PART 3 OF “OUR ASSUMPTIONS ABOUT GOD”
December 10, 2009
By Kevin M
Diversification is an imperative in the financial world, but maybe many of us have taken the liberty of extending its reach into faith as well. How many times during a discussion of faith do we hear a phrase along the lines of “I don’t have a specific faith, I’m spiritual”? Talk about hedging your bets! I believe there’s something, but I’m not sure it can be defined. It’s a thoughtful declaration if we’re looking to discuss faith without the risk of offending someone.
But isn’t that kind of “belief” really more about holding the barn door open so just about anything can wander in? I could be painting with too broad a brush here, but I’ve heard some Spiritualists pushing really deep into the gray zone. Some believe that all faiths contain some elements of truth but none represent the absolute truth, and some open the door even wider by declaring that there are no absolutes.
Spiritualists are virtually a faith category unto themselves. While they don’t ascribe to any single religious faith, they aren’t atheists or even agnostics either. While the atheist denies the existence of God, and the agnostic is a doubter, the Spiritualist does have some sense or awareness of a higher power. He just rejects traditional or conventional faith explanations as possibilities.
It’s my contention that Spiritualism, in its many forms, is the most common faith in Western Civilization, and maybe even the world.
New Age, or just another name for paganism?
Many Spiritualists believe in angels, reincarnation and communing with the dead in some form. That collection of beliefs—in addition to others—is often put under the very large umbrella of New Age. But are you aware that pagans have believed these very things for thousands of years? There’s nothing “new age” about any of it. In fact, Stone Age is far closer to the truth!
And how about the widely accepted notion that good people go to heaven? What’s the dividing line between good people and bad ones? Self-evaluation? Public opinion? What happens to a person if some people would consider him good, while others view him with contempt? Is there a heavenly referendum, an opinion poll, the way we handle these things down here? If you vote faithfully for Democrats are you going to heaven? If you’re convicted of a crime by an earthbound court are you also doomed to eternal damnation? If being a “good person” is all that’s required to go to heaven, then it must be an awfully crowded place because I’ve never met anyone who didn’t believe him- or her-self to be a good person (at the core, of course).
Here’s the basic dilemma with that line of reasoning: we’re all good people in our own eyes. If being a good person is the dividing line between Heaven and Hell, then we’ve elevated ourselves to the level of gods, possessing the ability to grant eternal salvation to ourselves—can we see the absurdity in that?
So what exactly does spiritual mean? If it’s without any definition or order then isn’t it really more like wishful thinking than anything else? No, if there is a God, there has to be something more, something more objective.
OK, back to why I think Spiritualism is the most common faith in the world. There are two basic types of Spiritualist: the one who declares him- or her-self to be one, and the one who is but can’t admit to it. The second group is the more common. These are usually people who were raised in a particular faith, or even continue to practice it, but have only very loose convictions of it.
For example, there are many practicing Christians who believe there are many paths to the same God, that people of other faiths, or even no faith, will attain salvation on their own terms, and the important thing (once again) is to be a good person. But is that what the Christian Bible teaches? Many of the same people also seek counsel from psychics or are open to the possibility of reincarnation and other beliefs that are outside Biblical parameters.
So what’s the big deal with blending different ideas in the area of faith? When you begin playing the mix-and-match game, you’re a Spiritualist. You may attend a Christian church every week, but you’re not completely convinced that it’s the only way. That’s claiming the Christian label while practicing paganism so there are no hard and fast rules to your faith. That’s Spiritualism—faith without parameters.
Isn’t this really just making up our own religion?
In most respects I think that Spiritualism is self protective. It affords the believer many of the benefits provided by traditional faith, including the notion that “someone’s looking out for me”, a connection to something bigger and more enduring, and of course, it offers the promise of eternal life. But what it doesn’t do is give us a list of do’s and don’t do’s that may interfere with our “right” to enjoy our lives. It’s a virtual goodie bag of pleasantries but with nothing that might offend or limit us.
For much of my early adult life, I was a borderline Spiritualist. I LIVED in my questions. They were questions that could never be answered, and as long as they weren’t, I didn’t have to make a hard choice about faith. It seemed right to me that having intelligent questions (as objections) was what sophisticated people did. A strong set of questions can make us sound more intelligent than we really are. But the time comes to get off that fence and accept that some things just are, and we’ll never have all of our questions answered this side of Heaven.
And how important is it in the grand scheme of things that one out of more than six billion people has his questions answered? Alas, I’m not that important. None of us are! It’s only when we stop assigning the role of judge and jury to ourselves that we can become open to true faith.
We don’t have to have all of our questions and concerns addressed in order to accept an overriding truth. Even in the midst of my questions, I was very aware that some sort of spiritual component to human existence was extremely likely. For example, two people have the same disease, undergo the same therapy, but one lives and the other dies; how can that be? A person gets into a car crash in which the car is completely demolished, but he survives with modest injuries; how can that be? In my most secular moments, I always had a notion that Jesus Christ was the true messiah—what was causing me to believe that? Why would anyone believe that? Even though I wasn’t ready to accept it, his claim to messiah-ship was too bold, too off the wall to be ignored. Something had to be going on with that, drawing me toward it.
By the way, I think faith itself is supernatural. Everything in the physical world and within the human system directs us away from it, and yet there’s still something nagging at the human heart telling us that there’s something more. The Spiritualist is keenly aware of this, but doesn’t want to be bound by it.
At some level, I think most Spiritualists have similar questions that keep them from committing. They then ascribe to a smorgasbord of beliefs, sometimes conflicting ones, with the single unifying justification for any component belief that it must feel good. But is that a true faith, or merely a belief system based on our own preferences? More important, is it in any way the pursuit of any sort of higher Truth?
If you’re a Spiritualist—a person who has a strong feeling there must be a diety—but you’re holding back on committing, maybe it’s time to pick a direction. If there is a God, perpetually seeking him isn’t the same as walking with him, and the sooner you begin your walk the sooner the open questions will either be answered or shown to be irrelevant. Either way, it must be acknowledged that in the Eternal scheme of things, the truth is more important than personal preference.
“Choose this day whom you will serve!”–Joshua 24:15