amazingly uniform

and very interesting, interestingly there were very few  references to

their religion. Most said something like,”My  soul is my inner self,

my decision maker.

In my book ‘Building Heaven on Earth’ I quote several very thoughtful

responses which tell me that most people have given some serious

thought to matters of their soul. My personal belief is that our soul

is the essence of who we are as a person. It is the core of our

spirituality that will guide us in our behaviors of compassion, respect,

caring, generosity, courage and confidence in our inner self for

example.

My question to readers is:  “Are you willing to explore your inner self,

the quality of your character, your ability to love and forgive, and to

be fair in all your relationships?  I’m not talking about religion here,

I am differentiating spirituality from religion, and claiming that we

are all essentially spiritual beings.  Religions are institutions that

may or may not be in our best interest.

Not Who But what is God?

Accepting the idea that God is not a ‘who’ does not mean that there is no God. But if God is not a ‘who’, then ‘what’ is God? Atheism is not the only default position! Since we all came from somewhere, we should, in our search for meaning, consider that there must be an incomprehensible, ubiquitous, and inexplicable Natural Force that created this unknowable and magnificent mystery we call life.

Religions do not entertain the idea that God is a force within all life; their emphasis is on an outside God who is omnipotent and is residing in heaven. Each religion has claimed that if you want to know the truth about God. you should read their scriptures. Never has any publication been less read and so highly esteemed by such a large number of unthinking followers, including myself for most of my life. It is cultural conditioning! And it is extremely powerful in shaping our lives!

In all fairness,we need to remember that the authors of these supposedly revered scriptures were written by men men who were touted as infallible, but alas, were as fallible as we are. These writers were no less locked into the culture of their time than we are by ours.

But we are long overdue in dismissing the idea that God is humanlike in form. It is a lie to tell us that God is a He or a She with an ageless biological body dwelling in the heavens above us.

God Does Not Play Favorites

Believing that God will favor us if we are well behaved is a powerful way for us to shape our children’s thoughts, beliefs and behavior.  Over time this fantasy brings us to believe that God is on our side in wars, and also that ‘He’ favors our sports teams.  It doesn’t matter if our opponents also think God is on their side; we still believe and trust that our God will favor us, favor our nation, our family, and our team.  Making God an intentional entity creates strange ironies.  Did the holocaust happen for a ‘divine’ reason?  Why did God make the Black Death, or the Potato Famine?

Christians make no bones about asking God for favors and if any of their wishes come true, they thank God and praise ‘Him’ to the skies.  Even if two hundred thousand people die in a Tsunami, there will be some survivors who still thank God for allowing them to live another day.  Does that mean that those who died were sinners, or just didn’t believe in their God with enough conviction, or didn’t pray enough?  If one of our own family members survives an automobile crash, even though four others perish, we thank God!  What kind of a God is this that we are thanking?

If we lose someone in a tragic accident or to an illness, we have clichés like: “It was just his or her time to go,” or  “God must have needed him/her more than we do,” or we say that:  “He/she is in a better place.”  We rationalize these clichés to ourselves, as we seek comfort for ourselves and others who are grieving,  and we feel obliged to forgive God so that we might avoid ‘His’ wrath.

Einstein3 was very clear about the position of science is these matters, writing: “There was one religious concept that science could not accept; a deity who could meddle at whim in the events of his creation.” Einstein reminded us that that our fate is not determined by some God rolling the dice.

God is Not a Human figure

All major religions would have us believe that God is an all-powerful being who presides over all things.  He abides in heaven and is full of wisdom.  He sees everything, knows everything and gives favors to people who behave in the right ways and especially to those who make the effort to prove that they have total faith in Him.

HE, HIM, HIS

When those of us who live within the Western Judeo-Christian traditions we think of God, and we picture a ‘Him’, a male human figure.  ‘He’ is an older Caucasian man with a white beard, long white hair, and wearing a white a robe.  We refer to everything in the natural world as ‘His’ kingdom. We offer our prayers to ‘Him,’ and when we speak of God, we speak of ’Him’ and ‘His’ domain. We have been conditioned to see ‘Him’ as our benevolent and all-powerful ‘Father,’ and here on earth all living creatures are ‘His’ family.  ‘He’ represents the ultimate goodness and righteousness, and as such, we thank ‘Him’ for our good fortune and feel obliged to follow ‘His’ ways.

One might wonder: ”Is God a man or a woman, old or young, African or Asian, Hispanic or Caucasian, or a Middle Eastern blend?”  We might also wonder:  Can there be such a God in human-form?  The faithful of the three major religions believe that their God has chosen their religion to be the right one out of the more than l00 religions on earth?  And most difficult to imagine of all is that some human-form of God could have the power to create the stars, planets, moons, galaxies, black holes and all the wonders of the Universe.  In every rational way, at the core of our being, we know that a flesh and blood biological being could not design nor create the Universe.  We really do know better!

In spite of knowing better, we remain blindly loyal to these beliefs to which our minds have been conditioned. We have gone along with our religions stories to honor our parents, grand parents, and on through many greats of great-grand parents in our ancestral pool, back some thousands of years.  This loyalty is mixed with issues of our unexamined pride, along with our passivity and compliance that we masquerade as faith.

One in Five Americans Claim No Religious Affiliation

THIS WAS THE FRONT PAGE NEWS YESTERDAY IN’  ‘USA TODAY’, REPORTING ON A NEW STUDY BY THE PEW FORUM ON RELIGION AND PUBLIC LIFE.

THIS GROUP THAT CLAIMS NO RELIGIOUS IDENTITY IS CALLED THE “NONES”.  GREG SMITH, A PEW FORUM SENIOR RESEARCHER SAYS …”THE RISE OF THE NONES IS A MILESTONE IN A LONG-TERM TREND.”   THE STUDY POINTS OUT THAT THIS GROUP IS NOT DOMINATED BY ATHEISTS AND AGNOSTICS AND SAY THEY BELIEVE IN “NOTHING IN PARTICULAR” BUT REMAIN OPEN TO SPIRITUALITY.  EILEEN LINDNER, A PRESBYTERIAN PASTOR AND EDITOR OF THE YEARBOOK OF AMERICAN AND CANADIAN CHURCHES SAYS,  “WE ARE STILL TWICE AS LIKELY TO BE AFFILIATED WITH A RELIGION THAN EUROPEANS BUT THERE IS STRONG EVIDENCE THAT OUR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS ARE PLAYING A LESS SIGNIFICAN ROLE IN AMERICAN LIFE.”

THIS NEW SURVEY FINDS THAT:

  • 68% BELIEVE AT LEAST SOMEWHAT IN GOD OR A HIGHER POWER
  • AND 58% SAY THEY FEEL A “A DEEP CONNECTION “ WITH NATURE AND THE  EARTH.

THE REPORT CITES CHRIS DEES AS AN EXAMPLE OF THIS CULTURE SHIFT.  DEES GREW UP AS A BAPTIST IN THE MOST RELIGIOUS STATE IN THE USA: MISSISSIPPI, BUT AFTER HIS STUDIES IN MECHANICAL ENGINEERING AT THE STATE COLLEGE SAID, “I JUST COULDN’T MAKE SENSE OF IT ANY MORE.”  HE IS CURRENTLY A LEADER OF THE SECULAR STUDENT ALLIANCE CHAPTER AT MISSISSIPPI STATE AND CALLS HIMSELF AN ATHEIST.

THIS TREND IS NOTEWORTHY BECAUSE IT REPRESENTS AN AWAKENING OF CONSCIOUSNESS AND A WILLINGNESS TO CHALLENGE TRADITIONAL INSTITUTIONS IN SPITE OF THE TABOO AGAINST THIS ICONIC CULTURAL NORM.

IN MY BOOK, I WRITE ABOUT HOW I BELIEVE RELIGIONS HAVE LED US DOWN THE WRONG PATH.  THEY HAVE INSTRUCTED THEIR PARISHENERS TO BELIEVE IN THE SCRIPTURES AND DOCTRINES, TO HAVE FAITH, AND TO COMPLY WITH THEIR EDICTS THAT CLAIM ALL SORTS OF POWER AND SUPERNATURAL EVENTS ALL POINTING TO A VINDICTIVE GOD SOMEWHERE IN THE SKY.  MY EXPERIENCE IS VERY MUCH LIKE THE STUDENT FROM MISSISSIPPI IN THAT I REALIZED IN MY YOUNGER YEARS THAT I JUST COULDN’T MAKE SENSE OF IT ANYMORE.

I BELIEVE IN A NATURAL GOD THAT IS A FORCE WITHIN US AND IN ALL OF LIFE.  I ALSO BELIEVE WE DO NOT NEED RELIGIONS IN ORDER TO BELIEVE AND HAVE FAITH IN A GOD THAT IS THE FORCE OF CREATION OF LIFE ITSELF.  THIS IS NOT A GOD THAT IS SIMPLY IN OUR HEADS OR OUR HEART, IT IS IN OUR DNA THE VERY CORE OF OUR BEING. AND WE KNOW THIS GOD WITH OUR EVOLVING CONSCIOUSNESS, OUR SOUL.

WE ARE SPIRITUAL BEINGS WHO HAVE FOR CENTURIES GIVEN AWAY OUR SPIRITUAL LIFE TO OUR CHURCHES, TEMPLES. MOSQUES, OR OTHER INSTITUTIONS THAT PROMISE TO GUIDE US AND TAKE CARE OF ALL OF OUR SPIRITUAL MATTERS FOR US.

WE NEED TO CLAIM AND TO TAKE RESPONSIBILITY FOR OUR OWN SPIRITUAL LIVES, AND THAT WILL MEAN LOOKING WITHIN TO OUR CONNECTION WITH OUR OWN SOUL.  ASK YOURSELF IF YOU HAVE A SOUL, AND IF YOUR ANSWER IS IN THE AFFIRMATIVE, TAKE FIVE MINUTES TO WRITE DOWN JUST A PARAGRAPH OR TWO AS TO WHAT YOUR SOUL MEANS TO YOU AND HOW IT MIGHT SERVE YOU.

MUSINGS ON MY NEW BOOK “BUILDING HEAVEN ON EARTH: CLAIMING OUR HUMAN SPIRIT”

I HAVE KNOWN THAT WRITING ABOUT OUR HUMAN SPIRIT WOULD BE A BIT UNSETTLING FOR MANY PEOPLE WHOSE SPIRITUALITY IS INEXTRICABLY BONDED WITH THEIR RELIGIONS.  BUT THE MORE I WROTE ABOUT CLAIMING OUR SPIRITUALITY APART FROM RELIGION, THE MORE CLEAR IT BECAME THAT THERE WAS MUCH TO CRITICIZE ABOUT THERE UNQUESTIONED TRADITIONS AND THE HOLD THEY HAVE WITHIN THEIR RESPECTIVE CULTURES.

I WAS TRESPASSING THIS UNSPOKEN TABOO AND REALIZING THAT THESE RIGID AND ARCHAIC TRADITIONS OF SUPERNATURAL BELIEFS WERE KEEPING US STUCK IN OUR OWN PASSIVE COMPLIANCE. WE HAVE BEEN CONDITIONED TO ZIP OUR LIPS AND NOT CONTRADICT THE OUTWORN AND IRRELEVANT DOCTRINES BURIED IN THEIR ANCIENT SCRIPTURES.  THE HISTORY OF THESE CULTURAL NORMS IS ROOTED IN OUR LOYALTY TO THE VALUES OF OUR FAMILIES AND COMMUNITIES, AND TO CHALLENGE THESE IS TO INVITE BECOMING AN OUTCAST.

BUT I BELIEVE WE ARE BEGINNING TO SEE AND TO UNDERSTAND THE HISTORICAL PATTERNS THAT RELIGIONS PLAY IN KEEPING US FROM BUILDING PEACEFUL BRIDGES WITH OTHER CULTURES.  UNLESS WE FIND AND BUILD THESE BRIDGES, AND DISCARD OUR BLIND AND UNQUESTIONED LOYALTY, WE WILL KEEP THE GATES OPEN TO UNENDING WARS.

BELIEVING IN A GOD THAT IS SUPERNATURAL, IN HUMAN FORM, AND LIVING IN A HEAVEN IN THE SKY, CONTRADICTS ALL THAT WE CAN OBSERVE AND KNOW. THE BELIEF THAT WE WILL HAVE AN AFTERLIFE IN THAT HEAVEN IS A DEGRADATION TO THE AMAZING FACT OF BEING ALIVE AND FULLY PRESENT ON OUR MAGNIFICENT PLANET RIGHT NOW.  EVERYTHING THAT IS SACRED IS ALREADY HERE.  WE DO NEED SUPERNATURAL STORIES OF VIRGIN BIRTHS, WALKING ON WATER, RAISING THE DEAD, AND ANGELS SINGING IN THE HEAVENS ABOVE IN ORDER TO DISCOVER OUR SPIRITUALITY.  GOD DOES NOT BELONG TO RELIGION!

FOR TOO LONG, WE HAVE YIELDED MATTERS OF OUR HUMAN SPIRIT WITHIN TO OUR RELIGIOUS INSTITUTIONS.  I HOPE YOU WILL FOLLOW  MY BLOGS IN THE FOLLOWING WEEKS TO EXPLORE AND DISCUSS THE  RICHNESS OF A NATURAL FORCE OF GOD WITHIN, AND THE TREASURE OF DISCOVERING THE WISDOM OF YOUR OWN SOUL.